Travis Releford edges out Naadir Tharpe for No. 1 spot


Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a three by teammate Ben McLemore during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a three by teammate Ben McLemore during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

1. Travis Releford: It's going to be hard for any KU player to have a more efficient night than Releford did Saturday. The senior made seven of eight field goals, which included a 5-for-6 performance from three-point range. Releford posted 19 points, two rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in a 23-minute effort. In his last four games, he has gone 9-for-11 from beyond the arc (82 percent).

2. Naadir Tharpe: It was hard to keep him from the top spot after his breakout performance. The sophomore's 12 assists tied for the 10th-most in a game in KU history (assists were tallied starting in the 1973-74 season), and he registered those without a single turnover. He also went 3-for-4 from three to finish with nine points in 20 minutes with four rebounds. In his last four games, Tharpe has 22 assists and no turnovers.

3. Perry Ellis: KU coach Bill Self called this Ellis' best game, and that showed in the stat line. The freshman notched his first double-double, contributing 11 points (5-for-7 shooting) to go with a career-high 10 rebounds. He also had a pair of blocks and a three-pointer with no turnovers in 17 minutes.

4. Elijah Johnson: Coming into the game, Johnson had made just one of his last nine three-pointers. He broke that slump against the Eagles, knocking down four of five threes to finish with 12 points. He also added four assists to go with one turnover in 24 minutes.

5. Jeff Withey: Quiet night for Withey compared to his teammates, but that didn't stop him from racking up an efficient line himself. He went 5-for-7 from the floor for 11 points to go with four rebounds, four blocks and one turnover in 21 minutes. He also had the highlight of the night, posterizing AU's Tony Wroblicky with a one-handed jam in the first half.

6. Ben McLemore: Self commented after the game that McLemore never was able to get in the flow of the game, and part of the reason for that was the freshman picking up two quick fouls. McLemore had nine points on 2-for-4 shooting and made all four of his free throws in 20 minutes. His best play might have been a first-half assist to Releford, as McLemore passed up an open three to get Releford a wide-open one. You don't see many future lottery picks that unselfish in college.

7. Kevin Young: KU played so well that Young's six-point perfect shooting night (3-for-3 on field goals) places him seventh. Young also had four rebounds, one assist, one block, two steals and no turnovers in 17 minutes. The senior is now 8-for-8 from the floor in KU's last three games.

8. Rio Adams: Outside of a traveling violation, the freshman was solid in his 11 minutes. He had two points, an assist and a steal and provided good defensive pressure.

9. Jamari Traylor: Traylor showed the quickness to deny passes on the perimeter, but he struggled defensively in the lane, getting a little too aggressive with his block attempts. The freshman had three points, five rebounds, two steals and two turnovers and five fouls in his 21 minutes.

10. Andrew White III: Tough game for the freshman, who struggled with his ball-handling and decision-making. In 14 minutes, he had three of KU's 11 turnovers. White added four points on 2-for-5 shooting to go with one rebound. Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (81 points)
2. Ben McLemore (80 points)
3. Travis Releford (79 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (70 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (56 points)
6. Kevin Young (52 points)
7. Perry Ellis (48 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (38 points)
9. Andrew White III (21 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (7 points)


Ferd Magellan 6 years, 10 months ago

Tharpe is the player of the game. No question.

LAJayhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

It's a tough call. Releford had a pretty terrific game as well.

But 12 dimes against no TOs and an almost perfect shooting night in 20 minutes is very, very impressive.

Joel Thomas 6 years, 10 months ago

I'd put Tharpe one, especially considering his recent run. Self would say it's more about the quality of the shot, versus whether it goes in.

Alohahawk 6 years, 10 months ago

ESPN Top 10 Plays of the Day: Releford made #7 (after Withey's block and Young's outlet pass to a streaking Travis), and Withey made # 2, for his posterization of Wroblicky (as he's fed the ball coming down the middle of the lane). However, not a word that KU even won the game.

Note: ESPN had lot's of coverage of junk bowls and lower ranked BB games (UNC vs UNLV, and Syracuse game, Etc.). But with the exception of the two top ten highlights listed above, still waiting for any mention/coverage of #6 ranked KU's game vs American.

actorman 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm assuming that's mainly because it was a blowout against a less-than-stellar opponent. Still, it would be nice for them to give some credit to KU's incredible home record of 98 out of their last 99 -- especially given the fact that the only loss was the day after Thomas Robinson's mother died.

LAJayhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

There wasn't even a Vegas line on the game, so I'm assuming they don't think mentioning a victory is necessary. Doesn't make it right, but these are business decisions. It's not about being fair in coverage.

REHawk 6 years, 10 months ago

slayr, we are bound to be a real challenge for the Owls, but I would put them right alongside the Spartans and Buckeyes as threats to derail our current progress. Fortunately, we've got the clamor and tradition of AFH on our side next Sunday. Will be interesting to watch Temple's matchup for Ben. Teams will try to neutralize his contributions by luring him to early whistles. I envision Bill Self and staff studying late night tapes to look for optimum defensive schemes to limit Ben's fouling woes. The kid is such a quick study that I am certain the reality of last night's single digit scoring weighs heavily on his learning process.

jaybate 6 years, 10 months ago

Ben Mac will be fine.

He just looked at his brother through the bullet proof glass, and had a Christmas break.

Those two things would derail any first year starter.

Temple players are going to be flossing their teeth with his laces.

You'll see.

Rock Chalk!!!

Underdog777 6 years, 10 months ago

Travis did contribute more than Naadir. But Naadir had a performance much higher than his average. Travis is bring it every night and it is expected too. Travis's average performance this year will give him a top 3 rating for any game.

jaybate 6 years, 10 months ago


May I suggest you shift to a weighted point score approach.

Production in a game against Ohio State should count more to season rankings than production in a game against American.

You could weight the games scores as follows:

Top Ten team x 1.0

Top Ten to Twenty team x .90

Major x .80

Strong Mid Major x .70

Weak Mid Major x .5

This would make the season's rankings much more indicative of player performance.

Keep up the good QA work.

Underdog777 6 years, 10 months ago

Only flaw to your suggestion is the quality of a team is being assumed. What if Oregon St wins the PAC 10 and Richmond makes a great 8 run?

LAJayhawk 6 years, 10 months ago

^^ I agree with this. It probably makes more sense to weigh it along the lines of the teams KenPom ranking, as that is generally pretty accurate, but it still has some flaws.

In the end, though, this is about performance in an individual game. Some players may play better against weaker opponents, but every other player has the same opportunity against the same weak opponent... so doesn't that, in and of itself, make it weighted? Or, at least, having it weighted be unnecessary?

jaybate 6 years, 10 months ago

All estimates have error in them. All assumptions can contribute to the error in them. The question always is do the errors of making further assumptions get us net closer to reality with the error that that the assumptions contribute.

Using KenPom for weighting would be fine, too. But as I've pointed out in a number of posts over the years, KenPom has a lot of flaws that are obscured by the complexity of the system. Again, no approach is without a contribution to error.

The reason some kind of effort at weighting needs to be embraced is this: against weak teams, the starters tend to play many fewer minutes and so tend to be less productive, except perhaps on a per minute played basis, but even then, in the cupcake games, the coach is trying new stuff, experimenting with new stuff, and doing this often distorts the picture of how the team and players perform.

Without putting to fine a point on it, against a cupcake, the cupcake's second string is an extreme fall off in talent from not great talent to begin with. When a blue blood program like KU, one with depth, plays its second string against a cupcake's second string, it is practically not even a D1 level game any longer.

Second stringers can put up much better numbers than they would against a D1 major when that D1 major's back ups come in.

So: my thinking is that second stringers can especially fatten up their numbers against cupcakes, likely even more than the first stringers, because the coach tends to pull the first stringers earlier for rotation, the first stringers tend to be trying out new stuff, and so on.

What Naadir Tharpe did against OSU is much more indicative of his level of contribution than what he did against American.

And Self basically sends the first stringers into cupcake games flat as pancakes, and in contradistinction, the second stringers, and third stringers, tend to be geeked up for the cupcakes, because that is their chance to show their stuff in hopes of getting some PT against the non cupcakes.

Everything statistically about these cupcake games is distorted, but the distortion seems greater in the case of the supporting cast, at least to me. A good statistician could of course study my hypothesis here and perhaps find me all wrong, but this is my best guess short of that.

LAJayhawk 6 years, 10 months ago


That's a fair hypothesis, and would take a good deal of study and analysis to prove one way or another. I do, however, understand the point you are coming from. The only additional point of contention might be with the following (a point which was previously emphasized, anyway):

"When a blue blood program like KU, one with depth, plays its second string against a cupcake's second string, it is practically not even a D1 level game any longer."

That may be true and may not. It is highly dependent on the particular program. A low "mid-major," if you will, might not balance well depth-wise, but they very well could have equal talent in the first and second string, with both first and second string being WELL behind a blue-blood like Kansas. And the 2nd string for the blue-blood might, very well, play better in that instance than the 1st string, as, is often the case, the 2nd string does not stray that far from the talent of the first for a school like KU. In the example of the low mid-major, they may have a crappy first string and a very close 2nd string.....

My point is that it gets very complicated when you attempt to weight it, which, I believe, was Underdog's main point. I do think at the heart of the matter, your point is valid, but the logistics of seeing such a hypothesis through would prove very, very difficult, methinks.

Jason Roberts 6 years, 10 months ago

Unlike my Lakers, I am very impressed with how well the Jayhawks are taking care of the ball. In spite of the competition, having only 11 turnovers in a game is solid work. The extra playing time for Adams and White may pay off in Big 12 play if and when the time comes that they are needed.

Most Improved Player so far on my list has to be Naadir Tharpe. He's going to allow the 'Hawks to be able to put a smaller lineup on the floor against those teams that play accordingly.

With Justin Wesley coming back into the mix in the next week or so this will be a dangerous team in Big 12 play and, more importanly, the NCAA Tournament. No one will wan to play a team that is 9-10 players deep, unselfish and well-rested.

Joel Thomas 6 years, 10 months ago

Agree. Tharpe would be key in a game against Louisville, for instance. Not that we won't need him otherwise.

BucknellJayhawk3 6 years, 10 months ago

Why is EJ getting so much draft love but not Travis Releford? Am I wrong to think this? He's been pretty good this year.

jaybate 6 years, 10 months ago

Two reasons IMHO.

  1. Travis plays 3 and he would be a very short 3 in the NBA, plus one with a history of shooting treys in the mid 30s. Good as his defense is, he has to convince them he's a 38-42% trey shooter, or they won't give him a sniff as a 3. Remember, Brandon Rush played three and was a bonafied 40%+ trey shooter for 4, and Brandon could never get untracked in the NBA.

  2. Travis could play the 2 in the NBA and be a very desirable size, but a 2 in the NBA has to be able to shoot at least 40% from trey; this makes him a tough sell to GM's at the 2.

Now just because he is a tough sell to the NBA does not mean he cannot make in the NBA. If I were an NBA GM choosing between long shots to sign, I could make a case for either player.

EJ could get his springs back with some time off before his first NBA season, and though EJ has never shot for high percentage from trey, there are injuries that could explain why not. He has a great stroke and does a lot of things extremely well. But EJ would be a rather short 2 in the NBA, especially if he didn't get his springs back.

As a long 1 that can shoot and pass, EJ looks very sexy...if he can get his hops back. I believe this is why EJ gets the love, despite Travis' increasingly exceptional performance.

But if Trav can shoot 40% from trey this season, he will get drafted for the 2 for sure in the NBA. He is so very strong and his defense is so very good.

Jeff Coffman 6 years, 10 months ago

Tharpe is the MVP...without the dishes to Releford for 4 of the 5 open threes, Releford's night wouldn't have been quite as impressive. I'd give Kudos for Rele's defense, but I think the entire team played lockdown D.

The one shot from the 3 that Releford missed was not a dish from Tharpe.

ParisHawk 6 years, 10 months ago

On the other hand, if the team had shot average from 3, Tharpe would have had 8-9 assists instead of 12.

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