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Recap: KU's numbers this year strikingly similar to another recent season

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Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

While surfing KenPom.com (doesn't everyone do that in their free time?), I went back and tried to look to see if this year's team, statistically, was starting to shape up like any other in Kansas coach Bill Self's tenure.

And I was shocked by just how much this team — so far — has resembled Self's 2008-09 KU squad.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins puts up a jumper over North Dakota State guard Mike Nelson during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins puts up a jumper over North Dakota State guard Mike Nelson during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. by Nick Krug

It starts with the most fundamental stats for Pomeroy: his adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies (AOE and ADE).

Here's how KU ranked nationally in each of the statistics in 2008-09:

2008-09 AOE: 113.8 (26th)
2008-09 ADE: 88.0 (7th)

And here's where KU is ranked in both of those categories as of Dec. 23 for this season:

2011-12 AOE: 111.2 (26th)
2011-12 ADE: 86.4 (6th)

Kind of spooky, huh?

Those aren't the only stats that look remarkably similar for the two teams. Notice how close many of the offensive stats are this year compared to the 2008-09 team (national ranks are in parentheses):

So here's a question: If this team performs to the same level offensively as the 2008-09 team did, would KU fans be happy or disappointed?

Something to think about as we look further into KU's 63-47 victory over USC on Thursday.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Elijah Johnson edges out Jeff Withey for M.O.J. against USC.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson moves the ball up the court between USC players Maurice Jones (10) and Alexis Moore (3) after a steal during the first half Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson moves the ball up the court between USC players Maurice Jones (10) and Alexis Moore (3) after a steal during the first half Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif. by Nick Krug

The junior guard posted 1.08 points per possession used while ending a healthy 19.8 percent of KU's possessions while he was in. He also posted the second-highest effective field-goal percentage on the team (63.6 percent).

Johnson's defense is what sealed his selection here, though. The Las Vegas native collected steals on 7.9 percent of his defensive possessions, which is the third-best mark for a KU guard this season (not counting walk-ons).

Before Thursday's game, Johnson had recorded just one steal in his previous four games.

The 6-foot-4 Johnson showed great anticipation against USC to come away with steals, which also led to some easy points in transition.

Room for Improvement

KU's offense struggled against USC's tough defense, especially on the interior.

Kansas guard Travis Releford is fouled on the shot as he splits USC defenders Byron Wesley, left, and Aaron Fuller during the first half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

Kansas guard Travis Releford is fouled on the shot as he splits USC defenders Byron Wesley, left, and Aaron Fuller during the first half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks posted just 0.97 points per possession, their third-lowest total this season.

Part of the problem was turnovers. KU gave it away on 24.6 percent of its possessions, which is even above the team's season average of 21.9 percent.

KU also struggled with two-pointers and free throws. The Jayhawks made just 42.8 percent of their twos, which was nearly 10 percentage points below their season average (52.1 percent).

KU also had its worst free throw shooting night of the year (12-for-21, 57.1 percent). After ranking in the top 50 nationally in free throw percentage through eight games, the Jayhawks have made just 30 of 52 free throws (57.7 percent) in their last two games to drop out of the top 100.

Tough-Luck Line

It was a rough night for Thomas Robinson.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson fights inside for a shot against USC defenders Byron Wesley (25) and James Blasczyk (31) during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson fights inside for a shot against USC defenders Byron Wesley (25) and James Blasczyk (31) during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-10 forward posted just 0.63 points per possession used while leading the team by consuming 26.6 percent of the possessions he was in.

Though Robinson did some nice things defensively — including on the defensive glass (36.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage) and with steals (4.1 percent steal percentage) — he still was one of the biggest reasons KU's offense struggled against USC.

The junior's five turnovers matched a season high, as he gave it away on 38.4 percent of the possessions he used. His 41.6 eFG% was third-worst on the team, and when he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point just 31 percent of the time.

With poor offensive games against Davidson and USC, Robinson's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) has dropped from 111.5 down to 104.7, according to StatSheet.com.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterwards that the team's goal against Robinson defensively was to "make him play in a crowd."

On those nights — and there are sure to be more of them — Robinson will need to do a better job of avoiding turnovers and creating open shots for his teammates.

Bottom Line

KU won because of an impressive defensive performance, holding USC to 0.72 points per possession — the lowest total for a KU opponent this season. During the 31-possession first half, KU held USC to 0.42 PPP.

The Jayhawks' defense was especially strong on the perimeter. USC's three starting guards combined to make just 5 of 22 shots (22.7 percent) with 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

The Kansas defense hovers around USC guard Maurice Jones on a shot during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

The Kansas defense hovers around USC guard Maurice Jones on a shot during the second half on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 at the Galen Center.

So far, KU's profile is stacking up much like Self's team in 2008-09.

The ninth-year coach has his squad playing at an elite defensive level with the offense lagging a bit behind with fewer weapons than in years past.

That 2008-09 team finished 27-8 with a Big 12 regular-season championship and a Sweet 16 appearance.

Through 11 games, that squad was 8-3, with a loss to a perennial power, a loss in the championship game of a early-season tournament and a loss to a mid-major underdog at Sprint Center.

Nope, that doesn't sound familiar at all.

Comments

rockchalkchalkin23 9 years, 10 months ago

Wow. That is odd. Very nice research JN. Sherron felt like he had to do most of the work and I think Ty feels the same way. I think if Ty gets away from that, that will be the difference.

Alohahawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Love your stat's imfo Jesse. Know you were joking about everyone checking KenPom's ratings, but most of us are lazy. You're at fault, since you're doing all the work for us. :-)

As for seasonal comparisons to KU's past, I agree, they are extraordinarily similar. However, as far as final season projections go, how do the KU team stats compare with the past and present team stat's in our conference? I hate to admit it, but in comparison I'd bet that Missery and Baylor have much improved stat lines over their own previous seasons.

KU_Alumn_2000 9 years, 10 months ago

T-Rob could use another season at KU to fine tune his game and gain exposure.

It would also give him the opportunity to mentor a pretty good incoming class of freshman post players...particularly Peters and Ellis.

jayhawkmike 9 years, 9 months ago

Uh, no. It's still very early in the season, T-Rob has pleny of time to "fine tune" over the next couple of months. There is a 0% chance that he will be back.

mattiesdad 9 years, 10 months ago

Jesse, after there was no recap for the Duke game, I panicked thinking that perhaps you'd left for a bigger market. Whew! These articles are the best part of a great web site in general, and they are a Christmas gift to us Jayhawkaholics all year round. Thanks for your good work. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Jesse Newell 9 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the kind words. And I know it's old news, but the Duke recap is here, just in case you missed it. There should be a recap for every game this season ... http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/newell_post/2011/nov/24/recap-dukes-second-half-defense-deserves/

ccarp 9 years, 10 months ago

I felt the similarity of 2008-09 after falling to Davidson. Reminded me of UMass. I didn't play ball at a high level, but if TRob is double teamed, shouldn't the open man present himself to Thomas? I understand the pressure of being swarmed, just seemed like the open man needs to present himself to relieve pressure for Thomas.

Jesse Newell 9 years, 10 months ago

ccarp — That's a great point.

The blog Rock Chalk Talk actually looked at that exact topic in a blog post after the Davidson game.

http://www.rockchalktalk.com/2011/12/21/2651518/looking-deeper-into-davidson

Their conclusion was much like yours: that Robinson's teammates aren't making cuts to the basket to help him when he's double-teamed.

Interesting blog to look at if you haven't already.

Paul Wilson 9 years, 10 months ago

And... The toughest game the 2008 team had to this point was a 76-72 OT win vs Arizona. This team has had a much tougher schedule up to this point. Our starters have what it takes.
Depth is what wins you Championships though...and we have ZERO.
Our lack of depth is accurately reflected in our record.

REHawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, Jesse, for another excellent statistical article. I wish we could view a comparison of the '08-'09 bench offensive production with this year's.

texashawk10 9 years, 9 months ago

The bench in 08-09 has to be superior to this teams bench. Reed, Little, Markieff were the 3 primary bench players with Releford getting a few minutes as well, but those 3 averaged about 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists per game while this year's bench is primarily Teahan, Young, and Wesley with those three averaging about 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist per game so the bench in 08-09 was more productive than this year's bench has been.

Mike Kendall 9 years, 10 months ago

Jesse-- You are a statistical genius. What else can I say? Thanks for all the info. Gives great insight. Merry Christmas!

actorman 9 years, 9 months ago

Love the self-deprecation, drgnslayr. But you make some good points.

I think if we can get to the Sweet 16 this year, it will be a successful season. I just can't see this team getting past that.

Casey Gee 9 years, 10 months ago

It looks like this years team is slightly worse in every category than that team (expect free throws). That has me a little worried. Though that team significantly improved the second half of the year, so maybe this years team will have a similar transition. Either way, sweet 16 is looking like a decent high end goal for this team.

actorman 9 years, 9 months ago

Guess I should have read your post before posting my response to drgnslayr.

PhogAdvisory 9 years, 9 months ago

In defense of this year's team, we've had to play three Top 10 teams and a very good GTown squad. At this point in the '08-09 season, we hadn't played a single ranked opponent. (Syracuse would eventually be ranked, but they weren't there when we played them.) I'd be concerned if our numbers weren't a little lower, after that kind of competition.

This year's team is playing significantly better opponents and producing the same statistics. To be honest, we're quite a lot better than I thought we'd be, and I'm real optimistic about the rest of the season. If we can keep our starters healthy, B12 conference champs and a Sweet 16 run sound completely doable to me.

Jingle Bell Rock Chalk Jayhawk, everyone! Hope your holiday weekend is a good one. :)

Brian Conrad 9 years, 9 months ago

agree this team can be great... the one stat different is three looses and that team was ranked #1 ... also others around the country were not very strong that year... one thing is, this team can play and beat ANY team on a given night.. not thinking 6 in a row.. but 2 in a row on a weekend.... and who knows.. remember 88 squad had a bunch of losses, many did not even think they would make tourney.. this team does not have Clint Normore... ohhhh and Danny playing.

DevilHawk 9 years, 9 months ago

"While surfing KenPom.com (doesn't everyone do that in their free time?)"

Unfortunately, he switched the in-depth parts of the site to pay-access.

Michael Luby 9 years, 9 months ago

Omg thats eerily similar. (sp?)
Thanks for the great article Jesse.
Happy Holidays RCJH

jaybate 9 years, 9 months ago

Good job documenting what does not surprise me at all.

The comparison occurred to me even before the season started.

Both teams kept it simple to begin with, because both were green wood run by an experienced point guard waiting for the team to learn how to play D1.

Both quickly evolved into down the middle teams playing through a PG and Big.

Both had a green glue 3 that emerged as the leading defender and a low scoring ball mover.

Both had a green two.

The big edges of this team are:

a) TRob is more experienced than Cole at the same point, though not coming on quite as fast because of the knee injury; and

b) a looooooong second big, Withey; and

c) a better trey shooter at the 2, who is not yet as effective at getting to the rim as Tyshawn was once upon a time.

The big disadvantages of the this team are:

a) the looooooong second big is not as strong and athletic and does not seem to be trending toward the perfect garbage man that Marcus became by season's end; and

b) our backup big--Justin--is a better defender than Kieff was, but has even less offense than Kieff had at the same time.

Frankly, I have been arguing this team is a pretty good team for quite some time.

And lack of depth is over stated.

Presently, the only serious lack of depth is the failure of Naadir and KY to come in a play some respectable defense on a consistent basis, but KY showed he could and so probably will again.

Naadir is more problematic on defense. From the moment he was getting blown by the guards on the two D2 teams we played in exhibition, I suspected he had a serious deficiency on defense. I was hoping it was some kind of undisclosed injury, like blisters, or a sore something, but as time has passed it just looks like he lacks that sixth sense of a good defender of feeling for picks, and minimal ability to turn and burn once beaten. His footwork will come, as will his ability to feel picks, but his trajectory seems to be like Tyrel Reed in these departments. It is going to take a ton of hard work on his part building up the kind of strength he needs to do this stuff at D1 speeds. Probably next season, unless it turns out he heals from an injury we don't know about, which is always possible.

Regarding your stats, it would be prudent to weight, or index, points per possession on offense, to something like KU's total FTs, or to USC's related defensive stat--total fouls. This would index for the way the game was called and the way USC chose to defend.

If USC fouled a ton, which it seemed they did, and KU shot poorly from the FT line, that would indicate that KU's inside offense was actually quite effective in generating foul shots, but KU was ineffective at converting on those FTs.

Do you see my point here?

Inside offense is not ineffective, if it is generating a lot of foul shots that happen to be being missed on a given night.

AsadZ 9 years, 9 months ago

Bate, Very good commentary on a well done article by Jesse.

jaybate 9 years, 9 months ago

Thx.

JNewell is a good journalist. He has the knack of making me think. I'm like everyone else. I won't think if I'm not provoked. QA, even flawed QA, force me to think.

nwlawhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Great article Jesse. That is the type of fact-based, insightful reporting the KU Sports page needs. Keep it up.

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