Recap: Low-turnover KU a dangerous team offensively
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.
It didn't make my story Wednesday, but I thought Texas Tech guard John Roberson gave the Kansas men's basketball team a pretty high compliment following the Jayhawks' 88-66 victory on Tuesday.
"They weren’t going to take any bad shots. They’re a well-coached team," Roberson said. "It’s pretty hard guarding them for 35 seconds, and then going back on the offensive end and not getting the bucket, then you have to guard them again."
Most fans want to talk about how much a team runs. Will the team play faster this year? Does it have the athleticism to win an up-and-back game? I even think most of KU coach Bill Self's excitement for this year's team was that he did have a squad full of players that can all move well.
It's interesting, because things seem a little backwards right now.
Yes, the Jayhawks are still running. They rank 37th in adjusted tempo, and if that number stands, it will be the fastest team Self has ever had at KU.
The weird thing, though, is that recently, this team is playing against its speediness: The Jayhawks are having trouble converting shots in transition, yet have been extremely efficient in a half-court game.
KU was perhaps better than it has been all season in a half-court set on Tuesday.
The Jayhawks turned it over just six times in a 70-possession game, which put their turnover percentage at a minuscule 8.6 percent.
Not only was that the second-lowest turnover percentage in a game for KU during Self's tenure — it also tied for the second-lowest turnover percentage for a KU team in the last 15 seasons.
KU's low turnover percentage didn't occur because of quick shots, either. The Jayhawks were patient offensively, worked the ball around and were able to get easy shots, as 48 of KU's 88 points came from in the paint.
KU coach Bill Self talked afterward about the difficulty of trying to defend post players when the ball is reversed to all sides of the floor.
The Jayhawks showed the patience to do that Tuesday night, along with the ability to take care of the basketball.
If that formula is replicated, opposing teams are going to have a hard time stopping KU's offense, especially with as much talent as the Jayhawks have in their frontcourt.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Marcus Morris had the best start, but Thomas Robinson wins the M.O.J. with the most complete performance.
Robinson posted 1.45 points per possessions used while ending an above-average number of possessions (24.4 percent). He scored at least one point on 82 percent of the possessions he used.
That was only the start of his contributions, though. Against a poor rebounding team in Tech, Robinson grabbed 15.4 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 30 percent of the available defensive rebounds, many times simply on effort alone.
I wasn't expecting to see Robinson's points per possession used that high, but there was one main difference between this game and others: He didn't hurt his efficiency at the free-throw line.
The sophomore forward was a perfect 5-for-5 from the stripe; it was only the third time this year he made all his free-throw attempts (and he's had 17 games where he's attempted at least one free throw).
Robinson also had no turnovers, and now has just one giveaway in his last 49 minutes played. If he continues that trend, there's no reason he can't be a player that averages 20 minutes per game for KU from here on out.
Room for Improvement
Again, this is nitpicky, but KU didn't offensive rebound as well as might have been expected against Texas Tech.
KU pulled down 35.1 percent of the offensive rebounds, which was below the Jayhawks' season average (35.9 percent).
That number might not be so bad against a normal Big 12 opponent, but Texas Tech came in as the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference. The Red Raiders' opponents had come away with 36.5 percent of the available offensive rebounds this year, and KU (a good offensive rebounding team) couldn't get to that number.
Looking back at the stats, the problem seems to be in an unlikely place.
KU's bigs grabbed a combined 11 offensive rebounds (Markieff Morris 4, Robinson 3, Mario Little 2, Marcus Morris 1, Jeff Withey 1). KU also had two team offensive rebounds, which are ones that went out of bounds off Texas Tech.
That left KU's guards — Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby, Royce Woolridge, Brady Morningstar, Elijah Johnson, Niko Roberts and Jordan Juenemann — to combine for zero offensive rebounds. None.
Obviously, guards aren't expected to get a lot of the loose offensive caroms, but it's rare to have a game were no KU guard even grabbed one — especially against a bad offensive rebounding team.
This won't matter much in a 22-point blowout, but it might indicate that KU's guards could do a bit more to try to gain their team some extra possessions.
For the third straight game, it's Tyrel Reed, though it's hard to know how much of this we can place directly on him.
After the game, Self said Reed had a sore foot that has been bothering him, and perhaps that is the reason for his recent cold shooting.
Reed posted 0.77 points per possession while ending 14.2 percent of KU's possessions in his 16 minutes. The senior made just 1 of 4 threes, and over his last three games, he's gone 4-for-15 from three-point range (26.7 percent).
Luckily for KU, Brady Morningstar has played some of his best basketball in the last three games to take some of the scoring pressure off of Reed.
After a shaky start to the Big 12 season offensively, KU has responded with three strong offensive performances in a row.
Against Texas Tech, KU put up 1.26 points per possession — its third-highest of the Big 12 season and its third straight game with at least 1.23 PPP.
Though the Jayhawks have oftentimes struggled this year with turnovers, they thrived Tuesday by taking care of the ball and also staying patient in half-court sets to make for easier feeds inside.
We'll see if the Jayhawks stick to the same gameplan Saturday against Nebraska — a team that will present much more of a defensive challenge inside.