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Recap: If Bill Self believes in plus-minus, then one Jayhawk deserves more minutes

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.

Kansas coach Bill Self made an interesting statement last week when talking about which players earn the most minutes.

He said that most bench players believe they have to make a great play to get additional minutes, though often that's not the best way.

Kansas head coach Bill Self protests a call during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas head coach Bill Self protests a call during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

"When they're in the game, the (score) differential either goes up or down," Self said. "That's what determines if they stay in or not."

In essence, it sounds like Self is using a basic form of the statistic known as "plus/minus" to help determine which players stay in the game.

"Plus/minus" is simply the point differential for a team when a certain player is in the game.

It has its limitations and also outspoken critics, which include Ken Pomeroy himself.

Still, if this is something that Self uses for his evaluation, I think it's something that's at least worth exploring.

The reason I bring it up today is because KU's 82-70 victory over Oklahoma had some crazy plus-minus splits.

Obviously, KU's biggest storyline right now is its point guard play, as Elijah Johnson has started the last two games, with previous starter Tyshawn Taylor likely to return from suspension in the next week.

So should Johnson remain as the starter?

If Self is looking at all at the plus-minus numbers — especially from the OU game — he might be tempted to give Johnson another start.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson laughs with his teammates after Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel was called for a technical foul during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson laughs with his teammates after Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel was called for a technical foul during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

From the advanced box score, here are the plus-minus numbers from the KU guards in Saturday's Oklahoma game.

Elijah Johnson +23 (16 minutes)
Brady Morningstar +12 (36 minutes)
Tyrel Reed +12 (32 minutes)
Josh Selby -10 (27 minutes)

Again, I want to warn again against making any grand conclusions about these numbers. Pomeroy is even quoted in the blog above saying single-game plus-minus numbers are "useless."

Still, if Self is looking for whether the differential is going up or down when Johnson is in the game, his answer was pretty clear Saturday: KU's differential was going way, way up.

Morris brothers Markieff (back), and Marcus (right) help their teammate Elijah Johnson up off the floor after a hard foul during the second half against Oklahoma on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Morris brothers Markieff (back), and Marcus (right) help their teammate Elijah Johnson up off the floor after a hard foul during the second half against Oklahoma on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

If we break it down further, KU's offense was most remarkable during Johnson's 16 minutes, scoring 46 points (2.9 points per minute). For comparison, in Selby's 27 minutes, KU only scored 40 points (1.5 points per minute).

Again, this isn't to say Johnson is KU's best offensive player or Selby is terrible or anything like that.

I think it could indicate, though, that KU's offense was probably running pretty well with Johnson in against OU, but with both Taylor and Johnson out, KU's offense wasn't as effective without a true point guard in the game.

In case you were wondering, Johnson's plus-minus was good against OSU as well (+20 in 30 minutes). Again, KU's offense appeared to be effective with him in, as KU scored 72 points in his 30 minutes (2.4 points per minute).

The bottom line? If Self does indeed take score differential into account when making decisions on playing time, Johnson has made a strong case to remain as KU's starting point guard.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Though their final lines were almost identical, Marcus Morris edges out his brother, Markieff, for M.O.J. honors.

Oklahoma forward C.J. Washington defends Kansas forward Marcus Morris during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Oklahoma forward C.J. Washington defends Kansas forward Marcus Morris during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

Marcus continued his string of remarkable efficiency, posting 1.61 points per possession used while ending 23.8 percent of KU's possessions. On 85.6 percent of the possessions he ended, KU scored at least one point.

For comparison purposes, Markieff posted 1.47 points per possession used while ending 26.7 percent of KU's possessions. KU scored at least one point on 79.6 percent of the possessions Markieff ended.

Marcus also was steady on the boards, grabbing 21 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 21.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds.

His final line also was helped by free throws, as he attempted the same number of free throws as field goals (10) and also made 8 of his 10 attempts from the stripe.

After Texas guard Jordan Hamilton's rough game against Colorado (7-for-24 shooting), Marcus could be sneaking into position to make a run for Big 12 player of the year.

Room for Improvement

It's time to be a bit concerned about KU's inability to force turnovers defensively.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends a pass from Oklahoma guard Calvin Newell Jr. during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends a pass from Oklahoma guard Calvin Newell Jr. during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

Oklahoma turned it over on just 9.8 percent of its possessions against KU on Saturday — the lowest turnover percentage for the Sooners in any game this year. It also was the Jayhawks' second-lowest defensive turnover percentage of the season.

KU's defensive turnover numbers have dropped significantly in the last few games. The Jayhawks' defensive turnover percentage this year is 20.9 percent, and KU's opponents have finished under that percentage in seven of the last eight games.

According to KenPom, KU has a 18.3 percent defensive turnover percentage in Big 12 play, which ranks ninth in the conference.

Part of Self's excitement for this season was the belief that his fast and athletic team could put more defensive pressure on opponents. Lately, the Jayhawks haven't been doing much to force opponents into mistakes, though, and that's been just part of the problem for a KU defense that isn't as strong as it was earlier in the season.

Tough-Luck Line

Thomas Robinson picks up the "Tough-Luck Line" after a high-turnover game.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson regains his footing as he lands on the back of Oklahoma guard Carl Blair Jr. during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson regains his footing as he lands on the back of Oklahoma guard Carl Blair Jr. during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

Robinson was the only Jayhawk that scored who posted less than one point per possession used (0.49) while consuming a team-high 39.3 percent of his team's possessions while he was in.

When Robinson struggles, it's usually because of turnovers, and Saturday was no exception. The 6-foot-9 forward had a team-high four turnovers in just 10 minutes, including one stretch where he had three giveaways in a stretch of four possessions.

Though Robinson had a tough day overall, he should be commended for his rebounding. He came away with 34.7 percent of the available offensive rebounds and 42.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds, providing value on the glass even when he was careless on the offensive end.

Bottom Line

Saturday's game, like a few others in the past month, was one where KU's offense played at such a high level that is made up for a poor defensive effort.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks on the Oklahoma defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks on the Oklahoma defense during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks, who posted 1.50 points per possession in the first half, ended the game with 1.34 PPP — their second-best offensive effort in their last 11 games (and their last 11 games have been filled with good offensive efforts).

KU was especially good on the offensive glass, as when the Jayhawks missed a shot, they actually grabbed a higher percentage of the rebounds (52.2 percent) than the Sooners. OU's 47.8 percent defensive rebounding percentage was its lowest number of the year.

Playing in a low-possession game, though (61 possessions), KU's defense was subpar. OU put up 1.15 PPP — the Sooners' best offensive game in Big 12 play. In fact, in each of the Sooners' previous five games, they'd failed to score 1 PPP; their best game in that stretch was 0.98 PPP effort at home against Nebraska.

OU put up the impressive offensive showing without getting many second-chance opportunities. The Sooners grabbed just 17.9 percent of the available offensive rebounds (six in all), but still was able to get good production by limiting turnovers, making shots and getting to the free-throw line.

After holding its previous two opponents to 0.88 PPP at home, KU's wasn't as good on the road against Oklahoma.

The Jayhawks played more than half the game without a true point guard in, though, so we'll see if Johnson and perhaps Taylor give a boost to the defense when KU plays Texas A&M on Wednesday.

Comments

Josh Dutcher 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd be interested to know what Tyshawn's plus/minus numbers look like. Seems like a relevant statistic when considering whether to reinstate him as starting guard, or leave EJ in.

weegee 3 years, 8 months ago

OMG--you are sooooo hilarious! What an original and witty remark! I had no idea that basketball players had tattoos! You are simply a tremendous observer of human nature!

Andrew Moore 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't normally favor censorship, but not in your case, your avatar is extremely offensive

I wouldn't mind never seeing you on here again.

steamboat 3 years, 8 months ago

Hey troll behave yourself or I'll tell everyone where your mom's tattoo is and .... well you know!!!! Come on boy man up, your mom did. Grow a set and get a life!!!!! This world is full of idiots like you... And KU fans don't need your uncontrolled stupity trashing up this website

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 8 months ago

There should be a link under the selby picture to the YouTube video "what what in the . . ."

dnvrhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

I think you also have to look at who is on the floor at the time. Selby may not be on the court with the Morrii as much as he is with players that dont have the same point production.

David Reed 3 years, 8 months ago

is it me or is the pic of T-Rob horribly timed

FairgroveJayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

+1. Thankfully the basketball is in plain sight. It could have been a blooper for the ages!

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

+/- at OU would seem directly related to time of game minutes were played; EJ was early, Selby was late, Morningreed was throughout.

It really isn't anything new that KU has been more productive early in games, and then relax, don't show the killer instinct, ... later in the game.

As for TO's, do the injuries to Tyrel, Selby, others have an impact? It would seem like it would have an effect on the D intensity.

That being said, I don't recall anyone commonly using intensity to describe the Morrii in particular. I seem to recall an entire article from a year or so ago that talked about how they were laid back. I think most people would setle for just being focused.

Clarence Haynes 3 years, 8 months ago

I believe that TRob made those turnovers early on in his time on the floor. Self took him out and when he went back in, he was more settled and productive, especially with rebounding. I suspect that he was pressing a bit to "one up" his high school class mate.

Jim Roth 3 years, 8 months ago

Relax, Francis. He was just making an observation

bad_dog 3 years, 8 months ago

You certainly seem to have the "jerk" aspect of "knee-jerk" well mastered, KSA.

So again, why is it that you use the Kansas statutory reference to Indencent Liberties with a Child as your loser name???

slowplay 3 years, 8 months ago

Every coach uses +/- as an indicator but it's one of many other factors. The most important is the coach's perceptions during the game. I really don't see how he can replace EJ at this time. That's not to say Taylor can't play himself in (or EJ play himself out). Will Taylor be a better player when he returns? I think Self gave him a lot of rope knowing he would have to take the good with the bad. EJ (and Selby) had issues of their own so Taylor was the best option. This may really work out well for KU. EJ can do the job and Taylor will hopefully play to his ability giving Self two good options at the point.

Jacobpaul81 3 years, 8 months ago

Numbers time:

2008 - 82.1 ppg.
2011 - 83.2 ppg.

2008 allowed 61.2 ppg.
2011 allowing 64.9 ppg.

2008 - shot 52% from the field.
2011 - shooting 52.3%

2008 - 18 apg 2011 - 18.4 apg

2008 - 38.7 rpg 2011 - 38.4 rpg

2008 - 8.7 steals pg 2011 - 8.4 steals pg

2008 - 13.2 TO pg 2011 - 13.5 TO pg

Michael Luby 3 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. Thats scary similar. But yah, Id bet the 08 numbers look better in big 12 play. Still, its kinda cool. We'll see how far they get this year.

texashawk10 3 years, 8 months ago

Here are some of the defensive stats in Big 12 play between this season and the 2008 title team.

FG% defense 2008- 37.9% 2011- 42.8%

3 point FG% defense 2008- 31.4% 2011- 35.2%

Turnovers forced 2008- 13.0 2011- 12.7

Steals 2008- 7.0 2011- 7.4

Blocks 2008- 5.7 2011- 4.0

Free Throws 2008- 75.6% 2011- 67.4%

These stats do show that the 2008 team was a lot better defensively than this team in just about every category.

tahawk81 3 years, 8 months ago

Interesting stats. I would bet if you compare big 12 play only against the two years the D would look much better in 08.

Jacobpaul81 3 years, 8 months ago

I concur on the defense comment. Also check out scoring numbers:

% = % of team scoring by players

2008: Top 4 over 11 ppg 50.1% - Rush, Chalmers, Jackson, Arthur Top 7 over 7 ppg 91%

2011: Top 2 over 11ppg 36.7% - Marcus & Markieff Top 6 over 7ppg 81% Top 8 over 6 ppg 96.5%

Jack Wilson 3 years, 8 months ago

As a big EJ fan, I'd love to say this stat is particularly relevant .. but it's not.

jaybate 3 years, 8 months ago

Numbers without context hide as much as they reveal.

The 11 team falls short of the 08 team in overall defensive stats for several reasons but not as far short as one might think.

  1. The 11 team had Rush. The 08 team has no one comparable. From midseason on the 08 team could dominate any team with it's defense.

  2. Had Rush been healthy from the start, the 08 edge would have been greater still.

  3. On the other hand, the 11 team has had to play the middle third of the season with only two bigs (TRob out or injured) and a first third with the Twins heavily foul prone. This has forced KU to defend much more conservatively inside, which has forced KU to play more conservatively on the perimeter.

  4. Further, the 11 team has had to play with more injuries and suspended games on the perimeter than the 11 team.

Bottom line is: the 08 team would have had sharply better defensive stats with Rush healthy a full season, and with Rush on the floor, had a higher defensive ceiling than the 11 team, when each team's best defensive 5 were on the floor.

But, the 11 team's stats would be much better too, if everyone were healthy.

And the 11 team has two advantages over the 08 team, when healthy.

First, by Late February, and if healthy, the Twins and TRob probably were better defensively than Arthur, Jackson and Kaun. Kaun's mobility was greatly hampered. Arthur was not as dominant defensively as any of the 11 team's bigs.

Second, the 11 team is much deeper on the perimeter than the 08 team. That depth, when the team is healthy, let's the 11 team make up some of the gap between its perimeter defenders and those of 08 team.

My conclusions are:

a) season stats understate how good both teams are, when healthy;

b) if the 11 team were healthy, by the end of the season end, it's better bigs and greater depth would enable it to come close to parity with the 08 team and it big advantage with Rush, and it's lesser advantages with charmers and RR.

c) the 08 team was healthy down the stretch, so it was better when it counted; and

d) the 11 team is probably not going to return to health down the stretch and so it will not finally be able to approach how good the 08 defense was.

To bad about the injuries,too, because healthy I think the 11 team was on a path to nearly equal the 08 defense albeit defending in a less spectacularly aggressive way.

But nothing is written.

Talented young men who decide to climb seemingly unscalable mountains sometimes do. The adversity they have already overcome is extraordinary.

I TRob's knee heals, and Tyrel's heel gets better, and josh's foot gets better, and Tyshawn's broken fingers heal, and Travis' ankle comes around, and Withey's strength ever restore from sickness...well, you never know.

jml013 3 years, 8 months ago

This is very interesting. Although EJ didn't get as much playing time as Selby, this was Selby's first time ever running the point. So taking that into consideration, is EJ really the most efficient? If you really take a look at it, I think Selby is, but if you have Selby and EJ on the floor at the same time, then no doubt are the Jayhawks MOST efficient.

R2D2 3 years, 8 months ago

I think the most glaring weakness on the '11 team compared to the '08 team is perimeter defense. RusRob typically cut off the head of the opposing offense and this year we just don't have that. RusRob allowed everyone else to overplay their man just enough to create turnovers. We just don't seem to be quick enough to sag/help and then get back to defend when the ball is kicked out to the perimeter. Any team past the first round that gets hot from the outside will likely beat us unless we develop a defensive attitude!!

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