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Recap: Jayhawks' defense anything but a weakness in first two NCAA games

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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.

I heard countless times earlier this year that the Kansas men's basketball team's defense was going to keep it from making a deep postseason run.

So far, unlikely as it might sound, KU's defense has been its biggest strength through its first two games of the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas players Tyrel Reed, left, and Markieff Morris defend Illinois' Demetri McCamey (32) Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas players Tyrel Reed, left, and Markieff Morris defend Illinois' Demetri McCamey (32) Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Mike Yoder

The Jayhawks had another impressive defensive effort against Illinois on Sunday, allowing just 0.89 points per possession — the Illini's fourth-lowest PPP number of the season.

Not only did KU force Illinois into a bad shooting night (43.3 eFG%, seventh-worst this year), it did so without fouling. Illinois' free-throw rate (FTs*100/FGs) of 15.0 was its sixth-lowest of the season, while its nine free throws attempted tied for its fifth-lowest of the year.

KU was especially good against Illinois' best offensive player Demetri McCamey, who posted just 0.78 points per possession used — his worst showing in his last nine games.

Here's the breakdown of the teams' points per possession by half:

First half
KU — 1.03 PPP
Illinois — 0.88 PPP
(32 possessions)

Second half
KU — 1.18 PPP
Illinois — 0.88 PPP
(34 possessions)

While the Jayhawks' offense improved in the second half, KU's defense was consistently good throughout.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar blocks a shot by Illinois guard Brandon Paul during the second half Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar blocks a shot by Illinois guard Brandon Paul during the second half Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

It just goes to show we probably shouldn't rush to conclusions about a team in December or January when it still has plenty of time to improve before March.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Markieff Morris beats out Tyshawn Taylor to earn M.O.J. honors against Illinois.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris delivers on an alley-oop dunk from teammate Tyshawn Taylor during the second half against Illinois on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris delivers on an alley-oop dunk from teammate Tyshawn Taylor during the second half against Illinois on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-10 forward posted 1.13 points per possession used while a high number of possessions (27.3 percent). His effective field-goal percentage of 80.7 was the best on the team for players who shot more than once.

Markieff also posted a team-high floor percentage, as when he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 64.9 percent of the time.

The junior provided value on the glass as well, coming away with 29.7 percent of the available defensive rebounds and 13.8 percent of the available offensive rebounds during his 31 minutes.

Room for Improvement

The Jayhawks made up for an awful offensive rebounding day by grabbing four important ones in the final eight minutes.

Kansas forwards Marcus (22) and Markieff Morris pull a rebound from Illinois forward Mike Davis during the second half Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas forwards Marcus (22) and Markieff Morris pull a rebound from Illinois forward Mike Davis during the second half Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

Before that, KU had just three offensive rebounds in the first 32 minutes, which would have ranked Sunday's game as one of KU's worst offensive rebounding games all season.

As it was, the Jayhawks ended with a 25 percent offensive rebounding percentage — its fifth-lowest offensive rebounding percentage of the season.

The 25 percent offensive rebounding percentage was well below KU's season average (36.2 percent) and below the average offensive rebounding percentage that Illinois allowed over the course of the year (31.5 percent).

The good news for the Jayhawks is that they took full advantage of the offensive rebounds they did get. From seven offensive rebounds, the Jayhawks scored 12 second-half points, meaning KU scored a whopping 1.71 points per possession when it was able to pull down an offensive rebound.

Tough-Luck Line

Tyrel Reed's tough shooting day lands him in this spot.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed works his way around Illinois defender Brandon Paul during the second half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed works his way around Illinois defender Brandon Paul during the second half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

Reed posted just 0.85 points per possession used while ending 13.2 percent of KU's possessions. His eFG% of 21.4 was lowest on the team; KU scored at least one point on just 35.9 percent of the possessions he used.

It actually wasn't a horrible game for Reed to go cold (1-for-5 from three), as KU was able to win by double digits even without him contributing much offensively.

Reed had made 7 of his last 15 three-pointers coming into Sunday's game (46.7 percent), so I wouldn't think Sunday's struggles will carry over into KU's next game against Richmond.

Bottom Line

The last two years, KU's NCAA Tournament losses could be directly linked to unforced turnovers, and for awhile, Sunday's game looked like it might be heading down the same path.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris watches as teammate Tyshawn Taylor comes away with a steal from Illinois guard Demetri McCamey during the first half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris watches as teammate Tyshawn Taylor comes away with a steal from Illinois guard Demetri McCamey during the first half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

In the first half, KU turned it over eight times in 32 possessions (25 percent), which was much higher than its season average (19.2 percent) and the season average of Illinois' opponents (19.2 percent).

The Jayhawks corrected the problem in the second half, turning it over just four times in its final 34 possessions (11.8 percent).

By securing the ball, the Jayhawks boosted their points per possession, which allowed them to pull away in the second half.

KU has gotten an unbelievable break in its bracket and now will be a heavy favorite to advance to the Final Four.

The Jayhawks have already faced their toughest roadblock on the way to Houston: KenPom gave KU a 69-percent chance to beat Illinois.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson acknowledges the crowd as the Jayhawks leave the court following their 73-59 win over Illinois on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson acknowledges the crowd as the Jayhawks leave the court following their 73-59 win over Illinois on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

Now, according to KenPom, KU has a 66.3-percent chance of making the Final Four and a 42.8-percent chance of making the championship game — the best odds for both of those scenarios of any team left in the field.

Comments

jayhawker_97 9 years, 2 months ago

"KU has gotten an unbelievable break in its bracket and now will be a heavy favorite to advance to the Final Four."


yes, and this worries me as we have gone through the same road before - against much lower seeded team. but this also proves that this region shows strengths from lower seeded (thanks to Big-Easters). i think KU will beat Richmond easily, but FSU is what worries me. they are very athletic & good D-team, too.

hopefully the team continues their awesome performance all the way to the final!!

rock chalk!!

Alohahawk 9 years, 2 months ago

Worry about FSU when, and if, the time comes. Neither team will face each other if one looses their next game. Richmond is the Hawks only concern at this moment.

One game at a time, Hawks.

On another note: Bruce Pearl is out of a job at Tennessee. What recruits did he have coming in for next season?

Alohahawk 9 years, 2 months ago

Oops, meant "loses their next game.", not "looses their next game." Lots of want to be english professors on this board.

Jonathan Allison 9 years, 2 months ago

I'd like to see an in depth statistical comparison of our odds in this tourney comparend to our odds in the 2008 tourney.

The region is shaping up similarly this year to what we saw in 2008, except in 2008 there wasn't an 11 seed in the sweet 16 matched up against 10th seeded Davidson.

If we do make the final four, people are going to be up in arms saying how we didn't earn it the way Duke, or OSU, or whoever else makes it had to. That's the beauty of a championship tournament though. It's definitely more interesting than the BCS.

Kent Wells 9 years, 2 months ago

Jesse,

Unrelated to your article, but:

  1. Look forward to seeing you in San Antonio. I'm sure you have ways to get my contact info, so shoot me a message and I'll buy you a margarita on the Riverwalk.

  2. Something wrong with my bracket and score. It shows a large number of errors and incorrectly calculates my total score. :)

KRW

Kent Wells 9 years, 2 months ago

I think the LJW has a bug or something, dragon!

BCRavenJHawkfan 9 years, 2 months ago

Jesse,

The possessions per game and points per possession has been a really good barometer on the teams this year.

Where does Richmond stand currently on those two stats?

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

I have a link at home that lists all of the seed vs. seed results since the tourney went to 64 teams, so you can see that a 9 has beeten a 1 10% of the time they have played, while an 8 has beaten a 1 20% of the time they have played, as well as the fact that not only has a 1 never lost to a 16, but a 1 has also never lost to a 15 seed. It takes a little thought, but it shows the probability of an upset turning into Cinderella or just a pumpkin.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

Or more specifically, http://mcubed.net/ncaab/seeds.shtml

Historically speaking, there is a 2 in 26 chance (<8%) of not making the FF. #1's are 17-0 against 12's, and 7-2 against #10 or #11.

jhox 9 years, 2 months ago

I was one of those "sky is falling" critics of our defense, but it has definitely improved significantly. I believe the KSU game was the wake up call. I suspect that's the day the guys woke up and realized that Coach Self was pretty smart, after all, and that they better concentrate more on their defense, in case they had any more poor offensive days.

I'm amazed how much better our guards look getting through screens than they did just a few weeks ago. I loved the effort by them last night.

I said early in the season that I was confident Coach Self would get it corrected, but then I was starting to waiver on that later in the season, when I wasn't seeing improvement. However, the Wizard of Oz (Coach Self) has done it once again, and our guys are defending.

How about Brady's play thus far? I'm not seeing much from the haters these days. He just makes everyone else better, every game, and he's been the guard stepping up hitting the clutch 3's, when some of the other guys go cold.

Andrew Ralls 9 years, 2 months ago

Does our lack of offensive rebounds have anything to do with TRob, our best offensive rebounder, only playing 11 minutes? I think so.

kureignman 9 years, 2 months ago

We need to just take it one game at a time regardless of the opponent. No one will mention who we did or did not beat when we are cutting down the nets.

Ryan Shelton 9 years, 2 months ago

I too am not worried about Reed. Tough luck is the key word as many of his shots rimmed in and out. He'll rebound next round. Besides, our team is deep enough at most positions that when one player has a bad game, others are there to pick up the slack. The question that I keep wondering is when Selby will pick it back up. He has the potential to just break out. Michael Jordan once said, "Shoot when you're on, shoot when you're off until you're on."

Dirk Medema 9 years, 2 months ago

It helps that he hit his 1st 3, which was followed by Markieff (?) and TT. Regardless though, if the shot is open within the O, you gotta take it no matter who it is.

KU_FanSince75 9 years, 2 months ago

Jesse---

Unbelievable numbers on KU's defense but it all makes sense. I, occasionally, harped about KU's lack of defense at times, but in the back of my mind, I knew HCBS would get them to improve on D. Your numbers don't lie.

An observation on Kieff. Marcus gets all the pub and glory but it is Kieff that flies under the radar and like a stealth bomber, sneaks up on people. He is underrated for the most part and makes teams pay big time whose scouting reports take him for granted.

An observation on Tyrel. Tyrel has to be hurting (foot/heel). He is gutting it out. I feel for him. After hit that first shot, I thought he was going to have a good night. Somebody always steps up for those who are having a lousy night. That's what I like about this team. Step on the Spiders, Jayhawks! San Antonio----sacred ground, boys! It will be interesting to see how the media plays out the angles this week. Rock Chalk!

KU79 9 years, 2 months ago

Good comments all. You see the occasional troll on here, but unlike the KC and Topeka papers, I can actually read the comments posted here. Those sites immediately turn to pissing matches and they're worthless. Thanks to all that add to the analysis and the time you spend to do it. It's greatly appreciated!

Gregory Newman 9 years, 2 months ago

Jesse could you please ask coach why doesn't the guards take a hard drive and take pull-up mid-range jumpers like Duke guards. TT keeps forcing drives that are not there when he could easily take a 7-12 foot jumper not that crap floater. He picks up too many charges. I'm not all that impressed with Duke guards we have the best group period I just don't think they are playing to their best offensive ability. Brady is not slow he just needs to punch on the gas. EJ is playing not to mess-up he's bullet fast and can jump out the gym.

actorman 9 years, 2 months ago

Theebest, I'm not sure if any of our guards are great at those mid-range jumpers. The one guy on the team who can consistently knock them down is Mario; he's one of the best I've seen at those mid-range shots in a long time. That's one of the big dimensions he adds when he's in there.

Thanks for the link, dagger; there's some interesting info. there. One quibble: you mention that a 1 has never lost to a 15. You could just as easily say that a 1 has never beaten a 15. Since the only time they could meet would be in the Elite 8, that matchup obviously has never taken place. Now if we're going by historical precedent, we should be nervous about VCU, since 1 seeds are only 2-2 against 11 seeds, a stat that's pretty amazing.

"... the Wizard of Oz (Coach Self) has done it once again"

Like most Kansans (I would assume), I'm sick to death of the W of O references. But it's funny, in this case not only don't I mind but I actually think it works perfectly for Self, what with the reminder of the Wizard of Westwood and all. I say that if he wins 9 more titles at KU, he should definitely be called the Wizard of Oz. Seriously, if he even wins one or two more, it's a name that could stick. Jhox, I also like your comment about Brady. How important has he been for the team so far in the tournament? Aside from all the usual contributions that he makes, that was a huge 3 he hit against Illinois when they were still within striking distance.

SaulGood 9 years, 2 months ago

This is one more confirmation of KU's outstanding commitment to buckling down and playing team basketball. Great defense is about believing in your teammates, and this team has got great defense in surplus right now. I have every reason to believe it's going to stay that way.

It was interesting to see my upset about our offensive rebounding play out in the stats. I still firmly hold that second shots get fouled more often, and in our game, that's usually going to be either of the Morrises or Thomas. When those guys go to the line for more charity attempts, it's my belief their percentage goes up.

Bottom line, it's pretty stinkin' obvious that the longer we keep the ball on our end, the less our opposition scores. I think I learned that in my kindergarten basketball camps :) Thanks for indulging Saul Obvious.

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