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After Kansas' 77-57 victory over Richmond on Friday, KU fans should take a second to appreciate just how well KU coach Bill Self and his staff prepared the Jayhawks.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino picked Richmond to beat KU, in part because he said that a few days was not enough time to prepare for the Spiders' unusual style of play.
Self and his coaches proved otherwise.
Richmond had scored 1.30 and 1.20 points per possession in its first two games of the tournament. Though the Spiders played slowly, they still were a highly effective offensive team.
That's until they ran into Kansas, which held Richmond to 0.90 PPP — its second-worst mark of the season.
Tom Keegan goes into some of the changes KU made defensively, which included playing defense a different way than it had all season.
The result was a flustered Richmond team.
The Spiders' effective field-goal percentage of 36.9 percent was its second-lowest percentage of the year.
Perhaps most impressive for KU was its ability to shut down Richmond's assists.
The Spiders, who averaged assists on 59.4 percent of their field goals coming in, had assists on just 31.8 percent of their field goals Friday night. Not only was that the team's lowest assist percentage this year, it was by a large margin; UR's previous low assist percentage this season was 43.5 percent against Charlotte.
The Jayhawks' defense also pressured Richmond. After posting just nine combined turnovers in its previous two games, the Spiders had 11 turnovers against KU.
Over the past week, the Jayhawks' coaching staff did a great job with preparations for the Richmond game, and it showed Friday.
In an Elite Eight filled with big-name coaches (Roy Williams, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Jim Calhoun, to name a few), KU fans should take comfort in knowing they might just have the best of the bunch.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
In a close race between Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor, Morningstar takes M.O.J. after his efficient night.
The senior posted 2.00 points per possession used while ending 13.8 percent of KU's possessions. When he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 66.9 percent of the time.
Morningstar's effective field-goal percentage of 81.8 percent was highest on the team for among who took more than two shots. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 shooting from three-point range.
The senior also contributed 23.5 percent of KU's assists while he was on the floor and came away with steals on 3.9 percent of his defensive possessions.
It was only the second time all season that Morningstar led KU in scoring (19 points at Nebraska on Feb. 5).
Room for Improvement
KU was awful on the defensive glass.
Richmond came into the game as a terrible offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 28.5 percent of its misses (288th nationally).
On Friday night, the Spiders corralled 36.4 percent of their misses — their sixth-highest mark of the season. Richmond's 16 offensive rebounds also were its second-highest total of the entire year.
For KU, neither of the Morris twins was their normal rebounding self. Marcus' 9.7 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his third-lowest since Big 12 play began, while Markieff's 5.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his fourth-lowest mark of the season.
Thankfully for KU, Thomas Robinson posted some ridiculous rebounding numbers, grabbing 29.4 percent of the offensive rebounds while he was in (yep, that's a higher number than Richmond's team averaged coming into the game, and he's only one guy) and 56.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds. So if Richmond missed a shot, more than half the time, Robinson was going to be the person coming away with the ball. Crazy stuff.
KU plays another weak offensive rebounding team in VCU on Sunday, so look for the Morris twins to rebound better after an off night on the glass.
After picking up two quick fouls, Markieff Morris never quite looked like himself on Friday.
The junior forward posted a team-low 0.80 points per possession used while ending 22.4 percent of KU's possessions during his 17 minutes. He made just 2 of 8 shots while posting a team-worst effective field goal percentage of 25 percent.
Markieff did have an impact on the offensive boards (grabbing 34.6 percent of KU's missed shots while he was in), but as mentioned above, he was nearly invisible on the defensive glass, which is usually his strength. Markieff, whose 25.5 percent defensive rebounding percentage ranks him 26th in the nation, grabbed just 5.3 percent of the defensive boards Friday.
Still, Markieff fired the Jayhawks up before the game then helped teammate Josh Selby clean up during the game, so the forward probably had more of an impact than the stat sheet recognized against Richmond.
Though KU didn't perform as well as expected on the defensive glass, the Jayhawks did dominate the offensive glass against Richmond.
The Jayhawks pulled down 44.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds — the third-best mark posted against the Spiders this year.
KU also did a good job of limiting its turnovers offensively, giving it away on just 14.3 percent of its possessions — its lowest mark of the NCAA Tournament so far.
The Jayhawks' 1.22 PPP was its best in its last three games, but it still was tough not to come away more impressed with the team's defense.
KU allowed just 0.69 PPP to Richmond in 32 first-half possessions. To put that in perspective, there was only one game during the entire Big 12 season where a team was held under 0.69 PPP (though that was for an entire game).
The Jayhawks now have outlasted all the other No. 1 seeds, and no matter which team KU plays the rest of the way, it will be the Vegas favorite in that game.
That has to be an encouraging thought for KU fans, along with knowing that the Jayhawks have a coach who can prepare his team for any style that might come its way.