It might sound simple, but a huge reason for the Kansas men's basketball team's success so far has been making close shots while allowing very few.
Hoop-Math.com's numbers list KU as the best layup/dunk/tip-in defensive team in the nation, with opponents only making 43 percent of those shots. In addition, KU leads the country by blocking 30 percent of those close tries.
On the other end, the Jayhawks have thrived at getting layups/dunks/tips, helped by strong transition play and good passing.
I wanted to dive a little further into the numbers to see just how much layups/dunks/tips are contributing to KU's success, so I went through the play-by-play of each box score to tally KU's close shots compared to its opponents.Enlarge graph
As you can see, the Jayhawks have only been outperformed on close shots once this year, and that was during their 67-64 loss to Michigan State. KU has had double the easy baskets (or more) in nearly every other game this season.
The next graph shows how many points KU has gained each game on close shots over its opponent — a layup/dunk/tip margin if you will.Enlarge graph
Through 10 games, KU has scored 176 more points on close shots than its opponents. That means the Jayhawks have averaged 17.6 more points per game than their opponents on layups, dunks and tips alone (For reference, KU's average margin of victory is 19.2 points.).
The Jayhawks' combined dunk and layup numbers are staggering as well (tips are excluded below).Enlarge graph
The Jayhawks are outdunking opponents, 57-8. That means Jeff Withey has more than twice the number of dunks this year as all of KU's opponents combined (20). Ben McLemore can say the same thing (17).
Withey's presence also has made dunking difficult for opponents. According to the box scores, opposing players are just 8-for-13 on dunk attempts against KU. That means teams have had a better chance of making an attempted free throw against the Jayhawks (109 of 159, 69 percent) than making an attempted dunk (eight of 13, 62 percent).
Here's a look at all the close shot combined percentages for KU and its opponents this year. (Note: Hoop-Math's numbers slightly differ from mine.)
This will be a hard advantage to sustain as the competition picks up, but right now, KU is doubling up its opponents when it comes to easy twos.
By building a team that takes lots of the highest-percentage shots in basketball while not surrendering them, KU coach Bill Self appears to have found yet another formula for success — one that makes his team the heavy favorite to win the Big 12.