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5 things to learn about the KU basketball team from Hoop-Math.com

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson grabs a steal from Washburn guard Jared Henry during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson grabs a steal from Washburn guard Jared Henry during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A few months ago, I stumbled upon Jeff Haley's Hoop-Math website and was immediately interested by his analysis.

Basically, Haley breaks the shots of each team's possession using play-by-play data from box scores.

The data can be broken down by team and individually, giving us some insight into the patterns of players that we might not have had before.

Here are five interesting things about last year's KU basketball team I found from sifting through the Jayhawks' team page, followed some thoughts about what those numbers might mean for KU this year.

1. Elijah Johnson's wacky shooting splits

Haley's data breaks down each player's shots into three categories: shots that are at the rim (listed as layups in the box score), two-point jumpers and three-point jumpers.

Last year, the NCAA average for each was easy to remember: 34 percent of shots were at the rim, 33 percent were two-point jumpers and 33 percent were three-point jumpers.

Now, let's take a look at Elijah's splits.

%Close %2pt. jumpers %3pt. jumpers
23% 18% 59%

Ken Pomeroy had a similar finding about Johnson over the summer, as after sorting through shot-chart data, he discovered that Johnson took only 50 of his 330 shots from between six feet and the three-point line.

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that so far that Johnson has looked a bit timid trying to get to the lane and create a shot off the dribble in the exhibition season.

In case you were wondering, Johnson took 19 shots in KU's two exhibition games. Fourteen of those (73.6 percent) were three-pointers, three of them (15.8 percent) were close shots and two of them (10.5 percent) were two-point jumpers.

It appears that Johnson has still has a ways to go if he's going to diversify his offensive game in 2012-13.

2. Jeff Withey's unassisted two-pointers

Jeff Withey earned the most praise because of defensive play last year, and deservedly so, as he was one of the nation's most feared shot-blockers.

He also averaged nine points per game, and without Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor on the team this year, I think quite a few people anticipated that those scoring numbers would go up significantly.

That perhaps isn't a realistic goal if you consider Withey's assisted layup splits from a year ago.

Withey %Close shots assisted Robinson %Close shots assisted
78% 60%

Out of the Final Four teams, there was no player with more than 25 field-goal attempts who had a higher percentage of layups that were assisted than Withey. Very few of his layups came from him making a move on his own; almost all came with the help of a pass from a teammate.

That's not to say that Withey can't improve his one-on-one game this season. And that's also doesn't mean that Withey couldn't increase his point production by making more two-point jumpers (though known as a good free-throw shooter, he made just 29 percent of his two-point jump shots last year, which is well below the 35-percent NCAA average).

It does mean, however, that last year he didn't necessarily display the skill set to create his own easy shots like Robinson did. That's a part of his game that will still need development if KU coach Bill Self continues to run the offense through him.

3. KU's best mid-range shooter

Any guesses as to which KU regular ended up as the Jayhawks' best two-point jump-shooter?

It actually was Travis Releford, who made 48 percent of his two-point jumpers (remember, 35 percent is NCAA average).

Releford wasn't getting too much help, either. Just 27 percent of those two-point jumpers were assisted, meaning the numbers would suggest that he is an effective scorer when pulling up off the dribble.

Kansas teammates Travis Releford (24) and Ben McLemore bump elbows after a bucket by McLemore against Emporia State during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas teammates Travis Releford (24) and Ben McLemore bump elbows after a bucket by McLemore against Emporia State during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On a KU team that might struggle to score, Releford should at least consider being more aggressive in pull-up situations, where he was an effective player in 2012-13.

4. The importance of getting back

I touched earlier on Jeff Withey's defensive presence for KU, and that impact comes through pretty strong in these numbers.

Opponents shot just 54 percent on close two-point jumpers against KU last year, compared to the national average of 61 percent.

Kansas center Jeff Withey comes over the top to block a shot by Washburn forward Joseph Smith during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. Withey finished the game with seven blocks.

Kansas center Jeff Withey comes over the top to block a shot by Washburn forward Joseph Smith during the second half on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. Withey finished the game with seven blocks. by Nick Krug

One of the biggest problems for KU last year was allowing opponents to score against an unset defense — aka, when Withey hadn't made it back into the paint yet.

Let's take a look at some of the time splits for KU's defense last year on the opposition's layups (Note: For shot clock data, Haley only looks at the first shots of possessions).

Close FG%
After rebound
0-10 seconds into possession
Close FG%
After rebound
11-35 seconds into possession
77% 53%
Close FG%
After opp. score
0-10 seconds
Close FG%
After opp. score
11-35 seconds
71% 65%
Close FG%
After steal
0-10 seconds
Close FG%
After steal
11-35 seconds
67% 62%

Now you can see why Self goes so crazy on the sidelines urging his players to get back on defense after a missed shot.

The differences in the two percentages after a rebound are especially striking. If opponents grabbed the rebound, then raced down the court and were able to get a layup against KU in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, they made 77 percent of those shots (NCAA average is 64 percent).

If those teams waited 11 seconds or more for those layups, they made just 53 percent of them (NCAA average is 58 percent).

After every KU missed shot with Withey on the floor, you can be confident in knowing that, if the shot clock gets down to 25, the opponent already missed out on its best opportunity to score against KU.

5. The value of waiting for three-point attempts

We only have one year's worth of data on Haley's site, but KU's numbers are fascinating when it comes to three-point percentage based on time remaining on the shot clock.

Take a look at the chart below.

3pt.%
After rebound
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After rebound
11-35 seconds into possession
34% 32%
3pt.%
After opp. score
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After opp. score
11-35 seconds into possession
31% 37%
3pt.%
After steal
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After steal
11-35 seconds into possession
17% 42%
3pt.%
After deadball TO
0-10 seconds into possession
3pt.%
After deadball TO
11-35 seconds into possession
37% 45%

If last year is any indication, KU would be smart to wait on three-pointers — especially after opponent turnovers.

The most shocking of the numbers above are that KU shot just 17 percent from three in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock after a steal (NCAA average was 36 percent), but 42 percent from three from in the final 25 seconds of the shot clock (NCAA average was 34 percent).

The same sort of trend held true after a dead-ball rebound. KU made quick threes 37 percent of the time and delayed threes 45 percent of the time (NCAA average was 34 percent on both).

In Self's quick ball movement offense, there appears to be a definite benefit to being patient before putting up a three-point attempt.

Comments

clevelandjayhawker 2 years ago

Thank you for the breakdown, I found it very interesting. I hope we have a more balanced attack then we did aginst Washburn. I cant think of more than 2 shots we put up that were not "close" or 3 pointers. I hope Rel gets that mid range jumper back and going.

Ron Prichard 2 years ago

Really interesting stuff. Thanks, Jesse.

Jack Wilson 2 years ago

"On a KU team that might struggle to score, Releford should at least consider being more aggressive in pull-up situations, where he was an effective player in 2012-13."

The understatement of the year .. so far. How about just putting the period after the word "aggressive."

Always appreciate your info and analysis Jesse.

Jason Sinclair 2 years ago

The most interesting fact from that anaylysis isn't about KU, per se, but that the national average on "type" of attempts was almost exactly 1/3 for lay-ups, jump shots, and 3 pointers.

It's shocking to me that the "jump shot" (which includes all two-point attempts not "at the rim") category accounted for 1/3.

As Pitino said back in 1987 (paraphrased): Unless you are at the rim, you should be attempting 3's. In other words, the dumbest shot in college basketball is a shot outside the lane, but inside the 3 point line.

I know a lot of basketball purist lament the lost-art of the mid-range jump-shot, but these stats suggest that it's still every bit as common as the two (smarter) shots: lay-ups and 3s.

Jesse Newell 2 years ago

Hawksj — I found this interesting, too.

Jeff was kind enough to give me all the NCAA averages last year. For two-point jumpers, NCAA average was 35 percent. For three-point jumpers, the NCAA average was 34 percent.

So we could have a whole other discussion about what you mentioned ... and it being true. If you can't get a layup, why settle for a two-point jumper when you only lose one percentage point when trying for a three?

JeffHaley 2 years ago

More on the NCAA averages is here, which I have included with the data page:

http://www.hoop-math.com/data.html

Jesse contacted me to ask for them, and I realized it made sense to have them on the site. So thanks to him for pointing out something that was easy for me to add, and should be useful.

And if I have learned one thing from these data, it is that two point jump shots are something that nearly every team should work to minimize.

John Boyle 2 years ago

Thus the popularity of the dribble-drive motion offense that Calipari runs. The only things kids practice nowadays are three pointers and maybe layups but not even those often enough. Kids don't practice free throws (which are intended to be free points) and the poor percentages reflect that. They also don't practice mid-range jump shots which is why the percentages are not better than they are. Also many other factors are involved, mid-range jumps shots are often more contested by the defense especially late in the possession so they are more difficult but must be taken to avoid a shot clock violation. I love numbers but sometimes they get in the way of making the right decision. This was a very interesting article though and it does give one a reason to think about shot selection. Thanks Jesse.

mikehawk 2 years ago

Elijah has never appeared comfortable going into the paint and into a defender's chest. He seemed content to allow Tyshawn to do that kind of painful work, and Tyshawn relished every chance. EJ has to get over it, go in, and "try" to get some charges. Sometimes you overcome your hesitations by pushing the pendalum further in the other direction. Take a few shots and live to tell about it, and suddenly, it is actually fun. Go EJ! Drive the paint and get you some. Show the young guys bloody noses aren't all that bad.

JeffHaley 2 years ago

I really like what you have written, and I am glad you enjoy the site.

One point of clarification on the data, though, and it is my fault for not better explaining it on the site. The individual player data are not restricted to initial shots of a possession, but includes all shots. As does the "Team Defensive Summary." The only tables that are restricted to initial shots are the two tables at the bottom of each team page. These are the "Initial Shot Distribution Data -- Offense" and "Initial Shot Distribution Data -- Defense tables."

Also, when the site goes live with the new season data (should happen sometime the middle of next week, once everyone has played a game or two, I haven't decided yet), I will also have data for the 2010-2011 season available.

Jesse Newell 2 years ago

Thanks Jeff. I've made the correction above to hopefully limit confusion.

Steve Gantz 2 years ago

Thanks Jesse, and apparently JeffHaley! You've given us hoops junkies, which most of us here are card carrying, in need of intervention addicts, something else to look at! Something else to waste time with!

Ludwig Supraphonic 2 years ago

Outstanding article! Thanks Jeff for the number crunching and Jesse for a great read. Stats can be very dry. These are extremely illuminating.

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