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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.

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Comments

Ludwig Supraphonic 1 year, 5 months 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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Steve Gantz 1 year, 5 months 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!

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JeffHaley 1 year, 5 months 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.

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mikehawk 1 year, 5 months 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.

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Jason Sinclair 1 year, 5 months 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.

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 5 months 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.

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Ron Prichard 1 year, 5 months ago

Really interesting stuff. Thanks, Jesse.

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William Blake 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm thrilled to see your analysis again and look forward to another great year of Jayhawk basketball with Jesse's intelligent articles!

  1. Elijah Johnson's shot selection - I know EJ had to undergo surgery this past summer, and that impacted his development. I was hoping he would have hooked up with John Lucas for some needed schooling... not only helping his jump shot accuracy, but also helping him drive successfully to the hole. He needs that same help Tyshawn received last year about slowing down a bit on the drive and executing better cuts and finishes. EJ relies too much on athletic ability to brute force his finishes, which can often end in missed opportunities and offensive fouls.

  2. Jeff in the post - Three things stick out to me. First, Jeff needs to receive the ball high and keep it high. No lowering of the ball again. Second, Jeff should receive the ball when he is in position to shoot. Third, Jeff needs to get his shot off quickly, sometimes using ball fakes to keep the defense honest and in foul trouble.

  3. TRele in mid range - We need to focus on TRele scoring in mid range. Run screens/plays designed for TRele in mid range. I bet he will put up a high percentage and big numbers if we bring this more into the offense. We've got to develop offense with this team and it shouldn't be so reliant on treys. Otherwise, every bad trey shooting night will end in a loss.

  4. Jeff getting back - The fact that two of your five learning things have to do with JW reminds us all how important JW is to our success. We all know from last year that there are two Jeff's playing for this team; one soft-playing Jeff and one intense Jeff who brings several gifts to the table. We need an intense Jeff this entire season if we hope to match the consistent winning ways of the past. Jeff will have to learn that a big part of maturity is to bring high intensity to every game.

  5. Value of 3-pt attempts - It doesn't surprise me that we shot only 17% from treysville during the first 10-sec of the shot clock after a steal. I bet there wasn't much confidence in those shots because the shooters are coached on how important it is to execute scoring after a TO. Stealing the ball builds instant momentum and players often get sped up immediately following a steal in hopes of building more on that momentum. What makes the situation even worse is how often opposing teams score right after these trey misses because both teams are spread out across the entire court and missed treys often throw out a long rebound, helping to establish a break away going in the other direction. How many times last year did we blunder scoring opportunities after a steal and have it go the other way for easy points?

Anytime we've got the ball in the open court against only part of the defense, we've got to take it to the hole and finish, get fouled (or both). Those opportunities don't grow on trees so we need to take advantage of them by playing aggressive!

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clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 5 months 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.

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