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Summer Q&A: Is ‘08 KU better than ‘12 Kentucky? And who had the best season in the Bill Self era?

Earlier today, I asked Twitter followers if they'd be interested in a question-and-answer blog on KUsports.com about advanced stats, and the response was great.

The following are some of the questions I received. Let's get nerdy.

Kevin Baker @deutschmarine

why is 2012 UK seen as some all time team (especially defensively) when '08 KU is KenPom's number 1 team of the decade?

It's all a matter of perception and our eyes sometimes getting in the way of what might not be true.

Kansas players Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young wrestle for a loose ball with Kentucky players Doron Lamb (20) Anthony Davis (23) and Darius Miller during the first half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

Kansas players Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young wrestle for a loose ball with Kentucky players Doron Lamb (20) Anthony Davis (23) and Darius Miller during the first half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans. by Nick Krug

To be fair, the 2012 Kentucky team probably had as much talent in terms of NBA prospects as any team in the last decade. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went 1-2 in the draft, and a total of six Wildcats were drafted that year, which tied an all-time high.

But your point stands ... talent doesn't necessarily mean UK was one of the best teams.

The stat you're citing above is KenPom's "pythagorean winning percentage," which Pomeroy uses as the primary way to rank each team. In his own words, Pomeroy defines the stat as "a fancy way of computing a team’s expected winning percentage against an average D-I team."

According to pythagorean win percentage, the college basketball team since 2003 was 2007-08 Kansas, which had a mark of .9859.

2011-12 Kentucky, meanwhile, had a pyth of .9679, which is ranked 20th in the last 11 years. The Wildcats' season actually falls behind two other Jayhawk teams that didn't win it all (2006-07 KU, .9755; 2009-10 KU, .9683).

This also leads me to another point: Oftentimes, we overrate records when trying to evaluate teams.

Kansas guard Travis Releford looks to foul Kentucky guard Marquis Teague during the second half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

Kansas guard Travis Releford looks to foul Kentucky guard Marquis Teague during the second half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans. by Nick Krug

Though Kentucky tied an NCAA record for wins in 2012 with 38, a 38-2 record might not actually be better than KU's 37-3 record in 2008 when you consider all the circumstances.

According to KenPom, KU's 2008 strength of schedule (.8202) was much tougher than that of UK's in 2012 (.7061). Though we'll never know what would have happened if UK 2012 faced KU's 2008 schedule, the safe bet would be that the Wildcats would have had at least one or two additional losses, which would have knocked them down a few notches with national perception.

And let's be honest: As sports fans, we love watching superstars. I'll easily argue KU 2007-08 was a better team than UK 2011-12, but KU didn't have an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Heck, KU didn't even put a player on the All-Big 12 team that year.

Kansas players watch highlights of the game against Memphis on Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas players watch highlights of the game against Memphis on Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Thad Allender

That doesn't mean KU wasn't a great team. It just means that the perception of what makes a great team might be different from reality.

Brian Haase @bhaase86

what do u feel is the best advanced stat that accurately portrays how an individual is performing on offense and defense?

On offense, I'll have to go with two hand-in-hand: offensive rating and usage percentage.

Part of offensive rating's problem is that it's a complicated formula, and trying to explain it is difficult. There's a reason many people are drawn to stats like batting average and simple shooting percentages: because they're easy to tally and understandable to non-statistics majors like us.

If you can accept the fact that offensive rating is widely considered the best individual basketball statistic, though (it was developed by one of the leaders in advanced statistics in Dean Oliver), and it can be extremely useful.

Basically, with our eyes, it's hard for us to take in the entirety of a player's game, even if we feel like we know them well. The stats showed last year that Perry Ellis was one of the best players in the Big 12 at avoiding turnovers. I watched him all season, and I never would have been able to come up with that observation on my own without the numbers.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis flashes a rare smile as he is applauded by the Kansas fans after leaving the court following the Jayhawks' 88-73 win over Iowa State in the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis flashes a rare smile as he is applauded by the Kansas fans after leaving the court following the Jayhawks' 88-73 win over Iowa State in the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

So basically, offensive rating compiles all of a player's offensive statistics (made and missed field goals, made and missed free throws, assists, offensive rebounds and turnovers) and tidies it up into one stat that shows a player's individual offensive efficiency — or how many points he scores per 100 possessions.

It's useful in that you can compare that to the team's offensive efficiency to easily figure out who should be doing more for an offense and who should be doing less. KU's schedule-adjusted offensive efficiency last year, according to KenPom.com, was 111.8. Both Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe's offensive ratings were under 100. Obviously, KU would have benefitted by those guys taking a back seat to other more efficient offensive players.

Offensive rating also faces an obstacle in that it has to be used with usage percentage to be kept in context. Travis Releford led KU with a 125.8 offensive rating last year, but I don't need to tell you that he wasn't a better offensive player than Ben McLemore, whose offensive rating was 118.7.

The difference in the two players is usage (or possession) percentage — the percentage of possessions a player ends either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn’t rebounded by the offense, or committing a turnover. You can think of this as, "How much offensive load does a player take on?" The average for a player is 20 percent.

Last year, Releford's usage percentage was 15.7 percent, while McLemore's was 22.1 percent.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore drives between Iowa State defenders Chris Babb, left, and Willy Clyburn during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore drives between Iowa State defenders Chris Babb, left, and Willy Clyburn during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Basically, on offense, you're looking for players with high offensive ratings that also end a lot of possessions. These players are rare, but they're also extremely valuable, as they're able to keep their efficiency up while also taking pressure off teammates by taking on large offensive responsibilities.

Wayne Simien's 2004-05 season (118.5 offensive rating, 26.9 usage percentage) and Marcus Morris' 2010-11 season (121.9 offensive rating, 26.1 usage percentage) stand out as two of the best offensive seasons in the Self era, and those high numbers combined with each other are rare.

As far as defensive stats go ... it's tough. I mostly stick to defensive rebounding percentage, block percentage and steal percentage, just because the standard box score does not (yet) keep many defensive stats.

If you're looking to get a little more advanced, Basketball-Reference lists both individual defensive ratings and defensive win shares, which attempt to give us a glimpse of a player's entire defensive value.

Beware of the Phog @Pay_Heed

I have a basic question. What's the football equivalent of a basketball PER?

Football still sits a little behind the curve as far as advanced stats go, and it's easy to see why.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013. by Richard Gwin

Baseball is great for advanced statistics because it's easy to assign responsibility to one player. If you're in the batter's box, and you strike out, it's hard to blame that on anyone else.

Basketball is tougher, but there still are areas where we can say that certain actions are nearly independent of teammates. When you're shooting a free throw, it's hard to say anyone else contributed to you making or missing it. Grabbing a rebound is a stat we can assign to a certain player.

Football is much harder because almost every play is dependent on other people. Do you give James Sims credit for a 15-yard run, or should the credit go to the offensive line? Was that sack of Dayne Crist because he held it to long, or because a blocker came free on a blitz?

There still have been plenty of advanced stat breakthroughs in the past few years, especially at sites like FootballOutsiders.com, where smart folks are starting to pin down the best way to measure individual players in football.

So the short answer is: there is no PER for football yet.

If you're looking to go a step deeper with college football analysis, though, I'd highly recommend Bill Connelly's advanced stat season preview of KU on SB Nation. He also provides a glossary at the top that helps explain what some of the stats are and why they're important.

Give it some time, and I think we'll see some of these advanced football stats become more mainstream, just as on-base percentage and effective field-goal percentage have in other sports.

Chris Teegarden @firket2000

I would love to get a better understanding of how coach Selfs system works with advanced statistics. What works & doesn't

Had a couple questions about this. A good start, if you haven't read it yet, is the two-part series we had last week talking about how the KU men's basketball team uses new video technology.

Synergy Sports Technology is just one tool that is used by the basketball staff (along with KenPom.com, I'm told) to evaluate its own players and also opponents. From the articles, you can tell the coaches have embraced these new technological advancements in a short period of time.

Also, if you listen closely enough to Self's press conferences, you can tell he uses KenPom. He's referenced KenPom's "Experience" ranker before and a few times (saying something like an opposing team is the 10th-youngest in the country) and has made it a point to explain to media members that if KU allows a high number of offensive rebounds in a game, that doesn't mean the Jayhawks necessarily had a bad rebounding game (and he's right).

A good example is KU's round of 32 win last year against North Carolina. Though the Tar Heels posted the seventh-highest offensive rebounding total of the season against KU (16), that number was artificially high because the Tar Heels missed a whopping 51 field goals.

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) jumps over North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald after a loose ball in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) jumps over North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald after a loose ball in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Mike Yoder

The better way to look at how well KU rebounded is by looking at its defensive rebounding percentage, which was 68.6 percent. That number was just below KU's season average of 70.7 percent, and in a completely acceptable range considering the quality of the opponent.

Self often talks about how he's a numbers guy, and he brings up field-goal percentage defense more than any other stat (effective field-goal percentage is a better stat, of course, but I digress).

This topic is probably worthy of exploring further, but based on the conversation I had with video coordinator Jeff Forbes, I can tell you that KU is at least accepting of the new statistics and technology out there to try to gain an edge.

Which is more than we can say for the Kansas City Royals.

Kevbo™©® @kevbo9

using advanced stats, who’s had the best season under Bill Self? T-Rob in 2011/12? Sherron in 2008/09? Simien in 04/05?

Great question, and one I've thought a lot about lately, especially when making picks for the best players during our KUsports.com summer series.

After looking it over, though, I think one season stands above all others: Cole Aldrich's sophomore year in 2008-09.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich screams in jubilation after getting a bucket and a foul Dayton during the first half Sunday March 22, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. At right is Kansas forward Mario Little, Dayton center Kurt Huelsman and Dayton forward Chris Wright.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich screams in jubilation after getting a bucket and a foul Dayton during the first half Sunday March 22, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. At right is Kansas forward Mario Little, Dayton center Kurt Huelsman and Dayton forward Chris Wright. by Nick Krug

I referenced this in the ranking of KU's centers under Self, but Aldrich's sophomore season stands by itself in terms of Basketball-Reference's all-encompassing Win Share statistic, which is "an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense."

Here are the top five from the Self era:

Win Shares.

Win Shares. by Jesse Newell

To me, no one looks out of place on this list, and Aldrich being that far in front of everyone else only strengthens his case.

Of course, his advanced stats at KenPom.com also back up the argument that he's Self's best player in a single season.

Remember, this team earned a share of the Big 12 title and advanced to the Sweet 16 basically with Aldrich, Sherron Collins, a freshman Tyshawn Taylor and a bunch of other guys. The Morris twins were not good statistically their freshman year (or playing much), and while Brady Morningstar added some defensive value, he shot on just 12.4 percent of his possessions, which limited his offensive role.

Basically, Aldrich had to be dominant on both ends for KU. And he was.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich stuffs a shot by Missouri guard J.T. Tiller during the first half Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich stuffs a shot by Missouri guard J.T. Tiller during the first half Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On a team that had an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.14, Aldrich posted 1.24 points per possession — and that was while ending an above-average offensive load for KU (he ended 21.5 percent of the possessions he was in and shot it on 22.8 percent of his possessions).

Aldrich was a great shooter that year. His effective field-goal percentage of 59.8 percent was 63rd-best in the nation, and his 79.2-percent free-throw percentage still stands as the seventh-best in the Self era (minimum 100 attempts).

Big men also never seem to get credit for avoiding turnovers, but Aldrich was exceptional at this as well, as his 14.3-percent turnover rate was best on the team.

Aldrich was rare in that not only did he block shots, but he also was a dominant offensive and defensive rebounder.

Aldrich defense.

Aldrich defense. by Jesse Newell

Jeff Withey received a lot of fan love, and rightfully so, but he didn't approach the offensive numbers or defensive rebounding numbers that Aldrich had his sophomore year.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich delivers a dunk over North Dakota State defenders Dejaun Flowers, left, and Ben Woodside during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich delivers a dunk over North Dakota State defenders Dejaun Flowers, left, and Ben Woodside during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. by Nick Krug

In a season where KU desperately needed Aldrich to score, defend and rebound, he did all three at an elite level without a whole lot of help around him.

Looking back, the center probably deserves the most credit of any Self player for keeping the nine-consecutive-conference-titles streak alive.

Reply 36 comments from Keith Kienzle Ku_foaf Krohnutz Ralster John Randall Cwgoku Robert Rauktis Jaybate Lulufulu85 Superhairyhawk and 12 others

Where does each KU basketball returner need to improve?

It's the basketball offseason, which means it's the best time for the Kansas men's basketball players to improve their skills before the games begin to matter again in November.

So what types of drills should each returning KU player be focusing on?

Taking a look at last year's statistics, here's a suggested area of improvement for each of the Jayhawks' five returning scholarship players.

Perry Ellis: Finishing at the rim

As mentioned earlier this summer, Ellis had an impressive statistical first season, thanks mostly to a low turnover rate and an ability to get to the free-throw line and make those shots when he was there.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

The next step, though, is to make a few more bunnies. Ellis — often undersized in the lane at 6 foot 8, 225 pounds — made just 52 percent of his shot attempts at the rim last year, according to Hoop-Math.com. That number is well below the 61 percent national average on layups/tipins/dunks and also was the lowest mark on the team among players with at least 75 field-goal attempts.

In the first camp game last week, Ellis showed an improved face-up game offensively, which included range past the three-point line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F1yI2Au1hE

To become an even greater scoring threat this year, though, Ellis will have to improve upon his 47.1-percent two-point shooting from 2012-13. The easiest way to do that will be to body up to shot-blockers and put in a few more close ones when he's next to the rim.

Andrew White III: Lateral quickness

As a three-point specialist, White's 27.8-percent three-point accuracy last year had to be considered a disappointment, but it also could be the product of a small sample size (36 three-point attempts).

Here's what was more troubling for White when he was on the court: He had trouble keeping the person he was guarding in front of him.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

White's foul numbers reflect that. In 125 minutes, he racked up 20 fouls, which comes out to 6.4 fouls for every 40 minutes. That number is too high for any player and especially worrisome for a perimeter player who typically doesn't have to use up whistles to prevent easy baskets.

White has shown the potential to have value offensively, but the sophomore will only get significant playing time when KU coach Bill Self starts to feel more comfortable with him on the other end.

Naadir Tharpe: Field-goal shooting

Tharpe had an impressive assist rate last year for KU, and while his turnovers were a touch high, they're in an acceptable range if the junior can make a few more shots.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

Though it hasn't been talked about much, Tharpe had the second-worst shooting year of any player in Self's 10-year tenure at KU (minimum 100 field-goal attempts).

Worst eFG% in Self era.

Worst eFG% in Self era. by Jesse Newell

Though Tharpe especially struggled inside the arc, he really could use improvement in all his shots. His field-goal percentages at the rim (52 percent), on two-point jumpshots (30 percent) and three-point jumpers (33 percent) were all below NCAA averages.

The point guard shouldn't be relied upon to score much next season, but he'll still need to hit enough shots to prevent defenses from sagging off him.

Justin Wesley: Hands-off defense

When Wesley checks into a game, he's being put in to defend, rebound and most likely help KU avoid further foul trouble.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

If Wesley is to fill that role better in 2013-14, he's going to have to tone down his aggressiveness and avoid fouls better than he did a year ago.

Wesley's foul numbers were sky-high last season, as he picked up 16 whistles in 68 minutes. That's a whopping 9.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which decreases his overall value, especially if the opponent is already in the bonus.

Wesley will always be primarily a ball-mover on the offensive end (though eight turnovers to just four field-goal attempts last year is a ratio that could be improved), but to be a better role player for KU, he'll need to improve his defensive technique and be a little less hack-happy in the lane.

Jamari Traylor: Two-point jump-shooting

Much like Thomas Robinson in his freshman year, Jamari Traylor had poor offensive numbers last year because of a high turnover rate.

Part of the problem, though, was Traylor's hesitance to shoot the ball. When he was in, he only attempted 13 percent of KU's shots, which was the lowest mark of the Jayhawks' rotation players.

Though Traylor was OK when shooting at the rim (58 percent is slightly below NCAA average), he struggled quite a bit with his jump shot.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

According to Hoop-Math, Traylor made just 21 percent of his two-point jumpers, which again was the worst mark of any player in the Jayhawks' rotation.

Traylor appeared to show some extended range in the camp game when he hit a three-pointer, but much like Tharpe, he'll need to take (and make) open shots to remain on the floor.

The sophomore has the ability to help KU with blocked shots and on the defensive glass, but he won't get to show those skills if he can't provide more offensively in 2013-14.

More from Jesse Newell

  • The biggest difference between Xavier Henry and Ben McLemore? Perception
  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply 17 comments from Katnisshawk Preston Dwiggins Jhox Actorman Jesse Newell Rockchalk_dpu Cameron Cederlind Lulufulu85 Thebohawk Dirk Medema and 8 others

    The biggest difference between Ben McLemore and Xavier Henry? Perception

    The general consensus I get from Kansas basketball fans is that Xavier Henry was a bust in his one-and-done year, while Ben McLemore was a success.

    It's simply not true if you look only at the numbers.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore pulls up for a three over Temple guard Scootie Randall during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore pulls up for a three over Temple guard Scootie Randall during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    For the last few years, Ken Pomeroy has listed "player comparables" in his advanced stats on KenPom.com.

    The full explanation for the measure is on his site, but basically, a score of 900 or more means two players are "a great match."

    McLemore and Henry's player comparable score is 917 — the highest mark for each player. Keep in mind that's comparing their statistics to every other Div. I freshman over the past eight years.

    The similarity between the two is even more striking when looking at the advanced statistics. I've highlighted in red the categories where the two put up nearly the same stat line.

    Photo illustration by Janella Williams/Journal-World.

    Photo illustration by Janella Williams/Journal-World. by Jesse Newell

    The two players took on the same offensive load (usage percentage) and hitched up the same amount of shots. Their rebounding numbers are nearly identical, as are their turnover percentages and three-point shooting percentages.

    Basically, here are the four things that separate McLemore and Henry:

    • Playing time: McLemore's per-game numbers look better because he was in a greater percentage of KU's minutes. One could easily argue that if McLemore was on the deeper 2009-10 team in Henry's place, his playing time might have been reduced as well.

    • Free throws: Henry was a good free-throw shooter, but McLemore was an excellent one, which helped boost his offensive rating by a few points.

    Two-point shooting: McLemore shot six percentage points better inside the arc, which again was enough to boost his offensive production up just a bit above Henry's.

    Defense: Henry was the more disruptive defender, as his steal percentage was nearly double that of McLemore in his one season.

    All things considered, McLemore is the better player. His enhanced offensive value over Henry makes up for his weaker steal numbers.

    Still, it's close — and much closer than you'd expect based on the players' reputations.

    So why is it that McLemore is widely considered a success while Henry isn't?

    A few theories:

    Expectations: McLemore committed to KU at an anonymous high-school all-star game near Chicago. Henry's original announcement that he was attending Memphis (before he reopened his recruitment) was live on ESPN.

    Fair or not, the added media exposure of recruits usually boosts their expectations. Interestingly, Henry was ranked eighth in his class by Rivals.com, while McLemore was 17th, so the two actually were closer in that respect than KU fans might remember.

    Henry's stock also was elevated a bit early in his senior year when, for a short time, he was the ranked the No. 1 player in his class by ESPNU.

    • Likability: McLemore's backstory of succeeding over adversity and poverty has been documented in a few places, and it added to him being an easy player to cheer for. Henry, meanwhile, didn't initially report to KU in the summer before his freshman year, which didn't get him off to a good start with KU's fanbase. Xavier — a polite kid in interviews — also probably had his reputation hurt by association, as his father Carl many times came across as overbearing while his brother C.J. often looked disinterested and self-focused while putting up a high percentage of shots during his one season at KU.

    Dunks: This is a big one. Though the two players' numbers were similar, they looked much different based on the eye test.

    According to the KU media relations department's unofficial count, McLemore had 43 dunks in his one season.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHeM9WPOqEI

    Henry had only 17. And his weren't nearly as impressive.

    McLemore was a more fun athlete to watch because of his leaping ability and creative slams. Even with those gifts, McLemore's offensive production was just barely above Henry's.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore finishes the game with a windmill dunk against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore finishes the game with a windmill dunk against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    The bottom line? McLemore and Henry both had productive seasons during their one-year playing careers in Lawrence.

    Take out the emotions and perception, and the two were nearly identical college players ... even if there's little hope that they'll be remembered that way.


    More from Jesse Newell

  • Did Perry Ellis exceed expectations in 2012-13?
  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • Reply 66 comments from Kurt Eskilson Ted Hume Jaydocmd Eric Schneider Cairo_jayhawk Keith Kienzle Rehawk Dylans Burquehawk Argylejayhawks and 39 others

    Did Perry Ellis exceed expectations in 2012-13?

    If you watched a lot of NCAA Tournament games last year, you most likely heard the story of Butler graduate manager Drew Cannon.

    In short, Cannon was put on Brad Stevens' staff as an advanced statistics expert, going through numbers to help Butler put its best lineup on the floor at all times.

    Before Cannon was snatched up by one of the game's smartest coaches, though, he was guest-writing for KenPom.com, submitting blog posts last summer that gave statistical projections for the nation's top players.

    He used different formulas for returners (taking into account past stats, basic demographics, team stats, high school rankings, mock draft projections and awards) and freshmen (basic statistical information along with a few other secret ingredients added in), but in essence, he gave us a baseline on what to expect statistically from individual players.

    I want to use this blog post to evaluate KU freshman Perry Ellis' performance last year to see if he went above or below what was expected of him, but first, let's look at just how close Cannon was to projecting KU center Jeff Withey's actual performance.

    Kansas center Jeff Withey puts up a shot over North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo..

    Kansas center Jeff Withey puts up a shot over North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.. by Mike Yoder

    Jeff Withey: Projection vs. Performance

    Jeff Withey: Projection vs. Performance by Jesse Newell

    No wonder Cannon is on Stevens' staff; it's almost like he had the answers to the test given to him beforehand. Cannon's projections almost are the exact replica of Withey's production at KU his senior year. Perhaps the only exceptions are that Withey fouled a touch less than expected and made a few more twos.

    Still, it's amazing to think that a formula could so closely predict human performance.

    Switching over to Ellis, let's take a look at his projections compared to his performance a year ago.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes in for a dunk against Iowa State during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes in for a dunk against Iowa State during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

    Perry Ellis: Projection vs. Performance

    Perry Ellis: Projection vs. Performance by Jesse Newell

    Though Ellis' minutes were limited (he averaged 13.6 minutes per game), we can see from the numbers that he greatly exceeded Cannon's projections, especially on the offensive end. He averaged 1.14 points per possessions used while taking on a larger offensive load (ending 21.9 percent of KU's offensive possessions when he was on the floor) than expected.

    Here are a few other positives from Ellis' numbers:

    Turnovers: This is where Ellis overachieved most. He gave the ball away on just 10.7 percent of his ended possessions, and though it's often overlooked, that kind of ball security from a big man greatly enhances his offensive value. Ellis had just 20 turnovers in 503 minutes last season.

    • Free throws: Ellis also helped his offensive output by getting to the free-throw line often (a 52.5 free-throw rate is a solid number) and making those shots once he was there (his 73.8-percent accuracy was nearly 10 percentage points better than his projection).

    Defensive rebounding: Though KU coach Bill Self often pushed Ellis to be more aggressive, his defensive rebounding percentage ended up well above average. Ellis' 19.9-percent defensive rebounding percentage was second on the team behind Withey and much higher than his projected total of 16 percent.

    If we're using the projections as a guide, here are two areas of improvement for Ellis in the offseason:

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    Overall defense: Ellis wasn't a disruptive defensive player last season. His block percentage was barely half of his projection (2.1 percent), while his steal percentage also wasn't as high as you'd expect for a player with his quickness (1.8 percent).

    Two-point shooting: Ellis finished with below-projection two-point numbers despite an impressive end to the season. In his final seven games, Ellis was 30-for-46 on twos (65.2 percent), which lets you know just how much he struggled early. As an undersized 4, Ellis will have to continue his evolution offensively, learning how to create space and also avoid blocks against taller competition than he faced in high school.

    The numbers above indicate that Ellis is ready to take the next step for KU in 2013-14. He's already a good offensive player — thanks to his low turnover count and ability to create and make free throws — and with some improvements defensively and on two-point jumpers, he could quickly turn into an all-conference-type player with an increase in playing time next season.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply 70 comments from Pizzashuttle Tom Richmond Matt Kenton Marchphog88 Actorman Allen Shepard Grammarpolice Jayhawkfantoo Baldjedi Ralster and 38 others

    Here’s what KU’s 2013 basketball recruiting class would have looked like in previous years

    Kentuckysports.com recently put together a blog post about the Wildcats' recruiting class and how it might have looked like in earlier years.

    Because Kansas coach Bill Self has compiled his best recruiting class (at least on paper) in his 10 years in Lawrence, I thought it would be interesting to do a similar exercise for the Jayhawks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvyOU7Rbxt0

    For this blog, we'll use the RSCI recruiting rankings, which compile many of the top recruiting rankings to come up with a single list.

    Here's where the Jayhawks' class finished up in those rankings:

    KU's recruiting class of 2013
    1. Andrew Wiggins
    13. Wayne Selden
    16. Joel Embiid
    36. Brannen Greene
    40. Conner Frankamp
    89. Frank Mason

    Just for fun, I looked up what KU's recruiting class would have looked like if it had the first, 13th-, 16th, 36th-, 40th- and 89th-best players in previous years.

    Here are the results (two/three players are listed under each other in case of a tie in the rankings):

    2012
    1. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
    13. Ricardo Ledo (Providence)
    16. Gary Harris (Michigan State)
    36. Katin Reinhardt (UNLV)
    40. Brice Johnson (North Carolina)
    89. Mike Gesell (Iowa)
    Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)

    Kentucky forward Anthony Davis bounces the ball off his fist during the Wildcats' practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012.

    Kentucky forward Anthony Davis bounces the ball off his fist during the Wildcats' practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012. by Nick Krug

    2011
    1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
    13. Myck Kabongo (Texas)
    16. Jabari Brown (Oregon)
    36. Trevor Lacey (Alabama)
    40. Jakarr Sampson (St. John's)
    89. Sidiki Johnson (Arizona)

    2010
    1. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
    13. Cory Joseph (Texas)
    16. Joe Jackson (Memphis)
    36. Cameron Clark (Oklahoma)
    40. Jordan McRae (Tennessee)
    89. Jarell Eddie (Virginia Tech)

    2009
    1. Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech)
    13. Dante Taylor (Pittsburgh)
    16. Alex Oriakhi (UConn)
    36. Aaric Murray (La Salle)
    40. Jamil Wilson (Oregon)
    89. Donnavan Kirk (Miami FL)
    Keith Clanton (Central Florida)

    Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings (3) drives against Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 105-97.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings (3) drives against Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 105-97. by Nick Gerik

    2008
    1. Brandon Jennings (Europe)
    13. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
    16. Elliot Williams (Duke)
    Kemba Walker (UConn)
    36. Kenny Kadji (Florida)
    Darius Miller (Kentucky)
    40. Anthony Jones (Baylor)
    89. Matt Gatens (Iowa)

    2007
    1. O.J. Mayo (USC)
    13. DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M)
    16. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
    36. DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh)
    40. Chris Allen (Michigan State)
    89. Bradley Wanamaker (Pittsburgh)

    Greg Oden, Ohio State

    Greg Oden, Ohio State

    2006
    1. Greg Oden (Ohio State)
    13. Daequan Cook (Ohio State)
    16. Vernon Macklin (Georgetown)
    36. Jerome Dyson (UConn)
    40. Davon Jefferson (USC)
    89. Taylor Harrison (California)

    2005
    1. Josh McRoberts (Duke)
    13. Greg Paulus (Duke)
    16. Gerald Green (NBA)
    36. Theo Davis (Iowa State)
    Dominic James (Marquette)
    40. Eric Boateng (Duke)
    Fendi Onobun (Arizona)
    89. K.C. Rivers (Clemson)

    2004
    1. Dwight Howard (NBA)
    13. D.J. White (Indiana)
    16. Juan Diego Palacios (Louisville)
    36. Josh Wright (Syracuse)
    40. Dorell Wright (NBA)
    Isaiah Swann (Florida State)
    Brian Johnson (Louisville)
    89. Nick Young (USC)
    Lorenzo Wade (Louisville)

    Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James goes up for a dunk in the
first half of the McDonald's All-American Game. James had 27 points
in the East's 122-107 victory Wednesday at Gund Arena in Cleveland.

    Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James goes up for a dunk in the first half of the McDonald's All-American Game. James had 27 points in the East's 122-107 victory Wednesday at Gund Arena in Cleveland. by AP Photo

    2003
    1. LeBron James (NBA)
    13. Olu Famutimi (Arkansas)
    16. Travis Outlaw (NBA)
    Linas Kleiza (Missouri)
    J.R. Giddens (Kansas)
    36. Rodrick Stewart (USC)
    40. Gary Forbes (Virginia)
    Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas)
    89. Omari Israel (Notre Dame)

    2002
    1. Amare Stoudemire (NBA)
    13. Evan Burns (UCLA)
    16. Anthony Roberson (Florida)
    36. Eric Williams (Wake Forest)
    40. Matt Walsh (Florida)
    89. Marquis Kately (California)

    2001
    1. Eddy Curry (NBA)
    13. David Harrison (Colorado)
    Jonathan Hargett (West Virginia)
    16. Maurice Williams (Alabama)
    36. Billy Edelin (Syracuse)
    40. Travis Diener (Marquette)
    89. Derek Stribling (Tennessee)

    Indiana's Scot Pollard, left, defends Portland's Zach Randolph. Pollard had six points and 16 rebounds in the Pacers' 101-69 victory Wednesday night in Indianapolis.

    Indiana's Scot Pollard, left, defends Portland's Zach Randolph. Pollard had six points and 16 rebounds in the Pacers' 101-69 victory Wednesday night in Indianapolis. by Darron Cummings/AP Photo

    2000
    1. Zach Randolph (Michigan State)
    13. Jerome Harper (juco)
    16. Darius Rice (Miami FL)
    36. Cliff Hawkins (Kentucky)
    40. Brian Boddicker (Texas)
    89. Kim Bowers (Mississippi State)

    1999
    1. Donnell Harvey (Florida)
    13. Kenny Satterfield (Cincinnati)
    16. Casey Sanders (Duke)
    36. Steve Hunter (DePaul)
    40. Matt Carroll (Notre Dame)
    89. Marque Perry (St. Louis)
    Nathan Hair (USC)

    1998
    1. Al Harrington (NBA)
    13. Michael Miller (Florida)
    16. Ray Young (UCLA)
    Corey Maggette (Duke)
    36. Douglas Wrenn (prep school)
    40. Jeff Boschee (Kansas)
    89. Marqus Ledoux (LSU)
    David Graves (Notre Dame)

    A few interesting things:

    If you're wanting to dream on KU's recruiting class, look no further than 2007. O.J. Mayo, DeAndre Jordan Blake Griffin and DeJuan Blair? Obviously, the numbers fell just right for these players to be in these spots, and I'd guess 2007 was one of the strongest recruiting classes of all time. Still, if KU had close to that kind of talent coming in ... look out.

    Though 2007 is encouraging for KU fans, there are other years that show high recruiting rankings don't necessarily guarantee success. I'm thinking the 1999 grouping is the worst (Donnell Harvey, Kenny Satterfield, Casey Sanders, Steve Hunter, Matt Carroll, Marque Perry, Nathan Hair), though a few recent ones like 2010 (Harrison Barnes, Cory Joseph, Joe Jackson, Cameron Clark, Jordan McRae, Jarell Eddie) lacked some star power as well.

    It's an interesting coincidence that Conner Frankamp shares the same RSCI ranking as former KU basketball player Jeff Boschee (No. 40).

    KU's Jeff Boschee.

    KU's Jeff Boschee.

    When I talked to Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi a few months ago, he even made the remark about Frankamp that "it’s too easy to make a Jeff Boschee comparison."

    I would guess KU fans would be thrilled if Frankamp went on to have a Boschee-like career for the Jayhawks.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
  • Reply 22 comments from Popy Suthiwan Ralster Archercc Jack Jones Lulufulu85 Chriz St20602 Dirk Medema Oldalum Jjhawq and 10 others

    Will Andrew Wiggins average over/under 18 points next season?

    Huntington Prep basketball player Andrew Wiggins smiles along side his mother Marita Payne-Wiggins, right, as he announces his commitment to Kansas University during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at St. Joseph High School in Huntington W.Va. The Canadian star, a top prospect, averaged 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season for West Virginia's Huntington Prep.

    Huntington Prep basketball player Andrew Wiggins smiles along side his mother Marita Payne-Wiggins, right, as he announces his commitment to Kansas University during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at St. Joseph High School in Huntington W.Va. The Canadian star, a top prospect, averaged 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season for West Virginia's Huntington Prep.

    I guess Andrew Wiggins is kind of a big deal.

    Not only has he moved the Kansas men's basketball team from 30-to-1 odds to win the national championship to 7.5-to-1, but the site Bovada also had individual odds on whether Wiggins would score over or under 18 points per game next season. No other college player was given similar attention on the site.

    This actually brings up a good question: Will Wiggins average more or less than 18 points per game for KU next season?

    Let's examine:

    3 reasons Wiggins could average 18 points per game

    • Opportunity: KU doesn't return much in the way of proven scorers. It'd even be different if a guy like Jeff Withey (13.7 points per game last year) was coming back.

    Really, though, who is a guarantee to score more than 10 points per game next year? I would think most KU fans would say a healthy Perry Ellis should, but other than that, what guarantees are there? Wayne Selden is athletic, but will he be an immediate scorer? Conner Frankamp is a great shooter, but how many minutes will he get right away? Tarik Black is a nice addition, but his stats indicate he's more of a complimentary scorer rather than a go-to one.

    If Wiggins is the "alpha dog" that KU coach Bill Self says he is, then it's definitely possible he'll be shooting a high percentage of the Jayhawks' shots on a team that doesn't return any starters from a year ago.

    • Pace: With athletic players like Wiggins and Selden — and no lumbering centers to slow down the offense — KU should be looking to push the pace in 2013-14. And obviously, more possessions would give Wiggins extra shots to get to the magic 18 point-per-game number.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    Self's green light: When Self has had talented offensive players in the past, he's practically begged them to shoot more ... even if they didn't.

    KU guard Sherron Collins said that, in practice, Brandon Rush would have to run on the treadmill if he passed up a jumpshot.

    This past season, KU guard Ben McLemore often talked about how Self wanted him to be more aggressive, including this quote from a story in late January:

    “Coach Self always stresses to me that he needs me to be more aggressive, and I need to create more opportunities offensively to get myself open one pass away. I need to get myself open. I need to do a better job of that. I didn’t plug myself in the first half. I wasn’t aggressive like coach wants me to be. Coach told me to go out second half and be more aggressive and plug myself in.”

    Wiggins likely won't hear any grumblings from Self if he decides to be an ultra-assertive player on the offensive end.

    3 reasons Wiggins won't average 18 points per game

    Schedule: Let's face it: It's much easier to put up points against patsies.

    It'll be much tougher for KU players to rack up the points in the non-conference season this year, as the Jayhawks' slate is loaded with contests against Duke, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State — and that's not even counting a three-game trip to the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even some of the "easier" games aren't that easy, as Iona (101) and Towson (168) finished in the top half of KenPom's rankings a year ago.

    If Wiggins gets to 18 points per game next season, he'll have earned it against what is sure to be a top-five schedule.

    18's a high number: Only 48 players averaged 18 points or more per game last season, and just four of those players were on teams that finished the year in the AP top 25 (Creighton's Doug McDermott, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Louisville's Russ Smith and Michigan's Trey Burke). Notice also that none of those players were freshmen.

    If you're wondering about Self's 10-year history at KU ... only two players have topped the 18-point-per-game barrier.

    Top PPG players under Self

    Top PPG players under Self by Jesse Newell

    The top freshman scorer under Self? That would be McLemore, who averaged 15.9 PPG last season.

    History of No. 1 prospects: To see how other top-ranked prospects had fared in their first year of college, I looked up the No. 1 recruits over the last eight seasons in the RSCI rankings (which compiles many recruiting rankings to make a comprehensive list). I then looked at how many points per game each player scored in his freshman season.

    Only one — USC's O.J. Mayo — averaged more than 18 points per game.

    RSCI No. 1s

    RSCI No. 1s by Jesse Newell

    Interesting, only two players on that list averaged more than 16 points per game, which shows how difficult it has been in the past for a top recruit to step in and produce big point numbers right away at a top program.

    Final verdict

    Your answer to this question probably depends on your view of Wiggins.

    Is he the best high-school basketball player since LeBron James, as a few analysts have claimed? If he's that kind of talent, he should get 18 points per game fairly easily.

    If, talent-wise, he's around what the other No. 1 recruits have been, then it's a much tougher question to answer. Most No. 1 guys don't step immediately into blueblood programs and average 18 points per game, but then again, most No. 1 guys aren't entering a team with no returning starters and a coach that has pleaded with his elite players to shoot more in the past.

    For me, I'll say Wiggins finishes just under 18 points per game. I think he'll definitely be above McLemore's 15.9 last year, but getting 18-plus against the schedule KU has next year will be a difficult task.

    Vegas usually isn't off by much, and I don't think it is here, either. I'll say Wiggins ends somewhere around Marcus Morris' mark of 17.2 PPG in 2010-11.

    But I'm definitely not confident enough to put my money where my mouth is.

    What do you think: over or under 18 points per game for Wiggins next season? Be sure to vote in our online poll.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Tarik Black
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply 108 comments from Greg Lux Kgphoto Yovoy Rehawk Cairo_jayhawk Ollerfarm Jeff Kilgore Otaku Drgnslayr Ralster and 46 others

    Here’s what type of player KU is getting in Tarik Black

    Former Memphis forward Tarik Black will be transferring to Kansas University, the school announced Monday.

    Former Memphis forward Tarik Black will be transferring to Kansas University, the school announced Monday.

    There's a saying in baseball that goes, "There's no such thing as a bad one-year contact."

    If you were wondering why teams like Duke and Kansas were in on Memphis forward Tarik Black, who started just five games for the Tigers a year ago, it's mostly because of this same concept.

    Because Black has graduated and will be eligible immediately, he essentially became like a one-year contract player. A team with a hole on its roster — and an extra scholarship it wasn't going to use anyway — had nothing to lose in recruiting Black.

    The commitment gives KU additional depth in the post, where the Jayhawks have quite a few options but not many proven ones.

    As you'll see from his numbers, Black comes to KU as an interesting project: A player that has shown distinct strengths while at the same time being held back by glaring weaknesses.

    Strengths

    Two-point shooting: Black has been an excellent field-goal shooter during his entire career, peaking during his sophomore year when his 68.9 effective field-goal percentage ranked second nationally.

    One of the reasons for his success is shot selection. The last two years, he took just 17.4 and 18.5 percent of Memphis' shots when he was on the floor.

    Breaking it down further, Black is a player that is especially lethal at the rim. Here are his numbers on layups/dunks/tipins from Hoop-Math.com.

    Black's shots at rim

    Black's shots at rim by Jesse Newell

    To give you an idea of how successful Black was at the rim ... no KU rotation player in the last three seasons had a field-goal percentage of 79 percent on close shots (the highest was 77 percent from Travis Releford last year).

    Black isn't bad when he shoots two-point jumpers, either, as you can see from the middle column below.

    Black on two-point jumpshots

    Black on two-point jumpshots by Jesse Newell

    The forward was an above-average two-point jump-shooter in each of his last two seasons, but also be aware that most of his shots were assisted by teammates. KU's Kevin Young and Jeff Withey both had a high percentage of their two-point jumpers assisted last year (73 percent each), and both players were mostly reliant on others to get their points.

    A similar high number in that stat from Black — and his low shot percentage overall — means he's not a guy that creates his own shot often.

    • Getting to the free-throw line: One of Black's best offensive skills is getting fouled, as last season, he drew 5.2 opponent whistles per 40 minutes (197th nationally). That trait has led to a high free-throw count for the forward each year. During his sophomore year, he posted the nation's 29th-best free-throw rate (68.4), and he wasn't far behind that number last year (66.3).

    Offensive rebounding: Black has proven to be a tough guy to keep off the offensive glass. After grabbing 14.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds his freshman year, Black pulled down 10.8 percent (247th nationally) his sophomore year and 10.1 percent (302nd nationally) his junior year. Kevin Young (13.2 percent) and Perry Ellis (11.4 percent in limited time) were the only Jayhawks to post higher offensive rebounding percentages than Black a year ago.

    Shot-blocking: Though Black didn't block as many shots as a junior, he showed the ability to be a greater defensive presence his first two years. During his freshman year, he blocked 7.3 percent of opponents' twos (79th nationally), and his sophomore year, he rejected 6.2 percent of those attempts (113th nationally). Though that percentage dropped to 3.1 percent his junior year, you'd have to figure Black still has the ability — based on the past — to have some defensive impact in the paint.

    Weaknesses

    Free-throw shooting: After posting a strong 119.5 offensive rating his sophomore year, Black's offensive rating plummeted to a mediocre 100.8 last season.

    The biggest reason? Free-throw shooting.

    Black's free-throw percentages

    Black's free-throw percentages by Jesse Newell

    Black's 44.8-percent free-throw shooting was the seventh-worst out of 724 NCAA players who shot 100 free throws or more.

    If Black can even get back to a 59-percent free-throw shooter, he'll greatly enhance his offensive value.

    Fouling: Black is a hacker, as he has committed at least 5 fouls per 40 minutes in each of his three seasons. Last year was his worst season in that regard, as he posted 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes — a number that would have been tops out of KU's rotation players a year ago (and even above that of Jamari Traylor at 6.1 fouls/40).

    Defensive rebounding: Though Black has been strong on the offensive boards through his career, he's never excelled on the defensive glass.

    After grabbing just 11.3 percent of the available defensive rebounds his freshman year and 12 percent his sophomore year, Black pulled down a career-high 16 percent his junior year. That percentage still wasn't good enough to crack the top 500 nationally.

    Bottom line

    Memphis forward Tarik Black dunks against Michigan State forward Adreian Payne (5) in the second half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich.

    Memphis forward Tarik Black dunks against Michigan State forward Adreian Payne (5) in the second half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich.

    Black provides KU with some additional depth at the 4 and 5 positions and also should help take some of the pressure off KU's young players in the post.

    Though Perry Ellis' stats indicate he is ready for a bigger role, guys like incoming freshman Joel Embiid and sophomore Jamari Traylor (good defensive numbers but high turnover rate and limited offensive skills) will be able to ease their way into the rotation instead of being forced into it at the start of the season.

    The Jayhawks aren't getting a go-to scorer in Black, but his skill-set might play well on a team like KU's next year, especially if mega-recruit Andrew Wiggins can draw defensive attention then dish to a guy who has been deadly when he gets it in close to the rim.

    Because Self had an extra scholarship, this becomes a low-risk, potentially high-reward addition for the Jayhawks — all on a team-friendly, one-year contract.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
  • Reply 46 comments from Wrwlumpy Jayhawkfantoo Kgphoto Ralster Drgnslayr Drsmith Khuff80 Colby Hebert Njjayhawk Neom and 18 others

    Instant reaction: ESPN.com’s Jason King talks about what the Andrew Wiggins signing means for KU

    ESPN.com college basketball reporter Jason King (@JasonKingESPN on Twitter) took some time to talk about the Kansas men's basketball team signing No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins and what it means for the Jayhawks in 2013-14.

    Q: What's your first reaction to Wiggins committing to KU?

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins looks up during the first half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins looks up during the first half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

    A: I'm actually somewhat surprised. I thought that he'd go to Kentucky, just because they've had such a track record of landing these one-and-done-type of guys, and (KU coach Bill) Self has struggled, for the most part, to get these type of players. At the same time, living here in Kansas City, I'm selfishly excited because I'll get to see a lot of a player who some say is one of the best high school players ever — or best college prospects ever.

    I think also my reaction is kind of refreshing to see this kid wants to try something different than the Kentucky way. It's good to see he did put this kind of trust in Bill Self, because Bill Self develops players as well as anyone. Someone made this kid realize that. I think this makes Kansas probably a contender for the national title.

    Q: You had KU No. 21 on your last top 25 preseason ranking. Where do you think this moves them now?

    A: With him picking Kansas, I've moved them up to No. 5, just because I do think the players around him will develop. The reason I had Kansas ranked No. 21 was just because I thought it would really take a while for them to jell and for those young guys to adapt to the college level. I think it will happen, but I think it will happen in January or early February, not in November or December. Their schedule is so tough, I just worry about them struggling earlier. But now, a player of this caliber, I think he'll probably make everyone around him better. He'll get his points. ... Kansas is going to be right there on the cusp of a top-five team with a chance to be a top-five team when it matters most.

    Q: How do you think Wiggins fits in on KU's roster with some of the other newcomers coming in?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLsK-ZoL9sY

    A: I think they need something at every position. They're going to need someone to step up at every position. There are a lot of question marks out there about Kansas, just because, again, it's all about how quickly these guys will adapt, and he's probably going to adapt more quickly than anyone, because he's probably more talented than anyone on the roster. I think he'll be a guy that probably carries the team through some tough times and tough games early. As far as where he'll play, I think you've got to find a way to get him and Wayne Selden on the court at the same time. Selden can play the 2, and I think Bill Self, he's going to find a way to get his best players on the court at the same time, and both of those guys, I would think, are among his top-five players. They'll make it work. I still think the point-guard position is a concern, but by signing Wiggins, that's going to alleviate a lot of problems, even though he's not a point guard. That's going to make them that much better at other positions.

    I think another key is how quickly Joel Embiid develops and how much better Perry Ellis can get. Both of those are really talented guys. All of a sudden, this is a loaded team, I think.

    Q: Does this, in your eyes, make KU the favorite for the Big 12 next year ahead of Oklahoma State?

    A: I believe it does, in my opinion, because talent-wise, they're just as good. They're bigger down low than Oklahoma State, which doesn't have much size. Then I think the X-factor is Bill Self. I think when the teams and the talent are even and things like that, then you look toward the bench, and I think they have the best coach, not just in the Big 12, but in the country. I think the team that wins the Big 12 is the one that is the most consistent and the one that can win on the road. I think all that revolves around coaching, and I think he's the best. I think now they have comparable talent to Oklahoma State, probably better talent overall, even though it's just not as experienced. But yeah, I do think they're the favorite.

    Q: You mentioned Self. How does getting a player of this caliber affect his reputation in college basketball?

    Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles as he listens to forward Mario Little's senior speech following the Jayhawks' 64-51 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles as he listens to forward Mario Little's senior speech following the Jayhawks' 64-51 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    A: In a way, I think he needed something like this, because he had developed a reputation as a coach who was, for whatever reason, unable to land the big fish, even though he did get Josh Selby. That didn't really work out. He hasn't been able to land these guys on a consistent basis. I've never understood why. But I think this helps his reputation. Now, he needs Wiggins to come in and really live up to his potential, because the other guys that he's signed that have been this highly ranked like Selby and Xavier Henry have underachieved. He got the hard part out of the way by signing him. Now, he's got to be sure he flourishes in what's sure to be a one-year career.

    Q: You touched on this, but what should the expectation be for KU this year now that this has happened?

    A: We all know that expectations are always out of whack for Kansas fans. They want too much, too fast. I do think this is a team that could be capable of contending for a Final Four berth, but I think fans need to be patient — and now more than ever, because this is a highly inexperienced team, and they have the toughest schedule I've seen a Kansas team have in a long time. They need to expect some bumps early. But if they're patient and let the best coach in America do his work and trust him, then I think by mid-January, they'll be rolling and be really good when it matters most, because I do think that will happen. I think the key is not to overreact too quickly if there are some struggles early, because those struggles will just make the team stronger in the long run.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Rivals.com's Eric Bossi discusses Andrew Wiggins and his potential impact if he commits to KU
  • Seen it? Is Superman a Kansas Jayhawks fan?
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
  • Amazing grace: Jeff Withey made late grandmother proud, proved to coach he belonged
  • Reply 10 comments from Inteldesign Scott Smetana Dylans Tical523 Dumbarton Onlyoneuinkansas 702hawk Saad Saifeddine Jaydee909 Clevelandjayhawker

    Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi discusses Andrew Wiggins and his potential impact if he commits to KU

    Rivals.com's No. 1-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins will announce his college decision at approximately 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, with Kansas as one of the final four schools on his list.

    Kansas recruit Andrew Wiggins watches from behind the bench during the second half, Monday, March 4, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas recruit Andrew Wiggins watches from behind the bench during the second half, Monday, March 4, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi (@ebosshoops on Twitter) took some time to talk about Wiggins and what impact he might have at KU if he does commit to the Jayhawks.

    Q: You’ve seen Wiggins play quite a bit. For someone who hasn’t seen him play, how would you describe his game?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLsK-ZoL9sY

    A: He’s an athletic, transition player who can really slash to the rim and get on the offensive glass and find creases in the defense to get things done. He’s an improving ball-handler; someone who’s still working on his shot, but he’s such a ridiculous athlete, that it helps to cover some of the areas of his game that need some work. The jumpshot and the dribble are coming, but also, he’s a big-time defender. He’s already one of the best defenders in the country. So he’s a big, athletic, quick guy that makes plays above the rim, which is something there’s room for on any team — not just Kansas.

    Q: I’ve heard a lot about Wiggins' spin move. Can you describe what he’s able to do with it offensively?

    A: First of all, there are not a lot of high school kids that have mastery of a spin move. Not only does he have mastery, he’s mastered spinning right or left. How quickly he’s able to spin and how he’s able to do it in tight quarters and immediately explode to the rim … it’s just pure natural ability. You can’t teach that. It’s impossible to teach that. You can go in the gym and learn a spin move, but not like he has with the balance and quickness and the ability to still finish with power out of it. It’s really rather remarkable.

    Q: If he did come to Kansas, where would you see him fitting in on the Jayhawks’ roster?

    A: He’d play the small forward position. Kansas has shown they like to run lobs over the years. He would surely get plenty of lobs run for him. But he would be a big-time defender. He would help out on the glass. He would be a transition scorer. I think that his ability to get out in transition … he’d be able to help them play fast because of having an additional finisher on the floor and as someone the defense is always going to account for off the ball, because if you sleep on him, someone’s getting dunked on.

    Q: He’s the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 in your guys' Rivals rankings. Let’s take the last decade. How would he stack up historically against some of those other No. 1 players?

    A: That’s an interesting question. I think, because his decision has lasted for a while — and with how much coverage there is of recruiting stuff — I think maybe some of the expectations of him are being blown a little bit out of the realm of possibility. He’s definitely a big-time prospect, but is he the No. 1 prospect in the last decade? Probably not. Is he somewhere in the top 10, maybe top 5 prospects in the last decade? Yeah, for sure.

    Q: Hypothetically speaking, why do you think KU would be a good fit for Wiggins?

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    A: Because he’s a good fit anywhere (laughs). He’s a freak athletically. The thing with Andrew is this: He’s done plenty, but I think he’s only scratched the surface of what he can do once he adds physical strength and gets a little better with the dribble and more consistent with the jump shot. He can go from this 6-7 small forward who’s an electric finisher to a 6-7 shooting guard who’s an electric finisher, because he can defend all over the court. Guys like that tend to be a good fit anywhere.

    I just think another wing athlete is something that Kansas could really use. I guess if you look at next year’s lineup, Wayne Selden is the only guy you could really classify as an ‘athlete’ out on the wing in their lineup. I think the addition of another guy who puts pressure on defenses in that aspect would be really big for Kansas, because it’s just something that they don’t have a lot of. Next year’s team, if you look at who’s coming back and who’s coming in, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be quite as athletic as it’s been in the past.

    Q: You’ve talked to Andrew quite a bit. What kind of a kid is he?

    A: He’s a pretty reserved, pretty quiet kid. Pretty much keeps to himself, really. He doesn’t really like talking to media and that kind of stuff. He’s been impossible to get ahold of (laughs), other than when he had no choice but to talk to media. I think he’s pretty quiet, down-to-earth, just kind of humble guy who wants to go along and do his thing without a lot of fanfare.

    Q: How would this affect KU’s recruiting class if the Jayhawks were able to pull in Wiggins?

    A: They’re already the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. It would just solidify that. … Kentucky’s still sitting on six five-stars. That would be (KU’s) third five-star guy with a couple high four-stars and a solid four-star in Frank Mason. It certainly would make an already very-good recruiting class extremely good.

    Q: Would it be unquestionably Bill Self’s best recruiting class at KU if he added Wiggins?

    Kansas head coach Bill Self laugh during the senior speeches, Monday, March 4, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas head coach Bill Self laugh during the senior speeches, Monday, March 4, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    A: On paper, probably yeah. I don’t have what (Brandon) Rush, (Julian) Wright, (Mario) Chalmers and (Micah) Downs were all ranked coming in. But on paper, it would probably be their best class. Of course, you can’t find out if it was his best class or not until a few years down the road.

    Q: One more on this topic: If KU did get Wiggins, what type of impact might that have for KU and coach Bill Self in general as far as recruiting goes?

    A: If you’re into recruiting badge of honors, it’s a pretty big badge of honor to have won that battle. In terms of perception, Bill Self’s already pretty highly thought of as a recruiter. Kansas is already pretty highly regarded by kids, for the most part, on the recruiting trail. I don’t know how much more those guys can be elevated, because they’re already in that elite tier of programs that are always going to be able to get their foot in the door with kids. It would be another feather in his cap, but how much can you change the perception of somebody who already has a great perception?

    Q: You talked about Wiggins being in the top five or 10 high school players of the last 10 years. What kind of athletes would you compare him to that you’ve seen since you’ve been a national recruiting analyst?

    A: Athletically, he’s definitely way up there. If anyone remembers what a freak Tracy McGrady was when he was young, when he still had legs. There’s a little bit of Dominique Wilkins in his athleticism, in that he also has powerful athleticism.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyUf-9ruJi8

    For a guy who’s as lean as he is, he’s pretty powerful at the rim, which is why it’s kind of scary to think about what happens when he actually hits the weight room. Athletically, there may have been guys that have come and gone who were close to as athletic as him, but he’s pretty much about what you have to figure the limit of the human body is when it comes to athleticism.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins looks up during the first half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins looks up during the first half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

    He doesn’t just jump high and run fast — he’s got great agility, great balance. He can jump two or three times while other people are still gathering themselves for the second jump. Not a lot of guys can just catch in close quarters like he can and immediately be up with elbows on the rim.

    You just don’t see it very often. It’s remarkable. Athletically, he’s truly a phenom. No question.

    Reply 32 comments from Greg Lux Surrealku Ted Adams Robert  Brock Raprichard Steve Corder Babboy Plasticjhawk Hawksince51 Vernon Riggs and 14 others

    Here’s what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson

    Six-foot-10 Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson told the Journal-World on Thursday he will be transferring to play for Kansas. The big man will have two years of eligibility for KU starting with the 2014-15 season.

    Here'a a look at Mickelson's statistical profile from his two years at Arkansas (stats from KenPom.com).

    Kentucky's Terrence Jones, right, puts up a shot under pressure from Arkansas' Hunter Mickelson (21) and Marvell Waithe during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012.

    Kentucky's Terrence Jones, right, puts up a shot under pressure from Arkansas' Hunter Mickelson (21) and Marvell Waithe during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012.

    Strengths

    Shot-blocking: Mickelson — with a body type much like former KU center Jeff Withey — also is a talented shot-blocker. Though he played in less than half of Arkansas' minutes during his two seasons there, he rejected 8.2 percent of opponents' two-point attempts last year (66th nationally) and was fifth nationally in block percentage during his freshman year (13.5 percent block percentage).

    Though Mickelson does not avoid fouls as well as Withey, he's not a hacker, either. He committed 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes his freshman year, then lowered that number to 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes last year. To compare, Withey was at 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes his junior season before dropping that number to 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes last year.

    Defensive rebounding: In limited time, Mickelson had Arkansas' second-best defensive rebounding percentage in 2012-13, grabbing 16.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds (464th nationally). The power forward also was decent in this stat his freshman year, as he posted a 15.4-percent defensive rebounding percentage.

    If you're wondering about offensive rebounding ... Mickelson's offensive rebounding percentage dropped from 8.9 percent his freshman year (483rd nationally) to 7.2 percent this year.

    • Finishing at the rim: Hoop-Math.com's shot logs indicate that if Mickelson is an especially effective scorer around the rim.

    The big man made 74 percent of his dunks/layups/tipins a year ago, and his offensive profile at the rim is similar to that of Withey did this past season.

    Comparing Withey and Mickelson on close shots in 2012-13

    Comparing Withey and Mickelson on close shots in 2012-13 by Jesse Newell

    Essentially, Mickelson isn't great at creating his own shot at the rim, but he's exceptional at finishing passes from teammates when they get it to him in close.

    Weaknesses

    Arkansas forward Hunter Mickelson, second from left, loses the ball as he tries to shoot among Vanderbilt defenders Josh Henderson (40), Dai-Jon Parker (24) and Kevin Bright, right, during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

    Arkansas forward Hunter Mickelson, second from left, loses the ball as he tries to shoot among Vanderbilt defenders Josh Henderson (40), Dai-Jon Parker (24) and Kevin Bright, right, during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

    Jump-shooting: The big reason Mickelson wasn't even close to Withey's offensive production in 2012-13 (Withey was at 1.137 points per possession ended, while Mickelson was at 0.97) was two-point jump-shooting.

    Let's compare the two players' numbers from last year.

    Comparison of two-point jump shooting

    Comparison of two-point jump shooting by Jesse Newell

    While Withey was well above the NCAA average of 35 percent on two-point jumpers (40 percent), Mickelson struggled on those same shots, making just 23 percent of his attempts.

    The good news for KU is that Mickelson has shown some signs of being a good jump-shooter. He made 36 percent of his two-point jumpers his freshman year, and in a small sample size, he improved his free-throw shooting from 52 percent his freshman year to 80 percent his sophomore year.

    Getting to the free-throw line: Mickelson is not an aggressive offensive player, as he had just 20 free throws last season compared to 166 field-goal attempts. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 12.0 would have ranked last on KU's roster last year, lower than even seldom-fouled players like Elijah Johnson (24.2) and Naadir Tharpe (17.4). Mickelson averaged just 2.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes a year ago, and since KenPom began keeping the stat in 2005, Self has never had a rotation big man with a fouls-per-40 number that low.

    Bottom Line

    Arkansas' Hunter Mickelson (21) looks to pass the ball with Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski (13) defending during the first half of agame at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational tournament on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, in Las Vegas.

    Arkansas' Hunter Mickelson (21) looks to pass the ball with Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski (13) defending during the first half of agame at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational tournament on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, in Las Vegas.

    In Mickelson, KU gets a player with tremendous upside defensively as evidenced by his high block percentages. Mickelson's biggest weakness is his two-point jump shooting, though other statistics indicate that he should have the skill set to improve in that area. Based on his free throw and fouls-drawn numbers, Mickelson also appears to be a guy that might need to develop toughness — a trait that quite a few players (including Withey) acquired under Self. A year sitting out could help in this area as well, as it will give the 245-pound Mickelson a year in Andrea Hudy's weight program.

    For Self and KU, adding Mickelson provides some insurance in the frontcount in case Joel Embiid emerges to becomes a one-and-done player (ESPN's Chad Ford listed Embiid as a potential top-five pick next year if he continues to develop [subscription required]). This also seems to indicate a preference for Self to continue to recruit tall shot-blockers in a college basketball age where many teams have elected to play small.

    Going back to 2008-09, KU has had one high-level shot-blocker in the starting lineup (Cole Aldrich, Withey) for four of the last five seasons. With Embiid and Mickelson signed on, the Jayhawks have the potential to be covered at that position for at least three more seasons.

    Studies have shown the best shot-blockers have more defensive value than the best defensive guards because of their ability to bring down two-point shooting percentages, and Self seems to have found a comfort zone with these types of players. Though Mickelson still has plenty to work on offensively, he seems to be in a good location if he hopes to improve his toughness while thriving in a defensive system that will allow him play to his shot-blocking strengths.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Looking back: 10 years ago this week, Bill Self was hired at KU
  • Seen it? Is Superman a Kansas Jayhawks fan?
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
  • Reply 32 comments from Dumbarton Blackmild Ralster Dirk Medema Drsmith Rzrbckfan Tony Bandle Jesse Newell Jayhawkmarshall Rehawk and 13 others

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