A Doc Sadler-coached team and a Bill Self-coached team match up. What do you expect to see?
Before Wednesday, I would have answered, "Defense," (capital D for emphasis!) right away. After Wednesday's 84-72 Kansas victory at Lincoln, Neb., I'm a bit confused.
The Huskers posted an above-average Effective FG% (eFG%) of 53.8 percent, the second-highest yielded by KU this season. Nebraska committed turnovers on just 14.5 percent of its possessions and posted a solid 39.6 Free Throw Rate. Those numbers helped Nebraska score 1.16 points per possession. Before Wednesday, KU's most porous defensive effort came Sunday at Tennessee (1.09 points per possession allowed).
Even compared to that of Nebraska, KU's scoring output was incredible. The Jayhawks enjoyed their best shooting night of the season (72.2 eFG%). To offer a bit of perspective, the last time KU shot as well was Dec. 1, 2003, in an 85-66 victory at Texas Christian (74.0 eFG%). KU scored a surprisingly low 1.35 points per possession, its fifth-best total of the season. The reason the Jayhawks didn't end up with a truly historic offensive performance was their habit of turning the ball over. KU coughed up the ball on 21 percent of its possessions. Sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor and junior center Cole Aldrich each committed turnovers on more than 25 percent of their possessions used.
So what makes Wednesday's offensive explosion so special? KU is, after all, KenPom.com's No. 2 offense, and Nebraska was playing for pride in front of an excitable Devaney Center crowd.
Let's look at these coaches' defensive pedigree in terms of KenPom's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency:
Bill Self (KU):
• 2007: 1st nationally, 1st Big 12
• 2008: 1st, 1st
• 2009: 7th, 1st
• 2010: 2nd, 1st
Doc Sadler (NU):
• 2007: 89th, 9th
• 2008: 13th, 3rd
• 2009: 19th, 3rd
• 2010: 63rd, 8th
Nebraska hasn't stopped teams this season at the same rate it did in the past two seasons, but Sadler clearly has improved the Huskers' defense since his first year on the job. Self's resume speaks for itself.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
A player who scores one point for every two minutes of playing time is generally considered an active offensive player. For example, KU guard Sherron Collins, Iowa State forward Craig Brackins and Texas Tech forward Mike Singletary are three Big 12 Conference players hovering at or near 20 points per 40 minutes played.
Marcus Morris scored 19 points in 21 minutes Wednesday. How's that for active? The sophomore forward was efficient, too, going 7-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 on three-pointers. In sum, Morris created 1.56 points per possession used and grabbed 51 percent of possible rebounds during his minutes. His raw Efficiency of 23 was the second-best of his career.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Jan/14/ku_bkc_neb_10.jpg KU forward Marcus Morris advances the ball against Nebraska guard Brandon Richardson.
Room for improvement
Ideally, KU would have liked to limit the Huskers' 103rd-ranked offense to less than one point per possession. Or at least make Nebraska look uncomfortable. On top of its high shooting percentage, the home team didn't have many issues running its offense against KU's esteemed defense. The Huskers posted a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (second time KU has allowed 2-to-1 or better this season) and assisted 78.3 percent of their made field goals. Nebraska guard Lance Jeter and wing Ryan Anderson* really distributed the ball well: The pair combined for 13 assists and three turnovers.
*Is it me, or has Ryan Anderson played for Nebraska for about 13 years?
Hard luck line
The only Jayhawk who endured a worse-than-average offensive night was freshman guard Xavier Henry. Henry made two shots in 26 minutes and converted on less than half of his attempts for the third consecutive game.
The Bottom Line:
Sieve-like defense or no, Wednesday's game seemed to serve as a palate-cleanser after KU's rough weekend. When basketball fans around the country see "Kansas 84, Nebraska 72" scroll by on the bottom of their TVs this morning, they won't think anything of it. That's usually a good thing for KU.