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Which version of Frank Mason was better? 2014-15 or 2015-16?

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The speculation from most fans and observers regarding Kansas guard Frank Mason throughout the 2015-16 KU men’s basketball season was that some kind of nagging injury might have been bothering him during various portions of the Jayhawks’ run to a 33-5 record and trip to the Elite Eight.

There certainly were times when Mason, a junior from Petersburg, Virginia, looked a little off of his game and did not play at the same level that he had during his stellar sophomore season.

Mason, like the consistently solid player he has proven to be, always found a way to contribute and, more importantly, always bounced back from those rough stretches, but it seemed to me and most of the people I talked to about Mason throughout the season that he was not playing at quite the same level as a junior as he did as a sophomore.

With the season now in the past and my curiosity racing, I checked out Mason’s stats from both seasons to see how they compared.

The result? It turns out Mason is way more consistent than I even realized.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) floats in for a bucket past Texas Tech forward Zach Smith (11) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) floats in for a bucket past Texas Tech forward Zach Smith (11) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In the 25 statistical categories kept every season for each player, Mason stayed the same or improved in 20 of them.

The entire lot will be outlined a little later, but, for now, let’s focus on the five categories in which he took a step backwards.

• FG percentage — Mason shot .434 as a junior, seven tenths of a percentage point lower than his .441 average as a sophomore. The interesting thing about this stat, however, is that Mason both took and made more shots during his junior season, with the higher number of attempts creating the slightly lower shooting percentage. It’s also worth noting here that Mason, who played in and started every game during the past two seasons, received the benefit of two more games as a junior because the Jayhawks advanced two rounds farther in the NCAA Tournament. So keep that in mind when reading these stats.

• Three-pointers attempted — Depending on how you look at it, this, too, could have gone down as an “improvement” because Mason took 113 threes as a junior and just 98 as a sophomore. The reason I tossed it into the “got worse” category, though, was because the higher volume of three-point attempts led to Mason shooting a worse percentage.

• Three-point percentage — Mason shot .429 from behind the three-point line as a sophomore and dipped to a .381 three-point shooter his junior season. As mentioned above, the 15 more attempts (again, remember the two extra games) was a big factor for the lower percentage and it’s interesting to note that Mason made just one more three-pointer (43) as a junior than he did as a sophomore (42). In fact, Mason either tied or missed tying by one in seven of the 25 statistical categories: Games started (all), minutes per game (33.5), three-point makes (43-42), turnovers (73-74), steals (50) and blocks (3-4).

• Free throw percentage — As was the case with his three-point shooting, a higher volume of free throws led to a lower percentage for Mason, who shot .739 as a junior compared to .786 as a sophomore. That .739 clip came in 44 more free throw attempts and Mason made 26 more free throws in 2015-16 than he did during the 2014-15 season. Again, you have to take into account those two extra games when considering these and all of his numbers, but, even with that included, Mason exceeded what a lot of his numbers should have been based on his career averages.

• Personal fouls — Mason fouled a whopping 19 more times during the 2015-16 season, hacking opponents 84 times compared to just 65 the previous season. When you consider that his minutes per game and starts were the same as the year before, this stat is a pretty good illustration of just how the way officials emphasized the new rules for fouls (especially early in the season) impacted the game.

So what does all of this mean? As with most stats, it really can mean whatever you interpret it to mean. But one thing that cannot be argued is that Mason, injured or not, was at least as productive as a junior as he was during his sophomore season.

In fact, even his points-per-game average was nearly identical — 12.9 ppg as a junior and 12.6 ppg as a sophomore.

A couple of reasons it might not have seemed that way throughout the season? 1. The better season turned in by Wayne Selden, who replaced Mason as the Jayhawks’ second leading scorer behind Perry Ellis. 2. The emergence of sophomore Devonte’ Graham, who played a much bigger role during his second season with the Jayhawks than he did during his first, which often allowed Mason to do more blending in rather than leading the charge.

Either way you viewed it then or view it now, Mason, as any coach would like to see from his point guard, has been remarkably consistent during the past two seasons and has been the steady driving force behind the team’s recent success.

So what should we expect from Mason as a senior in 2016-17? Here’s a wild guess — more of the same.

— Here's a quick look at the comparison between the two seasons, first in overall stats and second in numbers per 40 minutes. The only stats of the 25 I referenced not shown in the table below are (totals listed in parentheses, with 2015-16 listed first): Games started (38-36), Average minutes (33.5), Average rebounds (4.3-3.9), Assist per game (4.6-3.9) and Average points (12.9-12.6) —

Mason's past two seasons

Season G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2014-15 36 1207 150 340 .441 42 98 .429 110 140 .786 22 119 141 142 50 4 74 65 452
2015-16 38 1272 155 357 .434 43 113 .381 136 183 .743 27 136 163 175 50 3 73 84 489
Career 109 3044 368 848 .434 103 266 .387 293 394 .744 57 293 350 389 118 8 184 214 1132
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2016.

Mason's past two seasons per 40 minutes

Season MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2014-15 1207 5.0 11.3 .441 1.4 3.2 .429 3.6 4.6 .786 4.7 4.7 1.7 0.1 2.5 2.2 15.0
2015-16 1272 4.9 11.2 .434 1.4 3.6 .381 4.3 5.8 .743 5.1 5.5 1.6 0.1 2.3 2.6 15.4
Career 3044 4.8 11.1 .434 1.4 3.5 .387 3.9 5.2 .744 4.6 5.1 1.6 0.1 2.4 2.8 14.9
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2016.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is held back by Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after he was whistled for a foul on Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) with seconds remain during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is held back by Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after he was whistled for a foul on Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) with seconds remain during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Comments

Dale Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

I thought Mason seemed hurt for parts of this past season but, then, he plays so hard he frequently gets the crap beat out of him, either by the floor, the stanchion, or just body parts of other players. I like his fire, I like his play. I'm happy to keep him. Hopefully he'll be fully healthy by part of this next season and can avoid serious injury.

Pius Waldman 5 years, 7 months ago

Name a person that has 50% of his first and surname the same letter of the alphabet.? And we can enjoy his smile. Now for the article comparison of Bulldog Frank. Great comparisons but really hard to say soph year was better than junior year. Consideration should be given to additional results Graham and Selden provided that might downgrade Frank this past year.

Laura Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't think full the story of Frank Mason is told by his numbers. He has a fire when he plays that often ignites his teammates. He plays with determination and confidence, even when he is the smallest guy on the floor -- which is most of the time! There are times when you can just see him take responsibility for the game and just make things happen. I love it! I'm looking forward to an awesome senior season for him.

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

Im kind of going to express a different take on Laura's answer. To me it is not a question of which "Frank Mason" was better; rather, it's enough to know that the junior was at least in the same neighborhood as the sophomore. And I think Laura gets it right when she says that Frank inspires others to play better. I dont think we have the same success as we had this past season without Frank Mason, and to me that knowledge is enough.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 7 months ago

Comparing Mason's total year over year numbers should not the issue. Mason started off the first third of the year on fire. After the home OU game, which is where I suspected he was injured, was when Mason took a nose dive for about 7 games or so. Mason then had a couple good games but took another mini-dive. The stats where this would show up would be his FT numbers, i.e. how many per game. It seemed the last 15 or 17 games, Mason hardly got to the line more than twice per game. Also, Mason's defense and going after 50-50 balls was very uneven, ranging from horrible to ok to occasionally good.

Lloyd Kinnison 5 years, 7 months ago

I would like to hear that Mason is providing leadership to his peers while completing the academic degree as well as his performance on the BB Court. His long term influence on undergraduates and future Jayhawks should emphasize that a degree is as important as performance on the court! The completion of the degree and his contributions to society are more important than the number of points he may score.

Greg Ledom 5 years, 7 months ago

And this public service announcement is brought to you by....

Steve Macy 5 years, 7 months ago

I love Frank's fire, but I sometimes think that instead of worrying about his shot when driving, he is seeking out contact first, shot second. The contact will be there, worry about the shot. RCJH, love his fire, hope for a healthy senior campaign.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 7 months ago

I would disagree with Matt's take. There was a clear scoring drop-off. However, his assists and rebounds increased, which speaks both to his awareness and his toughness.

Frank is incredible. Frank has more to give, and I think he'll have a stellar senior season.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

He scored 47 MORE points on only 17 more shots.....

Brett McCabe 5 years, 7 months ago

His shooting average dipped, his 3pt% dipped and his FT% dipped. It was clear to anyone watching the games that something was off, especially when he was passing up wide-open threes late in the season.

Still, he's great, and I think he'll be first-team all-conference next season. His trajectory will be pointed up, not flat.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

2014-15 - 340 FGA - 452 Points = 1.33 pts per attempt

2015-16 - 357 FGA - 489 Points = 1.37 pts per attempt

Sorry. That's better, not worse.

You're not getting the whole picture.

Rae Bricil 5 years, 7 months ago

you are counting made FTs in this analysis. Is that correct? if you take out FT's he was worse in 2015.
PTs AT

342 340 1.005882353

353 357 0.988795518

taking out the FT's can also be problematic bc of And 1's.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

Do free throws count on the scoreboard?

Rae Bricil 5 years, 7 months ago

Of course they do but your assumption is incorrect. You are stating he scored 452 points on 340 fg attempts but over 100 of those points are not associated with FGA they are made FTs. Since when a player is fouled and misses it does not count as a FGA your numerator is wrong and he is not scoring as you said 1.33 per FGA.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

My assumption is exactly correct. Points per shot taken reflect a player's efficiency and his % of the offense. Getting fouled counts big. It not only scores points but gets KU to the bonus and takes opponents out of the game. He scored more points per offensive usage than before. Period. Add in that his assists went up, his TOs went down, his steals stayed about the same and his rebounds went up....

All this and the Chicken Littles were whining...

Mike Greer 5 years, 7 months ago

I think Suzi hit it, I don't think Frank was as consistent throughout the year. With the exception of Perry, I don't think the team was as consistent with scoring. Compared to the early part of the season, I think Frank had a drop off, and then regained his momentum and then faded a bit near the end. Matt's evaluation of the statistics looks at the year totals, which look to be every bit as good as the previous year. But that doesn't take into account a very strong first third of the season or so and what everyone perceives as a bit of a drought after the OU game. One would have to look at individual game statistics to get that type of trend line. It wasn't just Frank that was hot and cold, Devonte and Wayne had similar really great performances followed by "where'd they go" games. Svi, Brannen, Landen, all had some hot scoring games followed by some "couldn't hit the ocean from the beach" kind of games. It would take quite an analysis to sort out if this inconsistency was normal for a team or if this years team was just more erratic. Perry was the most consistent, at least from my perception without looking at statistics for each game. Look at the mean, mode, and standard deviation for the season, game at a time. Matt's a writer not a statistician, I guess I need to keep that in mind.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 7 months ago

I think that the stats indicate that Frank was a facilitator at PG as a Jr. than as a Soph. He got a lot more attention from opposing defenses thus the drop in shooting %'s. But he still was a very efficient scorer. I think that the drop in FT% might be the result of his sore hip/back/neck/whatever else. Not necessarily serious injuries, but enough to take him out of his rhythm. I would have expected his FT% to improve and I do expect it to improve next season.

The eye test says that he was hurting late in the season, but we don't need the eye test when it was no secret that he was banged up all over. Plus, he had us all primed for an awesome year after some great showings in the summer games in Korea.

I think that he is poised for another great year next year. I bet that we see improvement in his %'s. But I don't know if we'll see the kind of across the board improvement that we saw this year in Rebs, Assists, TOs, etc.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

He was preseason 2nd team all Big12.

Given that the Chicken Littles were in full panic over Frank's play in January and were jumping on the "mid major guard" bandwagon pulled by renowned half wit (and kleptomaniac) Doug Gottleib....and then ranked 6th in conference by Dookie V, he must have been worse in 2015-16. Except that he wasn't.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

A little late to the conversation, but can't help responding to Laura. Good comments, and although we probably aren't related in any way, it sounds like we are, at least in our thoughts about Frank Mason and KU.

As for the article, I agree with Pius and others who point out the difficulty of comparing the two years because the supporting casts were so different. On leadership alone, I believe that his junior year was considerably better than his sophomore year.

Frank didn't need to score as much this year in most instances because Perry, Devonte, and Wayne were much better offensively this year. Also, with the emergence of Landen Lucas in the post, it opened up another inside threat that we really didn't have last year due to the fiasco surrounding Cliff Alexander. Even so, Frank still increased his ppg stats a little from sophomore to junior year.

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