2016-17 Jayhawks finished as highest scoring team in Self era at Kansas
With Roy Williams and his top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels set to face Oregon, instead of Kansas, in this weekend’s Final Four outside of Phoenix — in a game that nearly became the fourth meeting in NCAA Tournament play since 2008 between Ol’ Roy and Kansas — we won’t get the opportunity to dissect every aspect of the Carolina-KU match-up like we’ve done in years past.
From Roy vs. Self to the pressure of Williams facing his old team to the match-ups on the floor that might most impact the game, we would’ve been neck deep in that stuff by this point in the week had Kansas not fallen to Oregon in the Elite Eight.
But just because the Jayhawks aren’t playing does not mean we can’t examine one aspect of the transition from Williams to Self that actually came up last week in Kansas City as the Jayhawks were preparing for their Elite Eight clash with Oregon.
One day before what wound up being the final day of the 2016-17 season, Self was asked if he ever thought back to the days when people questioned whether he would play fast enough for KU fans’ liking or if he would bring Big Ten basketball to Lawrence.
As you all know, this year’s Jayhawks, led by national player of the year Frank Mason III, were one of the fastest KU teams in recent memory, constantly looking to push the pace to take advantage of the terrifying speed that their four-guard lineup could generate.
Most of the time it worked. Especially in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where Kansas averaged 93 points per game in its three wins and still finished at 84.5 points per game for the tournament even with the dud against the Ducks.
Here’s what Self had to say about this year’s team, which was the highest scoring KU team in Self’s 14 seasons in Lawrence.
“Well, you know, following Coach Williams and his staff, they played at breakneck speed and certainly really, really emphasized not only transition but the secondary break as much as anybody in America maybe ever has,” Self began. “I've never been one to emphasize that as much. I've always been let's score in primary (transition), but if it's not there we can run our stuff.”
That subtle shift did not necessarily change the result — both Williams’ and Self’s KU teams played fast and put up points — but it did change the perception because Williams’ teams attacked relentlessly and never slowed up while transitioning quickly from fast-break opportunities into their offense. The switch from fast-break opportunities into halfcourt sets of teams coached by Self were more evident.
“Their stuff was secondary and they were so good at it,” Self said of Williams’ offenses.
“It's been talked about I'm sure amongst fans probably for years that we don't play as fast as we should. The reality of it is I don't know how we can play much faster than we (did this season). It (was) a team that (got) up and down and of course that doesn't mean you're going to make shots or score more points, but certainly this team (was) aggressive and (played) to their athletic ability.”
Credit Self’s willingness to put his personnel in the best position to succeed and to adjust away from his traditional emphasis on playing inside-out, with big men dominating the touches and opening everything else up from there.
Kansas did not have the crop of big men it normally does and rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole, Self found a way to maximize what he could get out of his most talented and dangerous players.
That led to All-American nods for Mason and Josh Jackson, a second-team all-Big 12 season for Devonte’ Graham and breakout years by both Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk, who saw their minutes and production increase big time this season.
All of that thrown together led to the Jayhawks fielding the most potent offense they’ve had during Self’s time in charge of the program, topping the previous best output by a point and a half per game.
Here’s a look at Self’s offenses at Kansas, ranked first through 14th
1 – 2016-17 – 83.2 ppg in 36 games
2 – 2009-10 – 81.6 ppg in 36 games
3 – 2015-16 – 81.3 ppg in 38 games
4 – 2010-11 – 81.2 ppg in 38 games
5 – 2007-08 – 80.5 ppg in 40 games
6 – 2013-14 – 79.0 ppg in 35 games
7 – 2006-07 – 78.4 ppg in 38 games
8 – 2008-09 – 76.4 ppg in 35 games
9 – 2003-04 – 75.8 ppg in 33 games
10 – 2012-13 – 75.2 ppg in 37 games
11 – 2005-06 – 75.2 ppg in 33 games
12 – 2004-05 – 75.0 ppg in 30 games
13 – 2011-12 – 73.5 ppg in 39 games
14 – 2014-15 – 71.1 ppg in 36 games
A few quick notes about these rankings:
• It’s worth noting that two of the three highest-scoring teams in the Self era came during the past two seasons, when rule changes (shorter shot clock, officiating emphasis, etc.) were put in place to increase scoring
• One thing that jumped out to me was that the 2012 national runner-up scored the second fewest points of any team in Self’s time at Kansas. That team, if you’ll recall, was led by Jeff Withey’s defense and got great defensive games from Travis Releford, Thomas Robinson and even Tyshawn Taylor, proving the old adage that defense wins championships, or, almost.
• It’s no surprise that the 2014-15 team was dead last on this list. Their inability to score consistently ultimately led to the second-round exit and loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.
• I was a little surprised the 2008 title team wasn’t a little higher on this list, but, again, that team was so solid defensively and still did top the 80 points per game mark.
• It should be interesting to see where next year’s team, which we don’t quite know the make-up of yet, will fall on this list. My early guess is that it will crack the Top 6.