Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tom Keegan: Points not only relevant point for measuring OU and KU point guards

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) for a shot during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) for a shot during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.


The greatest testament to the strength of Big 12 basketball lies in studying how Oklahoma freshman Trae Young’s season has unfolded.

The freshman dove into college basketball with such a loud splash that he justifiably became the leading candidate to become national player of the year, and not by a little.

One week shy of the halfway point of the 18-game Big 12 schedule, Young hasn’t figured out how to negotiate his way through Big 12 defenders as well as those from OU’s nonconference schedule. He hasn’t yet figured out that not as many good shots are available to him as were early in the season, yet he's chucking shots at a higher rate.

Young might still be the leading national candidate for top honors, but he’ll need to lead his team to victory in Norman, Okla., tonight against Kansas to stand at the head of the race for individual honors in the Big 12.

At the moment, Devonte’ Graham, the man against whom he will be matched up for most of the 6 p.m. tipoff at Lloyd Noble Center, has the slight edge. Remember, numbers posted against teams from outside the Big 12 should be disregarded in voting for conference awards.

So, let’s look first at Young’s numbers in seven Big 12 games, compare those to his nonconference statistics and then look at how he has played in conference games, compared to Graham.

Young is coming off a 48-point explosion Saturday in the Sooners’ 83-81 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

That raised his scoring average to 33.3 in seven Big 12 games, compared to a 28.7 average in 11 nonconference appearances. But he’s taking more shots to get those points (24.6 per game in conference, 18 before that) and turning it over more often (7.6, compared to 3.8) in Big 12 play. He’s averaging 8.9 assists in Big 12 games, 10.4 before that.

The more Big 12 defenders take away from him in terms of scoring opportunities and setting up teammates, it seems, the more Young forces it. Still, Young leads not only the conference but the nation in both scoring and assists.

But has Young been the best, the most valuable player in the Big 12 so far?

Not really.

A point guard’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the team gets high-percentage shots on a regular basis. That can’t happen if the ball is turned over or a bad shot is put up. Young made 14 of 39 shots and had seven turnovers in the loss in Stillwater. He has averaged 9.3 turnovers in OU’s past three games.

A Young/Graham comparison in Big 12 play:

Record: Young 4-3, Graham 6-1.

PPG: Young 33.3, Graham 20.4.

Assists: Young 8.9, Graham 6.7.

Turnovers: Young 7.6, Graham 3.1.

Two-point percentage: Young .415, Graham .361.

3-point percentage: Young .378, Graham .415.

Young gets to the free-throw line more often and finishes at the rim better. Graham does a much better job of taking care of the basketball and involving teammates. Graham, who always has to defend the other team’s best guard, has the defensive edge.

The argument as to the early season leader for Big 12 player of the year is close enough to suggest that the point guard who leads his team to victory tonight stands at the front of the conference.

All the pregame hype seems to center on how Kansas will defend Young.

“You don’t stop (Young),” KU coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if you corral (him). … How do you get 48 in a college game?”

By launching 39 shots.

“The whole deal is, that’s what people don’t understand, it’s not that he took 39 shots, it’s that he’s good enough that he can get 39,” Self said. “That’s the thing about (Michael) Jordan that was so special, is he could get his shot any time he wanted to. Even if he shot a low percentage, you knew how good he was because he could get it. … If a guy can get off that many shots and still impact every play from an assistant standpoint or whatever, what happens when he shoots 50 percent or 55 percent? You’re looking at an astronomical number and 48 (points) seems astronomical to me.”

Just as was the case when Kansas played in Norman the year Buddy Hield scored 46 points in a 109-106, triple-overtime KU victory, nobody’s talking about how the Sooners plan to contain Graham. Everybody was talking about him after the game. Graham scored 27 points in Norman as a sophomore, checked Hield, a shooting guard, and led the Jayhawks to a 76-72 victory.

Basketball's a team game, obviously, but it will be difficult not to watch the game within the game, especially since so much of the time the ball will be in the hands of the point guards, one a freshman, the other a senior.


Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm worried Young will score 30 easily if we don't contain him early. He can launch 3s just like that. Somebody has to get up in his face constantly - if you let him do just 1 dribble, it'll be too late... oh, he can find his guys from a mile away, too. Or dribble drive. Tom, you should add FT attempts, too. This kid will make one of our starters on the bench if we're not careful - well, that or refs will favor him.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 6 months ago

I feel like Garrett is a great defensive assignment for Young simply because he doesn't need to think about conserving energy for the offensive end. Of course he's also proved to be a good defender, and he has a height advantage over Young which has proven to be helpful against him so far this year.

The only problem with this plan is it allows Young to not have to use any energy defending Garrett and he's then energized to get buckets.

KU switches everything defensively so it will be interesting if they do the same with Young, or if Self does a box and 1 or a trapping D or some other "gimmick" to throw Young off. If KU switches everything and doesn't trap/double team him I'm afraid of what he'll do to Vick and Svi.

Either way, the key is stopping the other guys as one way or another you can expect Young to get his points. It's just a matter of how efficiently he does so.

Bob Thompson 4 years, 6 months ago

Young most likely will guard Garrett no matter who guards Young

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 6 months ago

Good point. That's certainly possible. In that case Garrett needs to drive on him to try to draw fouls (or get easy buckets) and whoever he guards when Garrett isn't playing (Newman?) needs to light him up!

Gary McCullough 4 years, 6 months ago

Just like an old wily pitcher, you bring every pitch to the game. We'll see KU play man-to-man, zone, and junk defenses. And it will change among these to make the young man slow down and think about how to attack each defense he faces. If Young has to think rather than react, he'll have more difficulty both scoring and passing.

Town Thomas 4 years, 6 months ago

Interesting. Garrett's high school team actually beat Young's team last year.

RJ King 4 years, 6 months ago

OR, we could have Young on Young. Clay vs Trae! That means either it's a blow out, or foul trouble. Up by 30 with 4 to go??? (I think not.)

Bryce Landon 4 years, 6 months ago

Eight days ago I didn't think Kansas could beat West Virginia. And, much to my delight, they proved me wrong.

So I'm going to say it: Kansas can't beat Oklahoma.

And I'm going to hope they prove me wrong again.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 6 months ago

Bryce, I hope you are wrong once again, in a good way. However, thanks to TCU, the Hawks have a 2 game edge on .everyone so, in the back of their minds, the guys know they have a margin for error, Oklahoma is indeed looking at a possible "must" game, OU will be psyched at home on National Television and the Sooners want to make up for their last performance.

I will do my part, tape the game and not watch it live like I did for West Virginia assuming a KU loss and then do a Suzi Marshall and analyze the hell out of the tape of a KU victory!!!

Tom Jones 4 years, 6 months ago

"in the back of their minds, the guys know they have a margin for error,"

Pretty sure Coach Self doesn't agree with you and is making sure nobody on our squad actually thinks there's any margin for error.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 6 months ago

Just thinking about the minds of 19 and 20 year olds, but that;s a good point. Bill has dealt with a lot of 19 and 20 year olds before. Also, there is the competitive pride factor about going against the already anointed "best player in America".

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 6 months ago

Young will be hyped sky high for the game tonight with plans to beat his dad's numbers vs Kansas. I'm expecting Garrett to be guarding Young most of the time. If so, Garrett will probably foul out. I'm also expecting to see Self try to mix Young up by switching defenses between man, and various zones (box and one, triangle and two, etc). Maybe we'll see Cunliffe in there to use his athleticism to harass him.

Watching the game tape is a good way. It provides a much more relaxed atmosphere to see what Kansas/Opponents are running. I get way to caught up in the games in real time to be able to follow the game with any kind of analytical eye.

Steve Corder 4 years, 6 months ago

It's still early, but this is about as close to a "must win" for OU as it gets.

Mike Greer 4 years, 6 months ago

Well, Kansas hasn't been the only team to figure out how to beat WVU and other teams have figured out how to beat OU, so I certainly think KU can. But to do so, they are going to have to have a good offense night and play good defense as well. It could happen.

Humpy Helsel 4 years, 6 months ago

Knowing Coach he will let Devonte and others take turns guarding Trae Young with fresh legs, with the goal of having to make him work to get his shots. At the same time, the secondary goal is not letting anyone else get off and have a huge game. People forget Michael Jordan could get Chicago to the playoffs but no further until he got some help from Robin (Scotty Pippin) and others. Yes...ultimately, basketball is always a team game. And the better team in basketball always (OK, most of the time) wins. So glad we had the extra day to prepare. I am sure OU and the fans will be jacked to take the Big Bad Boys from KU down. But, you know, I have a feeling the Big Bad Boys from KU are looking forward to the challenge tonight on the Big Bad Stage.

Justin Kruse 4 years, 6 months ago

Seems like Young is getting a fair amount of criticism after taking so many shots during the OSU game, so he's going to be looking to distribute the ball a lot more tonight, in my opinion.

I predict Svi and Udoka having a HUGE night in this Jayhawk win!

What about that left handed throw down by Svi against Baylor!?!

Rock Chalk, baby!

Craig Jackson 4 years, 6 months ago

Usually not the czar of grammar as that seems to be a full-time gig with about a headline of "Points are not the only measure for OU KU point guards".

While I am peeing in everyone's coffee might as well air one more grievance. When detailing a matchup,, the visiting team is always before the vs. and the home team always after the vs. Please dont make me dig for location!

Danny Hernandez 4 years, 6 months ago

As much as I wanted young at Kansas, not sure he would have fit as he wanted the ball in his hands PLUS he wanted to be the man and no way would I want him being the Man over Graham,

David Howell 4 years, 6 months ago

Good point Robert .............. the scary thing is an average shooter can have a career night against KU's outside defense. Young could score more then 48 !

Is it me or does Azabuike look uncomfortable doubling and then getting back to his man ?!

Adrian Meneses 4 years, 6 months ago

I think Garrett is due for some shots to fall & tonight would be as good as time as any. If he can add to the point total & plays D like he has shown, I believe he will be the better of freshman on the floor tonight by helping their team earn a W!

Adrian Meneses 4 years, 6 months ago

Also I agree Craig, but hope the addition & increased playing time by Silvio will happen lighten Dok’s responsibility of protecting the paint.

Mike Barnhart 4 years, 6 months ago

If you had a person, who’s never played one second of basketball, step to the free throw line and shoot like Doke you’d stop them and say, “Oh, God, not like that, keep your elbow in, bend your knees and pronate your wrist after the shot!”

What are they telling Doke???

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