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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Early results show winning away from home could play a huge role in Big 12 race

Kansas guard Christian Braun, left, is fouled by Oklahoma guard Umoja Gibson (2) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Kansas guard Christian Braun, left, is fouled by Oklahoma guard Umoja Gibson (2) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Most years, protecting one’s home court is a major component of being in the Big 12 men’s basketball title race all the way to the end.

But this season, perhaps more than ever, winning away from home could be a prerequisite for simply keeping pace.

In 28 Big 12 games so far this season, the road team already has won 10 times, with Kansas being responsible for two of those 10 wins — at Oklahoma State on Jan. 4 and at Oklahoma on Tuesday night.

Seven different Big 12 programs already have won at least one road game this season, with Baylor leading the pack with three wins away in enemy territory. KU and Baylor are the only Big 12 teams that have won more than one road game so far.

It’s worth noting that the Bears also have lost two home games already, which somewhat evens out what the defending national champs have been able to do away from home.

Only Iowa State (0-3), Oklahoma (0-3) and West Virginia (0-2) have yet to win on the road.

To get an idea of just how strong the conference is this season, top to bottom, look no further than the national rankings. While five of the 10 Big 12 programs were ranked in the AP Top 25 heading into the week, the more impressive feat is that all 10 teams are currently ranked in top 61 of the KenPom.com rankings.

Oklahoma, which lost to KU at home in its most recent game, actually moved up in the KenPom rankings despite the loss.

Let's go one step further: Kansas, as the No. 7-ranked team in the AP poll and second-highest ranked team per KenPom at No. 8, currently ranks 33rd nationally in KenPom's defensive efficiency rankings. That puts the Jayhawks dead last among Big 12 teams in that specific category.

With defense being where most of the conference hangs its hat, going into a hostile environment and winning could be more common throughout the regular season because, as the saying goes, defense typically travels.

For years, Kansas has separated itself from the rest of the Big 12 by winning away from home at a much higher clip than anyone else. At one point, KU’s winning percentage on the road in conference play was higher than any other Big 12 team’s overall winning percentage, home or away. It’s feats like that that can help you win an NCAA-record 14 consecutive regular season conference titles.

Even though that streak ended and KU has won just one of the past three Big 12 regular season titles (2019-20), the Jayhawks are off to a strong start on the road again this season.

Kansas is 2-1 away from home in conference play so far — 7-2 outside of Allen Fieldhouse overall — and will head back out on the road at 3 p.m. Saturday for the first edition of the Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State.

KU’s stellar home record under Self (286-15) has been well documented and been a huge part of the Jayhawks’ overall success during his 19 seasons in charge of the program. But Self has talked for years about road games giving the Jayhawks a chance to tighten their huddle and take on a rare us-against-the-world mentality not commonly seen with blue blood programs.

Junior Christian Braun said the significance of winning a three-point grinder like No. 7 Kansas did at Oklahoma on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that.

“We talk about becoming a team a lot,” Braun said Tuesday. “Coach always tells us you’re not a team until you go through some adversity, and games like that is the adversity he talks about. (When) you string some of those games together, that’s kind of when you become a team and you’re battle-tested a little bit.”

One way Self tool uses to prepare his teams to survive the obstacles they face away from home is the approach he takes going into road them.

“Embrace ugly games, grimy games,” Self said explaining his general philosophy on how to attack the Big 12 this season. “I don’t think we did a great job of that (vs. OU) but we did a good enough job.”

Comments

Benny Armstrong 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The conference is far from settled, but the fact that Baylor has lost 2 home games (to a half filled arena no less) puts them in a very tough spot one-third of the way through the conference season. For years, KU could bank on winning all 9 home games and then going on the road and winning 5 or more games, all but assuring at least a share of the conference title. Now Baylor that has to find an extra 2 road wins to balance that out in an already tough conference will make that challenge much tougher for them, especially since they have to play at Tech and still play KU twice. Obviously a lot of games left to play but not great for them early on, mainly because of the lack of interest from their fans.

Shocking to see last year's national champion playing home games with tons of empty seats. Reminds KU fans and the team just how lucky we are to have a "full" house even in down seasons like last year.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Some fans seem to think a down year is any year we’re not getting to at least the FF.

The recipe for success in conference has long been winning at home and against the bottom half of the league. KU does that far better than any other team. Only one of bu’s road wins is against a top team so they’re -1 (+ for road wins against the top half, - for home losses or road Ls to bottom half).

In the past, we’ve also done better the stronger the rest of the conference is, because the other teams beat up on each other as much or more than KU.

Robert Brock 5 months, 2 weeks ago

To early to tell much of anything. Wait’l February when KU’s schedule becomes excruciatingly painful...

Barry Weiss 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I would have never guess we would be last in the conference in defense efficiency. Any idea how they arrive at that stat and what we need to do to improve?

Benny Armstrong 5 months, 2 weeks ago

The snarky answer is stop letting the other team score so many easy points... but I kid and mean no snark to your question.

But if they're citing KenPom, then it is considering points allowed per 100 possessions adjusted for the opponent. I believe it also factors in tempo (possessions per game), but could be mistaken. It isn't a perfect metric, but given how many teams there are and the number of common opponents, you can start to build out a ranking using these stats. For reference, we're currently the 35th ranked team in adjusted defensive efficiency, and only Purdue is worse (70th) in the KenPom top 10. Everyone else is between 1 (LSU - 10th overall in KP) and 18 (Kentucky - 4th overall in KP) in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Rodney Crain 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Early results show breathing could play a huge role in Living!

  • Captain Obvious

James Miller 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Maintaining a heartbeat seems to be fairly critical.

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