By the numbers: 2008 vs. 2010 Jayhawks


[Taylor Witt is a Kansas University senior from Prairie Village majoring in Journalism. He is serving an internship with The Lawrence Journal-World sports staff.]

For many Kansas fans, the 2008 national championship year seemed almost like a dream. The team dominated games while appearing to hardly try, enjoyed running teams off the court, and had a real killer instinct. But some people may not realize how close these current 2010 Jayhawks are to performing at the level that made them champions in 2008.

Here is an in-depth look at the similarities and differences between Mario’s Miraculous 2008 Jayhawks and Sherron’s Sensational 2010 Jayhawks.

On the surface, it’s easy to see how this year’s size matches up with the championship team.

• Kaun and Aldrich at 6-foot-11
• Rush and Henry at 6-foot-6
• Jackson and Marcus at 6-foot-8
• Arthur and Markieff at 6-foot-9
• Robinson and Chalmers at 6-foot-1 vs. Reed and Morningstar at 6-foot-3

And the experience factor is about the same, with a slight edge to the ’08 squad. And if you look at their average stats and their opponents’ average stats, there’s nothing that really jumps out as a big difference between the two squads.

See a larger version of this graph.

So I decided that an interesting way to approach analyzing these two teams would be to see how consistent the teams were. By that I just mean how often they performed “good” statistically, versus how often they performed “bad.” I took their average team stats, average opponent stats, and established some values above and below those averages which I called “Good” and “Bad.”

For example, both teams average scoring around 80 points, and their opponents averaged around 60. So, I said that a good offensive game would be above 85 points, and a bad one would be below 75. Likewise, a good defensive game would be allowing 55 points or below, and a bad game would be 65 points and above. Now, I know that the pace of the game and the opponent have a lot to do with the total points, so these numbers aren’t exactly scientific, but they do attempt to show consistency more than average season stats would.

Note: Because ‘08 played 40 games and ‘10 has only finished 28 games, the data is expressed in percentages.

See a larger version of the good statistical games graph.

See a larger version of the bad statistical games graph.

Where this year’s team shines is the Good offensive stats. When they’re good, they’re better (and usually significantly better) than the 2008 team at:

• Shooting above 45% 3PT (25% vs 46.4%)
• Grabbing above 40 total rebounds (37.5% vs 57.1%)
• Grabbing above 15 offensive rebounds (22.5% vs 39.3%)

And holding its opponents to:

• Below 35% FG (27.50% vs 35.71%)
• Below 30% 3PT (35.00% vs 42.86%)
• And less than 5 steals (22.50% vs 28.57%)

This is where Cole Aldrich really makes his presence known. While the Morris twins pull down a number of rebounds, Aldrich makes the 2010 team a rebounding force, shown by its ability to grab 40 boards in about 20% more of its games than the 2008 squad.

The offense is also now much more three-ball friendly, with just about everyone not named Aldrich knocking down shots from beyond the arc. When 2008 did damage from the perimeter, it was Rush, Chalmers, and occasionally Collins and Robinson. Jackson, Arthur, and Kaun were all non-threats from outside, and nobody else who could shoot played any significant minutes. This year, contributions from Collins, Henry, Reed, Morningstar, and even the Morris twins mean that this team is much more dangerous from three. Not including any player who doesn’t play “regularly” for each team, the 2008 squad made 5.8 threes per game, and the 2010 team is on pace for 7.0 threes per game.

Defensive numbers also seem to suggest that the 2008 team was a better overall defensive unit, and with shut-down guys like Chalmers, Rush, and Robinson on the perimeter, that should come as no surprise. But what really shocked me was that this year’s squad has had more success in defensive field goal percentage stats. As evident by its national-best 36.9 opponent field goal percentage, this year’s team really forces its opponents into some bad shots. (As a reference, the championship squad was nearly as impressive, holding opponents to 37.9%, good for 3rd nationally in 2008.)

So, you might be asking, what does all of this mean?

When the 2008 championship team was on the mark, they were better than this year’s team at free throw shooting, assisting, and holding its opponents to very few rebounds. But when the 2010 squad is good, it’s much better at shooting lights out from deep, rebounding, and making sure opponents shoot a poor percentage.

When this year’s team is bad, it’s shooting poorly and letting its opponent shoot from deep and rebound. However, when it’s bad, it’s not as bad as 2008 was in grabbing rebounds and shooting free throws.

To me, this suggests that this year’s team (if it wasn’t obvious by its 27-1 record) is just as capable of cutting down the nets in April as the team two years ago was, based on its ability to hit the long-range shot and consistently shut down opposing shooters. If this trend continues, nobody in the nation (perhaps outside of Lexington, Ky.) will be surprised if KU is crowned national champion for the second time in three years.


ChicagoJHawk 12 years, 4 months ago

Good article, lot of interesting stats. There are some things that can't be measured by stats, and one of them is team chemistry. It's really hard to beat the team chemistry of the 2008 team. They all knew what each other was thinking at all times!

That and I think that had a big advantage on experience, not just a small advantage. We had 5 seniors, a few juniors & some freshman & sophomores. This year it's mostly sophomores & juniors, 1 senior & some freshman that don't get much pt.

I love this years team but that 2008 team was probably better. Then again, we have yet to really see what this team is truly capable of...they have not peaked yet, which is scary how good we could be! I'm feeling pretty confident about this years team. National Champions 2010. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!!

Chris Kurtz 12 years, 4 months ago

One stat to keep in mind it takes 1 bad game to end the whole thing.

Also, there are not as many talented teams this year in college basketball as there were in 2008. I don't think this team could come within 10 points of the 2008 team.

That being said there are not other teams in college basketball this year that are as good as Memphis, UCLA or UNC were in 2008 so we have a pretty good chance.

Chris Kurtz 12 years, 4 months ago

One stat to keep in mind it takes 1 bad game to end the whole thing.

Also, there are not as many talented teams this year in college basketball as there were in 2008. I don't think this team could come within 10 points of the 2008 team.

That being said there are not other teams in college basketball this year that are as good as Memphis, UCLA or UNC were in 2008 so we have a pretty good chance.

Mike Kendall 12 years, 4 months ago

ChicagoJHawk---Mostly agree---the chemistry of this year's team is getting better and better. When the Big Dance commences, I truly believe the Jayhawks will be ready!!!

tennesseest 12 years, 4 months ago

While these stats are interesting, I think that this '10 team wants to create their own identity.

Mike Kendall 12 years, 4 months ago

One more thing---this is pretty obvious---the next three games, beginning with Oklahoma State, will define this year's team, and set the tone for the Big 12 Tourney!!!

ebort 12 years, 4 months ago

kickazzkurtz, I'm not so sure this team be rolled by the '08 squad. While '08 had the better backcourt and I could see Chalmers and Robinson getting several steals, this team has a far more consistent frontcourt on both ends (I could see Marcus and Cole dominating the boards). Also, while the '08 team had more elite athletes, this team plays better 1st shot D and have the Aldrich Block Machine on the back end. Lastly, just my gut feeling, this team could grind out a win in a close game against '08 with Sherron shooting and our front line (particularly Marcus) getting timely boards.

MIZNIT 12 years, 4 months ago

This team is more talented in the front court than '08 Aldrich> Kaun Morris>Arthur

However, No one is going to argue that X is a better option than Brandon Rush. And as good of D as Collins and Morningstar play... there not going to get the steals Robinson and Chalmers did. All in all... I think this years team is still 10 points more talented...

Taylor Witt 12 years, 4 months ago

"That being said there are not other teams in college basketball this year that are as good as Memphis, UCLA or UNC were in 2008 so we have a pretty good chance."

That's another great point that I didn't really have room to touch on. While the 08 team might be able to beat the 10 team if they played each other, this year's team has, I believe, a better shot at matching up with opponents come tourney time. Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Chris Douglas-Roberts had a much better chance to beat that '08 team than John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, John Sheyer, and Kyle Singler have of beating this year's team.

Again, just my opinion, but when the four #1 seeds all make the Final Four, you know you've got some pretty heavy competition on your hands. But since I don't see the talent level of this year's Final Four coming close to 2008 (and even worst case scenario, if all four 1 seeds made it, it still wouldn't) I really like the Jayhawks' chances.

James Miller 12 years, 4 months ago

I am not so sure that X is better than Rush was that year. Sure X has all the potential, but he has not shown any consistency, and he is just learning to play defense. Rush was a very good rebounder from the 3 spot, also.

Michael Leiker 12 years, 4 months ago

This is an interesting discussion because I think for all of us the '08 team just played prettier, or maybe had more pretty plays (oops specifically) than this team has had. I think that's a compliment to Self that he has the ability to coach in a variety of different styles and situations.

Based on the eye test, I've been thinking all year that the 2008 team was far superior to this team, but when you play that style of game that KS played in 2008, typically you are more upset prone. The style of play this year compared to 2008 in my opinion makes this team much less upset prone than 2008 and more versatile in how they can score. It's not as pretty but it seems to be much more effective.

Carl O'Hair 12 years, 4 months ago

As it has turned out these next three games are the biggest and toughest of any string of three games all season.

I think that ESPN may well be worried that they didn't schedule what could be the game between number 1 and number 5. That one should tell us a lot about this team coming directly after OSU at Stillwater. Three really tough games with three of the best teams, at this stage of the season.

Great article for a beginner or anyone else. Those stats were interesting to read but it is very hard to compare the two teams since Aldrich was so important to the UNC win and has been very important this year. I guess we need some numbers about changed and altered shots from him this year.

kuclay 12 years, 4 months ago

What about the back-door alley-oops? Not that they make you a better team, but they do make for a great show! Seems like that '08 team was throwing down 4 of them a game, while I've seen this team do it maybe 10 times all year. But you can't argue with 26-1.

Taylor Witt 12 years, 4 months ago

"What I'd like to know is the stat comparison of gameplay with Cole in the lineup versus gameplay with Cole on the bench. This will further point out the "Cole factor.""

To be honest, 2008 had very little to do with Cole Aldrich, outside of the North Carolina game. He played less than Rodrick Stewart and averaged 8 minutes a game. Plus, he wasn't fully developed yet, both physically and mentally. I think even Sasha's worst games probably had more impact than any of Cole's non-UNC games. But I agree with you, I think the Cole factor is a huge reason, possibly the biggest reason, why this year's team could stand close to toe-to-toe with Mario's Miracles.

FairgroveJayhawk 12 years, 4 months ago

Isn't it great to have two elite teams to compare within three seasons of each other. Good numbers for comparison and the comparisons will continue to be debated for years to come, especially if we win the whole sha-bang this year.

Team chemistry and versatility go a long ways. Both this year's team and 2008's team had great chemistry and capacity to score in many ways, as well as defensive strengths to disarm opposing teams.

What impresses me most about these past three seasons and the challenges each team has faced is Coach Self. Not only has he been a good face for KU, but he and the coaching staff have helped players achieve theirs goals by expanding their on court and off court capacity.

tulsahawkfan 12 years, 4 months ago

I think the two squads are pretty even as my brother and I have been discussing this subject the last couple of weeks. While it's true that nationally there may not be as many elite teams, the Big 12 is much stronger this year and we're performing better than the '08 team in that regard. Either way, I'm just giddy as hell that we can even debate this. Here's to hoping we finish this year like the great team of '08.

Robert Brock 12 years, 4 months ago

Great peice of information and interesting how close both teams are statistically. This team still has not reached its ceiling and continues to improve and look crisper every game, which is scary. I still have to believe that that the 2008 team would beat this year's KU team as it stands today.

The pressure put on the perimeter and the turnovers and bad shots forced by the 2008 team was overwhelming at times and that's the difference that stands out between these two teams. Look at those perimeter matchups - Reed, Morningstar and Taylor may struggle to get a shot off against Robinson and Chalmers. And the Henry vs. Rush matchup is great. Rush would really put X's ball handling to the ultimate test. Would Collins defend Collins? Hmmm.

VegasJhawk09 12 years, 4 months ago

Rock out with your Hawk out!! I think its very possible that KU may see Syracuse in the 2010 finals which shooting good from behind the arc will be paramount! to defeating the Cuse zone. If they manage to draw UK in the final, their age and experience and depth will blow UK away.

karkinrich 12 years, 4 months ago

Tay, it's hoffman, great to see you got an internship. Nice stuff. Good read.

rgreene 12 years, 4 months ago

The numbers are one thing, but this team lacks big-time in one area compared to 2008 - A killer instinct and a purpose. That team was not going to be denied by anyone. They lost three games, and in all three instances - K-State, Texas, Okie State- opponents had to play a near-perfect game just to squeak one out. This team has the talent, but they just show SO many mental lapses. I'd love to see Self win another national title, but the fact that this team just doesn't play with the same purpose and edge that the 08 team did is what I think will hold it back in the end.

actorman 12 years, 4 months ago

Interesting column filled with great stats, and a lot of good comments. (I also love the takeoff on the "Phog" banner, by the way.) I think leikness basically summed it up best: this team may not be as "pretty" as the '08 group, but it's just as effective, if not more so. I'm actually more confident this year than I was in '08 -- of course one of the reasons for that is that there's a lot less pressure this year after winning in '08. That year I felt like KU just HAD to win, given the incredible number of heartbreaks they'd had since '88. This year will (note I said "will," not "would") be a very nice bonus. The fact is that what Self has done in only two years is nothing short of remarkable. Even though he's gotten plenty of credit, I think he's still underrated. When you think about losing EIGHT players from a championship team, going to the Sweet 16 (and nearly the Elite 8) the next year, and then coming right back with another top-notched team again right after that, it's truly incredible. And there's no reason to think there will be a huge dropoff next year.

Ryan, I understand your point about killer instinct, and perhaps you're right when it comes to the team overall. But when you have a leader with the non-stop competitiveness and and intensity of Sherron, I think that pretty much evens out the playing field. I truly believe that this team is better than '08, even though it sometimes doesn't look that way. That team was great but didn't have nearly the depth that this one does, and even though this one doesn't pressure the ball and get steals like '08, they make up for that by being great at denying a good shot. I think if they were to play each other, this team would pull out a close one at the end.

Regardless of the comparison, this should be a helluva ride. I can't wait!!!

jayhawkjoe98 12 years, 4 months ago

Neat stuff.

It's been fairly obvious that this team is lacking in defense compared to the '08 team, but your stats back that up (especially the number of bad defensive games).

Very cool blog. Keep it up.

hawkitup 12 years, 4 months ago

The common denominator between the '08 team and the '10 team....Bill Self.

Ryan Mullen 12 years, 4 months ago

R Greene, Name one team in College Basketball this year that does have a "killer instinct". The truth is there isn't. I also have a hard time believing KU does not have a killer instinct saying how they are leading in Margin. I will take money on Kansas cutting down the nets, although we are not as experianced as the 08 squad we are still the most experianced good team this year. Who has more experiance Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue, Duke, Villanova, Michigan State, or Kansas.

Mike Kendall 12 years, 4 months ago

rgreene---My wife and you are saying the same thing---they lack a killer instinct and a purpose. But like the slayr asked: Is there a difference between "killer instinct" and "knowing how to win?" I say this team has a "nose for winning!" Chuckberry32 deserves the credit because he said they have a nose for winning. I want to reemphasize that in several posts I have said this time and time again---these next three games will define this team. My wife says they will not win the NC. I agree to disagree with my wife. However, if the Jayhawks don't start getting that killer instinct thing, then, my wife and you, rgreene, will be spot on!

thmdmph 12 years, 4 months ago

The major difference between this year and '08 is guard plays. This year's team successes in NCAA tournament will depend very much on Collins. I remember back in '08, nearly half of the time, before halftime, we were able to convert for last minute points (usu. 3 pointer by Chalmers, Robinson, or Rush). However, this year, I don't remember Collins converting the first-half's last second shots yet. Furthermore, not to be negative, but Collins can really drag down the team. So far, we've been fortunate to pull of wins after wins even after poor poor guard plays, but in the tournament, it's going to be a lot tougher. As for TT, he's been very good of recent, but I still don't have the confidence he's going to be consistent throughout tournament plays.

By far, the most impressive and persistent plays this year is Mc Morris. Aldrich and Collins are getting the accolades, but, I think KU owe Marcus for our current record. Aldrich is huge for us on defensive end, but I love Marcus' toughness. When he goes up for the rebound and when he goes up for a shot, he goes up real strong and with authority. He also has range. Performance-wise, he's above and beyond Jackson and Arthur IMO.

Aldrich is better than Kaun. Xavier and Rush - possibly a draw. But I like X better, although he still has lots of room for improvement on defense end. However, X can get hot really quick and he also has more offensive proweness. I remember so many times we needed for Rush to step up and take charge and nothing happened. With X, if the guard (Collins) allows for it, X has more potential to contribute offensively.

The major factor that '08 has that '10 doesn't is The Miracle aka Chalmers. He was great on defense AND offense. He was clutch not only in the championship game, but throughout the whole year. So many times, he'd knocked down the last minute first-half shots. We could rely on him for clutch three's more than Morningstar or Reed or Collins this year. I remember before the '08 game against Memphis, the commentators asked each other who they think will be the difference maker, and most were expecting Rose or Dozier or CDR or Rush, but I told everybody I was with it'll be Chalmers. The Miracle came through.

In summary, guards (namely Collins) will dictate KU's fate.

thmdmph 12 years, 4 months ago

As for guard, KU is pretty fortunate to have Collins at point. Being a senior, with lot of experience at winning NCAA games (more than any player in NCAA history), and tons of leadership. He also seems to be on the verge of coming out of his slump.

johnnyphoton 12 years, 4 months ago

For the '08 team, it always seemed like Darnell Jackson would come through with a much needed rebound, Mario would come through with a steal, Brandon would provide lock down defense, etc. That team seemed predictable in who would come through in the clutch. This year's team is less predictable, but they always seem to find a way to win. I like one comment above: Bill Self is the common denominator. And so is Sherron. I still believe the Twins HAVE to play under control and not foul out to win THE championship.

KU08 12 years, 4 months ago

Great first blog, Taylor, and the name's the most clever I've seen in a long time. If this internship counts as class credit, your first paper deserves an A.

I still give a slight edge to the 2008 team. They just had so many weapons, including two of 2010's biggest ones. Plus, I have this fear that the Big 12 is vastly overrated. I know the RPI is number one, and that's usually the best indicator of conference talent, but is KSU really deserving of No. 6 in the nation? I agree with other posters that we will learn a lot about this team this week and the next in the Big 12 Tourney.

Chris Kurtz 12 years, 4 months ago

Ebort- this year's team has 2 guys that were coming off the bench in 08. On the inside 08 had Jackson, Kaun, and Arthur. Plus Aldrich to come in if there was foul trouble. This year if Marcus and Aldrich gets in foul trouble it's Markieff as the next option that is proven. (Robinson has talent but is TO trouble and Whithey hasn't played much)

This year we have Collins but we need a consistant permiter to match 08.

Someone also posted on another thred Robinson, Chalmers and Rush's FG, TO, Steals, Rebounds and Assist that year compared to Collins this year. Collins was behind all of them in almost every category.

For this years team to be that good we need Tyshawn and Henry to step up consitantly to match the Robinson, Chalmers and Rush trio of 08.

Chris Kurtz 12 years, 4 months ago

Halftime of OSU game shows we don't have speed this year. Remember against North Carolina in 08 when they couldn't keep up with our speed. We definetly lack speed.

OSU is hitting 3s, but that was less than half their points. We can't stop them inside either because of the speed. Hope we don't run into a fast team in the tourney.

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