Thursday, December 29, 2005

Season Stats Summary

In lieu of attempting how to describe UNO's ineptness, I'll take a look at the numbers of the 10 Jayhawks who have played significant minutes so far this season.

(Note: All stats are taken from game box scores, NOT from play-by-play information. The Chaminade game is not included. I've only considered games against Division I opposition.)

Link to stats glossary

First, shooting:


Not much there that anybody couldn't tell from watching the games.

Rush is obviously the team's best scorer and shouldn't be the sixth-most frequent shooter. The rest of the perimeter players (and you could include Giles here, considering the location of too many of his shots) aren't making very many shots.

Other than Rush, none of the perimeter players are making more than 36% of their three-point shots, and only Chalmers (who is struggling the most from behind the arc) is making more than 37.5% of his two-point shots. From observation, I'd say that Robinson's shot selection has improved markedly as the season has progressed. If he improves his ability to finish in the paint, both his and the team's offensive efficiency will get an immediate boost.

CJ Giles shoots too much, or not well enough, depending on your perspective.

Kaun is greatly benefitted by his improved free throw shooting.

Julian Wright, when shooting, is already an effective offensive player.

Moody and Vinson seem to have a good sense of their limitations as basketball players.


At the risk of contradicting Coach Self, I've arranged the players into three categories: bigs, mediums, and littles, rather than two when looking at their rebound numbers.


Moody's a liability on the defensive glass which can obscure his effectiveness as an offensive rebounder as most have yet to come to the conclusion that those are two different skills.

Coming into the year, I assumed that Wright's rebounding numbers would look more like Moody's, but he has done pretty well on the defensive glass without creating much havoc on the offensive end.

Rush and Downs have not, thus far, provided the rebounding boost I had hoped. (JR Giddens 2004 (OR%/DR%/TR%): 2.6/11.8/7.5 and 2005: 2.2/12.5/7.8).

Robinson and Hawkins have both improved their rebounding rates with increased playing time this year, though neither is doing anything exceptional.

Chalmers' paltry rebounding numbers shouldn't cause great alarm. Few freshman point guards get many rebounds. If he doesn't improve next year as a sophomore (when playing more off-the-ball), then I'll be worried.

Vinson's solid off-the-ball defense carries over to his defensive rebounding. As he'll always be assigned to the perimeter player least likely to dribble-penetrate, he should be getting proportionally more rebounds than the other guards.

Finally, ballhandling, steals, and blocks:

Same arrangement as above: littles, mediums, and bigs. These numbers are per 100 individual possessions. Kansas is averaging 69 possessions per game so far this year.


Hawkins turns it over too much, though not as often as Chalmers, and he doesn't create many turnovers. (My theory regarding the difference between Hawkins' reputation as a practice defender and his performance in games: in practice, all those fouls he commits 35 feet from the basket are ignored, allowing him to be a significant nuisance.)

Once Chalmers gets the turnovers under control, his passing and on-the-ball defense will make a big (positive) difference for the team.

To go along with my observations about Robinson's improved shot selection, he's improved his assist-to-turnover ratio as the season has progressed. Through the Western Illinois game, he had 11 assists against 12 turnovers. He's had 13 assists and 3 turnovers in the last four games.

Julian Wright's across-the-board contributions (and his near-epic turnover rate) provide a numerical context for the excitement he provides.

Neither Rush nor Downs are a liability with the ball in their hands. I assumed both would struggle guarding smaller players and they have at times though neither has been a disaster. The infrequency of both their blocks and steals, combined with their mediocre defensive rebounding numbers points to the greatest opportunity for defensive improvement as the season progresses.

Kaun, despite his massive general improvement, still demonstrates little ability to pass the ball out of the post. He's making up for this by almost never turning the ball over. If he can continue to take care of the ball once conference play starts, it will be a great help.

Moody's biggest problem this year has been his increased turnover rate. He's giving the ball away 152% of the time compared to last year which really cuts into his effectiveness.

Vinson's numbers will undoubtedly shrink if he continues to play significant minutes, but I think he can be useful if Self adequately picks the spots in which he uses him.

I don't think anything groundbreaking has been discovered by doing this. Both the struggles and the promise of the program have been obvious in all year (with the possible exception of the Arizona game).

I think I'm more positive than most about the necessary, limited usefulness of Hawkins, Moody, and Vinson and have tried to point out what they can provide the team. There is no doubt the program will be in better shape when the more talented, high-profile recruits are playing all the minutes and playing effectively. I'm skeptical that the latter will occur this year and I'm certain that were Self to have played the freshman more extensively, he'd be criticized and questioned just as severely would the results have been the same. The improvement of Kaun and Robinson gives me reason to believe that Self can develop players, though his method of doing so may frustrate fans.

The offense isn't good, but it's better than I imagined it would look coming into the year. I had visions of the '99 team (Boschee, Robinson, Gregory, Pugh, Chenowith, Bradford) with its collection of young and/or mediocre offensive players struggling to work together to create a decent shot. I've certainly witnessed that this year, but I've also seen the team use defense to create easy shots, and run their half-court sets effectively for brief stretches. Once the young players are capable of putting complete games together, their minutes will increase and they'll get longer stretches to play together, and presumably the half-court execution will improve. Again, it may be 2007 before this all happens.

I was very negative about the team's defense following the St. Joseph's game, but I'm hopeful that the good defense of the first 17 minutes of that game will be more representative than the team-wide defensive breakdown that transpired over the final 23 minutes. Looking at Ken Pomeroy's
adjusted defensive efficiency numbers leads me to believe that some of my negativity had more to do with my clumsiness with the numbers than the team's play. The performance against Cal and the defensive performance against Pepperdine fuels my newfound optimism.

I thought they'd have one more (Division I) win than they have right now, but the Big 12 looks to be even weaker than I thought. I think this is still an 18-win team that gets into the tournament.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Preview: Northern Colorado at Kansas

How have Northern Colorado managed to lose their first 13 games?

Of course, they're generally bad. Out of the 334 Division I teams, Ken Pomeroy calculates their offensive efficiency rank at 287th and their defensive efficiency at 290th. More specifically, Northern Colorado, over the course of their first 13 games have turned the ball over on 30.2% of their offensive possessions.

To put that into perspective, the young Jayhawks, who have obviously struggled to limit their turnovers, have turned the ball over on 23.6% of their possessions. In the debacle against Arizona, Kansas turned the ball over on 38% of their possessions. Northern Colorado has bettered (worsened?) that twice: at Air Force and at Cal State Northridge. So, should Robinson, Chalmers, Wright or anybody else capture a bunch of steals tonight, I'll both enjoy the display and resist raising my expectations.

My expectations for the team were raised against Pepperdine despite the putrid offensive performance the last 30 minutes of the game. Pepperdine are a terrible offensive team, but the Jayhawks did hold them 25% below their season average of points per possession while dominating both the offensive and defensive glass. Self clearly recognizes that this team, this year, will probably never be a consistently efficient offensive team. They'll have to win with defense. They've had their two best defensive performances of the season in the last two games. Amidst the missed free throws, layups, and turnovers, we may be witnessing a team coming into its own.

Prediciton: Kansas 79 Northern Colorado 52

Monday, December 19, 2005

Preview: Pepperdine at Kansas

I don't know that there will be much to preview for the next four games. Pepperdine, Northern Colorado, Yale, and New Orleans are all bad teams. I'll do my best to point out the particular ways each team is bad, but of course those particulars may not have much relevance over the course of a single basketball game which shouldn't be close.

Kansas should beat all four teams handily, and, outside of the debuts of Rodrick Stewart and Darnell Jackson, the only way I can foresee the recaps of these games being interesting is if something bad happens. I'm wishing for a boring two weeks of basketball.

Other than senior guard Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, Pepperdine is a bad shooting team every which way a team can shoot a basketball. Their field goal defense is okay but their team defense is ineffective as they give up a lot of offensive rebounds and put their opponents on the free throw line quite often.

Prediction: Kansas 82 Pepperdine 63

Friday, December 09, 2005

Preview: Cal (sort of at) Kansas

With Cal coming to Kemper Arena on Saturday, the young Kansas team will get to face another opponent of relatively equal ability featuring a player considerably better than anyone else on the floor. Nick Fazekas and Chet Stachitas both demonstrated an ability to make shots which no Kansas player can yet match, allowing both Nevada and St. Joseph’s to overcome their lackluster defensive performances.

There is no doubt that Leon Powe is a better NBA prospect than is Nick Fazekas, but I’m not sure that he’s demonstrably more effective in the college game. It’ll be tough for Powe to have a better game in Kemper than Fazekas had in the Fieldhouse, but I wouldn’t bet against Powe similarly bedeviling Kansas’ post players.

Though 6-1, Cal’s body of work isn’t hugely impressive. They lost their only road game, the season opener at E. Michigan, 67-65. Neither Powe nor Ray Benson played in that game, but E. Michigan followed up that win by getting blown out at North Dakota St. and losing at home to Detroit. Even accounting for circumstance, it wasn’t a good start to the year for Cal.

The Bears then returned home and have won six straight games there against a collection of patsies, the best of whom is probably Northeastern (#81—
Pomeroy, #75—Sagarin). I hesitate to downgrade those wins too drastically as the Bears haven’t been very healthy. Powe and Benson have both missed 4 games. Jordan Wilkes has missed 3 games (and is, at the time of this writing, expected to miss the game against Kansas), and starting guard Richard Midgley missed an early game as well.

Powe’s return appears to have seriously impacted Cal’s offense. The Bears had an
eFG% of 52.5% without Powe. They’ve bumped that up to 59.6% since his return. Powe’s personal eFG% of 64% has certainly helped but, interestingly, Cal began shooting and making a lot more threes upon Powe’s return. Without Powe, 27% of their field goal attempts were three-pointers and they made 36% of them. With Powe, 35.7% of their field goal attempts come from behind the arc and they’re making 44.6% of those. Powe’s presence on the court is difficult to deal with in and of itself, but also appears to open things up for guards Midgley and Ayinde Ubaka who take almost two-thirds of Cal’s threes.

It will be incumbent upon the Kansas defenders not to help off of shooters as they did in the second half against St. Joseph’s. Powe and his frontcourt mates, DeVon Hardin and Benson, will be a handful for Kaun, Giles, Wright, and Moody but they can only score two points at a time. (Or less than that: none of the three big Bears are especially good free throw shooters.)

Kansas can probably withstand an onslaught of points from Powe as long as they keep the rest of the Bears under wraps (assuming Powe doesn’t foul out Kansas’ entire rotation of bigs) because Cal has struggled to force their opponents into missing shots. E. Michigan shot 67.7% (season average 52.6%) from the field. Akron shot 60% (season average 52.6%) and Northeastern 57.7% (season average 56.4%) both in Haas Pavilion. The Bears have survived these shooting performances by forcing turnovers (26.5% of opponents’ possessions) and keeping their opponents off the free throw line. The Bears are giving up only 21 FTA/100 FGA, 10th best in the nation. Cal’s ability to force turnovers might pose a problem for the Jayhawks, but being kept off the foul line may not be a bad thing.

Like St. Joe’s, Cal grades out in my informal system as about six points better than Kansas before taking into account the relative levels of competition. Cal’s field goal defense has been even worse than St. Joseph’s was prior to the Kansas game, but Cal has been stronger (statistically) than St. Joe's in the other defensive areas of import (forcing turnovers, rebounding, and free throw attempts allowed). Cal also has Leon Powe. One of these days, the young Jayhawks will convert a couple more of their offensive opportunities and win a close game. I hope that happens on Saturday but I can’t quite commit to its likelihood.

Prediction: California 76 Kansas 73

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stats Glossary

Team Possessions = FGA+(.44*FTA)+TO-OR

eFG% = (FGM+(0.5*3PTM))/FGA

PPWS (Points per Weighted Shot) = PTS/(FGA+(.44*FTA))

FT Rate = (FTM*100)/FGA

OR% = OR/(OR+oppDR)

Note: individual offensive rebounding percentage = player's OR/((teamOR+oppDR)*(player's MIN/(teamMIN/5)))

DR% = DR/(DR+oppOR)

Note: individual defensive rebounding percentage = player's DR/((teamDR+oppOR)*(player's MIN/(teamMIN/5)))

A/100 = Assists per 100 individual possessions
TO/100 = Turnovers per 100 individual possessions
S/100 = Steals per 100 individual possessions
BS/100 = Blocked Shots per 100 individual possessions

Note: individual possessions = (Min/(teamMin/5))*teamPossessions

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recap: Kansas vs. St. Joseph's

Let’s look at that preview again now that we know what happened:

It will be incumbent upon the Jayhawks to get close to 70 possessions if they’re going to win the game.

The game was played right at 60 possessions. Kansas didn’t win, but they had chances. Even accounting for the free throw shooting, it was the best offensive performance by the Jayhawks this season. Unfortunately, it was also the worst defensive performance of the season. More troublingly, a pattern seems to be emerging:

OpponentPoints Per Possession
Idaho St.0.80
W. Illinois0.73
St. Joseph's1.17

One needn't be an expert to see that Kansas has problems with their defensive consistency, both in terms of individuals guarding their men and helping their teammates.

Kansas should be able to force more turnovers than they commit.

Nope, 12 apiece.

[Kansas] will almost certainly shoot lower percentages from the floor…

Wrong again, smart guy. Kansas shot 59.8% from the floor. St. Joe’s shot 57.1%. (Those are both eFG%, which take into account the added value of making three-pointers.)

…and the line than St. Joseph’s.

I was right about this, but never would have figured on the number of misses (both teams) or the size of the disparity. In my preview scratch work, I had both teams going to the line 19 times with St. Joe’s making 16 and Kansas making 13. I managed to be only one off on the attempts (St. Joe’s attempted 20 free throws, Kansas 19), yet overestimated the makes by nine.

As always, Kansas could make things much easier on themselves by limiting St. Joe’s offensive rebounds…

Though grabbing 64% of the defensive rebounds is better than grabbing 55% or 53% as Kansas did against Arizona and Nevada, respectively, it’s still not very good.

…and keeping [St. Joseph's] off the free throw line.

Kansas didn’t do a good job of that, either. St. Joseph’s got 20 FTAs while only attempting 49 field goals, about the same rate as Nevada’s 24 FTA/58 FGA in the Fieldhouse, one which, if kept up over the course of the season, would make Kansas one of the more generous teams in all of Division I.

Prediction: first team to 65, wins.

It’s my disappointment to have gotten that (barely) right.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Preview: Kansas vs. St. Joseph's

Having seen only the results of their first four games and not a minute of live action, St. Joseph’s appears to be the sort of team that should be expected to give the young Kansas team problems. In their four games (a 70-47 win at home against Lafayette, a 72-41 win at Fairfield, a 100-94 overtime loss at Davidson, and a 69-59 win over Drexel at the Palestra), St. Joseph’s has been very efficient offensively (1.18 points per possession) while playing at a slow pace (62 possession per game). Kansas has already lost two close games to teams who were able to execute better in the half-court, and neither Arkansas nor Nevada played with such extreme, slow efficiency.

It will be incumbent upon the Jayhawks to get close to 70 possessions if they’re going to win the game. It’s a plausible goal. St. Joseph’s are somewhat less efficient than their gaudy shooting numbers (51.7% on two-point field goals, 45.5% on three-point field goals, and 84.8% from the free throw line) would suggest because they have demonstrated a propensity for committing turnovers. Though St. Joseph’s and Kansas have both turned the ball over on 22% of their offensive possessions so far this season, but Kansas’ mean turnover percentage is much greater than its median (19%) because the outlier is the Arizona game, St. Joe’s mean is lower than their median (24%) because their outlier is the Davidson game where they only turned the ball over on 10.9% of their possessions.

Kansas should be able to force more turnovers than they commit. They will almost certainly shoot lower percentages from the floor and the line than St. Joseph’s. As always, Kansas could make things much easier on themselves by limiting St. Joe’s offensive rebounds and keeping them off the free throw line. I don’t know how difficult it will be to do those things. St. Joseph’s level of competition has been marginal and their performances in those areas have been varied.

In even more of a guess than usual, I’ll predict that the game alternates stretches of the half-court game St. Joseph’s plays best with bursts of Kansas scoring in transition (length of said bursts to be heavily determined by the number of minutes Mario Chalmers plays effectively).

Prediction: first team to 65, wins.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Preview: Western Illinois at Kansas

Though I might think of it primarily as Comcast's first chance to screw up the essential portion of the Full Court package, the Western Illinois game provides the young Kansas squad with two valuable opportunities.

1) Defeat a Division 1 team.

2) Gain confidence by making some shots and/or corralling a reasonable number of defensive rebounds.

A brief perspective on defensive rebounding numbers: I've got offensive and defensive rebounds differentiated for each Kansas team since 1994. The worst defensive rebounding teams (1994, 1995, 1999) got 66% of the potential defensive rebounds. The best teams (1997, 2003) got 69- and 70-percent of the defensive rebounds respectively. Through four games against Division 1 opponents, the 2005-6 Jayhawks are managing to get 60.5% of potential defensive rebounds.

I've seen two dunks missed against Arizona in Maui, five (approximately--my notes get sloppy when the game gets tense) lay-ups missed against Nevada, and countless open three-pointers missed this year. I'm in no position to place the blame for those misses on nerves or a lack of confidence, but I can say with all certainty that Western Illinois didn't guard anybody in either of the road losses. Utah Valley State scored 1.26 points per possession when the Leathernecks visited Orem and Indiana managed to top that, scoring 1.31 points per possession in Bloomington. On the year Western Illinois is allowing opponents to shoot 53.3% on two-point field goals, 47.6% on three-point field goals, and make 30 free throws per 100 field goal attempts (a rate that would even make the Jayhawks blush). The Jayhawks should have every opportunity to feel better about their offensive selves come Sunday morning.

The undersized Leathernecks (only 13% of their minutes have gone to players over 6-8) rely on the three-point shot. Four of the ten Leathernecks who have played significant minutes (including Rick Mahorn's nephew Marlon and another Okeson from Weskan, KS) have taken at least half their shots from beyond the arc. Thirty-five percent of their field goal attempts are from long distance and they've converted on 43% of their tries. Which is a nice performance, albeit undermined by their 41.5% shooting inside the arc. Giles and Kaun should control the paint on the both ends of the court.

For the second time in a week, the Jayhawks will attempt to control the defensive glass against a mediocre offensive rebound team. Nevada obliterated their previous season high offensive rebound rate. With all the long rebounds likely to result from Western Illinois' missed three-pointers, all the Jayhawks will have to work to take the first step in the transition from defense to offense.

Prediction: Kansas 87 Western Illinois 71

Recap: Nevada at Kansas

Defensive rebounding is rapidly outpacing turnovers (only 14.9% of Jayhawk possessions ended in a turnover last night) and threatening to surpass shooting (still poor, but featuring fewer three-point attempts) as Kansas' greatest weakness. Coming into last night's game, Nevada had an offensive rebound rate of 31.3%. Their best performance of the season, prior to last night, came at home against Sacramento St. In that game, the Wolfpack got 34.5% of the offensive rebounds. Last night in Lawrence, Nevada got 43.8% of the offensive rebounds.

Despite holding their Division 1 opponents to an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 41.1, Kansas is 1-3 against those teams because they allow their opponents to rebound 40% of those misses and send them to the foul line one-third more often than they get to the line themselves. In their three losses, Kansas has made eight more field goals and one more three-pointer than have their opponents. Their opponents have made 32 more free throws.

Kansas had chances to win last night. Hawkins and Chalmers both missed a couple of good, open threes. Chalmers, Robinson, and Kaun all missed lay-ups. On the other hand, had Nevada demonstrated any idea how break down a zone defense, Kansas would not have been in a position for a couple of missed shots to make a difference in the outcome.

There is no doubt the team is improving. Their weaknesses: defensive rebounding, shooting, and the frequency with which they send opponents to the free throw line, are so severe right now, that were one looking for a bright side it would be that if the team can achieve mere mediocrity in two of those three areas they will be able to win.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Preview: Nevada at Kansas

With a good Nevada team coming to Lawrence tonight to face what I hope is a rapidly improving Kansas team, and having seen only one of four games so far this year (thanks to the limited availability of ESPNU and work responsibilities) I'm experiencing start-of-season levels of anticipation. The only prescription for that is, of course, a stat-heavy preview of the game.

As expected, Kansas has performed exceptionally well on the offensive glass (40.2%) and struggled on the defensive glass (61.7%). Nevada has made up for being a collective non-factor on the offensive glass in their three games (31.3%) by controlling the defensive glass to an extreme degree (71.3%).

The good news for Kansas fans is that despite the 1-2 record, the Jayhawks have shot a higher percentage from the field than have their opponents in each of the three games against Division 1 teams. Arizona did sneak their True Shooting Percentage (TS% = (PTS*50)/((FGA+(FT*.475)) a half-point ahead of Kansas by virtue of making 16 more free throws, but when Kansas hasn't turned the ball over, they've been more efficient shooting the ball than have their opponents. Nevada will test that record. The Wolfpack enter the game with an eFG% (which normalizes field goal percentage for the added value of making three-point shots) of 52.8% and a TS% of 57.6%. By comparison, the Jayhawks have an eFG% of 46.7% and a TS% of 49.7%.

Oh, but those turnovers. This early in the year a performance as extreme as Kansas had against Arizona will skew the season stats. It's very hard to turn the ball over on 37% of your possessions. Against Arkansas, Kansas demonstrated some improvement, turning the ball over on 23.7% of their possessions. Not a great performance by any means, but not out of line with expectations for a young team, currently short one good point guard. Nevada has struggled with turnovers as well, losing the ball on 24% of their possessions on the year. Unlike the Jayhawks, who have made attempts to mitigate their proclivities for giving the ball away by forcing turnovers on 24% of their opponents' possessions, the Wolfpack force turnovers only 20% of the time.

Just like last year, Nevada doesn't shoot many threes (only 21.1% of all field goal attempts), instead getting their extra points at the free throw line. The Wolfpack make 35 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts, almost twice the rate of the Jayhawks. Both teams' free throw rates are heavily influenced by their opening home games against weak opponents. Kansas ran a serious deficit at the free throw line against Arizona and Arkansas, making a mere 8 FT per 100 FGA while allowing their opponents 28 FTM per 100 FGA. Nevada's rates at Vermont and UNLV were 26 for and 14.5 against. It should be noted that Vermont and UNLV combined to shoot less than 50% from the free throw line against Nevada. Kansas is shooting 68.6% from the line this year, but that breaks down as 26-34 (76.5%) against Idaho St. and 9-17 (52.9%) in two games in Maui.

Nevada managed to win at Vegas despite turning the ball over 31% of the time and getting severely outrebounded. Their margin for error lies in their shooting and their field goal defense. Kansas haven't demonstrated that they have a margin for error this year. Unless they can force Nevada into an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, the Jayhawks will need to improve either their shooting, both by making more shots and getting to the free throw line more often (Bill Self's stated desire to get the ball inside more could help. Despite making less than a quarter of their three-point shots, the Jayhawks are taking 27% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc.), or their defensive rebounding drastically to win tonight.

Prediction: Nevada 71 Kansas 65