Monday, January 30, 2006

Preview: Texas Tech at Kansas

(FYI, Both Pomeroy and webprince have updated their player statistics through the Iowa State game.)

The weekend’s theme seems to be that Kansas plays better on the road than they do at home. The writers and columnists on the Kansas beat will most likely have to find another hook on which to hang their stories for the rest of the week. Why? Texas Tech is 1-8 away from Lubbock. They’ve lost all three of their conference road games (at Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma), scoring no more than 0.91 points per possession in any of them, shooting no better than 47.4 eFG% in any of the games, and turning the ball over on at least 29.5% of their possessions in each game.

The loss of both Terry Martin and Drew Coffman, who both attempted just under 3 three-point shots per game, has pretty much removed the three-point shot from the Texas Tech offensive arsenal. Texas Tech is attempting very few three-pointers (19.5% of field goal attempts) in conference play. Over two-thirds of those attempts come from Jarrius Jackson (13-28) and Darryl Dora (5-12). LucQuente White is the only other Texas Tech player attempting even one three-pointer per game in conference play.

In addition to the team-wide reliance on two-point shots and free throws, two players combine to provide the bulk of Texas Tech’s scoring. Jackson and Martin Zeno have combined to take just over half of the team’s shots in conference play and 63% of the team’s free throws. Jackson (54.7 eFG%, 79.5 FT%) and Zeno (51.4 eFG%, 71.1 FT%) both shoot the ball well though Zeno has limited his efficiency slightly by committing almost four turnovers per game in Big 12 play.

Zeno should be a tough matchup for the Jayhawk defenders tonight. His size will all allow him to shoot over smaller defenders and his quickness could give Brandon Rush some problems. To Rush’s credit, he did a fine job on Curtis Stinson in the second half Saturday after Russell Robinson picked up his third foul. To the entire team’s credit they did a good job of rotating into and out of the double teams for most of the game. Expect a similar defensive strategy from the Jayhawks tonight as none of Texas Tech’s supporting players approach the all-around contributions of Jackson and Zeno (or even those of the solid offensive players who surround Blalock and Stinson at Iowa State).

Darryl Dora has struggled shooting the ball but leads the team in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Dior Lowhorn has been effective on the glass and made over half the shots he’s taken, but like everyone on the team other than Jackson and Dora, Lowhorn is turnover prone. The other three players in Texas Tech’s rotation, Jonathan Plefka, Martin Prince, and White, do little positive that shows up in the boxscore.

Texas Tech’s defense has struggled comprehensively in conference play. Their field goal defense (they’ve only held Baylor and Oklahoma below 50 eFG%), defensive rebounding (62.8 DR%), and ability to create turnovers (21.4 TO%) has all been sub-standard. Further exaggerating their turnover deficit, only 28 of the 86 turnovers Texas Tech has forced have been the result of a steal. The entire Texas Tech team has managed only 5 more steals than Mario Chalmers in conference play.

The one thing that Texas Tech has done well defensively, keeping their opponents off the free throw line, hasn’t been much help either as their opponents have made 74.7% of the free throws they get to attempt in conference play.

As Kansas continues to lead the nation in two-point field goal defense, features a rotation wherein eight of the nine players have shot over 50% from the floor in conference play, and whose four best free throw shooters are getting to the line often, it would take an atypically strong performance from Texas Tech and an unexpectedly poor performance from Kansas for Texas Tech to win tonight.

Prediction: Kansas 80 Texas Tech 65

Friday, January 27, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Iowa State

Iowa State is a bad defensive team. They don’t force their opponents into bad shots. They don’t rebound those shots their opponents miss. They put their opponents on the free throw line a lot. To their credit, they do create more turnovers than almost any other team in the nation. Unfortunately, that’s only mostly good news for the Jayhawks.

Rebounding figures to be a huge advantage for Kansas. Iowa State converts only 57.8% of their defensive rebounding opportunities and 34% of their offensive rebounding opportunities in conference play. Kansas checks in at 67.8% and 37.1%, respectively, in conference games. Looking at individuals, Rashon Clark is Iowa State’s only effective defensive rebounder and Shawn Taggert is the only Cyclone making an impact on the offensive glass. Whatever combination of big men Kansas features on Saturday must take advantage of this.

Furthermore, the Cyclones have held only Missouri below 55 eFG% in conference play and in that game, they still sent the Tigers to the line 32 times. Missouri’s 58 points had more to do with missing 18 free throws than outstanding Cyclone defense. In fact, Iowa State has allowed conference opponents a little over one free throw attempt for every two field goal attempts. That’s an even higher rate of free throws allowed than Texas A&M had entering Wednesday night’s game. Iowa State is allowing 1.08 points per possession in conference play despite their opponents shooting only 62.5% from the free throw line. There defense may be even worse than it initially appears.

To the extent the Cyclones make up for their poor results in three of the four defensive factors they do so by forcing turnovers. Conference opponents have turned the ball over on 28.1% of their possessions. In comparison, Kansas, even with
national steal rate leader Mario Chalmers and 53rd ranked Russell Robinson, are only forcing turnovers on 24.3% of opponents’ possessions in conference play. On the offensive end of the court Kansas hasn’t really cured their predilection for turning the ball over, but they have minimized the negative effects of the turnovers by forcing more turnovers themselves and getting their better free throw shooters the bulk of the team’s free throw attempts.

Also, bear in mind Kansas fans, that Kansas State turned the ball over on 34.6% of their possessions in Ames and still scored 1.01 points per possession (that’s about 11% more efficient than the Wildcat offense was in their win in Lawrence) and Texas Tech turned the ball over on 31% of their possession against Iowa State and scored 1.18 points per possession. Kansas will commit turnovers, but they’re unlikely to cost the Jayhawks the game.

Everyone knows that Iowa State’s offense is largely a two man show. Curtis Stinson is the volume scorer while Will Blalock scores almost as many points much more efficiently while getting the role players involved. I think Kansas can do a decent job defensively on Stinson and Blalock, especially if the shot-blocking big men (Giles, Wright, and Kaun) can stay on the floor. Robinson and Chalmers should be able to do a better job than previous Jayhawk guards of limiting Stinson’s forays into the lane, but they’re not going keep him out of the lane altogether, and he’s going to push off (and get away with it) to create space. If the big men can alter Stinson’s shots (and if another big man or Rush cleans up the defensive glass) without fouling him, they should be able to hold Iowa State to around a point per possession. Stinson uses about 30% of his team’s possessions himself when he’s on the floor. Iowa State’s role players are generally efficient when they get a chance to shoot the ball, so it’s imperative that the Jayhawks limit Stinson’s efficiency first.

I don’t think Kansas can limit Iowa State to much less than a point per possession offensively. They are a uniformly solid free throw shooting team. Only Tasheed Carr and Anthony Davis struggle shooting from the field and Davis has seen only limited action in conference play. The two best defensive teams in the country, Texas and Iowa, only held Iowa State to 0.88 and 0.96 points per possession in Ames, respectively.

The Cyclones will force the Jayhawks to outscore them. If Kansas can display a little patience against the Iowa State zone (hopefully with a heavy dose of Julian Wright’s passing and athleticism) they’ll get good looks. Kansas has shot the ball extremely well in their last three games. Though I doubt they’re good enough to shoot that well consistently for the rest of the year, Iowa State may help keep the good shooting around for another game.

Prediction: Kansas 72 Iowa State 68

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Texas A&M

There’s no one on the Texas A&M roster that looks likely to pose a matchup problem similar to that of Thomas Gardner or even the perceived one that never materialized with Wes Wilkinson last Saturday. Acie Law and Joseph Jones are easily the best players on the Aggie team and Kansas has multiple players capable of guarding both reasonably well.

Law has been an incredible offensive force in Big 12 play, playing 95% of his team’s minutes, shooting 59.4 eFG% and 71.4% from the free throw line while taking 30.8% of his team’s field goal attempts and free throw attempts. Despite Law’s heroics, the Aggies are 2-3 in conference largely because Joseph Jones has struggled (at times) with foul trouble and received little help from fellow big men Marlon Pompey and Antanas Kavaliauskas (who had an atypically productive 15 point, 4 rebound, and 3 assist performance in the overtime win in Ames on Saturday). Chris Walker has stepped up his offensive production in conference play but Dominique Kirk has fallen apart on the offensive end over the same time period and freshman Josh Carter has found Big 12 play more difficult than the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Here’s Texas A&M’s season stats:
(Note: FTRate equals free throws made per 100 field goal attempts. FTRate for opponents equals free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts.)


Here are their stats against quality competition (all conference games, at Pacific, home against Penn State and Auburn):


Here are their stats in Big 12 play:


Texas A&M’s lack of depth becomes a bigger factor the better opponent they play. Good teams are more likely to have big men who can attempt to matchup with Joseph Jones and Texas A&M plays at much slower pace, forces fewer turnovers, and fewer easy offensive chances.

For comparison’s sake, Kansas versus quality opponents (all conference games, vs. Arizona, Arkansas, St. Joseph’s, and California, home against Nevada and Kentucky):


Kansas in Big 12 play:


Kansas has exceeded their season scoring rate in Big 12 play and maintained most of their defensive efficiency (only Missouri exceeded 0.90 points per possession) while increasing the pace of games. For whatever reason, the Jayhawks have rebounded extremely well in their two conference road games while struggling on the boards in the two games at Allen Fieldhouse. Whether or not they take advantage of Texas A&M’s sub-par defensive rebounding will go a long way toward determining the winner tonight.

The key factor, though, will be the pace at which the game is played. In a 60 possession game, especially one where Texas A&M makes the Jayhawks attempt two free throws for every 4 or 5 field goal attempts, will not allow Kansas to make full use of their superior raw talent and depth. Neither Billy Gillispe nor Bill Self is dumb and both know what the other prefers his team to do. It will be up to the players on both sides to determine whether the winning team will score in the low 60s or the low 70s. I’m hedging my bets with regard to pace and picking the slightly better team to win.

Prediction: Kansas 65 Texas A&M 62

Friday, January 20, 2006

Preview: Nebraska at Kansas

Wes Wilkinson’s the one to worry about. On the season, Nebraska takes over a third of their shots from behind the three-point line. In their three conference games, they’ve taken 45% of their field goal attempts from behind the line. Sure, Joe McCray might get hot and go on a little run, but he’s making less than a third of his three-point attempts on the year, shoots less than three times a game from inside the arc, and isn’t shy about turning the ball over. After chasing Thomas Gardner around from 45 minutes on Monday, keeping tabs on McCray shouldn’t trouble Robinson and Hawkins that much. With the volume of three-point shots Nebraska is likely to attempt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stephen Vinson chasing a couple of Nebraska’s shooters around the perimeter for a while.

Wilkinson, though, stands six-ten and makes 54% of his threes on a little over three attempts per game. The Kansas big men struggled to stay with Dramane Diarra popping out to seventeen feet in the second half last Saturday. They can’t afford to give Wilkinson open looks and let Nebraska put up points three at a time. I have little doubt that the Cornhuskers will have difficulty making two-point shots against Kansas, especially if Giles and Wright can earn significant minutes.

Kansas will have chances to score but they may be the sort of chances they’ve struggled to convert while losing the last two games: free throws, three-point shots, and fast break opportunities. Nebraska has put their three conference opponents on the line 35 times per 100 field goal attempts, consistently forced opponents into taking 40% of their shots from behind the three-point line and turned the ball over at least 22% of the time.

Chalmers and Robinson should be able to create offensive chances for themselves and their teammates even when they’re not forcing turnovers. Nebraska has been hurt by their perimeter defense all year. Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock exposed it earlier this week. However, Iowa State’s strong offensive performance was boosted by making 80% of their free throws. Nebraska is unlikely to be troubled by such efficiency on Saturday.

Nebraska has shown the ability to make games ugly on the road. They lost by 26 at Creighton on a night the Bluejays shot 35.9% from the field, only scoring 0.96 points per possession. They won by 15 in Manhattan despite shooting 39.6% from the field and scoring a mere 0.92 points per possession. Florida State only managed 1.02 points per possession in Nebraska’s other road game. Kansas doesn’t want an ugly game. Even taking into account the talent gap between Kansas and Nebraska and the fact that it’s a home game for the Jayhawks, it would still be an accomplishment to control any game from start-to-finish.

Prediction: Kansas 68 Nebraska 61

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Recap: Kansas at Missouri

Close losses aren’t fun watch. Close losses that include blown leads are even less fun to watch. Close losses that include blowing leads to your two traditional rivals in the span of three days are profoundly unpleasant to watch. The optimists among us (are there optimists among us today?) could make an argument that the team is improving. They started giving up their lead to St. Joe’s with three minutes left in this first half, started crumbling against Kansas State with 13 minutes left in the game, and didn’t give away their lead to Missouri until the last 90 seconds of regulation last night in Columbia. That’s some sort of progress. It was also encouraging, though likely unsustainable, to watch the Jayhawks follow up their worst offensive performance since the Arizona game with their best offensive performance off the season. (Kansas bettered last night’s 1.16 points per possession against both Northern Colorado and Yale. Missouri, though not a good defensive team, offers more of a challenge, in my opinion, to score against than either of those teams).

I doubt that a second narrow loss to a rival will do anything to dissuade those who think Self isn’t getting enough out of the team. It was always silly to think that there was some clear management plan to winning basketball games with these players, this year that Self was too stupid/stubborn/overwhelmed to implement. The last two games have made that position demonstrably false. He’s done the things many of them said caused the losses to Arkansas, Nevada, and St. Joseph’s: Mario Chalmers has replaced Jeff Hawkins in the starting lineup and taken most of Hawkins’ minutes and the rotation has been shortened, yet the results haven’t really changed.

Chalmers (who like Russell Robinson last year was most definitely not ruined by having his playing time directly linked to his on-court performance) and Rush are inconsistent talents. Robinson has developed into a solid complementary player who will become more efficient once he has well-rounded players to complement. Jeff Hawkins is still limited in his ability and still the third-best guard on the roster. The most talented big men struggle to play consistently well on both ends of the floor and among the big men only Darnell Jackson appears capable of making more than 60% of his free throws.

This is and always has been an 18-win team. What surprises me is that they’ve had a chance to win 14 of their 15 games. The bad basketball has been far less frequent in its totality than I feared. While they lack poise, they are a talented and resilient bunch. They surrendered a 17-5 Missouri run over the last seven minutes of the first half, turning a seven-point lead into a five-point deficit. Less than 100 seconds into the second half the Jayhawks re-took the lead. Down 56-51 at the 10-minute mark, they went a 21-7 run over the next eight minutes. In the end it wasn’t enough and it would be foolish to pretend that anything positive happened in the last 90 seconds of regulation. I think it’s equally foolish to ignore the potential for long-term success for the Kansas basketball program.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Missouri

Apparently, the defense was propping up the offense to an even greater extent than I thought. The zone offense was dreadful but that should (can only?) improve as the Jayhawks will surely face a steady diet of zone defenses from here on out. More disturbing to me was watching everyone, save Russell Robinson, become tentative (I'm purposely disregarding Darnell Jackson's Jerod Haase impression due to its ineffectiveness) as the game became difficult.

There's no doubt that Kansas allowed the game to get difficult. The defensive execution in the last 13 minutes against Kansas State looked like a reprise of the complete defensive breakdown over the last 23 minutes of the St. Joseph's game only worse. Kansas State ran its offense almost entirely inside the three-point line and the Kansas defenders still couldn't get out on shooters. Even without taking into account the experience gained over last several weeks, it's far worse to be burned by Dramane Diarra's open looks from 15 feet than Chet Stachitas' open looks from 20 feet and beyond.

Missouri is 2-1 in conference because they're scoring 1.12 points per possession. Missouri has limited their turnovers, shot a high percentage from the floor, and gotten to the free throw frequently against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Colorado. This is the best offensive team Kansas has faced since the California game. Even if Kansas keeps Missouri about 15% below their current scoring output the Jayhawks will have to score a little more than a point a possession to win the game. Barring a return to the defensive form shown in the first 27 minutes against Kansas State and the entire games against California, Yale, Kentucky, and Colorado, it will take an offensive performance equal to that delivered in the relatively comfortable victories against California and Colorado (in which Kansas scored only 1.03 and 1.05 points per possession, respectively) to squeak out a win in Columbia.

Kansas can't settle for three-point shots against the zone I assume Missouri will feature. The Jayhawks will have to convert their transition opportunities and their offensive rebounds to make up for lackluster half-court execution. Kansas can further improve their chances of winning by keeping Missouri off the free throw line.

I expect the game to be close. I have no reason to believe Kansas can win a close game right now. They will be able to do so eventually, of course, and I'm comfortable being wrong by underestimating the team.

Prediction: Missouri 64 Kansas 62

Friday, January 13, 2006

Preview: Kansas State at Kansas

Ken Pomeroy has one-upped my previous individual stats efforts, offering a more complete and more readable breakdown. Check it out.

Prior to the debacle in Bramlage Wednesday night, when the Wildcats held Nebraska below 40-percent from the field, forced turnovers on 22.5% of Nebraska’s possessions, and still lost by 15, I would have figured Kansas State to be a serious contender for a top 6 spot in the conference this year.

Kansas State’s three road losses had come by 1 at Washington State, by 5 at Northern Illinois, and by 2 points at Iowa State. None of those were embarrassing losses (though the Northern Illinois loss looked better before the Huskies current 3-2 stretch against
teams all ranked below 90 in the Pomeroy ratings) and the Wildcats could point to a solid home win over Colorado State as well. The narrow home win over Belmont was not encouraging, but it seemed atypical prior to the Iowa State and Nebraska losses.

For much of their non-conference slate, Kansas State’s offense survived their mediocre field goal shooting and penchant for turning the ball over with good offensive rebounding and outstanding free throw shooting. In the last five games the frequency of their turnovers has increased, the number of free throw attempts and their free throw percentage have both decreased, and Northern Illinois (82.8 DR%) and Nebraska (78 DR%) were both able to keep the Wildcats off the offensive glass. The Wildcats haven't looked good at all.

On defense, the Wildcats have had some intermittent success in forcing turnovers but the nights they don’t force turnovers they have little left on which to rely. They are a mediocre defensive rebounding team which has struggled to keep their few decent opponents from making shots or getting to the foul line.

Kansas State will have to score either off Kansas turnovers or from the free throw line unless they have an atypically productive three-point shooting afternoon. Only six teams in the country get fewer points off of their three-point shooting. On the year, Kansas State takes 80% of their field goal attempts from two-point range. On the year, Kansas has held their opponents to 36.6% shooting on two-point attempts. I think we'll see another poor offense look even worse against the Jayhawks.

Kansas will convert Kansas State’s turnovers into points. If the Jayhawks can control the defensive glass and create transition opportunities off of missed field goals as they did in Boulder, they should be able to win even if they have a similarly difficult time in the half-court offense.

In a matchup between these two offenses, the possibility of a close game exists. The Jayhawks, however, are both the home team and the team with a margin for error and thus should take control of the game at some point and win fairly handily.

Prediction: Kansas 72 Kansas State 58

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Colorado

There is no doubt that this is a better-than-usual Colorado team. Richard Roby looks like the best Colorado player since Chauncey Billups spent his two years in Boulder. Senior starters Chris Copeland, Jayson Obazuaye, and Andy Osborn are all decent, experienced players. Perhaps the most important factor in the improvement is that Antoine McGee hardly plays any more (just 80 minutes in 12 games).

That being said, and their strong power ratings be damned, Colorado's best win this year is either 1) UNC-Wilmington, 2) vs. St. Mary's (CA) in Denver, or 3) at Penn. All three of those victories came prior to December 1 as did their best loss, a 1-point defeat at Colorado State. They're better, but I'm not convinced they're good.

Furthermore, don't be fooled by Colorado's gaudy 85.7 scoring average. Home games against Cal-Poly, UC-Irvine, Mercer, Savannah State, and Dartmouth inflate that number. Their season high against a respectable opponent is 82 in that loss to Colorado State. Colorado doesn't shoot well enough to score in the 80s against decent teams. They've won by attacking the offensive glass and limiting their turnovers. On the year, they've attempted 99 more shots than their opposition.

Colorado's defense improves slightly against better competition (though it's been aided by some miserable free throw shooting by Penn and St. Mary's). They've been able to force turnovers on 25% of their opponents' possessions consistently. Their field-goal defense has been more variable. Colorado State shot 65-percent in their win against the Buffs. After holding St. Mary's to 39- and Penn to 41-percent shooting, Colorado allowed both Cal-Poly and UC-Irvine to shoot over 60-percent from the floor. Back on the road at TCU, the Buffs held the Horned Frogs to 37-percent from the floor. I have no idea how those performances indicate what will happen tonight.

Moving on win tonight Colorado will have to either force a lot of turnovers and create easy chances for themselves or rebound enough of their own misses to limit the value of Kansas' excellent field goal defense.

Speaking of which, I present the following table to dispel the notion that the Jayhawks' defensive performances should be diminished because of their opposition.

OpponenteFG%vs. KUPPPvs. KU%Change
Idaho St50.
W. Illinois49.736.91.040.73-29.7
St. Joseph’s53.657.11.131.17+3.8
N. Colorado47.643.40.900.94+4.5
New Orleans47.241.80.960.80-16.7

Pepperdine, New Orleans, and Yale are bad offensive teams. Kansas didn't just hold them to their established level of ineptitude, they made them look worse. Kentucky's a mess right now, but nobody else is holding them to 46 points on 26% shooting.

Nevada and Northern Colorado were able to score enough at the free throw line to make up for the extra missed shots. Colorado probably won't do that. They're only making 19 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts on the season (they're even less productive at the line than are the Jayhawks). I expect a faster-paced version of the Cal game. The Jayhawks will turn the ball over too much and they'll give up too many offensive rebounds, but they'll force a lot of missed shots and take advantage of their opponent's indifferent defending to win fairly handily.

Prediction: Kansas 72 Colorado 64

Monday, January 09, 2006

Updated Individual Stats (through 1/7/06)

Kansas-Kentucky recap at PhogBlog.





Passing, ballhandling, steals and blocks:

These stats are per 100 possessions. Kansas is averaging 68.7 possessions per game.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Preview: Kentucky at Kansas

Let's start with total numbers and work our way down from there.

TeamPoss/40PPPOpp PPP

Those are the raw efficiency numbers that even I can calculate.

Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency numbers look like this.

TeamPoss/40PPPOpp PPP

Why the difference? Ken adjusts for the quality of opponent, the location of the game, and weights recent performances more heavily. There is no argument that Kentucky has played a more difficult schedule than Kansas. In the Pomeroy ratings, Kansas has played the 241st most difficult schedule. Kentucky has played the 69th. Sagarin rates both schedules lower, but narrows the difference: Kansas, 258th; Kentucky, 145th.

The degree of difference in difficulty between the two schedules depends on how one compares true road games with games played at neutral or semi-neutral sites. Kentucky's only true road game was at Georgia State. They beat Louisville and North Carolina at home, lost to Iowa and beat West Virginia in Kansas City, got blown out by Indiana in Indianapolis, beat Iona 73-67 in Louisville, and beat Ohio 71-63 in Cincinnati.

That makes one more true road game than Kansas, one more good home win, an equal number of home losses, one more win at a neutral site, one less loss at a neutral site, and one more win at a semi-home venue.

Kentucky offense vs. Kansas defense

TeameFG%TO%OR%FT Rate

As you can see, Kentucky struggles both to shoot the ball accurately from the field and to get to the free throw line very often. Kansas should accentuate Kentucky's problems with the former, and, even if the Jayhawks send another opponent to the line too often for my comfort, Kentucky shoots only 65% from the free throw line as a team. One more note of encouragement for Jayhawk fans: Rajon Rondo has more than twice as many free throw attempts as any other Wildcat. He's a 63.6% free throw shooter.

Rondo makes up for his relatively poor free throw and three-point shooting (9-28 on the season) by making almost 60% of his two-point attempts. I don't think there's a Kansas guard that can keep Rondo out of the paint. Kansas can likely survive a huge scoring game from Rondo. However, should his forays into the paint create open three-point shots for Sparks, Bradley, and Sims, or offensive rebounding opportunities for the Wildcats as Giles, Wright, and Kaun attempt to block Rondo's shot attempts, Kansas will have a much more difficult time Saturday.

Kansas beat Cal not just on the strength of CJ Giles' individual defensive effort against Leon Powe, but also by staying on Cal's shooters and protecting the defensive glass. Rondo presents a more difficult matchup than Powe in that he doesn't have to rely on his teammates to get him the ball in a dangerous position.

Robinson and Chalmers give the Jayhawks the best chance of slowing Rondo down. Even if they fail to slow Rondo significantly, merely staying out of foul trouble, thus allowing Vinson and Hawkins to have more favorable matchups guarding Sparks, Bradley, and Moss off the ball, Robinson and Chalmers will play an important defensive role.

Kansas offense vs. Kentucky defense

TeameFG%TO%OR%FT Rate

Kentucky doesn't force a lot of turnovers. They don't dominate the defensive glass. They don't keep their opponents off the free throw line.

So far this year, Kentucky has suppressed scoring by forcing opponents to take 36% of their field goals from behind the arc and holding opponents to 29% shooting on those attempts. It makes sense that a guard-oriented team such as Kentucky would both have to collapse on the post and be reasonably successful at recovering back out onto shooters.

Kansas only takes 28% of their field goals from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks were a 25% three-point shooting team through the Nevada game. They now stand at 39% for the season. Granted, the quality of competition has decreased, but the Jayhawks have shot the ball effectively from behind the arc in each of the last seven games (7-20, 11-21, 6-12, 5-11, 9-19, 9-20, 9-19). Kaun, Giles, Wright, Jackson, and even Moody should present a challenge for Kentucky's post defenders. If the Jayhawks guards can get the ball to the post players in dangerous positions and convert 35% of their three-point attempts they'll like post a total Kentucky can't match.

Kentucky's defensive rebounding numbers are buoyed by Rondo's 23.7% defensive rebound rate. To put that in perspective, Rondo has, for the season, as a point guard playing 32 minutes a game, gotten defensive rebounds at about the same rate as Darnell Jackson has in 15 minutes a game against New Orleans, Northern Colorado, and Yale. Allenye has a decent DR% in only 83 minutes, but the rest of the Kentucky players (except for Sparks at 7.4% and Bradley at 5.7%) sit between 10.9% and 14.2%, the Moody/Downs/Rush range.

Kansas's 38% offensive rebound rate has come from a team effort rather than a dominant individual performance. I don't see Kentucky regularly enough to know how Rondo gets his rebounds; if he typically gathers all those missed three-pointers Kentucky forces or uses his quickness and athleticism to rebound in the paint. I do see, in the numbers, that Moody, Kaun, Giles, Wright, and Jackson should have an advantage over their Kentucky counterparts in tracking down Kansas misses.

Keys to a Kansas victory:

1) Hold Kentucky under 45 eFG% from the field.
2) Get 65% of the defensive rebound opportunities.
3) Take 70% of field goal attempts inside the three-point line.
4) Make 35% of three-point shots.
5) Get 38% of the offensive rebound opportunities.
6) Make 65% of their free throws.

I don't think the Jayhawks need to do all six of those things to win. At home, four out of six should do it. Accomplishing three out of the six above could be enough if the Jayhawks excel either making their shots or forcing Kentucky misses.

Prediction: Kansas 67 Kentucky 62

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Season Stats (through 1/4/05)

(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





Ballhandling, passing, steals, and blocks:

These numbers are per 100 individual possesions. Kansas is averaging 69.2 possessions per game this year.