The Top Kansas Basketball Seasons Of The Millenium

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Editors note(Owen): A few weeks back Fetch comes to me and says he wants to take a look at the top individual offensive seasons in Kansas basketball over the last 10 years. My response was of course, absolutely! I know Fetch has some differing viewpoints on judging offensive efficiency and who doesn't like to reminisce about Kansas basketball so it's a homerun right? 

Now, just this week Sonic approaches SBNation looking to sponsor this post hence the heading and lead in.  As we try to do with any such sponsorship, the posting criteria is pretty much up to us.  The only request for this one, the post focus on "standout, top, best etc."  Well, well, well, doesn't that work nicely.  Makes sense to me to pass this one along to Fetch since he already has some solid content cooked up and let him run with it.  Thank you Fetch and I'm voting for Darnell Jackson because that was the most unexpected for me.  With that, I turn it over to Fetch.

***

It's no secret that I started becoming a KU fan because a certain player who grew up just two hours away from me played here (more on that later), but I really developed my fandom by looking into the history of the program. Reading about not only the great players like Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning and the great coaches like Phog Allen, but role players like Kevin Pritchard and lesser known great players like Jojo White and Clyde Lovellette.

Perhaps that is why I was so interested in writing this post. Plus, with the prevalence of advanced stats, past seasons can be viewed in a different (and perhaps more accurate light). Recent KU history has seen its share of major highs and major lows: from the back to back first round exits to of course winning the national championship in 2008. It also was the first decade in which I have to reconcile what I saw with my own eyes with what the stats say.

To look at the 10 best offensive seasons of the millennium (I probably should have called it something different lest we get into a big argument over when the millennium starts. But I'm starting with the 2000-01 season) I am using a statistic called offensive rating. To quote directly from Ken Pomeroy, offensive rating is: A measure of personal offensive efficiency developed by Dean Oliver. The formula is very complicated, but accurate. For a detailed explanation, buy Basketball on Paper.

I don't like to use O-Rating as gospel, but rather as a good estimate (like team offensive rating, somewhere around100 is the benchmark between good and bad). Still, it is a good objective measure of one's offensive contribution, so I am going to use it for this post. This way the fact that I love Cole Aldrich or Kirk Hinrich or whomever won't color my analysis. One further thing is I am cutting off the percentage of minutes played and the percentage of possessions used (basically ending a possession via a shot that is either made or rebounded by the defense, or a turnover). I do this so that the list isn't filled with guys who basically didn't do anything/play much but racked up great stats, i.e. walk ons. Also please note that I am using the version of O rating from statsheet.com because they go farther back than KenPom. There are some differences but they are minute and again unimportant because this is merely a blueprint. So without further ado, number 10 is......

 

 

 

10. Cole Aldrich, 2009-10 (116.8 O rating)

Surprised? A lot of KU fans complained that Cole wasn't very good last year, but alas he was excellent. We all know about his contributions on the defensive end (his 13% block rate was 5th in the country), but he was very good offensively. His eFG was a very good 56.2% despite not attempting a single three all year, though his TS% was not as high as it could have been because his free throw percentage was a career low 68%, and he shot a lot of free throws.

T-9. Kenny Gregory, 2000-2001 (117.3 O rating)

Gregory certainly wasn't known for his outside shooting, which, given that he was a guard, makes his appearance on this list surprising. Still, in 2000-01 he made 38% of his threes. He only took 57 of them, but the percentage helped him have a 59.7% eFG, good for 10th in the Big 12. Gregory's 2 point percentage actually game down from his 90% his Junior year, which topped the entire nation, but it was still a very good 77%. Gregory also was good on the offensive glass (12%), and had a 13.9% assist rate.

T-9. Kirk Hinrich, 2002-03 (117.3 O rating)

To me the indelible sequence of the 2003 season was Hinrich blocking a Jason Gardner three and then getting his hand in his face on another three to end the Elite Eight game. Hinrich was the consummate would do anything to win type of player. Hell, he guarded Dwayne Wade in the Final Four in one of the biggest blowouts in Final Four history. In his Senior season Hinrich had a 56.6% eFG and shot 40.6% from three. Hinrich actually had a worse Senior year than Junior year (more on that later), but his all around game and his tenacity made him one of the most memorable Jayhawks ever.

7. Wayne Simien, 2004-05 (119 O rating)

Simien's career obviously didn't end in the way in which he wanted, but he still had a very good individual season. He always took a lot of shots and used a lot of possessions, but he was very efficient with it in his Senior year. Simien rebounded very well for the Jayhawks, but what he did well was get to the line and then convert. He had a team best free throw rate, and once he got to the line he made 81.6% of his freebies. He had a pretty good turnaround jumper, the final shot of his career excepted, but his game was mostly doing work inside, getting to the line, and knocking down free throws.

6. Marcus Morris, 2009-10 (121 O rating)

Everyone knew how good of a season Marcus had last year, but this puts it into perspective. When he came to Kansas as a Freshman I admit that I didn't know much about him or his brother, and after watching him play a bit I was relatively unimpressed. Sure he was talented but it seemed like he was too hotheaded to ever succeed in division 1 basketball. But Danny Manning turned him into an absolute beast (and of course 99% of the credit for that has to go to Marcus. You can't be as good as he is without wanting it and be willing to work for it). Morris got much more efficient last year, going from a 51% eFG to a very good 59%. He was also a pretty good three point shooter, shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc, albeit in only 32 tries. At 6'8", Morris has it all. The ability to go inside and get points, grab rebounds (especially offensive rebounds), shoot the three, and he even has a midrange game. My advice would be to enjoy this season, because Marcus is a rare talent.

5. Kirk Hinrich, 2001-02 (123.3 O rating)

Hinrich's Junior year was of course memorable for Kansas's long awaited return to the Final Four, but individually Hinrich had a phenomenal season, especially from the outside. He took 138 threes that year, and made 66 of them, good for 47.8% which led the Big 12 and was 3rd in the entire country. Because of that, his eFG was 2nd best in the Big 12, and when adding his 80.8% mark from the free throw line, his true shooting percentage was best in the entire conference.

4. Cole Aldrich, 2008-09 (124.3 O rating)

The most memorable quote from Cole Aldrich's entire career comes from ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla when he said during Cole's Freshman year (paraphrasing): "That block right there is why Cole Aldrich was 2 time Minnesota HS defensive player of the year...and on the offensive end you can also see why Cole Aldrich was 2 time Minnesota HS defensive player of the year." Cole looked like he was going to be a classic energy guy who blocked shots and rebounded, but didn't do much else. I think his goofy free throw motion summed up what pretty much everyone thought of his offense. But he completely improved from his Freshman to his Sophomore year, adding some post moves and even a nice jumper from the elbow. Cole was one of the best rebounders in the country his Sophomore year, but everything else he did was mostly steady. He got to the line semi-regularly and shot 79% from the stripe. Again, despite not shooting a three he had very good eFG and TS% numbers.

T-2. Darnell Jackson, 2007-08 (125.5 O rating)

This one was the most surprising to me. After a career filled with tragedy and hardship, the stars aligned for Darnell as he turned in a Senior season for the ages, helping lead Kansas to a national championship. He drew more fouls than anyone on the team, and managed to make roughly 70% of his free throws, but when he didn't get fouled he did a great job of putting the ball in the hoop. His eFG of 63% was 27th best in the entire country and his TS% was 31st nationally. That 2008 team was so great because more than anything they were a team, but they absolutely would not have won it without Jackson (and the next guy).

T-2. Mario Chalmers, 2007-08 (125.5 O rating)

I am extremely tempted to just throw this up and say 'nuff said, but that would be a disservice to the great year that Mario had. Chalmers took less shots and used less possessions than Jackson, but he made them count. He shot 46.8% from three that year, and had a very good 24.5% assist rate, especially considering he didn't exactly monopolize the basketball. He shot a pretty good for a guard 56.2% from two, and shot 74.6% from the line. But I can't think about Chalmers without remembering reading in January of 2008 that even though the Jayhawks were extremely balanced, they all said they would have Mario take the last shot of a game. Pretty good foreshadowing by them.

1. Jeff Boschee, 2001-02 (134.2 O rating)

I am only 22 (almost 23), but if I had to pick the five most important people in my life so far, Jeff Boschee would be in there. It may sound preposterous, but if Jeff Boschee doesn't go to KU, I don't become a KU fan, I never find my way to RCT (sorry), and perhaps most importantly, I never go to school at KU. Someone from North Dakota, not to mention a pretty small town in North Dakota, just doesn't go to the most tradition rich school in college basketball. It just doesn't happen.

Except it did. Boschee was Big 12 Freshman of the year and Big 12 tournament MVP his Freshman year, but mostly he was known as a shooter who couldn't do much else. And there is some truth in that: for his career, Boschee's season high in free throws taken was 61. He also took (and made) a lot of threes: He took the 3rd most threes in the Big 12 his Senior year and by the time his college career was over he had made a Big 12 record number of three pointers.

After middling success in the first three years of his college career, Boschee's Senior season started off with a loss to Ball State. But the Jayhawks recovered to reach the Final Four, along the way playing the only game that I have seen in person, a demolition of North Dakota in Grand Forks, which was played because Boschee's brother Mike was a star at UND.

Boschee was definitely not the most talented player on that team. After all, he was accompanied by lottery picks Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich. But somehow he was the most efficient of all the players. Despite being not the quickest guy, certainly not the tallest guy, he just got it done. Perhaps that is why we North Dakotans identify so much with our lone McDonalds All-American: he had no advantages and yet he would up a McDonalds All-American, the co-captain of the best college basketball program in America, and had the highest offensive rating in college basketball that year.

You read that right, Boschee's 134.2 rating was the best in the entire country. Boschee took 237 threes that year and made 46.4% of them, good for 3rd in the Big 12 and 6th in the country. In the last game of his career, Boschee was the team's second leading scorer with 17 points, though he unfortunately didn't get hot until the end. Still, that game was Boschee in a nutshell: even down by an insurmountable margin, he wouldn't stop fighting, wouldn't give up. After his career was over, I knew I was a KU fan for life, but I didn't know that I would be the obsessed fan I am today because I became a KU fan just to follow him. I (embarrassingly) have to admit that after that game was the only time I have cried in a sad way after a sporting event (though you should have seen me in 2008). But I still have my #13 Jeff Boschee jersey and break it out for the big games. Cheesy as it sounds, by wearing it when Mario hit his three pointer and KU finally cut down the nets, it was like Jeff Boschee had a hand in it. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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