How Does Opponent Quality Influence Kansas's Style Of Play?

In college basketball it is a pretty standard strategy for a team with less talent (and less depth) to play more slowly against teams with more talent/depth. This year's Kansas team presents an interesting contradiction: they definitely don't have the depth to try to run teams out of the building (like they did the last two years, when they should have been one of the faster playing teams in the country) but as we have all seen this year they really struggle at scoring in the half court at times, and really rely on the easy buckets that transition play affords a team.

The optimal strategy would seem to be play quickly against the Towsons of the world (and really all Big 12 teams not named Baylor and Missouri) and play more slowly against those two, Kentucky, Duke, etc. But, as I said, Kansas can't really afford to do that, especially with Tyshawn Taylor being a guy who, for all the good things he does, doesn't take care of the ball very well.

Below I have some charts and facts and figures as to how Kansas plays, or attempts to play, against the better teams vs. the weaker ones. Group A is Kentucky, Georgetown, Duke, Ohio State and Long Beach State (they're currently a top 50 KenPom team, but I'm willing to hear arguments that they should be in the other group), and Group B is Towson, UCLA, Florida Atlantic, South Florida and Davidson.

Pace (Kansas's Unadjusted Pace is roughly 70 possessions per game)

Group A (note: average is the average of Group A games only)

Pace1_medium

Group B (Note: Average is for group 2 games only)

Pace2_medium

The difference is pretty negligible, but on average Kansas is playing faster against the better teams. However, this is due to the Long Beach State game and the Kentucky game. Long Beach has one of the shallowest benches in the country, so pushing the pace was the correct call. And the Kentucky game was early in the year, when it is a bit more acceptable to play helter skelter, and Kentucky obviously tries to push the pace a lot.

3PA/FGA

The theory here is that teams who are worse will attempt to shoot more threes because the three ball is the great equalizer in more ways than one: for one, it obviously is worth more points, so you need to make fewer of them to make up ground, and teams won't guard behind the three point line as much or with as much vigor as they do inside the three point line (especially against major conference teams who have the ability to hurt you inside). I don't think there will be much difference here, and if there is it is likely due to randomness, but let's find out:

Group A (same rules for average)

3pa1_medium

Group B

3pa2_medium

Interestingly, we seem to take a lot more threes vs. the worse opponents. This is likely due to randomness, but there could be something to the fact that against worse teams they're a bit less likely to try to work and run the offense, or they feel like even if they miss a ton of threes they'll win anyways. The floor is open for suggestions.

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