Fact Checking Bill Self On The Kansas Transition Game

LAWRENCE KS - FEBRUARY 07: Tyshawn Taylor #10 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots as Ricardo Ratliffe #10 of the Missouri Tigers defends during the game on February 5 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Before the Border War on Monday, Bill Self was quoted in a KCStar article as saying:

I’ll tell you where we’re a really poor team is in transition. We botch up more two-on-ones or three-on-twos than any team around. We’ve gotta get better at that, because those are the easiest scoring opportunities. You get five of those a game, you gotta come away with 10 points. We’ve come away with two or four.

The quote really caught my eye because after reading a post at Audacity of Hoops about time of possession stats and a seeing a comment from sax solo stating the same thing as HCBS, I had already started working on something that looked at this exact problem. 

As we've seen all year, this team loves the highlight dunks on breakaways.  At the same time the Jayhawks have to lead the nation in botched alley-oops.  Combine that with guards who aren't great at finishing around the basket and you've got a problem with finishing in transition.

In an attempt to break down the fast break game, Let's look at a summary of play by play logs from each conference game.  If a play in the game log was less than 8 seconds, it's considered a transition opportunity.  The result of each play was recorded as either a score or turnover.  Before you ask "why 8 seconds", I'll just say it seemed like a long enough time to allow a basket off a delay break but anything longer and the defense should be set. Fair enough?

Possessions 8 sec or less % of Total
Iowa State 81 18 22
Nebraska 64 14 22
Baylor 63 13 21
Texas 72 10 14
Colorado 65 10 15
Kansas State 73 16 22
Texas Tech 70 17 24
Nebraska 69 13 19
Mizzou 71 14 20


A quick look at the total number of possessions for each game and the number of transition opportunities.  No real surprises here, in theory you'd see overmatched teams allow more transition opportunities.  Those teams will have a higher turnover rate on offense and not be as quick getting back on defense. 


Now what about the results of these opportunities and does Bill Self really know what he's talking about? 


Total Points Transition Points Game PPP Transition PPP Difference
Iowa State 84 7 1.04 0.39 -0.65
Nebraska 63 15 0.98 1.07 0.09
Baylor 85 12 1.35 0.92 -0.43
Texas 63 4 0.88 0.40 -0.48
Colorado 82 8 1.26 0.80 -0.46
Kansas State 90 14 1.23 0.88 -0.36
Texas Tech 88 11 1.26 0.65 -0.61
Nebraska 86 21 1.25 1.62 0.37
Mizzou 103 20 1.45 1.43 -0.02


The scoring was pretty bad in 6 of the first 7 games of conference play.  Iowa State and Texas being by far the worst.  Nebraska being the only game of the first 7 where the Jayhawks scored better in transition than in the game.  Makes sense, Nebraska plays good halfcourt defense so quick looks will likely be better than looks after they get set.  Notice a change in the transition PPP over the last two games?  The article quoting HCBS came out Sunday morning, perhaps this provided a talking point every day last week in practice?


Total TO's


% of Total Game TO% Transition TO% Difference
Iowa State 16 9 56 19.8 50 30.2
Nebraska 15 4 27 23.4 29 5.6
Baylor 14 4 29 22.2 31 8.8
Texas 12 4 33 16.7 40 23.3
Colorado 12 1 8 18.5 10 -8.5
Kansas State 14 4 29 19.2 25 5.8
Texas Tech 6 1 17 8.6 6 -2.6
Nebraska 12 2 17 17.4 15 -2.4
Mizzou 12 3 25 16.9 21 4.1


Looking at the turnovers in transition really finishes the picture.  Look at the Iowa State game for a picture that resembles one my students would draw.  The other thing noticeable here is that turnovers aren't the only thing that is draining the transition scoring.  As the points chart shows, the team was scoring about .5 points less per possession in transition but turnovers have only been a huge problem in a few of the games.  The coaching staff might have finally gotten through to this team that it's ok to get a steal and then run offense.  The result of every steal doesn't have to be a layup or dunk. 

No surprise, Bill Self probably does know what he's talking about.  And yes, he's being honest with his analysis of his teams transition game that he's shared with us and the media.

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