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A Glance At Kansas As They Prepare For Memphis

As a general rule of thumb we preview an upcoming game by previewing an opponent.  The players, the trends, what they like to do and how Kansas can stop them.  After a game we talk Kansas.  What they did well, what they didn't do well, how they won/lost and how they can improve going forward.  What we don't often do is look back at the big picture when looking ahead. 

So who is Kansas to date?  What makes up the Jayhawks through seven games and as they sit just about 9 hours from tip in Madison Square Garden.  Nine hours from their first ranked opponent of the season.  What if anything can we learn from looking back?


First and foremost it can probably be said that Kansas is solid and borderline great at times on the offensive end.  Kansas currently ranks third in the country in terms of offensive efficiency and third in overall scoring at 89.9 points per game.  Contests like last weeks against UCLA don't make it feel like this is a great offensive team but when they are at full strength they can handle business on the offensive end with the best of them.

Two stats that illustrate this as well as anything have to be eFG% and assists per 40 minutes of basketball.  In both instances, Kansas is tops in the country.  When you move the ball well as a team and find the open player, good things happen, good shots happen and you're in a better position to convert a high percentage of those shots. 

Offensive Averages:

3rd / 1st
1st / 1st
86th / 6th
FG Pct
1st / 1st


Based on the eight man rotation that seemed to emerge in the UCLA game Kansas has 7 of 8 players shooting above 50% from the field.  Marcus Morris, Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson are all well above 60% and the lone player below this artificial mendoza line? Tyrel Reed, but most of his shots are coming from beyond the arc.

Leading the charge in the distribution column are the two players you'd expect.  Brady Morningstar and to an even greater extent Tyshawn Taylor are the two backcourt players that are contributing to the teams high assist totals with Tyshawn coming in close to seven per game. That number actually blew me away when I first saw it because it's hard to view Tyshawn as a great distributor based on how he seems to play. The 6.7 per game average places Taylor at 13th in the country nationally in the assist per game column.

If you had to nitpick, the biggest concern on the offensive end has to continue to be the outside shooting.  It's improved since the very early going and honestly Kansas has done a fairly decent job ranking 32nd in the nation in this category from a percentage standpoint, but it's the volume that might lead to the conclusion that Kansas has very few weapons in this are.  Right now through seven games the Jayhawks sit roughly 20-25 made baskets below the totals for most major players in the top 25 in terms of three point attempts. 


Now I'm not suggesting anyone start launching threes at the expense of passing the ball inside to the Morris twins for an easy two, but the stat would seem to suggest that Kansas is passing up open looks during the course of the contest.  I'd argue that much of that has to do with the lack of confidence from anyone outside of Tyrel Reed at this point.  Right now it's a small concern but not a problem.  It may never become a problem if the inside game continues to carry the load, but one does have to wonder if teams will slowly start to pack it in and force others in the Jayhawk backcourt to shoot.  Insert Josh Selby and hopefully some of that concern is alleviated.



On the defensive end, Bill Self has the Jayhawks playing good in a lot of areas.  The Jayhawks per their normal protocol hold opponents to a very low eFG%.  Kansas forces turnovers at a steady clip and they'll go after a block to try to make life difficult.  Kansas is producing in all three areas. 

Defensive Averages:

36th / 1st
41st / 1st
91st / 6th
FG Pct
27th / 1st


Fact is, Bill Self has never seemed to be a coach to worry about fouls at the expense of great defense.  If you go back to March 23rd, 2001 when Roy Williams and the Jayhawks took on Bill Self and the Illini in the Sweet 16, Bill Self fouled out three big men with a fourth sitting at four fouls as the Illini cam in and punched Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Eric Chenowith in the mouth.  Collison and Gooden were extremely talented and fought through it a bit, Eric Chenowith more closely resembled a Dave Mathews backup singer than a basketball player.  In the end Kansas got beat fairly easily 80-64. 

Now the overall philosophy is great when you either have solid depth or smart players.  In 2007-2008 the Kansas bigs were disruptive but seemed to do a great job of avoiding contact and excessive fouling.  With Self's team described above, they just had hockey line type depth that they could throw at you.  Right now Kansas has the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson.  Between the three they are a big part of what Kansas does on the offensive end and that's the problem.  Until Jeff Withey comes along, which might still be a year away, the offensive dropoff when one of the Morris twins goes out is fairly significant. 

Bill Self isn't going to change his philosophy and I don't think many would suggest he do that.  After all who doesn't love the hard nosed defense that he's brought to Kansas?  With that in mind the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson are going to have to become smarter and pick their battles a little more carefully.  Good fouls are ok, cheap fouls can't happen.  It's too costly to the offensive end.  Right now Markieff is at a career high pace for fouls per game while Marcus and Thomas Robinson are only a tick better. 

A side product of defense is rebounding and again the struggle for Kansas is size.  Generally speaking the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson are extremely active, but they sometimes get out-muscled.  Add to that the fact that an attacking defense that commits heavily to help defense also tends to find themselves out of position and you have the makings of a fairly average rebounding team in the grand scheme of things.  86th in the country overall and what makes that a little concerning is much of that includes the early season doormat opponents that your traditionally clean up on the boards against.  In other words we're trending down and our opponents are trending up.

What's Next?

Well, Josh Selby is next.  The Jayhawk nation is anxiously awaiting his arrival and seeing what he might do to change the dynamic of this team.  On the offensive end there's a chance he cures a lot of what ails the Jayhawks.  He can shoot from outside, he can penetrate and create and he's another fast athletic player that can push the tempo.

Defensively Selby only adds to what Kansas already does well.  He doesn't necessarily help alleviate the interior woes and he doesn't help eliminate the rebounding concerns.  What he does do is bring another pesky defender on the perimeter if Bill Self has full buy in.

With that Kansas will be a team that is at it's best when they can make your halfcourt offense work out of it's comfort zone.  In short, make them start the set well beyond the three point line.  During the first eight minutes of the Arizona game Kansas played as well offensively as they have all year.  An underlying factor in that was missed baskets by the Wildcats and points in transition or on the "secondary break" by Kansas.  Why did that happen?  Arizona was trying to figure out how to get the ball into their third of the court because the Kansas guards were pressuring the perimeter as well as they have in the past several years.

Do that and you help the perceived defensive weakness underneath.  Do that and you create easy baskets and if you do that, Kansas has a chance to be off the charts.