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Depth Ratio and Bill Self

As we're going through ideas and dumping everything out of the closet in the slow time of the year, I figured it'd be a great time to apply something I'd read earlier this season to Bill Self and the Jayhawks.  As I was reading Michigan State's SBNation blog "The Only Colors" (outstanding work there), I came across something called "depth ratio".  I'll just quote KJ and let you see his reasoning for it first-

Depth Ratio = (minutes played by top two players) / (minutes played by 8th and 9th players)

This ratio allows us to compare a single number across different teams and captures two key aspects of having depth:

  • Not relying too heavily on one or two players to play nearly all of the minutes in important games, thereby reducing their ability to defend, rebound, and push the ball in transition with the intensity Izzo prefers.
  • Having enough bench players to allow everyone to play hard every minute they’re on the floor and be able to deal with foul trouble. Nearly every basketball team has to have seven guys who play significant minutes (five starters plus one perimeter bench player and one interior bench player). Having two more bench players you can count on is what sets a good Izzo team apart from other teams.
  • Notice how he refers to things that he believes Tom Izzo desires in his teams.  At this point in time, if Izzo likes it- I like it.  The man's earned it, right?  Anyway, I thought applying this to Kansas could hopefully show us either trends in how Bill Self handles playing time for both his top guys and how deep into the bench he is willing to go.  This question is especially relevant after this season for two reasons.   First, some of us are a little worried about how little playing time some of the young guys saw.  Second, this was possibly Bill Self's most talented team when considering the top 10 or 11 players.  How did he use that depth to KU's advantage?

    One of the things I was most disappointed in this year was how little our bench guys came into the game and changed the pace of the game.  Early in the season it seemed like when they bench guys got minutes, they were in the opponents face and really pushing the ball.  This worked beautifully in frustrating the opponent and wearing them out.  Maybe the competition level changed and this strategy wouldn't have worked in conference play (though Missouri does fine with it).  A second problem could have been HCBS wanting the top 7/8 guys to play together as much as possible.  Understandable because as we saw this season, this group of guys did not fit together all that well.  Taylor looked lost at times, the Morri disappeared from various games, Aldrich never really got it going offensively, and Collins struggled from the field. 

    I've figured the depth ratio for all of Bill Self's teams since his first year at Illinois and the first table has the depth ratio and the end of season result.

    Kansas     Michigan State    
    Year Depth Ratio Result Year Depth Ratio Result
    00-01 2.69 Elite Eight 1998-1999 2.62 Final 4
    01-02 3.57 Sweet 16 1999-2000 2.67 Nat Champ
    02-03 2.80 2nd Round 2000-01 2.93 Final 4
    03-04 4.66 Elite Eight 2001-02 3.14 1st Rd Loss
    04-05 3.99 1st Round 2002-03 2.35 Elite 8
    05-06 2.68 1st Round 2003-04 4.39 1st Rd Loss
    06-07 3.10 Elite Eight 2004-05 2.74 Final 4
    07-08 3.22 Nat'l Champion 2005-06 4.51 1st Rd Loss
    08-09 4.42 Sweet 16 2006-07 3.96 2nd Rd Loss
    09-10 2.74 2nd Round 2007-08 2.9 Sweet 16


    KJ at TOC determined that Izzo's magic ratio was 3.00 and below.  As we can see here, this doesn't work as well for Coach Self.  In the years he has had below 3.00 (8th and 9th getting decent minutes compared to 1st and 2nd), his teams have made early exits from the tournament except for his first year in the tournament.  It seems that Bill Self almost handles his teams better when they aren't as deep.  Last year, 4.42 is very high and that team made it to the Sweet 16.  Look at his first year at Kansas, 4.66 and an Elite Eight.  Even the National Championship team had a number above 3.  Maybe Bill Self just needs his guys to be a little bit tougher and a work a little harder?  I don't know but it's really odd to see Bill Self teams do almost the exact opposite of Izzo led teams.

    Michigan State's numbers from KJ's old blog here