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Going for the Knockout

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Over the last year and a half, the Jayhawks have been one of the top 5 five teams by almost all accounts.  Ken Pomeroy's numbers loved the Jayhawks last season and they have been equally impressed through the first thirteen games this season.  According to KenPom, KU's offense is ranked in the top 25 in total adjusted offense (5), effective FG% (2), 2 pt FG% (1), Block% (11, this really helps both FG% and the defense), offensive rebound% (24).  They're well above average in all other statistical categories except FT%, which is highly overrated anyway.  Defensively, they're just as good.  The Jayhawks are second in adjusted defense, 10th in effective FG%, and 3rd in 3pt% defensively. 

Jeff Sagarin's ratings published at USA Today also thinks very highly of Kansas, ranking them #1 in his ELO CHESS (no margin of victory) and #3 in his PREDICTOR rating.  The humans haven't been any different, last season Kansas was never below #3 in the AP poll.  The Jayhawks started the season ranked 7th and have moved up to 3.  Needless to say, things could hardly be going any better in the big picture.

However among many Kansas fans, you'll find some nitpicking and complaining about this year's team.   Chief among them being a team that plays to the level of its competition and is prone to mental lapses once a lead is gained.  We've seen the Jayhawks come out and get up 15 against Arizona early and find itself in a dogfight in the last 5 minutes and gain a 14 point lead against USC before finding themselves trailing in the 2nd half at home.  So it's easy to see where the perception comes from and even easier to understand it when last year's team seemed to have the same issues.

In an effort to break down the games even further to see if something can be pinpointed that either sees something the overall numbers aren't picking up or to debunk the perceptions about the team, I've broken down each game into eight 5 minute segments.  Using the play-by-play data from ESPN, I calculated the lead after 5 minutes of each game against KenPom's top 150 teams plus UT Arlington.


Description: All numbers are simple margin of score.  Pale yellow means the lead increased in the 5 minute period.  Bright yellow shows an increase of 8 points or more.  Light blue shows a decrease over the period.  A darker blue shows a decrease of 8 points or more.

Discussion after the jump.


Lots of ways this can go but things that stick out to me:

  • We can see quite a few jumps of 8 points or more over a short period.  Seeing those spurts is exactly what feeds the expectations/hopes of fans that want the team to come out an destroy each and every opponent.  Those 5 minute spans show us fans what the Jayhawks are capable of at their ceiling.
  • The rarity of those bright yellow spots also show that it's not exactly an easy thing to do.  Only 13 out of the 72 periods featured a bump of 8 points or more.  Only five of those from Arizona to today.  As you'll see below, that's still very good.
  • The 15 to 10 minute range could be an indication of the quality depth on this year's roster.  Once the other team has to move to it's reserves or their starters are beginning to wear out, the Jayhawks tend to keep pace at least and have the capability of going on a big run. 
  • The last 5 minutes of the first half really stick out here.  The opponents aren't going on big runs in this stretch but the Jayhawks are either losing some of their cushion or holding steady. 
  • The second half again shows the capabilities of this team once they get going.  They don't seem to start out the half very hot but those next 10 minutes are the key.  Consistently outscoring opponents over that stretch leads to winning a lot of games.

In order to provide some context for the numbers above, I've charted the same things for Duke, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Kentucky.  Colors follow same rules as the Kansas chart.



Ohio State






Wrapping it all up, we can see that extending the lead and continually building the lead consistently is unrealistic.  Comparing the Jayhawks to other top teams in the nation actually looks pretty good from our end. 

Later in the week, we'll look for patterns in the game and rotations in the times the Jayhawks extended their lead by significant margins.