Before we get going, the fact that Long Beach State's uniforms simply said "the Beach" was my favorite part of that game. Seinfeld fans, unite!
Long Beach State came out and gave Kansas all they could handle last night, overcoming a poor defensive first half to lose by just eight (and had it down to four in the waning minutes), but part of me can't help but wonder if they were looking ahead to Ohio State this weekend. Kansas certainly didn't play great defense by any means in the first half, but really let themselves lose concentration in the second half, allowing the 49ers 1.01 points per trip.
Let's start with the positives though. Kansas's offense, though suffering from the same weak spots we've seen all year at times, acquitted itself quite nicely last night, scoring 1.11 points per trip. When they were actually able to get a shot off it went pretty well, as Kansas posted marks of 56.5% from two and 46.2% from three. They also grabbed 38.7% of their misses, and when you add those three things together it almost makes me a bit disappointed that they only netted 1.11 PPP. The answer why can be found in the turnover rate, as it was a pretty disastrous 27.8%. I have written before that a high turnover rate in and of itself isn't a barrier to winning a national title, but 27.8% is not NCAA tournament quality. Small sample size and all that applies obviously, but they're turning it over more than they did last year and don't have the ability to score with the ease they did the year before, putting more of an emphasis on getting good shots (or any kind of shot really).
Defensively the KU two point defense was good again, allowing Long Beach to shoot just 41.1% from inside the arc. I expected them to dominate the defensive glass, but they did even better than I expected, limiting Long Beach to just a 14.7% offensive rebounding rate. If I have the time I'd like to do a post on this, but I think there is a decent argument that rebounding percentage is more important than turnover percentage.
Unfortunately, that's where the good news defensively stopped. They forced turnovers on just 17.7% of Long Beach's possessions, and allowed them an embarrassingly high 69.8% FT rate. I saw some grumbling on twitter about the refs being awful and while that is partially true, the bottom line is this team isn't exactly averse to putting guys on the line, and it's a problem that needs fixing. Especially this year with the lack of depth.
But the real thing I'm sure most people want to talk about is the three point defense. Long Beach shot 8-19 from three (42%) and Kansas is now 261st in three point defense. There are a few choices as to why this is: luck, small sample size, bad three point defense. The answer is, per usual, a mixture of all. We'll know more in February as to how the team is n terms of defending threes, but in the end it comes down to a choice: when the ball gets entered into the post the defender on the wing can either stay out on his man and let the post player guard him 1 on 1, or he can double down. Letting the guy guard one on one would lead to more free throws for the post player and a higher 2pt%. Doubling down obviously, as we have seen, leads to more open threes and more makes (though not necessarily a higher percentage). The trick seems to be to help down when the guy on the wing isn't a good three point shooter, and to only flash help or perhaps not help at all when he is a good one. As a general rule I would prefer to force teams to beat us from beyond the arc (though not give any really good three point shooters open looks obviously) especially this year because it has the added bonus of helping to avoid foul trouble.
Anyways, now that I have laid out that extremely logical response feel free to disregard it all and argue amongst yourselves. For the record most people cite last year as Self's worst defense at KU since 2004, and go take a look at how they did in terms of three point vs. two point defense.
- We obviously have to start with Withey power. 13 points, 13 boards and 9 blocks. Granted Long Beach was undersized and I doubt you'll see him putting one of Sullinger's shots into the fifth row, but it was a good effort by him.
- Thomas Robinson is such a jerk. Jeff Withey has almost a triple double but Robinson put up 26 points (on 71.4% shooting, no less) and snagged 11 rebounds. He added 3 assists for good measure.
- Conner Teahan made 4 of his 5 threes, which he should feel free to keep doing please.
- Tyshawn Taylor didn't start because of a bum knee, but still played 34 minutes for some reason. He was 3-9 from two and 1-2 from three (and is also our best three point shooter somehow) and made all three of his free throws.
- Kevin Young was perfect from the field, and made some really athletic plays, but also committed 3 fouls in 6 minutes and is so so so bad defensively.
- Travis Releford was 4-6 from two, but missed all of his threes. He did play really well on the defensive end however, and I am ready to admit I was wrong about his on ball defense. I'll refund everyone's RCT subscription money as payment.
- Tharpe Watch may officially be over as he got the good ole DNP-Coach's Decision last night.
- I just wrote about 1,000 words about a random non-conference game in December at 2 AM. I need help.