Withey makes it two seasons in a row from guys whose defense was their calling card. And as good as Releford was defensively, Withey was a weapon unique to modern Kansas basketball. In 2012 he led the nation in block percentage at a ridiculous 15.3 percent and patrolled the paint for the 2nd best 2-point defense in college basketball, as the Jayhawks allowed teams to shoot just 39.8 percent inside the arc.
Withey also excelled at a couple other important things: directing a block to his teammates, and defending without fouling. More on this when (spoiler alert) we cover his even better 2013 season.
Withey also came up huge in Kansas’s biggest games of the season. He had 10 blocks, tying a KU single game record, in the Sweet 16 win over NC State, and set the record for most blocks in an NCAA tournament with 31. Kansas almost pulled off an improbable national title thanks to Withey’s effort in the national title game, as Withey had four blocks and helped hold (mostly doing it by himself) Anthony Davis to just a 1-10 effort from the field.
2012 lags behind Withey’s 2013 season for a couple reasons: even though he was (possibly) better defensively, he wasn’t there as an offensive force yet and also didn’t play as many minutes. Withey played in just over 60 percent of the team’s minutes in 2012, and took under 16 percent of the team’s shots while on the floor. Some of that had to do with playing next to Thomas Robinson, but Withey also didn’t have the most developed offensive game, somewhat relegating him to offensive rebounds and dump off passes as a method of scoring. Still, he shot 53 percent from two on 211 attempts and added value as a free throw shooter, making almost 80 percent of his attempts from the line. It’s rare that a big man can credibly function as a guy who can be a go to free throw shooter, and it’s incredibly valuable to be able to keep the best defender in the country on the floor and not have to worry about him getting the ball late in games.
Even if you want to downgrade his offensive numbers a bit thanks to the attention Thomas Robinson attracted (as well as Tyshawn Taylor, who was also an All-American that year), which is a fair argument, Withey still was a dependable third or fourth option who doubled as the most dominant defensive force in college basketball. This year barely missed the top 20, but rest assured we will be hearing from him.