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Top 30 Seasons Under Bill Self: #5 Thomas Robinson 2012

2019 Salt Lake City Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2012 Big 12 and should have been national Player of the Year turned in a season for the ages, almost willing the Jayhawks to the national championship game. In terms of personal memories for me, it’s tough to beat the 2012 season given that I was a student at the time, was at the 2012 comeback against Missouri, and was on Massachusetts Street for way too long after the Final Four win against Ohio State.

Although Tyshawn Taylor is my favorite player from that team (and one of my favorites in Kansas history), there’s no doubt Thomas Robinson was the guy who carried the Jayhawks in 2012. His usage rate of just under 30 percent is the highest a player has ever had under Self, and he still managed to be an efficient scorer, making more than 50 percent of his twos for a team that, in comparison with other KU teams anyway, struggled to score at times.

Robinson dominated his competition that year, leading the Big 12 in both win shares and defensive win shares, total rebound percentage, and rebounds per game. He also led the entire country in defensive rebounding percentage at over 30 percent. A lot of good work has been done about the relative lack of importance of individual rebounding, but a lot of that is about the offensive glass and the importance of getting back on defense. Defensive rebounding is a bit more valuable, and even moreso in college basketball in 2012 which at that time was still mostly a game played in the half court with not a lot of 3-point attempts.

Although he wasn’t terribly efficient in the NCAA tournament, Robinson finished his college career with an 18 point, 17 rebound effort against Kentucky and averaged just over 18 points and 12 rebounds over the course of the final four games of the Jayhawks’ 2012 NCAA tournament run aka the business end of the tournament.

In December of his final season, Robinson posted the first 30 point, 20 rebound game at Kansas in over 50 years when he scored 30 points and had 21 rebounds in a blow out win over the University of North Dakota. He had similarly big games in some of KU’s biggest contests in 2012: 21 points (on 9 shots) and 7 rebounds in the Allen Fieldhouse win over Ohio State. Five straight double doubles to open the season, including neutral site games against Duke, Kentucky, Georgetown, and UCLA. 25 and 13 in KU’s last game at Missouri. And of course, 28, 12, a game saving block, and game tying free throws in the victory over Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse. In big spots there was little question about what KU’s gameplan would be, and despite that Robinson delivered over and over again.

About the only nitpick with Robinson would be at the free throw line. Despite the raw number of free throws he took (239) he had a relatively low free throw rate (46.2), which ranked 301st nationally in 2012 and is 24th among Jayhawks since 2008. He also shot a hair below the national average from the line at about 68 percent.

As a whole, though, Robinson was incredibly productive. Among KU players under Self who attempted as many field goals as he did (12.9 per game), he ranks 2nd to Simien in 2005 in field goal percentage and is by far the best rebounder of the group. He’s also probably the best interior defender out of that group as well (Simien and Dedric Lawson in 2019 are the other big men on the list).

Robinson ranks a bit lower on some of the efficiency based metrics, but I give him a pass because frankly the team didn’t have a ton of offensive talent. Tyshawn Taylor was really the only other guy who could create his own shot, and a lot of the offense was based on what he and Robinson could do with the ball. Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson were efficient, but not exactly creating their own shots. Kansas’s two key bench guys that year were a transfer from Loyola Marymount and a walk on. Simply put, it wasn’t one of their most talented teams. But they made it all the way to the title game thanks to some great coaching by Bill Self and having the most valuable player in the country that year. I said at the start of this exercise that team success wouldn’t be dispositive but rather more of a tiebreaker, and I think dragging your team to the national title game is the perfect spot to apply said tiebreaker.

6. Marcus Morris 2011

7. Wayne Simien 2005

8. Devon Dotson 2020

9. Mario Chalmers 2008

10. Sherron Collins 2009

11. Perry Ellis 2016

12. Dedric Lawson 2019

13. Jeff Withey 2012

14. Tyshawn Taylor 2012

15. Brandon Rush 2008

16. Joel Embiid 2014

17. Sherron Collins 2010

18. Darrell Arthur 2008

19. Cole Aldrich 2010

20. Ben McLemore 2013

21. Markieff Morris 2011

22. Andrew Wiggins 2014

23. Jeff Withey 2013

24. Josh Jackson 2017

25. Marcus Garrett 2020

26. Travis Releford 2013

27. Perry Ellis 2015

28. Udoka Azubuike 2018

29. Wayne Simien 2004

30. Devonte Graham 2017

31. Malik Newman 2018

32. Wayne Selden 2016

33. Keith Langford 2004