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Boarding School: Where David McCormack is Shining Offensively for Kansas

The big man could finish the season as one of the best offensive rebounders the Jayhawks have seen in recent years.

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Syndication: The Topeka Capital-Journal Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

David McCormack has been arguably the most analyzed and critiqued member of this Kansas basketball team, and it’s not unjustified. McCormack has been operating at the extremes of dominant and a non-factor for much of the season as he has struggled to finish at the rim and maintain control of the ball.

But there’s one area where McCormack has been better than everyone in the country: grabbing offensive rebounds. This is not hyperbole. As of Monday afternoon, McCormack has the best offensive rebounding percentage in the nation at 21.3%, ahead of Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe at 21% and Purdue’s Zach Edey at 20.6% (McCormack and Edey were tied Monday morning before Purdue’s contest against Illinois). He is averaging 3.2 offensive rebounds per game, despite just playing 18.5 minutes per game. His 51 offensive boards on the year is just 28 behind his career mark set last year, and that was playing nearly 400 more minutes throughout the course of the season.

A lot could happen, but McCormack is in the running to have one of the best offensive rebounding seasons by a Kansas player in the last decade-plus.

Ahead of the Oklahoma game, McCormack’s 51 offensive rebounds is tied for 30th for most offensive rebounds by a Jayhawk since 2009-2010. And that has happened in just 296 minutes played. The second fewest minutes on this list is Carlton Bragg’s 429 minutes in which he grabbed 55 offensive boards.

The top offensive-rebounding Jayhawks since 2009.
Sports Reference

And the pace McCormack is on narrows the list dramatically. In that same time period (since 2009-2010), only four players have averaged at least two offensive rebounds per game with an offensive rebounding percentage of at least 15%.

Only four Jayhawks have grabbed at least two offensive rebounds a game while maintaining a 15% offensive rebounding rate.
Sports Reference

If McCormack continues his pace of 3.2 offensive boards per game, then by the next 15 games we can certainly say he is going to play barring injury (the rest of the regular season, plus one game of the Big 12 Tournament and one game of the NCAA Tournament), McCormack would end with 48 additional offensive boards, giving him 99 total. That would tie him for seventh on the KU list with 2010-11 Marcus Morris.

But part of the point here is that despite the other shortcomings, it’s tough to keep someone on the bench who is one of the best in the country at an aspect of the game that—while not as directly significant as shooting percentage—makes your offense better. When you give an offensive team like Kansas multiple opportunities to score on a possession, more than not they will score.

So, let’s say McCormack moves up to 25 minutes per game over his next 15 games and keeps the same rebounding pace (.17 offensive boards per minute played). That’s another 63 boards (rounded slightly down) for a total of 114. That would put him one ahead of 2011-12 Thomas Robinson as the best offensive rebounder of the past 13 years.

It’s more math and hypotheticals than I like to rely on, especially given how unpredictable McCormack’s play has been (though I’m not sure conference play is a reason to think his production will go down considering how much better he plays against bigger teams and given that he just grabbed 10 offensive boards against West Virginia). But as much as fans harp on where he has struggled (and I’ll admit I’m guilty of it, too), it’s worth also appreciating how he positively contributes as well as anyone in the country.

It has become abundantly clear that the Jayhawks need David McCormack to win a championship. Along with his defense—which beat reporters like CJ Moore and Jesse Newell have called out recently)—this is where McCormack is positively leaving his mark.

And few have done it better in a Kansas uniform in recent years.