KenPom has just released the player pages, and so over the course of the next couple of weeks, we here at Beadlemaniacs are going to be taking a look at some of the more interesting teams and what the implications are for the rest of the season. Today, we lead off with the Kansas Jayhawks, if for no other reason than it’s finals week, and I wrote the same thing over at Rock Chalk Talk, and didn’t want to double up on my work.
I wasn’t sure if I should just post random thoughts on this year’s team, or compare them to the 2008 National Championship team (because there are a ton of player comparisons that are almost eerie), so as a result I ended up doing a little bit of both.
1. Cole Aldrich hasn’t been that bad offensively
Last year Cole’s O-Rating was 123.9, which was 44th nationally, and this year it has “slipped” to 122.9. His true shooting percentage has slipped a bit, mainly because he is shooting almost 10% worse from the free throw line this year than he did last year, but I would expect him to be right there as we get into conference play. He’s also been a much better defensive rebounder this year, which is semi unexpected because with the improvement of the Morri there is more competition for rebounds.
2. Thomas Robinson needs to relax
T-Rob has shown flashes of tremendous potential. In his limited minutes he’s actually the best offensive and defensive rebounder we have this year. In fact, if he had enough minutes to qualify, he would have been the fourth best offensive rebounder in the country last year with his numbers. However, Robinson has looked a little lost with the ball in his hands. He has just a 46% true shooting percentage, dragged down by having roughly the same percentage from two (45.9%) as he does from the free throw line (45.5%). Given that he draws by far the most fouls on the team per 40 mins, he needs to improve from the line. He also, when on the floor, ends over one fourth of the possessions, which is the most on the team. Basically what this means is that he either makes a shot, misses a shot that isn’t offensively rebounded, or turns it over.
3. Tyshawn is actually taking care of the ball better this year
Last year T2 had an assist rate of 20.6 and a TO rate of 25.6. This year his assist rate has gone up (23.9) while his turnover rate has gone down (23.5). The biggest problem with T2’s game this year has been his shooting. Both his EFG and his TS% have gone down over 10%. I’m not saying the guy is the best player on the team, but I am saying that perhaps we should give him a bit of a break. Of course, part of my irrational love for T2 is because of his striking similarities to Russell Robinson (high assists, high turnovers, can’t shoot, elite defense), and Robinson is one of my most favorite Jayhawks in recent memory.
Last but not least, although our offense has looked bad at times, we have the 2nd best offense in the country, at 124.1 points per 100 possessions. While it’s true that some of it can be looked at as we fattened up against weak competition, most of it has to do with a lack of turnovers, great offensive rebounding, and an improvement in three point shooting from last year.
Actually my real last point is about our pace. We can legitimately go 10 deep (and even more when you consider CJ has played well in limited time, and Teahan has given us solid minutes), so the fact that we are playing at only a slightly above average pace (70.4 possessions compared to D1 average of 68.7 possessions) is disconcerting to me. With our depth we should be trying to run teams out of the gym. And we should be running with our talent advantage as well, as general philosophy states that the more talented a team is, the faster it should play.
In all, there are tons of positives to look at with Kansas, and given that we are still very young (299th in experience), we’re only going to get better.
P.S. For the record, KenPom gives us a 2.08% chance of an undefeated regular season.