|Related pages||A win is a win is a win. Or is it a win by any other name is just as sweet. Or maybe itís he who wins last wins best. There seems to be a eerie feeling about this team floating around in Jayhawkdom. At the risk of being written off as a Pollyanna I hope to dispel some of the misconceptions or 'hyper' conceptions of many fans. We have ample data through 7 games to make a preliminary assessment of the bench. We have much more data to assess the starters. Some are quick to discount any type of statistical analysis, since the problem with this crop of Jayhawks does not seem to be accurately manifested in the numbers. As an engineer by degree, I am by nature a numbers kind of guy. Those of you who have to work with or around engineers have surmised we strive for accuracy with the allusion of precision. Or as a professor of mine used to say, 'it is better to be precisely incorrect than approximately correct.' This column does not intend to replace or diminish the value of subjective analysis or critical judgment. In fact, in this edition of ITN I will join in the fray of subjective analysis as a complement to statistical analysis to bolster the efficacy of my conclusions.
One of the ways we as fans have employed subjective analyses is in measuring the progress of a player over his career. There have been sundry assertions to the existence and degree of the 'sophomore slump.' Many players have been criticized for lack of progress over their careers (Eric Chenowith) while others have been lauded for their consistent improvement (Ryan Robertson). This is an area where statistics can shed some light on the matter. Is there such a thing as a 'sophomore slump?' At what stage of a players career does the greatest improvement occur? If we can answer these questions, will it enable us to gain insight into this years team?
To answer these questions I utilized the stats from the 28 players who have completed 4 years at KU since 1983. Here are the players with their NEP data.
This allowed me to compare progress from year to year using the same players for each class year. Overall there was measurable progress in each year. The greatest progress was made between the sophomore and junior years. Of the 34 players 22 showed progress from their freshman to sophomore year, 23 showed progress from their sophomore to junior year and 19 showed progress from their junior to senior year. Among the top players in the group only Ryan Robertson showed a significant drop in n-NEP from his junior to senior year. At the very least these data demonstrate that from a statistical viewpoint there is strong evidence that players will tend to be at least as good from one year to the next and generally will be better. Is there any correlation between those who showed progress and those who didnít? Factors such as injuries and loss of critical teammates can have an impact on a playerís statistics. For the purposes of this brief analysis we will assume there are no significant factors affecting these players. Here is the table showing composite differences by year.
This is all nice and interesting, Don, but what difference does it make to our current players? Thanks you for asking. Here is a look at the current players data.
This table presents some very encouraging data. First of all Kirkís and Nickís n-NEP numbers have increased every year. They have not only increased, but have increased significantly. This is no guarantee they will show similar increases this season. However, as discussed above, the senior year statistically speaking, will be as good or better than the junior year. Secondly, as shown above, 22 of the 34 players in the above data set showed improvement from their freshman to sophomore year. Of the top 11 players all but one (Gregory) showed improvement and his sophomore year was essentially equal to his freshman year. Odds are very good our three sophomores will show improvement this season. Thirdly, notice the n-NEP for Miles and Simien. Their freshmen n-NEPs would rank them 3rd and 1st among all Jayhawk scholarship freshmen since 1983. See the table below for all freshmen n-NEPís (including Pierce and Gooden.)
Simien and Miles have serious game. They were somewhat overshadowed last season by the three amigos but they are blue chip all the way. We know they are good from their freshmen stats, and we have good reason to believe they will be as good or better this year. We have reason to believe Collison and Hinrich will be as good or better. Observation leads an educated observer to the conclusion that Langford has as good of upside as the other sophomores and thus could be the one to make the most significant improvement this year. In summary, in reviewing our starting five all indications are they will be better this season. Furthermore, looking at the numbers for Boschee and Gooden last season, our starting five this year should be better.
Before you blast this analysis out of the water as ignoring things like team chemistry and defense, consider this. Team chemistry is affected very largely by the leadership. This includes the coaching staff and the team leaders. We know the coaching staff is second to none. While we canít know the details of the team leadership, we know that we have two very strong seniors who also happen to be our two best players. That bodes well for both vocal leadership (senior maturity) and leadership by example (best players). Once again I will aver the same refrain as after the Florida game. This team has the ingredients to be very very good. We had two lousy games in the early season against two very good teams in a hostile environment. That is a small indication of problems when stacked up against the mountain of data indicating better times ahead.
Bear with me for a few more minutes to review the Central Missouri State game. But first the milestone update.
Career Assists: Aaron Miles is on a pace to finish the season with approximately 250 assists. This would give him just over 500 for his first two seasons. Only 2 players in the history of the NCAA have over 1000 career assists. Aaron is on a pace to blow through Jacque's KU record and become the third NCAA player to reach the 1000 plateau.
Season FTs: Nick Collison is averaging 7 FTs per game putting him on a pace for 275 or so for the season. This would land him 4th all-time for FTs in a season at KU and the most of any player in over 40 years.
Player of the Game
Significant Stats of the Game
Jittery KU fans have found a way to feed their trepidation in spite of a dominant KU victory. This game was not much of a real benchmark since CMSU is not exactly a strong opponent. Yet, the guys did what they needed to and got the job done.
If youíve read this far you recognize I have espoused a very optimistic view of the 2002-2003 season. Lest you think I am blind to the realities I will now address the concerns I have about this team. There are three areas I am concerned about based on the performance to date. 1) team defense, 2) perimeter offense, 3) bench.
I will reserve the discussion of these issues until the next edition of ITN after the Oregon game. Oregon has a strong perimeter offense. This will be a good test for our guys to put up or shut up. I will also review the bench players in more detail in the next edition of ITN.
The next two games will be a chance for the Jayhawks to show they can adapt and grow. Tulsa and Oregon are every bit as good as North Carolina and Florida. Stay tuned.
Stats all for now, folks.
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