|Related pages||When this season started the Jayhawks were receiving a good deal of national media attention because we had two Wooden Award candidates and pre-season All-Americans. Hopes were high in the Jayhawk Nation in large part because of Messrís Collison and Hinrich. After a dominant start to the season in three strong wins hopes were high and rising. Then a trip to New York burst the Jayhawks' balloon and had many fans questioning if this group of Jayhawks were for real. More specifically questions were surrounding Kirk and Nick. Why havenít these guys stepped up and taken over? When we collapsed against Arizona, these same questions arose. There were murmurings that Kirk and/or Nick were not gamers. They ran up gaudy stats against lesser competition but faded like a cheap pair of jeans when the big boys came to town.
This prompted me to research this fact and see if there is any possible validity to these assertions. This evaluation is based on data back through the 1995-96 season. The following table shows the NEP Rating of the 33 key players over the last 7 Ĺ years against non ranked and ranked teams. These NEP Ratings are compared to give the ratio. This ratio is the relative rating each player has against ranked teams as compared to unranked teams.
The first thing to point out here is that Jerod Haase and Jacque Vaughn have earned the title of Mr. Clutch. They actually had better stats against top 10 teams than they did against non-top 10 teams. It stands to reason a player will generally have poorer stats against top teams simply because top teams are better. Running up good stats against a top 10 team will be very difficult. This is borne out when you look at the average player. The average player only records about 75% of the NEP Rating against top 10 teams that he does against non-top 10 teams. If you look at this list it becomes very obvious that the elite players are the ones that step up against the tough competition. Jacque, Jerod, Ryan, Raef and Paul are at the top of the list. These guys played their best when the game meant the most. Kirk and Nick have generally done better than average against the top 10 teams, but have not played at the same level of those mentioned above. Some notable underperformers are Scot Pollard, B.J. Williams, Billy Thomas, Nick Bradford, Eric Chenowith, Kenny Gregory, and Jeff Boschee. Of these, only Eric Chenowith, Nick Bradford, and Billy Thomas also underperform against top 25 teams.
Of this seasonís team, Keith has earned the title of Mr. Clutch with Nick second. Nick does slightly better than Keith against top 10 teams, but Keith fares much better against top 25 teams. Keith is well above average in both categories while Nick is only average against top 25 teams. This evaluation provides some ammunition for those who have questioned Kirkís performance against top teams. Before you think this is unfair or invalid, take a minute to think about the numbers. Kirkís performance does fall off more than some of the other elite Jayhawks of days gone by, but donít overlook the fact that his numbers are 7th best among all these Jayhawks (NEP Rating-20.3 against top 10 teams). Also note that while Keithís numbers fall of less than do Kirkís, Kirkís Ratings are higher against both top 10 and top 25 teams.
One can also argue that Jerod, Jacque and Raefís numbers were better because they had a stronger supporting cast and a stronger team. There are a lot of reasons you could cite that throw the efficacy of these numbers into question. They do provide some insight into the weaknesses of this team compared to teams such as the 1995-96 and 1996-97 teams.
While we're on the subject of comparing individual players' performances against differing quality competition, letís look at teams as a whole. There are a lot of numbers in the table below. Basically it is a comparison by year of the team NEPs per game of the games against unranked teams to those of ranked teams.
This year's team is netting an average NEP per game of around 70-75% against ranked teams than they are against unranked teams. That is on the low end of the teams over the last 7 years. The 1996-1998 teams were very strong against ranked teams. In this writer's opinion this years team has yet to prove their grit against the elite teams of college basketball. Our most recent top 10 game against Texas is a step in the right direction. Letís hope this is an omen of things to come.
We are logging many minutes from sophomores this year. Actually the table below shows the ďSeniority ScaleĒ (SS). This is a number calculated by averaging the minutes played by each class (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) by assigning a value to each year (frosh=1, soph=2, junior=3, and senior=4).
This year's team is far from Royís youngest. In fact there have been 6 younger teams. The biggest flaw in this calculation is it assumes all freshmen are equal, all sophomores are equal, etc. Junior transfers such as Jeff Graves are not as experienced in the team as a junior that has been at KU for three years. In any case this year's team is younger than average.
All numbers aside, this team has two battle-tested seniors who have proven their mettle and need to be prepared to lead this team to the promised land in February and March. We have some big games coming up with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas Tech, not to mention every road game in conference play. Nick and Kirk need to continue to lead the charge. I have every confidence they will.
The Nebraska game was not much of a contest. That my sound pretty harsh. That is not my intent. It is simply a statement of fact. Nebraska does not possess the level of talent KU possesses. They were outgunned and outmanned form the get-go. Since we have superior talent, the question comes down to execution. KU should have won handily and did. Did our performance demonstrate an adequate level of efficiency? The answer is generally yes. We had some areas where we were outstanding and others where we were not up to snuff. We rebounded better than we have all year but shot poorly. We distributed and passed the ball well, and we held onto the ball well. Overall our defense was superb. Overall our offense was good enough to win but nothing to write home about.
Lets take a look at the defense first. The best measure of defense is PPP (Points per possession). This was our second-best defensive PPP this season and our best road PPP. We held Nebraska to an FG% of 35.8%. This is the lowest of any opponent this season on the road. Most amazing of all is the fact we held them to only 46.9% of the rebounds on their defensive glass. This is truly an amazing stat considering they have 3 pretty big front court players. Overall we held them to a team NEP of 54.4. That is the lowest opponent team NEP of the season and the lowest of any opponent in the last 7 years. No matter how you slice it, this was a very nice defensive effort.
You can see in the above table this was a great defensive game in terms of opponent's PPP. Our offensive PPP was less than stellar, being well below our season average of 0.97. This is mostly due to poor shooting. This was our poorest shooting of the year in a victory.
Speaking of shooting, let me show you a very interesting stat. You can calculate the most esoteric and complicated stats and analyze things out the gazoo, but in the end it often can be distilled down to a few simple things. In the case of the Jayhawks this season the salient stat is clearly SE (shooting efficiency). Look at the following table if you doubt this.
The five losses this season coincidentally correspond with the 5 worst shooting performances this year. They are the only games below a SE of 45%. It seems to boil down to the simple fact that you have to make your shots to win the game. The Nebraska game was a poor shooting game but our defense was outstanding so we survived. We almost beat Colorado despite an abysmal shooting game. The other 4 losses were against good teams. Shooting poorly against a mediocre or bad team can be overcome. Poor shooting against the likes of Arizona, Oregon, and Florida are not as easily overcome.
Player of the Game: Aaron Miles had another good game. He had a game high NEP and n-NEP. He had 14 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. He didnít shoot all that well, but he was 5 for 12.
Significant Stats of the Game: Without a doubt the rebounding and the defensive PPP were the big stories of this game. We grabbed 66.7% of the rebounds overall and 53.1% of the rebounds on our offensive glass. This was probably our best rebounding performance of the season. You can see from the table below the season rebounding stats.
Single season scoring: Nick, Kirk, and Keith are in the hunt for finishing the season in the top 10 for points scored in a single season. They will need to keep scoring at their current pace and go deep into the NCAA tourney. We have never had three players in a single season with a chance to finish in the top 10.
Single Season Assists: Aaron Miles has 149 assists and is averaging 7.45 APG. At that pace he will finish the season with close to 300 assists, easily breaking Cedric Hunter's single season mark of 278 assists.
Career Assists: Aaron is only halfway through his sophomore season and has moved into the top 10 in KUís all-time assist leaders. Kirk has moved up to 4th and is very close to passing Darnell Valentine.
Career Rebounds: Nick has moved into 3rd on the all-time KU rebounding list and is rapidly closing in on 1000 career rebounds. Incidentally, Nickís 23 rebound performance is the 12th best single-game rebound total in KU history. Only 4 players have had more rebounds in a game and none since 1970. They are Wilt Chamberlain (7 times), Bill Bridges (3 times), Dave Robisch (1 time), and Lew Johnson (1 time).
Career Blocked Shots: Nick Collison has moved into 4th place on the all-time KU blocked shot list passing Danny Manning.
Steals, Single Season: Donít look now but Aaron Miles is on a pace to get very very close to Darnell Valentineís single-season steals mark of 92.
|Email Don||Stats all for now, folks.|
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