Let’s face it: March hasn’t been easy for Bill Self in the last couple of years. The Jayhawks have been highly praised leading up to the postseason, but their performances have crumpled when the season is on the line. What can this team do that past teams couldn’t?
Kansas hasn’t won the Big 12 Championship or visited the Sweet 16 since 2013, which equates to two early NCAA exits for the Jayhawks in 2014 and 2015. Can this be the year that the Jayhawks cut down the nets? Let’s take a look at what Kansas needs to do to make it happen.
In 2011, Kansas walked into the dance with a 33-2 record. It looked like the Jayhawks had a great chance to cut down the nets. After winning its first three tournament games, Kansas was upset by Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams in the Elite Eight. During that game, the Jayhawks shot an astonishing 2-21 (9.5%) from three.
Just last season, KU was only able to make five threes in their season-ending game against Wichita State. After shooting a total of 16 threes, the percentage equates to 31%. Not good, right? Well, there is a good reason to get excited for this year, and that’s because the Jayhawks can drill shots from downtown. KU is shooting an elite 43% from deep, and that alone could solve many problems itself. With Devonte’ Graham, Brannen Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk, Frank Mason III (sort of), and Wayne Selden Jr., Kansas fans should be confident that someone will step up and hit the big time shots come tournament time.
Back in 2008 when Kansas won the national title, the Jayhawks were averaging 80 points per game. Last year, the Jayhawks were averaging only 71. KU is scoring nearly 10 more points per contest than last year’s team. With a current average of 81 points per game, this Kansas team has shown that it can knock down shots when it needs them. Just like the three-point shot, KU has plenty of guys that can put the ball in the hoop. Perry Ellis will continue to be an inside threat for the Jayhawks. The ability to score at an elite pace is an asset that could propel the Jayhawks all the way to the title match.
There’s no denying that Kansas struggled with its efficiency ratings last year. On the offensive side, the 2014-15 team efficiency per-100 possessions was 106.3 (92nd nationwide). This year’s efficiency has been an impressive 116.1 points per-100 possessions (10th nationwide). Kansas has kept its turnovers down as of late, despite still averaging 12 per game. The Jayhawks current assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.26 (62nd nationwide). With that high of a rating, Kansas is capable of putting together successful late-game possessions during the tournament season.
There is no true “dominant team” in college hoops:
This year is a whole different scenario than last season. With no 34-0, unstoppable team, the field is wide open for anyone. Unfortunately, Kansas was placed in the group of death (Midwest Region) last year. With Wichita State, Indiana, Notre Dame and Kentucky, the pressure was on, and it was apparent that the future was bleak. We can expect that this month will have more madness than the last few combined.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]With Wichita State, Indiana, Notre Dame and Kentucky, the pressure was on, and it was apparent that the future was bleak. We can expect that this month will have more madness than the last few combined.[/su_pullquote]
The one thing that separates this years’ Kansas team from the rest is the depth. With two reliable point guards in the starting lineup, Kansas has the huge advantage of not having to rely on just one to get the job done. Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg (both McDonald’s All Americans) are a go-to for Bill Self when Lucas and Ellis need rest. Ultimately, depth will be the Jayhawks’ best friend come the NCAAs.
Interestingly, Kansas is 22nd in the nation in opponent field goal percentage, allowing only 39% per game. If the Jayhawks can keep playing defense at this rate of success, it opens things up for the offense. KU is averaging a mediocre 38 rebounds per game, an area they need to improve on for the tournament.
We could rumble off statistics and comparisons all day. You could get the jist of it all by watching the team play in the Big 12 conference race. The high percentage shooting, scoring, & efficiency will guide the No. 1 Jayhawks to an unprecedented finish. This isn’t a lesson on pythagorean theorem, or even the quadratic formula. It’s just a guide that could lead to the Jayhawks finishing on top of college basketball.