Fifth-ranked Kansas already putting together an impressive resume
The holiday break for Kansas basketball brings the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the resume the Jayhawks have built through the first 11 games of the 2018-19 season.
No, we’re not talking Bracketology yet, although the Jayhawks were pegged as a No. 1 seed in Joe Lundardi’s most recent Bracketology update, where they’re slated to face the winner of the play-in game between No. 16 seeds Texas Southern and St. Francis before squaring off in Round 2 against the winner of the 8-9 game between Purdue and, believe it or not, Arizona State.
But so much of that is bound to change in the next 10 weeks that it’s barely worth even thinking about, let alone worrying about, on Dec. 26.
So what then are we talking about when we say “take a closer look at the resume the Jayhawks have built?” It’s simple, really. And it has to do with a quick stroll over to KenPom.com to examine where the Jayhawks rank in various statistical categories and a few other quirky KenPom notes of interest.
So here goes:
One of the Jayhawks’ most impressive stats through the season’s first 11 games is its efficiency rating. Kansas ranks as the seventh most efficient defensive team in the country, with Big 12 foes Texas Tech and Kansas State ranking Nos. 1 and 2, and sits at No. 12 nationally in offensive efficiency.
KU’s offense also ranks in the Top 100 nationally in steal percentage (31st while having the ball taken from them on just 7 percent of available possessions), turnover percentage (53rd while giving it away on just 16.9 percent of its possessions), effective field goal percentage (75th at 53.9 percent), 2-point field goal percentage (89th at 53.9 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage (99th at 35.9 percent).
Defensively, KU ranks in the Top 100 in free throw rate, which gauges how often a defense sends its opponents to the line (52nd), 2-point percentage (59th at 46.0), effective field goal percentage defense (83rd at 47.7 percent), steal percentage (86th while swiping a steal on 10.1 percent of available possessions) and offensive rebound percentage allowed (88th at 26.3 percent).
None of that, of course, takes the place of the Jayhawks’ actual performance on the floor, which has been bolstered by some monster games from its two top scorers — Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson — and a handful of moments in close games where the Jayhawks simply have been more clutch than their opponents when it mattered most.
That obviously was not the case last Saturday night, when Kansas dropped its first game of the season, 80-76 at Arizona State, but KenPom did not punish the Jayhawks too much for dropping that one.
Here are a couple of other quick notes of interest about KU’s first 11 games:
• Dedric Lawson, who spent some time as KenPom’s No. 1 ranked player in the nation, currently sits in the No. 2 spot, just a hair behind Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ in his Pomeroy’s Player of the Year Rating (1.848-1.837) and slightly ahead of Duke freshman Zion Williamson (1.837-1.720).
• Playing 86.4 percent of available minutes thus far puts KU senior Lagerald Vick as the 77th most utilized player in the country through Dec. 23. Vick’s usage is drastically higher than that of KU’s next two most important offensive players, Dedric Lawson, who, at 78.9 percent of available minutes, ranks just 344th nationally, and Devon Dotson, who has played 77.8 percent of available minutes and ranks even lower in 395th place nationally. Some of this, speaks to the depth of this KU roster. But it mostly shows just how important Vick has been to this Kansas team thus far.
• Marcus Garrett registers as KU’s most cautious player with the ball, turning it over just 9.8 percent of the time he handles it, good for 102nd in the country.
• Vick ranks as the only Kansas player worth noting from behind the 3-point line, ranking 30th nationally in 3-point percentage at 50 percent (37 for 74) through 11 games.
• To no one’s surprise, KU’s most frequently used lineup during the past five games — basically all without injured center Udoka Azubuike — has included Dotson, Vick, Garrett, Lawson and Quentin Grimes. That group has played together 23.8 percent of the time during those five games. The next closest, at 7.4 percent, includes Dotson, Garrett, Grimes, Lawson and sophomore guard Charlie Moore.