Previewing The Kansas Jayhawks

Mar 22, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self talks with Kansas forward Thomas Robinson (0) during practice for the midwest regional for the NCAA mens basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Kansas @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2012 Roster
2012 Schedule

Kansas Offense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 57.0 1
Turnover Rate 19.1 112
Off Reb Rate 36.9 28
FTA/FGA 39.3 124
Kansas Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 53.4 24
Turnover Rate 19.4 121
Off Reb Rate 34.7 78
FTA/FGA 41.1 56

The Kansas Jayhawks lost the Morris twins, plus guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar off of last year's team. They had Tyshawn Taylor returning to key the offense, but most figured they were due for a dropoff. Instead, they're in pretty much the same position they've been in throughout Bill Self's tenure; they're good enough to win the whole tournament.

There is some hindsight here, but there also were clues from the players on this team who played in 2011. Thomas Robinson only logged about 31% of the minutes last year, but he was a high-usage guy who hit 60% of his twos and rebounded like crazy. Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson were efficient with limited playing time as well. They've all held up well with increased playing time and increased roles, and that's the primary reason why Kansas is where it is now.

It's tough to go into much depth with teams that have been as good for as long as Kansas has; I mean, they do everything well. There is little change year-to-year with the talent and coaching consistent. They do some things slighty more well than other things. Nothing sticks out and says, "hello, I am the weakness."

I have heard that they are deathly afraid of ginger snaps, however.

Starters:

Tyshawn Taylor (6-3, 185) -- Taylor has always been a bit turnover prone, which can lead to some erratic play. But he's playing at a higher level in 2012, maintaining an efficient profile despite a major increase in workload. That latter was inevitable given this team's backcourt losses, and he's picked up the slack about as well as Kansas could have hoped. Really there's no good answer for 'where do we want this guy to shoot?' because he's hit over 50% of his twos and over 40% of his threes.

Elijah Johnson (6-4, 195) -- Johnson has hit 57.3% of his twos this year, though he is more likely to take a three-pointer (he's shooting 33.3% from outside). Good passer who isn't likely to get to the free throw line very often.

Travis Releford (6-6, 207) -- Better at getting to the line than Johnson and a better finisher--he's hitting about 60% of his twos. It's tough to get a read his three-point shooting ability, but he isn't bad from outside. Takes good care of the ball; a bit of a question mark at the free throw line.

Thomas Robinson (6-10, 237) --Where to begin with Thomas Robinson? The national player of the year race is down to Robinson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis, and with good reason on both counts. Robinson is an insanely good defensive rebounder. In fact he's the only player in the country with a defensive rebounding percentage north of 30%. (That means he grabs roughly three out of every 10 available defensive rebounds while he is on the floor.) That's just silly. He's a good finisher in the paint, doesn't turn the ball over too much, and he'll grab his share of offensive boards as well.

Jeff Withey (7-0, 235) --Withey ranks second nationally in block percentage, and while he is a secondary option at the offensive end, he's not bad around the rim. Worse, he's good at getting to the line and he makes those free throws at a high rate. He's also a good rebounder at both ends, though he isn't on Robinson's level.

Bench:

Conner Teahan (6-6, 212), Kevin Young (6-8, 185). Teahan has taken 143 three-pointers and 31 two-pointers this year, so it's pretty easy to figure his M.O. And he has the size to shoot over folks, making late close-outs all the more ineffective. Can't forget about him. Young's a good energy guy off the bench--he's good on the offensive glass and he'll block some shots. Decent scorer as well but not a huge factor offensively.

Kansas Defense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 44.5 14
Turnover Rate 20.4 155
Off Reb Rate 27.6 15
FTA/FGA 31.9 57
Kansas Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 43.7 7
Turnover Rate 20.6 153
Off Reb Rate 28.7 48
FTA/FGA 34.0 122

Robinson's efforts obviously have a big impact on the way this team rebounds at the defensive end, and the added minutes from a big time shot blocker like Withey has helped improve the team's block rate and interior defense. Like Georgetown, Kansas makes it really tough to make two-point shots. In the nine years (including this one) Bill Self has been at Kansas, his teams have finished in the top 12 in 2FG% defense eight times. Shutting down the paint and taking care of the glass is a damn good recipe for success at this end.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes Kansas by nine.

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