In lieu of attempting how to describe UNO's ineptness in anticipation of tonight's game, I'll take a look at the numbers of the 10 Jayhawks who have played significant minutes so far this season. (Note: All stats are taken from game box scores, NOT from play-by-play information. The Chaminade game is not included. I've only considered games against Division I opposition.)
Not much there that anybody couldn't tell from watching the games.
Rush is obviously the team's best scorer and shouldn't be the sixth-most frequent shooter. The rest of the perimeter players (and you could include Giles here, considering the location of too many of his shots) aren't making very many shots.
Other than Rush, none of the perimeter players are making more than 36% of their three-point shots, and only Chalmers (who is struggling the most from behind the arc) is making more than 37.5% of his two-point shots.
From observation, I'd say that Robinson's shot selection has improved markedly as the season has progressed. If he improves his ability to finish in the paint, both his and the team's offensive efficiency will get an immediate boost.
CJ Giles shoots too much, or not well enough, depending on your perspective.
Kaun is greatly benefitted by his improved free throw shooting.
Julian Wright, when shooting, is already an effective offensive player.
Moody and Vinson seem to have a good sense of their limitations as basketball players.
At the risk of contradicting Coach Self, I've arranged the players into three categories: bigs, mediums, and littles, rather than two when looking at their rebound numbers.
Moody's a liability on the defensive glass which can obscure his effectiveness as an offensive rebounder as most have yet to come to the conclusion that those are two different skills.
Coming into the year, I assumed that Wright's rebounding numbers would look more like Moody's, but he has done pretty well on the defensive glass without creating much havoc on the offensive end.
Rush and Downs have not, thus far, provided the rebounding boost I had hoped. (JR Giddens 2004 (OR%/DR%/TR%): 2.6/11.8/7.5 and 2005: 2.2/12.5/7.8).
Robinson and Hawkins have both improved their rebounding rates with increased playing time this year, though neither is doing anything exceptional.
Chalmers' paltry rebounding numbers shouldn't cause great alarm. Few freshman point guards get many rebounds. If he doesn't improve next year as a sophomore (when playing more off-the-ball), then I'll be worried.
Vinson's solid off-the-ball defense carries over to his defensive rebounding. As he'll always be assigned to the perimeter player least likely to dribble-penetrate, he should be getting proportionally more rebounds than the other guards.
Finally, ballhandling, steals, and blocks:
Same arrangement as above: littles, mediums, and bigs. These numbers are per 100 individual possessions. Kansas is averaging 69 possessions per game so far this year.
Hawkins turns it over too much, though not as often as Chalmers, and he doesn't create many turnovers.
My theory regarding the difference between Hawkins' reputation as a practice defender and his performance in games: in practice, all those fouls he commits 35 feet from the basket are ignored, allowing him to be a significant nuisance.
Once Chalmers gets the turnovers under control, his passing and on-the-ball defense will make a big (positive) difference for the team.
To go along with my observations about Robinson's improved shot selection, he's improved his assist-to-turnover ratio as the season has progressed. Through the Western Illinois game, he had 11 assists against 12 turnovers. He's had 13 assists and 3 turnovers in the last four games.
Julian Wright's across-the-board contributions (and his near-epic turnover rate) provide a numerical context for the excitement he provides.
Neither Rush nor Downs are a liability with the ball in their hands. I assumed both would struggle guarding smaller players and they have at times though neither has been a disaster. The infrequency of both their blocks and steals, combined with their mediocre defensive rebounding numbers points to the greatest opportunity for defensive improvement as the season progresses.
Kaun, despite his massive general improvement, still demonstrates little ability to pass the ball out of the post. He's making up for this by almost never turning the ball over. If he can continue to take care of the ball once conference play starts, it will be a great help.
Moody's biggest problem this year has been his increased turnover rate. He's giving the ball away 152% of the time compared to last year which really cuts into his effectiveness.
Vinson's numbers will undoubtedly shrink if he continues to play significant minutes, but I think he can be useful if Self adequately picks the spots in which he uses him.
Conclusions I don't think anything groundbreaking has been discovered by doing this. Both the struggles and the promise of the program have been obvious in all year (with the possible exception of the Arizona game).
I think I'm more positive than most about the necessary, limited usefulness of Hawkins, Moody, and Vinson and have tried to point out what they can provide the team. There is no doubt the program will be in better shape when the more talented, high-profile recruits are playing all the minutes and playing effectively. I'm skeptical that the latter will occur this year and I'm certain that were Self to have played the freshman more extensively, he'd be criticized and questioned just as severely would the results have been the same. The improvement of Kaun and Robinson gives me reason to believe that Self can develop players, though his method of doing so may frustrate fans.
The offense isn't good, but it's better than I imagined it would look coming into the year. I had visions of the '99 team (Boschee, Robinson, Gregory, Pugh, Chenowith, Bradford) with its collection of young and/or mediocre offensive players struggling to work together to create a decent shot. I've certainly witnessed that this year, but I've also seen the team use defense to create easy shots, and run their half-court sets effectively for brief stretches. Once the young players are capable of putting complete games together, their minutes will increase and they'll get longer stretches to play together, and presumably the half-court execution will improve. Again, it may be 2007 before this all happens.
I was very negative about the team's defense following the St. Joseph's game, but I'm hopeful that the good defense of the first 17 minutes of that game will be more representative than the team-wide defensive breakdown that transpired over the final 23 minutes. Looking at Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency numbers leads me to believe that some of my negativity had more to do with my clumsiness with the numbers than the team's play. The performance against Cal and the defensive performance against Pepperdine fuels my newfound optimism.
I thought they'd have one more (Division I) win than they have right now, but the Big 12 looks to be even weaker than I thought. I think this is still an 18-win team that gets into the tournament.