Preview: Kansas vs. UCLA (West Regional Final)

Cross-posted from HackTheBracket. This should look a whole lot like the previous round games for these teams. UCLA is playing the best defense in the tourney, and will try to slow down Kansas, just like Southern Illinois did.

The efficiency predictions look quite sensible. UCLA has played slightly better in the three NCAA Tournament games but Kansas was playing slightly better at the end of the regular season/during the conference tournament.

If Kansas can return to their normal levels of turnovers committed and defensive rebounds garnered, they'll be dangerous for UCLA. Despite an outstanding defensive performance overall from Southern Illinois, Kansas did shoot 60.7 eFG% and that was their worst shooting performance of the tournament so far. UCLA (70.4 DR% on the season) should, however, be able to keep Kansas off the offensive glass when the Jayhawks do miss a shot.

The biggest problem UCLA will pose for Kansas is deciding which of Arron Afflalo or Josh Shipp Brandon Rush will guard down the stretch. Shipp's numbers are certainly helped by the attention Afflalo draws from opposing defenses, but they aren't really that different.

Name %Min eFG% FT% PPWS Pts A TO BS S OR% DR%
Afflalo 83.2 54.0 80.0 1.16 30.7 3.7 3.2 0.5 1.2 1.5 8.9
Shipp 72.5 53.3 77.0 1.15 27.4 5.1 3.7 0.5 2.4 4.9 11.0

If it comes down to free throw shooting, expect both fan bases to be covering their eyes. Kansas and UCLA both shoot 66.3% from the line on the year.

FIRST 3 GAMES ADJ. EFFICIENCY

Tempo Offense Defense Overall
Kansas 71.3 127.5 87.0 .9831
UCLA 61.7 110.6 73.0 .9903

EFFICIENCY PREDICTIONS

  • Full Season Prediction ... Kansas 65, UCLA 63
  • Last 10 Prediction ... Kansas 68, UCLA 63
  • Vs. Good Prediction ... Kansas 67, UCLA 66
  • Trendline Prediction ... Kansas 66, UCLA 61
  • Tourney So Far Prediction ... UCLA 62, Kansas 60

UPDATED GRAPHS

Kansas team capsule UCLA team capsule

Preview: Kansas vs. Kentucky (2nd Round--NCAA Tournament)

Contrary to popular perception (or at least my perception of popular perception), Tubby Smith's 2006-07 Kentucky team is an excellent shooting team that struggles to guard their opponents. Of course, Kentucky went out and beat Villanova in atypical fashion last night. A solid defensive performance made up for their field goal shooting being merely adequate rather than outstanding. The 0.94 points per possession Kentucky allowed last night marked the first good defensive performance (less than one point allowed per possession) from the Wildcats since they held Florida to 0.95 points per possession in Rupp Arena ten games ago. Extending Kentucky's defensive slump, in the two games preceding that Florida game, the Wildcats allowed 1.24 points per possession to South Carolina, and 1.09 points per possession @Arkansas. (It should also be noted that when Kentucky visited Florida, the Gators shot 73 eFG% and rebounded half of their misses en route to scoring 1.29 points per possession.)

KENTUCKY DEFENSE v. KANSAS OFFENSE

(at-risk games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
UK def 48.2 32.8 18.9 31.2 64.7 1.01
KU off 51.5 38.6 21.1 24.0 65.1 1.07

Kentucky's at-risk profile includes home wins over Miami, OH, Eastern Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee (without Chris Lofton), neutral court wins over DePaul, Chattanooga, Alabama, and Villanova, road wins over Louisville, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Arkansas, home losses to Vanderbilt and Florida, neutral court losses to UCLA, Memphis, and Mississippi State, and road losses to North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Florida.

With the exception of the game against Tennessee (again, without Lofton) at home, Kentucky's outstanding defensive performances (less than 0.9 points per possession allowed) in at-risk games all occurred in mid-January or earlier: Miami, OH, vs. Chattanooga, Indiana, @Louisville, and @South Carolina.

Kentucky's defensive numbers have been helped by their opponents' poor free throw shooting. They allowed 1.04 points per possession in SEC play despite their conference opponents shooting just 62.7% from the free throw line. This is the rare instance where a typical performance at the free throw line from the Jayhawks could hurt their opponent.

It may not matter, though, as Kentucky's performance in the other three factors are what have kept them slightly below average defensively. Kansas's penchant for making a good percentage of their field goal attempts and rebounding a high percentage of their missed shots should trouble a Kentucky team who isn't very good at forcing misses and just adequate at protecting their defensive glass. Against Kansas these tendencies may be magnified if Kentucky continues to struggle to force turnovers.

KENTUCKY OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE

(at-risk games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
UK off 54.0 33.8 22.2 24.2 69.6 1.08
KU def 44.6 31.7 23.0 35.3 67.6 0.93

Kentucky's offense performed quite similarly to Kansas's in at-risk games. The Wildcats make a few more shots and rebound a lower percentage of their misses. The frequency with which they turn the ball over will necessitate that they make a typical percentage of their field goals. That's extremely difficult to do against Kansas. Kentucky has a shot at doing so, though, as Sheray Thomas is the only player in the Wildcat rotation to shoot less than 50 eFG% or score less than 1.07 PPWS.

There's littel doubt that NBA free agent Randolph Morris will test Sasha Kaun defensively. If Kaun continues to establish good defensive position and let the double-teamer harass the opposition's best post scorer, Kansas can be expected to limit Morris's effectiveness. Though he's Kentucky's best scorer (both in terms of volume and efficiency) Morris is not a particularly good passer (2.4 A/100 against 4.7 TO/100) so effective double-teams in the post could cause Kentucky's offense to stagnate.

On the perimeter, Kansas's guards will need to refrain from gambling for turnovers against Kentucky's guards, instead forcing them into the heart of the KU defense for difficult field goal attempts. Ramel Bradley (5.0 TO/100) and Derrick Jasper (6.0 TO/100), especially, will probably turn the ball over often enough due to the basic ball pressure and swarming interior defense Kansas typically musters.

Bradley, Joe Crawford, and Jodie Meeks combine to take half their shots from beyond the three-point arc, making 37.2, 35.3, and 36.5% of those shots respectively. The guard trio troubles defenses because they are quite good at converting the two-point shots they attempt as well. Crawford shoots 52.6% inside the arc, Meeks makes 50.5% of his two-point shots, and Bradley converts on 49% of his attempts.

Kentucky's balanced and efficient offense will test Kansas's outstanding defense. The Wildcats are capable of getting hot enough that the opposing defense can effectively cease to be relevant for stretches of a game. What should encourage Kansas fans is that the Jayhawks have survived such performances from Texas each of the last two weekends. For all Kevin Durant did in the first halves of those games, Kansas held Texas 2% below their season average offensive efficiency in Lawrence, and 8% below their season average offensive efficiency in Oklahoma City.

Kentucky isn't as good offensively as Texas (though they're probably an equal amount better defensively than the Longhorns) so supressing their offense by 6-8% would put them far enough behind Kansas's expected offensive efficiency against a mediocre defense to keep the game from coming down to the final possessions.

Prediction: Kansas 73 Kentucky 62

Preview: Kansas vs. Niagara (1st Round--NCAA Tournament)

David's excellent efficiency preview available here and at HackTheBracket (along with 31 other previews of equal quality). Niagara is better than a typical 16-seed and their offensive efficiency is their clear strength. Unfortunately for the Purple Eagles, their offensive efficiency is a clear strength in part due to their defensive efficiency being a clear weakness.

Considering that Niagara's three toughest games consisted of (with efficiency margins in the parentheses) hosting Akron (-25), hosting St. John's (-33), and playing Holy Cross (+13) at neutral site, their performance in at-risk games (admittedly impacted by leading scorer Charron Fisher missing 7 of Niagara's 25 at-risk games, including the losses to Akron and St. John's) doesn't suggest they can expect to compete with Kansas for 40 minutes.

NIAGARA OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE

(at-risk games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
NIA off 47.6 38.6 19.6 27.7 74.1 1.07
KU def 45.2 31.8 22.9 34.4 67.6 0.93

Niagara will likely shoot even worse than normal from the field against Kansas's defense and it's even more unlikely that Niagara will be able to match their usual offensive rebounding rate. Even with his outstanding shooting performance Tuesday night in Dayton, Clif Brown is just a 46.4 eFG% shooter on the season. Charron Fisher (50.9 eFG%), Tyrone Lewis (50.2 eFG%), and JR Duffey (51.4 eFG%) all shoot better than Brown, but none of them would rank higher than 7th in eFG% on Kansas's stat sheet. If they're struggling to create easy shots against the 288th rated defensive schedule in the country, then Kansas should cause them fits.

Let me make this clear: Kansas is an oustanding defensive team. There are other important factors for the team entering the NCAA Tournament: pace of play (Niagara should cooperate with that in the first round), field goal shooting (just 49.1 eFG% in the Big 12 Tournament), and health (I'd rather they not have to try and win six games in a row without one or more members of the eight-man rotation) but any prolonged success they have in this tournament will be due first and foremost to their defense.

In Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, Kansas is 2.8 points per 100 possessions better than the second-placed team. The difference between first and second is greater than the difference between the second- and twelfth-ranked teams.

Kansas emerged as a national title contender because their offense improved over the course of the season but the underlying, constant reason for Kansas's recent success has been the team's defensive play. (Again, David represents this excellently in graph form.)

NIAGARA DEFENSE v. KANSAS OFFENSE

(at-risk games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
NIA def 52.1 32.3 20.1 32.5 69.7 1.06
KU off 50.8 39.0 21.5 24.3 65.7 1.06

That Kansas's offensive improvement coincided with them playing mostly mediocre-to-poor Big 12 teams shouldn't hide the very real improvements they've made offensively over the course of the season.

This team couldn't get more than a point per possession against Oral Roberts, Ball State, DePaul, USC, or Toledo in their first ten games. What felt like an offensive explosion against Boston College right before Christmas (1.12 points per possession) was bettered ten times in Big 12 play including the Big 12 Tournament Championship game against Texas, wherein the Jayhawks created far more good shots than they converted.

While I agree that Niagara got a raw deal in having to win the play-in game to make the bracket proper (and probably got a raw deal in being seeding 16th to begin with--the committee clearly did not take Charron Fisher's 8-game absence into account), I can't foresee them giving Kansas too much trouble tomorrow night. Kansas is not just good at more things than Niagara, they're better than they Niagara is the things Niagara are good at.

Prediction: Kansas 84 Niagara 64

Preview: Kansas vs. Oklahoma (Big XII Tournament)

(Thoughts prior to and following the first meeting between these teams.) UPDATE: Michael Neal expects to play. Darrell Arthur may play limited minutes due to a stomach virus. Ken Pomeroy looks at the effect of playing on consecutive days against a team which is rested.

The effort exerted to get past Iowa State this afternoon will only exacerbate the quick turnaround Oklahoma must complete before facing Kansas. The Sooners only go eight deep (though, if Jeff Capel wants to give Chris Walker some minutes I don't think any Kansas fans will protest) and rely on Nate Carter (31.3 Pts/100) for the bulk of their scoring. If Michael Neal is again unable to play due to illness and with Longar Longar appearing to have fallen out of favor (or at least fallen to the end of the rotation), Tony Crocker would be the Sooners' only realistic second scoring option on the court much of the time.

OKLAHOMA OFFENSE v. KANSAS DEFENSE

(Big 12 games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
OU off 47.0 35.8 19.5 27.26 74.6 1.05
KU def 43.8 27.8 22.1 35.0 66.0 0.90

Even with all their free throw attempts and a meaningless three at the buzzer, Oklahoma only scored 0.92 points per possession in the first meeting. It seems to me far more plausible that Kansas (0.96 points per possession @Oklahoma) improves their offensive performance in the rematch. Kansas is the only one of Oklahoma's last eight opponents to fail to score at least one point per possession against the Sooners (a stretch that includes two Oklahoma/Iowa State games).

OKLAHOMA DEFENSE v. KANSAS OFFENSE

(Big 12 games only)

Team eFG% OR% TO% FT Rate FT% PPP
OU def 48.4 31.5 20.5 43.6 70.5 1.02
KU off 55.5 37.5 19.9 23.4 65.6 1.14

The danger for Oklahoma is that Kansas could conceivably convince themselves that they have something to prove in this game. The second half of the game in Norman 10 days ago saw the Jayhawks completely befuddled by the Sooners' three-quarter court pressure in the second half en route to giving up every bit of a seventeen-point lead.

Even more than their poor free throw shooting, Kansas's penchant for turning the ball over in bunches worries me as we approach the single elimination portion of the season. Kansas turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions in Norman, on 24% of their possessions @Kansas State, and on 25% of their possessions against Texas A&M. Each of those turnover rates is at least 15% higher than Kansas's season average. (Worse than that, really, as I haven't put in the time to figure the season average without those games as a comparison.)

That being said, Kansas is a lot better than Oklahoma, there are no injury or illness worries for Kansas, and Kansas won't be playing their second game in 24 hours. The Jayhawks should win handily. If the game is even nearly as close as it was in Norman, it will be a credit to the Sooners.

Prediction: Kansas 72 Oklahoma 58

Efficiency Preview: Big 12 Tournament

The Big 12 tourney starts in a couple days. Here's the schedule if you haven't already seen it. Now let's get right to the numbers. First, here's how all the teams have been playing over the last 10 games:

Last 10 Games Adjusted Efficiency Averages
Team Seed Tempo Rnk Offense Rnk Defense Rnk Pythag Rnk
Kansas 1 69.8 3 126.6 3 80.7 1 0.9944 1
TexasA&M 2 65.1 7 126.8 2 90.3 2 0.9803 2
Texas 3 67.1 5 128.9 1 94 5 0.9742 3
KansasSt 4 64.6 8 119.1 4 97.8 7 0.9059 4
TexasTech 5 64.3 9 113.5 7 99.7 9 0.8163 8
Missouri 6 69.8 2 117.4 6 98.6 8 0.8811 6
OklahomaSt 7 65.8 6 108.9 9 101.9 10 0.6834 10
IowaSt 8 62.7 10 97.8 12 93 4 0.642 11
Oklahoma 9 61.4 11 109.5 8 90.9 3 0.8947 5
Nebraska 10 61 12 104.4 11 94.6 6 0.7552 9
Baylor 11 67.2 4 118.6 5 103.4 12 0.8291 7
Colorado 12 71.1 1 107.1 10 102.7 11 0.6195 12

stats glossary

Hey, Colorado's 1st in something? What the... oh, tempo. OK. Looking at the Pythagorean rating, the top 3 teams here are no surprise. What might surprise you is that if I made this same chart for ALL of Division I NCAA basketball, those three would be ranked 1st, 5th, and 8th. Texas has officially joined the party. Even more surprising is that all three are top 5 in offense. I haven't actually run the numbers on ALL teams, so the ranks in this next table are where they rate among the 78 that I have looked at. Any team with an outside shot at a 12-seed or better in the big dance was included, along with all Big 12 teams.

Last 10 Games Rank Among All Teams Within Shouting Distance of Getting an At-Large Bid to the NCAA Tournament
Team Tempo Offense Defense Pythag
Kansas 7 5 2 1
TexasAM 36 3 20 5
Texas 18 1 41 8

I'd be shocked if somebody outside that group cuts down the nets in Oklahoma City. That said, if it happens, it's bound to be a team out of the KU side of the bracket. Any dark horse from the other side will have to take down KU, A&M, and Texas. Sorry, but nobody's winning a tournament by beating all three top-10 rated Big 12 powers in consecutive games. That's impossible.

I'm talking a lot about the top seeds here because I'm not going to have time to do individual game previews of the later rounds. Don't worry, we'll get to everyone else right after this page break.

#8 Iowa State vs. #9 Oklahoma

Psychlones

UnluckyBastards

  • Previous meeting: Oklahoma 51 @ Iowa St 58
  • Pomeroy prediction: Oklahoma 62 Iowa St 52
  • Last 10 prediction: Oklahoma 58 Iowa St 50
  • Trendline prediction: Oklahoma 56 Iowa St 50

Since these two teams last met, Oklahoma hasn't won a game. Slumping? Not particularly, actually, just a really tough stretch (vs Texas A&M, @ Missouri, vs Texas, vs Kansas, @ Kansas St). I think this game will be a relief for Oklahoma, and they should take advantage of the weaker competition.

#5 Texas Tech vs. #12 Colorado

KnightRiders

Puffs

  • Previous meeting: Colorado 74 @ Texas Tech 95
  • Pomeroy prediction: Texas Tech 82 Colorado 68
  • Last 10 prediction: Texas Tech 78 Colorado 72
  • Trendline prediction: Texas Tech 78 Colorado 74

Colorado started out the year disgustingly bad, but they've improved recently to level of "below average" (for a major conference). Maybe that's true, and maybe Texas Tech is maddeningly inconsistent this year. The recent play says this is gonna be a close game. Still, I don't see a Bob Knight-coached team bowing out in the first round of a conference tourney to the worst team in the conference. (Cue someone leaving a comment informing me that this has happened in the recent past.). I say the General shows up and hunts him some Bison. With a chair.

#7 Oklahoma St. vs. #10 Nebraska

IGotNothin

Pornhuskers

  • Previous meeting: Oklahoma St 73 @ Nebraska 85
  • Pomeroy prediction: Oklahoma St 68 Nebraska 64
  • Last 10 prediction: Nebraska 62 Oklahoma St 62 ... tossup
  • Trendline prediction: Oklahoma St 69 Nebraska 68

Couldn't get enough of Monday's OSU-Nebraska game? You're in luck - they get to play again 3 days later. The Sooners are 16-3 in games played in the state of Oklahoma, and the last game they played in OKC was a 2-OT win over Pitt. I know all the predictions say this will come down to the wire, and they're probably right. But I'm looking for the crowd to get behind O State at the end and help them pull out the win.

#6 Missouri vs. #11 Baylor

Misery

SeattleSupersonics

  • Previous meeting: Baylor 71 @ Missouri 78
  • Pomeroy prediction: Missouri 82 Baylor 75
  • Last 10 prediction: Missouri 84 Baylor 80
  • Trendline prediction: Baylor 91 Missouri 85

Here's the first round match up for those of you who enjoy watching the NBA All-Star game. No, not the "star-filled and skillful" part. The "fast pace and no defense" part. Here's my angle. Neither team defends the 3-pt line well. On offense, Baylor shoots a lot of them (3's) but makes them at an average rate, while Missouri shoots them well but doesn't shoot that many of them. I think they'll both shoot quite a few in this game, and whoever shoots them better walks away the winner. But I have no idea what I'm talking about.

And The Other Graphs

(Those Lazy Teams That Don't Play Thursday)

TheGoodGuys

BreakinTheLaw

KevinDurant

Mildcats

I feel bad, I haven't really said anything about Kansas State. There, now I have.

Efficiency Preview: Texas at Kansas

Click here for the preview that actually gives you some ideas about how this game's going to be played. Read on for the one with pretty graphs and hand waving. Format is the same as last time, so you can skip the next paragraph unless you need a refresher. (And for reference, here is the original post that kind of explains what I'm doing). After the break, for both teams I've included a graph that charts the offensive and defensive ratings for each game of the season. Keep in mind that for the defensive rating, lower is better. For both offense and defense, I've included a trendline showing roughly how each unit has progressed over the year. The dotted line shows the national average efficiency. I've also included the average ratings for their last ten games, to give a snapshot of how the team is playing right now. To give these numbers some context, I show where this would rank in the full-season stats, and what team's full-season rating is the closest.

Texas

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LAST 10 RATING EQUIV RNK EQUIV TEAM
Offense 126.4 1 Georgetown
Defense 95.0 69 Fordham
Pythag .9640 13 Michigan St

I was going to lead off with a comment about how great the Texas offense played against Texas A&M, and that it was the best any offense had done against the Aggies since _______. But _______ turns out to be Baylor, just 4 days earlier, so apparently the A&M D wasn't quite at top form heading into the game. Still, look at that graph. 7 of the past 9 games Texas has had a rating over 125 (better than the year-long efficiency of the #1-rated Hoyas). And they've put some great numbers up against very good defenses. They've played 8 games against Pomeroy's top 30 defenses, and reached 1.09 PPP in 5 of them:

Opponent Adj Def Eff* Texas Game Diff
Michigan St. 85.8 95.5 9.7
Louisiana St. 90.1 98.7 8.6
Arkansas 90.5 120.4 29.9
Oklahoma 88.1 124.9 36.8
Villanova 87.4 95.4 8
Texas A&M 84.0 109.2 25.2
Oklahoma 85.3 112.5 27.2
Texas A&M 86.8 118.5 31.7
AVERAGE 87.7 109.4 22.1
Kansas 79.0 ??? ???

*adjusted for site of game

OK, so you already knew Texas had a good offense. But did you know their defense has been playing a little better recently? Now, "better" is relative - it's not like they've all of a sudden turned into last year's team. But prior to Wednesday, they'd held 5 straight opponents to an eFG% under 50, and forced 5 straight to turn the ball over at an 18% rate (their first and second such streaks this season, respectively). I expect the second streak to continue. Whether the first does will probably determine whether this is a close game or an easy win for Kansas.

Kansas

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LAST 10 RATING EQUIV RNK EQUIV TEAM
Offense 125.3 1 Georgetown
Defense 80.6 2 Kansas
Pythag .9938 1 N Carolina

Scraping out a narrow victory in Norman on senior night against a strong defensive OU team hasn't altered the graph much. The offense is still trending upwards, though not as strongly as before, and the defense is still trending down at the same rate. Take KU's worst offensive game in their last 11, pair it with their worst defensive game in the last 6, and they still should be expected to beat Texas, though it would be close.

One slightly worrisome fact for KU fans is that the team's offensive performance is significantly correlated to their defensive performance, specifically opponent eFG% and OR% (see the bottom of this page). No other KU opponent this year has ranked as high in both eFG% and OR% as Texas. So not only might the Texas offense be a tough test for the Kansas defense, it might also be a tough test for the Kansas offense.

Just a note - the comparison of the offense to Georgetown (for both these teams) is a bit misleading. Sure, they're playing at a level equivalent to GTown's season stats, but the Hoyas are playing even better than that recently. I'd like to get a database up and running that can automatically calculate last-10 ratings for all the teams. But I'd like a free burrito about now, too.

Predictions

As Jacob pointed out, this is a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the country. If both teams are at the top of their game, there will be 3 elite units on the floor - the exception being the Texas defense. But if Texas can shoot and rebound well, the lack of transition opportunities will keep the Kansas offense from performing at it's best, and Texas will be able to stay in the game. I'm gonna say this ends up being Texas's "A" game vs. KU's "A-" game. That should be enough for the Hawks to pull out a single digit home win.

  • My subjective pick ... +7 ... KU 81 UT 74
  • Vegas ... +9.5 ... KU 79 UT 69

Efficiency based:

  • Pomeroy... +13 ... KU 79 UT 67
  • Last 10 ... +16 ... KU 86 UT 70
  • Trendlines ... +12 ... KU 81 UT 69
  • Streaks ... +14 ... KU 81 UT 67

Power ratings:

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