How Good Are the Jayhawks?


That's what KU will be after this afternoon's game with Colorado.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Yet you hear the murmurs: What's wrong with the Jayhawks? Why don't they give more effort? Why are they not focused? Why so many silly turnovers? So many stupid shots? How could they lose to a dental school? A mediocre De Paul team? Texas Tech? Why was it so hard to put away Detroit? Toledo? Iowa State? Mizzou?

And the counter-rumblings: Just shut up! We're 18-3. Mid-majors aren't mid-majors anymore. Everyone has bad nights. Conference games on the road are hard. Why can't you be happy with a win? Why isn't 18-3 good enough? Even our former coach had bad losses, and here's a list of them. . .

Always the kicker: We are 18-3. (Or 6-1, or 16-2, whatever the record du jour is.)

And 18-3 is pretty good. 18-3 is the mark of an elite team-right?

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on whether you are satisfied with an 85.7% winning percentage in a vacuum or prefer to place it in a meaningful context.

The context I look at-for all teams, not just KU-is the team's REAL Record, which is based on the following premises:

1. Throw out all Home W's. You don't win championships on your home court. Championships are won by teams that can win on the road and on neutral courts. A good team should win virtually all of its home games vs. even the best opponents. No Home W means anything. So out the window goes the win over Boston College. Out the window goes the 30 point win over Okie State. (Likewise, out the window goes Florida's 26 point rout of Ohio St, UNC's 10 point win over Ohio St, Wisconsin's 3 point win over Ohio St, Okie St's triple OT victory over UT, Oregon's victory over UCLA, etc.).

Throw out KU's 12 Home W's, and the Jayhawks' record is 6-3.

2. Throw out all victories over non-competitive teams. This is more subjective, but does anyone REALly want to argue that Northern Arizona, Towson, Tennessee St, Ball St, Dartmouth, Toledo, Winston-Salem, Detroit, and Rhode Island should be any more than glorified exhibition games for a team seeking a major conference championship and the right to be playing in late March and early April?

Seven of these games were already thrown out because they were played in Allen Fieldhouse (i.e., Northern Arizona, Towson, Tennessee St, Dartmouth, Winston-Salem, Detroit, and Rhode Island).

Throw out Ball St (neutral court in Las Vegas) and Toledo (pseudo-home court in K,C,), and the Jayhawks REAL record is 4-3.

This leaves us with seven games to examine. Let's do the fun part first and look at the victories.

No. 1 on the list, of course, is No. 1. The Jayhawks defeated the defending national champion and current No. 1 ranked team, Florida, on a neutral court in Nevada. As a result, KU owns the best win of the season. No one else has beaten a team of Florida's quality away from home. Second best is probably Gonzaga's triumph over UNC in Madison Square Garden.

KU's other REAL victories are at South Carolina, at Iowa St, and at Baylor. Not exactly Murderer's Row. Although the Hawks' 16 point victory over South Carolina looked impressive at the time, the Gamecocks have since lost at home by 34 to Florida and 38 to Kentucky. Although the Iowa St victory in OT, while ugly, looked solid at the time, the Cyclones have since lost to Colorado (yes, it was on the road-but we're talking Colorado for god's sake) and at home to k-state. And Baylor, while improved (they own a home victory over Texas Tech) is not by any means an upper crust team.

As for the three losses, the first, of course, is to Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles are looking good at 6-0 in their conference. They are a good mid-major (and yes, that is still an apt term, because they cannot and will not ever recruit major talent). They will likely make the NCAA tournament. But KU let them walk out of Allen Freeakin' Fieldhouse with a victory. This is the yin to the Florida yang. Just as the Jayhawks own the best win of the season, they also own the worst loss.

De Paul is 12-9 overall, 3-4 in the Big East. No shame in losing to a decent major conference team on the road-other than that blowing a 14 point lead in a game in which De Paul stunk up the place for 30 minutes thing. But no glory either.

And Tech is 4-1 in the Big 12, with a home win over A&M. And while Bobby Knight has been accused o many things, not being able to coach isn't one of them. Again, no shame in losing to this team on the road. However, again, no glory either.

So how good are the Jayhawks?

Good enough to beat anyone (see Florida). Vulnerable enough to lose to almost anyone they might encounter in March Madness (see ORU).

They are 3-2 in REAL road games, with the 3 wins coming against mediocre teams, and the two losses against good, but certainly not great teams. Tech is probably in the NCAA tourney, and De Paul could make a run at it. Neither is a threat to make the Final Four.

Overall, not an impressive resume. Nothing to suggest that they should be favored to win the national championship or even make the final weekend of the college basketball season..

But that one win makes their resume impressive enough to include them among the short list of teams that have a legitimate chance to be playing in Atlanta in April.

(Note: In the next few days, I will run a similar assessment of the REAL Records of other top teams, so we can place KU's REAL Record in some sort of context.)