KU’s defense: killing opponents’ numbers

Tough to overanalyze KU’s 81-46 win over Texas Tech on Wednesday night. Spark notes version: KU sucked early, Tech guy with long hair punched Conner Teahan for no reason, Jayhawks responded by pinning the Red Raiders to the mat and type-writing their chests until they yelled “Mercy!”

What is worth overanalyzing is just how dominant the KU defense has become. The Red Raiders are not a very good team. They’re 7-8 overall, 0-3 in the Big 12 and their best win is against Stephen F. Austin at home. But the Red Raiders have been able to keep the games close their first two Big 12 games against Baylor and Oklahoma State, and they’ve been able to shoot the ball pretty well. Billy Gillispie’s teams aren’t that much different than Bill Self’s teams. They typically take good shots, make a high percentage of those shots and play good defense.

Gillispie’s team this season is taking good shots and making a good percentage of them; their problem is they don’t have much talent, they turn it over a lot (25 percent of their possessions) and they don’t really play that great of defense. Tech came into Wednesday’s game shooting 48.4 percent from the field, third in the Big 12, and a 53 effective FG percentage, which was 40th nationally and a pretty high ranking for such a mediocre team.

Self made the point the other day that shooting percentages this time of year are not really accurate because they will ultimately fall during conference play when you play better competition. He said to figure how a team or a player has really done, you should pull their numbers against legitimate competition.

So here are Tech’s shooting numbers against BCS schools (including 2012-13 Big 12 newcomer TCU):

Twos Threes
Depaul 17-42 5-10
Wake Forest 20-43 3-10
TCU 22-36 2-8
Oklahoma St. 14-32 5-16
Baylor 13-32 6-16
Kansas 15-40 1-11

The Red Raiders’ numbers against BCS schools coming into the KU game were not as great, making only 46.5 of their two and 35 percent of their threes. But those are still respectable numbers. The Jayhawks rarely gave Tech a good look at a shot all night, and the numbers indicate as much. And if you take the stretch when KU outscored Tech 52-12, a run ignited by Terran Petteway’s where-did-that-come-from punch, Tech made only 4 of 19 twos and went 0 of 3 from the perimeter.

For the game, the Red Raiders scored 0.75 points per possession, their worst output of the season. The point I’m trying to pound home: that’s not all that unusual against KU’s defense. In fact, Texas Tech is joined in that category by four other KU opponents (South Florida, Ohio State, Howard and Kansas State). Two others had their second-worst points per possession game against KU (UCLA and Florida Atlantic); three others had their third-worst (Kentucky, Duke and USC); and two others had their fourth-worst (Georgetown and Oklahoma). Relative to what they do on the season, the team to have the most success against KU’s defense was Davidson, which scored 1.08 points per trip, the sixth-worst mark for Davidson this year. That was, without a doubt, the Jayhawks’ worst defensive performance and hence the result.

So what’s all this geeky numbers stuff tell us? The Jayhawks, you could say, are your off night. They are really hard to score against and since Davidson, they have not allowed an opponent to score better than a point per possession.

The god of all number’s geeks, Ken Pomeroy, had KU’s defense as the third-best in the country going into Wednesday night and his ratings now rate KU as the second-best team (UPDATED to reflect Wednesday night’s games). Most fans, even KU fans, would have a hard time believing that to be true. But believe it or not, KU’s defense is that good (against everyone, not just crappy Texas Tech) and the offense is good enough to make KU one of the better teams in the country.

About The Author

C.J. Moore is the Lead College Basketball Writer at Bleacher Report. He is a University of Kansas grad and a basketball nerd. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.


  1. Tommy says:

    Don’t look now, but with the games updated through tonight, Pomerey has KU as the second-most efficient team in the nation behind only Ohio State. Wow.

  2. C.J. Moore says:

    Unreal. I thought they might move up to 4th b/c Kentucky barely got past Auburn, but didn’t anticipate 2nd.