Jekyll or Hyde? Jayhawks have bipolar performances
On paper, it's a close call between Kansas and Memphis as to which team has the best overall balance and roster depth in this Final Four. KU was third overall in adjusted defensive efficiency and second in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Jayhawks, though, have more variance in their performances than similarly potent Memphis or North Carolina. The Jayhawks didn't have a game against an RPI Top 50 team this season in which they scored between 1.10 and 1.20 points per possession, and had only one in which they allowed between 0.95 and 1.10 points per possession. That's extremely odd for such an elite team to have such bipolar performance groupings.
What we learned from games against comparable foes
When Kansas is at its offensive best, very few teams in the nation are equipped to slow the Jayhawks down. They blistered quality defensive teams like Texas A&M and Oklahoma and have the capability to hang huge numbers on just about anyone. Six times in their 12 games against Top 50 foes, they scored at least 1.20 points per possession. Given that potential, it's a bit surprising to see how often Kansas hits an offensive lull. In their other six games in that category, the Jayhawks didn't even reach the 1.10 PPP plateau.
It's the same thing defensively. Early in the season, KU limited explosive offensive teams Arizona and USC to mere crumbs and did a great job defending Davidson in the Elite Eight. Then you look at the rest of the season and realize that the Jayhawks' defense has been touched up for at least 1.10 PPP five times (Texas twice, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M) in its past nine games against Top 50 foes. Texas comes close to North Carolina's offensive proficiency, but the other three don't, which is a concern.
Kansas' Big Picture
|Tempo||Offense PPP||Defense PPP|
|vs. RPI Top 50 Average||66.3||1.14||1.01|
|vs. RPI Top 50 Median||65.0||1.16||0.98|
A lot of the talk entering this game is about North Carolina's defense being the clearest weak spot between the two teams, but the Tar Heels have been defending much better in the second half of the season. If you believe the above data, it's more or less a coin flip which Kansas team will show up on both ends of the floor.
What we learned from losses/close calls
There was little statistical similarity between KU's three losses, but all three came on the road. In the first two (K-State and Texas), the Jayhawks ran into extremely good offensive performances, and the one at Oklahoma State was just a surprisingly poor offensive showing for KU. Generally speaking, when KU has been in a close game, it's usually its offense that has underperformed. Only in the two Big 12 tournament games against Texas A&M and Texas did KU end up in a shootout. The Jayhawks could be in store for one on Saturday, though, so it will be interesting to see how they respond, especially if they get down early.
The one stat that stands out is that Kansas shot a combined 12-for-45 from the 3-point range in its three losses. The Jayhawks aren't heavily dependent on the 3-pointer, as they showed by hanging 100 points on Baylor without any 3s and ending the season 284th in the country in the percentage of total shots taken from behind the arc. For a team that shoots 40.1 percent from that distance, though, that was unusually bad marksmanship.
Trends to note
• The past three national champs were first or second in adjusted offensive efficiency (like KU) and three of the past four were in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency (also like KU).
• While Kansas doesn't take a lot of 3s, its opponents sure do. KU foes took 38.5 percent of their shots from behind the arc this season (the 51st highest rate in Div. I). Wayne Ellington is loosening up his shooting arm.
Kansas at its best is probably better than North Carolina at its best, but it's anyone's guess whether KU will bring its A-game on Saturday. Will the release of pressure that comes with finally getting to a Final Four allow Bill Self and his players to coach/play more freely than the Davidson game? With Ty Lawson back healthy, Carolina's offense is back up to full throttle, and KU has had enough issues recently stopping good teams that Jayhawks fans should be concerned about their defense in this game. That could leave the onus on the KU offense to win a more high-scoring game. Carolina has been hurt most often this season by teams with balanced scoring and strong frontcourt contributions. The Jayhawks certainly have enough weapons to do that, but you have to believe Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson need to provide more scoring from the frontcourt while they (and others) take turns trying to limit Tyler Hansbrough.
[Editor's note: Season stats and rankings courtesy of kenpom.com]
Andy Glockner is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's college basketball coverage and is the host of the ESPNU College Basketball Insider podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NCAA Tournament 2008
Get caught up with all the news, notes, insights and analysis from the 2008 NCAA tournament.
Bracket• Updated Bracket | Tourney Challenge
Championship Analysis• Forde: Chalmers fulfills promise
• Wojciechowski: Self's big-bucks decision on OSU
• Katz: Memphis pays for free throws
• O'Neil: Collins makes heroics possible
• ATR: Quite a collection of talent in title game
Final Four Analysis• Experts: Who has the edge in the title game?
• Forde: Self on a wild ride, and it's just starting
• Wojciechowski: A quieter Joey Dorsey reflects
• Griffin: Rush thrives after knee injury
• O'Neil: CDR, Rose fuel Tigers' machine
• Katz: Calipari has chance for vindication
• Wojciechowski: Final Four duds
• ATR: End of the road for Love, Hansbrough?
• Forde: Good Kansas throttles UNC
• Katz: Williams takes blame for stunning UNC loss
• O'Neil: Rose leads Memphis to title game
• Wojciechowski: Power-packed Final Four
• Forde: One-and-dones hardly an academic issue
• O'Neil: Not Memphis vs. the world? Yeah, right
• Katz: KU ready for Arthur's breakout game
• Low: Don't forget about UNC's "other" guys
• Griffin: UCLA needs Shipp to shoot straight
• Forde: Williams torn between KU and UNC
• Expert picks: Who wins it all?
• Gottlieb: Rose vs. Collison matchup pivotal
• Fraschilla: Breaking down Kansas-UNC
• Glockner: Which Kansas team shows up?
• Griffin: Calipari battles for repsect
• Glockner: Memphis can win slowdown games, too
• Schlabach: Recent Final Four flameouts
• O'Neil: Collison a key point for the Bruins
• Glockner: Can UCLA's offense be more efficient?
• Katz: Lawson's injury may have helped UNC
• Glockner: Can UNC's defense hold up?
• Forde: Power prevails as Elite becomes Four
• Bilas: Tourney has "Wowed" so far
• Katz: Four unique stories shape Final Four
Video• Bill Self among KU coaching greats
• Kansas on being national champions
• Calipari: Costly mistakes down the stretch
• Chris Douglas-Roberts on Memphis' loss
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• Memphis gearing up to face Kansas
• Memphis, KU to meet for title
• Analysis: Kansas' win over North Carolina
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• All the coaches talk Final Four
• Davidson's McKillop previews Final Four
• Who Are These Guys: Memphis
• Final Four Sitdown: Roy Williams
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• Katz: Small window for UCLA, Memphis
• Vitale: Previews Final Four matchups
• Bilas: Likes the look of the Final Four
• Gottlieb: All No. 1 seeds reach Final Four
Audio• Bill Self on the title and Oklahoma State
• Podcast: Gottlieb on Kansas' national title
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• Roy Williams on Final Four return
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NC State's 25th anniversary• Dinich: From star to one minute in title game
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More• Rank the last 10 national champions
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