March Madness: The Numbers Behind Kansas' Dominance
Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks were probably generating the smallest amount of buzz among the 1 seeds. Everyone talked about North Carolina as the favorite, Villanova as the returning champion, and Gonzaga as the underdog and advanced metrics darling.
Where did that leave Kansas? Well, it seems like that left them as the sleeping giant.
Led by head coach Bill Self and senior guard Frank Mason III, Kansas is a highly-skilled and experienced NCAA Tournament squad, but I guess we took that for granted...until now.
Through three rounds, the Jayhawks are 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 30.3 points. Their defense has held opposing teams to 65.7 points per game on just 40% shooting, but it has been Kansas' elite offense that has them rising up oddsmakers' boards.
In their three blowout wins, coach Self's kids have posted an average of 96 points per game and an offensive rating of 132.6 points produced per 100 possessions. They have secured 9.3 offensive boards per game while dishing out 16.3 assists, which have led to some lights out shooting.
In each of their three contests, the Jayhawks have converted at a rate of at least 40% from three for an effective field goal percentage of at least 59.4% and a true shooting percentage of 63.3% or higher. Here's how it's shaken out in each individual round.
Quite a few of those came courtesy of the magnificent trio of Mason, Devonte' Graham and Josh Jackson.
The Big Three
In Kansas' overpowering Sweet 16 performance, their three leading scorers combined for 67 (68.4%) of their team's 98 points on 56.4% shooting from the floor. All total, they connected on 11 three-pointers, which led to a 57.9% success rate from beyond the arc. That's an effective field goal percentage of 70.5% for this trio in this game. As a team, Kansas shot to a 66.9% effective field goal rate.
The play of Mason, Graham and Jackson has been the giant difference between the Jayhawks and their competition thus far. And if their impact wasn't already evident enough, their individual nERD (our metric that provides us with the sum of a player's overall contributions for a game, based on efficiency) scores make it crystal clear.
As the graph illustrates, not one of the three have dipped below a 16.61 nERD (Jackson) in any one contest so far this tournament. That tells us they've been consistent in providing substantial positive gains to their team's efforts.
While Jackson has seen a decline from the beginning of the tournament when he posted a nERD of 39.4, Graham has been the steadiest hand. He's produced a nERD of 37.48 or more in each game and has had two performances at 45 or more.
Mason, the senior point guard, started out big, then had a sub-awesome game against Michigan State, but a guy like him always turns it around, and that's what he did against the Boilermakers. He dropped 26 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists all for a nERD of 67.52 -- the highest score of the three KU standouts.
So, it's pretty clear the Jayhawks' play has demanded -- and now will receive -- our full attention moving forward. It's impossible to ignore this kind of utter dominance.