Robinson vs. Sullinger

Posted on: December 10th, 2011 by jayhawktalk No Comments

The following post is brought to you by @HailToOldKU, a guest blogger to Jayhawk-Talk. Follow him on twitter for more great KU basketball and football content.

The highlight of Saturday’s Ohio State-Kansas matchup – for me even beyond the fact that the No. 2 team is coming into the Fieldhouse in non-con in December – is that we’ll get to watch Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger go at it. Sullinger was upgraded to probable Friday, so all the reports that he was possibly going to miss time are now rendered irrelevant. It would’ve been tough to believe anyways, since you can be sure that Robinson and Sullinger both, for all the one-game-at-a-time clichés they’ll spit out in a press room, have been looking forward to this date.

These are, in my mind, the two best post players in America. Robinson has blown away pretty much all expectations in the early going, putting up 17.4 points and pulling down 12 rebounds per, and doing it – maybe most impressively – at a ridiculously efficient rate. He’s got an offensive rating of 110.8 for the year, which is actually better than what he posted last year playing less than half the minutes. So much for concerns of whether he could handle a higher workload. He’s a top-5 pick in the draft right now. ESPN’s Chad Ford has said he could, if he keeps going big the rest of the year, slip into the No. 1 spot if no one else blows them away.

All those nice things said, though, and he’s still got the biggest test of his career Saturday. Sullinger is a beast, a freak, a monster, a whatever-adjective-you-like-to-describe-a-player-that-is-super-human. While Robinson has exceeded expectations to post his numbers, Sullinger is putting up 19.1 points per (while using fewer possessions) and hauling down a little more than 10 rebounds. The matchup, on paper, is pretty even, with maybe a slight nod to Sullinger because of his insane 130.5 offensive rating.

Along with the similar bodies of work, they’ve got one elite opponent in common, Duke’s Mason Plumlee. I had a little time today, so I put together this simple table, comparing the stats of Robinson, Plumlee and Sullinger from their head-to-head meetings. Obviously, Saturday hasn’t happened yet.


Thomas Robinson

Mason Plumlee

Jared Sullinger

11/23 v Duke 12/10 v OSU 11/23 v KU 11/29 @ OSU 11/29 v Duke 12/10 v KU












FG %






Off Rtg




































A quick briefing on the advanced stats I used:

  • Offensive Rating is the points per possession a player scores multiplied by 100. So Robinson, against Duke, scored 1.088 PPP, which is very good. As a ballpark figure 95 is about average, 100 is pretty good, and if you get above 105-107, you’re doing well. Sullinger’s 130 is just stupid good.
  • Offensive Rebound Percentage is simple. How many of the available offensive rebounds does he get when he’s on the floor.
  • Defensive Rebound Percentage: take Oreb and make it defensive boards.
  • Usage percentage is a really interesting stat to me. It measures, basically, how many of a teams possessions end in that players hands, be it a turnover or a shot, and gives credit back for offensive boards, which adds a possession.

For reference’s sake, Plumlee’s season numbers are significantly lower than Sullinger and Robinson’s. Plumlee averages 12 points and a shade under 10 rebounds, but he also uses significantly fewer possessions in Duke’s guard-heavy offense.

From the basic stats in that table, we don’t really glean anything that we can’t from the season figures. Robinson, of the three, is the best on the glass. Sullinger is the best offensive threat. That has played out so far.

The most notable statistic in the chart is Plumlee’s Offensive Rating against Ohio State. There’s a few factors that I’d bet played into that. First and foremost, Ohio State’s a better team than Duke. That much was obvious when they played. When you get your ass kicked like that, it’s just about impossible to put up great numbers. Second, Duke was six days off playing Kansas, and Plumlee had had a war with Robinson in the paint in that game, and had played two games in the two days before it as well. He probably wasn’t on the freshest of legs, even with almost a full week lay-off. Third, Sullinger’s style of play would, and did, abuse a guy like Plumlee, who’s more of a finesse post then either Robinson or Sullinger. Sullinger is built more like an offensive lineman than a basketball player, and despite losing some 20 pounds in the offseason, he’s still got another 25 on Plumlee and Robinson, who both weigh in at about 235. Playing against a load like that will beat you down, and it obviously did to Plumlee.

But there’s reason for encouragement, despite Sullinger beating up on Plumlee, whereas Plumlee and Robinson were pretty square. First, Robinson is stronger than Plumlee. You don’t need much more than the eye-test for this one. Are Robinson’s shoulders roughly the size of a 16-pound bowling ball?* Yes! He’s stronger than most, then. Also, most importantly, when Robinson and Sullinger squared off at summer camps, according to the people who were there, Robinson was as good or better.

*Pos-terisk! Yes, I know all bowling balls are the same size, but I felt like 16-pound made a better qualifier than the 8- or 9-pound balls that are always really embarrassing colors for cosmic bowling.

Here’s the rub, though. Even if Robinson wins the battle in the paint, say he holds Sullinger to 12 points and 8 rebounds with the help of WITHEY!!! That still doesn’t mean Kansas is going to win the game. Ohio State has the better supporting cast. It starts with Robinson winning inside, which is entirely possible, especially with Sullinger’s lingering back issues.

Bottom line: If I had to bet, it’s not on Kansas, not with the way Ohio State dismantled Duke. But if Robinson can eliminate the advantage Sullinger gives the Buckeyes, that’s a hell of a start.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply