Editor’s Note: Following post brought to you by Taylor Erickson, new contributor to Jayhawk-Talk. Follow him @tc_erickson and find his work on his blog, Rock Chalk Thoughts. We’re excited for him to join the JHT team and look forward to reading more from him.
Let me begin by saying I’m not a college basketball coach. I have no basketball coaching experience outside of a youth YMCA team. I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I have, however, played quite a bit of basketball in my life, and like probably everyone else reading this post, my mental stability relies heavily on the ability of KU to get their offensive woes straightened out.
This is my attempt to solve KU’s dreadful offense, and offer a solution for how this team can get back on track.
If you’ve read some of my previous ramblings, you know I’ve mentioned several times the correlation between Travis Releford’s point output and our team record. Prior to last Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State, KU was 38-1 when Releford scored in double figures. Against OSU, he scored eight points. Wednesday night in that debacle against TCU, Releford scored one point. Go back to mid-November & December, when we were playing really well. During that nine game stretch beginning with Washington State at the Sprint Center, and ending with the game against American U on December 29th, Releford averaged 15.7 points per game. KU’s average margin of victory during that stretch was 22.6 points. During conference play, Releford has averaged 10.2 points per game, while our margin of victory has dropped to 6.0 points per game. Obviously the level of competition has increased significantly during conference play, but there were difficult games during that November-December stretch, and the Big 12 isn’t exactly filled with good teams. Colorado could beat several teams in the Big 12, Belmont is probably a tournament team (more than what TCU and Texas Tech can say), and that win at Ohio State continues to look better and better.
I put together the chart below to show Releford’s average points in relation to our average margin of victory throughout the course of the season. I separated the season into three segments based on Releford’s point totals: 0-10 points scored, 10-15 points scored, and 15+ points scored.
From the graph you can see as Releford’s point production increases, our margin of victory increases accordingly. Common sense says that conclusion is obvious. If we’re routing a team, everyone is going to score more. I agree completely, however, I think there’s a different conclusion to be drawn. When Releford is scoring at a higher rate, most of his points come in transition where he excels at finishing plays. He doesn’t key our offense by knocking down a ton of jumpers in a half court game. Against TCU Wednesday night, KU had zero points in transition.
I find myself thinking back to December when we were a dominant basketball team, trying to figure out what we were doing then that seems to be lacking now. This is the best explanation I can come up with, and one I truly believe has a big influence on our success moving forward. There’s no better way to boost the confidence of this team than easy buckets and few dunks, and it’s apparent this team is struggling for confidence right now.
Listening to national media this week, you would think we’ve lost five or six games in a row. I’ll be the first to admit, I was awfully down on this team Wednesday night. It felt like the sky was falling in Lawrence, and we were doomed for the remainder of the season. I’d love to see us get out and run on Saturday, and get back to how we know we can play. If we take care of business in Norman, and smack K-State on Monday, ESPN will be preparing a segment for Gameday in a little over a week explaining how the TCU loss was a turning point in our season. I’m looking forward to that.
Here’s to hoping for a great game tomorrow to get us back on track.
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