Posts Tagged Robinson

Reflections on non-conference play

Posted on: January 2nd, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments
KU players in crimson

Top 5 in minutes through non-conference play

Expectations met

Through 13 non-conference basketball  games, the Jayhawks are 10-3. With the exception of the Davidson loss, I think most would say this team has lived up to expectations. It has two statement wins against top 15 teams in Ohio State and Georgetown. It lost two games to potential #1 tourney seeds in Kentucky and Duke. And for the most part, there are reasons to be optimistic entering Big XII play.

Reasons for optimism

For starters, our power forward might be early favorite to win the 2012 Naismith Award. Robinson has been playing like a star. Not since Wayne Simien has Kansas had a big man that meant more to his team.

While KU’s point guard play has been inconsistent at best, there have been signs of late that Tyshawn Taylor is turning the corner. His overall season numbers have been good — 15 points and 5 assists per game — and he’s played great defense. But from mid-November to mid-December, he was averaging over 6 turnovers a game. The good news is that since the beginning of Christmas break, he has averaged 6 assists and only 2 turnovers. Hopefully this trend can continue.

T-Rob, Taylor, and…

One thing this team has been missing is a consistent third option. For the most part, the “third option” has been somewhat of a group effort. The three guys that have a chance to be a more consistent #3 are Elijah, Conner, and Travis.

Elijah Johnson is averaging 10 points per game, but he has really struggled from 3-point range. Despite shooting 82 three pointers on the season (an average of over 6 a game), he has only made 30% of them.

Conner, on the other hand, is shooting over 40% from 3. While he has shot the ball fairly well from behind the arc, he has been a liability on defense. That said, Self has had to play him with starter’s minutes thus far (4th on the team in minutes) because he has really had no other 3-point threat.

Travis has been phenomenal on defense, but has also struggled to score the basketball at times. He has a great mid-range game, and I’d like to see him use it more. If he starts to get those 10-12 foot jumpers open, I think it will help the entire offense.

From a talent perspective, Elijah makes the most sense as a guy that should be making a bigger impact on the game for this team. He is incredibly athletic, but sometimes I think he forgets it. While Taylor uses his speed and athleticism seemingly every time he touches the ball, Elijah has turned too much into a spot shooter. I’d really like to see him attack the rim more. If he makes a couple easy baskets, perhaps it will help open up better looks from 3-point range as well.

Elijah Johnson taking man off the dribble

Like to see Elijah take his man off the dribble more

How opponents are going to play us

As a team, I’d like to see fewer 3-pointers taken. It is becoming more and more apparent that teams are willing to give us open shots from beyond the arc. They are crowding the paint to try to minimize Robinson’s impact, leaving our guards with a lot of room to operate. Unfortunately, we just have not made a team pay for this yet. As a team, KU is shooting .355 from deep, which ranks in the 120s in the NCAA. If some of those shots start going down, it will sure help free up some space for Robinson as opponents will have to respect the outside shot. Right now, they just don’t.

Improve the offense

This team struggles to score at times. I am sure Self is installing a lot of new plays over winter break to help jumpstart the team from an offensive perspective. Here are a couple of things I would focus on if I were coach:

Instead of settling for every open 3, it would be nice to design some set plays within the confines of the offense that are focused on ball screens and dribble penetration. Taylor is already so good at taking the ball off the dribble, I think the offense needs to start and end with him doing what he does best. I also like the idea of getting both Travis and Elijah a ball screen to let them get to the basket or pull up for that mid-range jumper.

Also, when Withey is playing strong and with a lot of energy, he can be a big part of the offense. He is actually one of the best passers on the team, and when the ball is moving on offense, he can be very useful dropping it to the post or kicking to the wing. He also gives you a few points from the offensive rebound position, which has been a struggle this year.

I would also like to see Kevin Young play a few more minutes per game. His biggest asset to this team is energy, and sometimes it can be contagious. He has shot the ball really well (currently .613 from the field), and what’s more, he’s taken good shots. It would be nice to see his average of 10 minutes per game get closer to 15.

Get that title

The team’s play has not deterred me from maintaining my position that KU will win the Big XII again this year. Likewise, I am not concerned with the hot starts from Baylor and Missouri. Both are very talented teams. But neither have been tested the way KU has so far. I also like our coaching advantage and home court advantage.

Speaking of home court advantage, while many have said KU has had it easy playing in the north division for so long, people fail to mention that those south teams have only had to come to Allen Fieldhouse once every few years. Now they will be forced to play in Allen every year, which should help even out the difficulty of schedule.

I still contend that KU will be a single-digit loss team this year. Barring injury, I think 14 Big XII victories is the worst this team will do.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pumped for Big XII play to begin.  Bring on those wildcats and let’s get this party started.

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.