This week’s Power Rankings post is my 13th edition of the season. Last week, for the first time this season, I took a look at conference-only efficiency data, without any of the adjustments for competition or outside influences. It’s just the raw data. Let’s do that again this week.
How about 6-7 Baylor having a better efficiency margin than 9-4 Kansas? That speaks to the extreme competition within this conference. On any given night, any team can compete and defeat any other team. That’s how you get 4-9 Iowa State beating 10-3 Texas Tech and 8-5 West Virginia. I know people might get a little tired of the “this league has no nights off and is the deepest conference I’ve ever seen” talk, but when it’s true, it’s true.
Let’s get into the rankings. Included this week: Texas Tech’s motion offense, Bill Self loves his lobs, West Virginia’s declining defense, Dylan Osetkowski’s hair (we need to talk about it), and more!
All of my previous Power Rankings posts, as well as the season previews I wrote, can be found at this link. For any newcomers, below is a blurb I wrote in my first Power Rankings post this season. (If you’ve been here before, go ahead and skip ahead to the good stuff.) The below inset is what I’ve decided is essentially my mission statement for this weekly article. Give it a read if you’re new.
“Two of my favorite basketball writers on the Internet are Zach Lowe and Luke Winn. I guess I should say “were” for one of those guys as Luke Winn was hired by the Toronto Raptors (!) in the summer of 2017 as Director of Prospect Strategy. Lowe covers the NBA and Winn did cover college basketball for Sports Illustrated. The best part about reading these guys is that you learn something new about basketball, whether it’s a team or a player, every time that you read their stuff. They inform you in intelligent ways without relying on the standard hot take-isms or journalistic tropes. They notice things about teams or players while watching games and then show it to their readers, whether through game clips or data-based analysis, and they do it in a way that is digestible and thought-provoking.
I do not have the talent that these two guys have, but my goal is to provide you with a similar look at the Big 12 every week with my weekly Big 12 Power Rankings post. I will rank the teams 1 through 10, but that’s not really what matters here (but feel free to let me know if your team should obviously be ranked 5th instead of 6th). What I want to provide are statistics, analysis, game clips, or just random observations that I’ve made that help you to learn more about a team or a player on that team. And sometimes, I just might include a funny anecdote or item about a team if there’s a slow week. Some weeks, I’ll write more about some teams than other teams. The bigger the game or a week a school has, the more likely I am to go a little deeper on them. Everyone will get their fair share in the end. Just like Lowe and Winn, I want to inform you and give you thought-provoking and compelling analysis on the Big 12 that you’re not getting anywhere else on the Internet. Alright, let’s jump in.”
Alright, let’s dive in. As per usual, here’s a breakdown on the key Kenpom statistics and metrics that will be shown for each team every week. These will always be shown right below the header for each team. Ken Pomeroy’s blog post explaining these metrics can be read here.
• Ranking and AdjEM: The ranking signifies where a team ranks nationally in Kenpom’s AdjEM. AdjEM is Adjusted Efficiency Margin; it is the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency. The margin is “adjusted” to account for strength of competition, expected outcome, and recency. The idea of “adjusted” is explained in much clearer detail by Pomeroy here.
• Adj. Offense: Also known as Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. Adj. Offense is shown on a per 100 possessions basis, so a rating of 112.3 would represent 112.3 points scored per 100 possessions. This will include the team’s adjusted efficiency number, their rank nationally, and their rank in the Big 12.
• Adj. Defense: Also known as Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. This works the same as Adj. Offense, but is for a team’s defensive efficiency. Adj. Defense is shown on a per 100 possessions basis, so a rating of 98.7 would represent 98.7 points allowed per 100 possessions. This will include the team’s adjusted efficiency number, their rank nationally, and their rank in the Big 12.
• Adj. Tempo: This shows the number of possessions per 40 minutes. A data point of 71.8 would mean this team plays 71.8 possessions per 40 minutes. This will always include the team’s adjusted tempo, their rank nationally, and their rank in the Big 12.
All statistics used in this post are from Kenpom, Synergy Sports, College Basketball Reference, Hoop-Math, or T-Rank. Kenpom ratings and efficiency numbers are always changing; the numbers this week are as up to date as 8:30 AM CST on Friday, February 9.
1. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Last Week: 2nd)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 22-4, 10-3
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 7th, +24.32
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 112.7, 60th, 7th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 88.4, 3rd, 1st
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 67.7, 221st, 7th
Texas Tech’s offense isn’t great, but it is effective at scoring enough considering their outstanding defense. This isn’t a situation like Texas, where the offense is outside of the top-100 despite a top-10 defense. Texas Tech’s defense is 3rd in the nation per Kenpom, and their offense is currently a respectable 60th. Chris Beard’s team runs a heavy motion offense. I have not yet shown any video clips of Texas Tech’s of that motion offense. Let’s change that this week.
When you watch Texas Tech conduct their motion offense, always keep an eye on the nail and the elbows in the free throw area. This is where all the action occurs. Texas Tech sets most of their screens there, resulting in flares, slips to the basket, and curl cuts. It’s the hub that makes everything work.
On this possession, Niem Stevenson runs off a backpick set by Zhaire Smith at the nail. The Kansas State defense is just lackadaisical enough and doesn’t stay attached to Stevenson. Tommy Hamilton is able to thread a nice pass into Stevenson for an easy layup.
In this clip, keep an eye on Tommy Hamilton (#0 in red). Hamilton’s man (Makol Mawien) is completely lost this entire possession trying to keep up with the movement of the Red Raider motion offense. When a screen is set on on Mawien at the 0:10 point of this clip, Hamilton is open and could shoot a 3. He’s patient, though, and reverses the ball to keep the defense moving. When Hamilton sets a screen at the 0:13 mark, Mawien assumes that Kamau Stokes has switched onto him. Mawien is now basically guarding no one. When the ball is swung back to Hamilton at the top of the key, Mawien has no chance of recovering in time.
The motion and constant movement of Texas Tech players often forces the opposition to switch, and when college defenders aren’t using to switching, they will undoubtedly mess up those switches. Those switches cause confusion and miscommunication. Those errors result in open looks for the Red Raiders, which they take advantage of frequently.
On this possession, you see the most common result out of all the screening at the nail — a perfectly executed slip to the basket. Keenan Evans slips toward the hoop after setting his screen, and because Kansas State switched on that screen, Xavier Sneed, who switched onto Evans, is now on the wrong side of his man. Evans has Sneed on his hip, which means an easy cut and pass for the Texas Tech offense.
On this final possession, you see what happens when nothing easy occurs out of the motion offense — Texas Tech turns to their security blanket, Keenan Evans. He’s the one guy on the team who can consistently go and get his own shot. That’s a tremendous resource to have when you need a bucket. K-State does a good job defending and mucking up most of the action for the first portion of this possession. It didn’t really matter in the end when Evans is able to just go get his.
Texas Tech’s offense will not wow you (although Keenan Evans will). The motion offense is effective, though, and it is one of the few traditional motion offenses like this in college basketball. When you watch Texas Tech, it’s easy to marvel at their defense or the athleticism of Zhaire Smith or the court command of Keenan Evans. But when the offense is in their halfcourt action, keep an eye on the nail. It’s the nucleus of their offensive attack.
Coming Up: 2/17 at Baylor, 2/21 at Oklahoma State
2. Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: 1st)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 20-6, 9-4
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 14th, +21.38
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 118.1, 16th, 3rd
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 96.8, 29th, 5th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 69.6, 108th, 3rd
After Kansas’ win at Iowa State on Tuesday, Bill Self had the following quote in the postgame presser:
“Lobs look like they’re really fancy and hard plays,” Self said. “It’s probably the easiest pass a human being can make because you can throw it anywhere, and if a guy is big and athletic, he can go catch it. And all you need is just a little space to be open. We haven’t done a good job of throwing it, but we did tonight. That’s an effective offensive play for us and I think a lot of teams. If you have a guy as big as Dok who can jump, he’s such a big target to see. You just have to kind of throw it up there.”
No team in the Big 12 throws lobs as effectively as Kansas. Whether it’s an ATO (after timeout) set drawn up by Self to deliver a backdoor lob to Lagerald Vick or a ballscreen action that results in a lob to a rolling Azubuike, Kansas consistently finds easy points by throwing the ball to the rim.
In their win over Iowa State, Kansas had three big buckets by throwing the ball to Azubuike at the rim. Two of them (shown below) came out of a designed set to find Azubuike on a lob pass. When you watch these two possessions, it’s another reminder of how frequently Bill Self’s designed plays get Kansas easy baskets. The guy is an offensive genius, and it’s no surprise that there are offseason rumors every year of NBA teams being interested in him.
On this next play, the set is not designed specifically for Azubuike to get a lob pass; it’s an action for Svi and Azubuike to enter into a two-man game on the wing. Nonetheless, Svi makes the proper read and finds Azubuike at the rim.
This is what Self was referencing when he said, “If you have a guy as big as Dok who can jump, he’s such a big target to see. You just have to kind of throw it up there.” Sometimes, we make basketball more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. Azubuike is a large man. Azubuike can jump very high. You know what makes sense? Just throwing it up there to Azubuike and letting him do the rest. Making offensive basketball easy for your players is a sign of good offensive coach.
Kansas ranks in the 95th percentile in PPP in ATO situations, averaging 1.03 PPP in ATOs, per Synergy Sports. In play types defined as “Cuts” or “P&R Roll Man” by Synergy Sports, Kansas averages 1.31 PPP and 1.32 PPP respectively. Those two play types are the ones that are most likely to result in lobs of all play types on Synergy Sports. Nationally, Kansas ranks in the 94th percentile on “Cuts” and in the 97th percentile on “P&R Roll Man” situations, per Synergy Sports. There’s a reason Self wants his guys to just throw it up there — it works.
Coming Up: 2/17 vs. West Virginia, 2/19 vs. Oklahoma
3. West Virginia Mountaineers (Last Week: 2nd)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 19-7, 8-5
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 13th, +21.39
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 116.9, 21st, 4th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 96.4, 25th, 4th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 70.3, 83rd, 2nd
West Virginia’s Adjusted Defense has now dipped to 25th nationally (4th in the Big 12). In the last two seasons, West Virginia has ranked 4th and 6th nationally in Kenpom’s Adjusted Defense metric. This is pretty clearly the worst defense Bob Huggins has had since the switch to the Press Virginia ideology in 2015. That team ranked 29th in Adjusted Defense, but allowed just 94.9 adjusted points per 100 possessions, compared to the 96.4 adjusted points per 100 possessions allowed this season.
To put their decline into perspective, here’s a simple table showing the percent of games in which West Virginia has allowed their Big 12 opponents to score more than 1.00 PPP. The decline from 2016 to 2018 is clear, as is the similarity to the inaugural year of Press Virginia.
Too often this season, West Virginia has allowed straight line drives by their opponents. It’s almost as if Mountaineer perimeter defenders know that Sagaba Konate is waiting behind them to clean up their mistakes. The only problem is that Konate can’t block EVERY shot. This possession against Oklahoma State is a perfect example. Cam McGriff breaks the West Virginia pressure easily, and once Lamont West recovers to guard him in the halfcourt, he’s positioned defensively in a way that allows McGriff to continue his dribble directly toward the hoop.
West Virginia also has brain lapses in recognizing shooters. This WV team is allowing opponents to shoot 3-pointers 38% of the time, the highest percentage of any Press Virginia season. Take a look at these two possessions featuring poor 3-point defense.
In the first clip, Daxter Miles goes under a ballscreen action involving Jeffrey Carroll. That is something you simply cannot do. Carroll is known for his 3-point ability, and he’s been in the league for four seasons. His skill from beyond the arc isn’t a surprise. This is just a mental defensive lapse that you can’t have.
On this possession, West Virginia allows a simple post-entry and screen-and-switch positions manuever on the perimeter completely flummox them. Bolden is originally guarding Kendall Smith near the top of the key. When Thomas Dziagwa comes to screen Bolden after entering the ball into the post, Bolden assumes Daxter Miles will switch onto Smith. You can see Bolden give a little point before realizing it’s too late and Miles isn’t executing the switch. Whether they are supposed to switch here or not isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that two experienced guards can somehow completely bungle this easy of an action this much. It’s incredibly surprising for a Huggins-coached team.
This last possession is another example similar to the first one I highlighted — a straight-line drive to the rim that was far too easy for the opponent. I know Carter gets screened here, but he gets screened 30 feet from the basket. He should be able to recover to Kendall Smith much better than he does. Daxter Miles, who’s defending the right wing, should also step in and provide more help than the slight feign he performs on this possession.
West Virginia’s defense is still good; that’s inarguable. Still, their performance on that end has clearly dipped from the previous two seasons. And when you struggle offensively like they do sometimes, you’d like to be able to rely on your defense. If you think I’m being too harsh on the Mountaineers, take Bob Huggins’ word for it. Here is what Huggy Bear said after West Virginia’s loss at Iowa State.
“These guys have single-handedly destroyed Press Virginia,” Head Coach Bob Huggins said of his team after the game. “We can’t guard anybody. This is as bad of a transition defense as I’ve ever had,” said Huggins. “…We don’t guard. We don’t have any pride in guarding. I’ve never coached guys like that. People score and we don’t even act like (we’re upset). At least act like you’re mad. Act like it bothers you.”
Huggins and I agree that they’ve got to clean things up defensively if they want to contend come March.
Coming Up: 2/17 at Kansas, 2/20 at Baylor
4. TCU Horned Frogs (Last Week: 5th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 17-9, 5-8
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 25th, +18.06
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 121.4, 4th, 1st
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 103.3, 132nd, 9th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 68.8, 154th, 6th
I haven’t written much about Vladimir Brodziansky during his senior season. That’s been a misstep by yours truly. Brodziansky continues to be an incredibly effective and efficient offensive player. He’s somehow improved from his junior season, where he was already terrific on offense.
Brodziansky has improved in the following statistics from his junior season:
- Offensive Rating from 123.4 to 127.9
- Free Throw % from 78% to 81%
- 2-Point FG% from 58% to 64%
- Made 3-pointers from 11 all of last season to 20 at this point of this season
- eFG% from 58% to 61%
- Assist rate from 5.7% to 7.8%
In Big 12 play, he has the highest Offensive Rating of any player at 127.3. His senior season has been a total success and improvement. There’s a very real chance he could be 1st Team All-Big 12. Right now, I think Trae Young, Keenan Evans, Devonte’ Graham, and Jevon Carter are all locks. The final spot is up for grabs, with Brodziansky, Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Mo Bamba, and Manu Lecomte all in contention.
There’s no more automatic shot in Big 12 play than Brodziansky’s right-handed hook over his left shoulder. He goes to it often, including from surprisingly long distances at times. Most hook shots are only reliable out to 8 feet or so. Brodziansky will push it out to 10-12 feet and still be effective.
Of Big 12 players with 50 post-ups on the season (about 2 per game at this point), Brodziansky ranks 4th in the Big 12 in PPP, averaging 1.1 PPP. At this point, he only trails Mitchell Solomon, Udoka Azubuike, and Tristan Clark. (Who else is surprised to see Mitchell Solomon first on the list?) Brodziansky’s shot chart is one of the prettiest among all Big 12 players.
If you remove those corner 3’s, this chart would be nothing but blue. His 66% success rate in the restricted area is terrific and nearly 14% better than the national average of 52.6%.
Jamie Dixon will have a serious task in front of him next season in replacing the frontcourt production of Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams. For now though, those two will be key in determining how TCU’s season ends. At this point in the conference season, I think some TCU fans would be slightly disappointed in the team’s performance in Big 12 play, and that’s not entirely unreasonable. The team was expected to contend for the regular season title and are currently 5-8. Injuries and bad luck in close games are the two main reasons for that disappointing record.
Once March rolls around, that conference record will mean absolutely nothing, though. Their Big 12 regular season goals might not be attainable anymore, but their postseason goals still are. With how good this offense has been, and with how well Brodziansky has played, they’ve still got a chance to make some noise in March.
Coming Up: 2/17 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/21 at TCU
5. Baylor Bears (Last Week: 8th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 16-10, 6-7
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 33rd, +17.01
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 112.8, 59th, 6th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 95.7, 22nd, 3rd
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 66.1, 284th, 8th
What a change four games can make. Just three weeks ago, I was wondering if Baylor fans would start to get antsy and call for Scott Drew’s head. That now looks incredibly foolish. In Drew, We Trust.
According to barttorvik.com (http://barttorvik.com/teamcast.php?&team=Baylor&year=2018), Baylor now has a 70.5% chance of making the NCAA Tournament. The site currently has Baylor as an 11-seed and one of the last two teams who would receive a bye and avoid First Four action. With home games remaining against Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Oklahoma, Baylor has a great chance to improve their seed even further. There’s also the other side of having a schedule that difficult — losses could result in them missing the NCAA Tournament entirely.
Let’s run through a few scenarios using barttorvik’s Teamcast tool.
- A 3-2 close with a loss at home to Texas Tech and a road loss to TCU results in Baylor being one of the last 4 teams in the dance with a 59% likelihood of making the NCAA Tournament. (Link for this scenario here.)
- A 2-3 close with a loss at home to Texas Tech and road losses to TCU and K-State results in Baylor only having an 11.7% chance of making the NCAA Tournament. (Link for this scenario here.)
- A 4-1 close with home victories and just a road loss to TCU results in Baylor having a 90% chance of making the NCAA Tournament and the Teamcast tool projects them as a 9-seed. (Link for this scenario here.)
I won’t run through every possible scenario here, but play with this tool for Baylor or any other Big 12 team. It’s fun to do. For Baylor, tomorrow’s game vs. Texas Tech is their biggest game left on the schedule as far as “Bubble Impact”. Winning it would be huge.
Coming Up: 2/17 vs. Texas Tech, 2/20 vs. West Virginia
6. Oklahoma Sooners (Last Week: 4th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 16-9, 6-7
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 31st, +17.26
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 118.3, 15th, 2nd
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 101.1, 90th, 8th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 76.0, 4th, 1st
Oklahoma is now 6-7 in Big 12 play and have lost 5 of their last 6 and 7 of their last 9. Big 12 play has taken a toll on both Trae Young and Oklahoma’s offense in general. Against Iowa State last weekend, their offensive performance was like a flowchart of Oklahoma offensive narrative creation, consisting of Trae Young unselfishness, non-Trae Young Sooners’ failures, Trae Young selfishness, Trae Young good play, and Trae Young poor play. Literally everything that could happen and be argued about among college basketball readers/watchers happened in that game.
For most of the first half against Iowa State, Young was incredibly unselfish. He took what the defense gave him and rarely forced the action. Iowa State was hedging hard and high on all ballscreen actions, often resulting in Young giving up the ball and allowing his Oklahoma teammates to play 4-on-4 or even 4-on-3 in a few possessions. Guess what? It rarely worked. Here are some Oklahoma possessions where Trae Young’s teammates look lost playing 4-on-4.
On this possession, Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton denies Young basically out to half court. Ty Lazenby has the ball at the top of the key and immediately looks lost. Look at the other Oklahoma players. There is no movement whatsoever, and there’s even a point where Jamuni McNeace, who’s on the right block, points to Young like, “Hey, pass it to Trae. We don’t know what to do if you don’t.” Finally, Lazenby gets so nervous that he drives to the rim and is luckily bailed out by a bad ISU foul. Even with that foul, this is an awful possession by Oklahoma, where simply not being able to get the ball into Young’s hands neuters the entire thing.
In this clip, Oklahoma has good ball movement and player movement early in the possession. However, once Iowa State hedges hard on a Young ballscreen and forces him to move away from the basket and pick up his dribble, Young is forced to give up the ball to Manek deep on the right wing. Jakolby Long denies the pass back to Young, and guess what? The possession is neutered yet again. Manek goes on a long, meandering drive that seemingly has no end in sight. He is saved by a fortuitous cut by Christian James, combined with poor defense by Donovan Jackson and a favorable foul call. Nevertheless, this is another bad, bad possession where Oklahoma looks totally lost when the ball can’t get back into Young’s hands.
This possession is somewhat similar to the last one. Young is forced to give it up after Donovan Jackson does a good job of fighting through the screen and preventing Young from getting a 3 off. (Notice the subtle shoulder Young delivers to Jackson’s chin trying to create some space. He’s getting frustrated more and more as this season progresses.) Once Young gives it up to Manek, Jackson denies Young, and Manek takes another shot at a poorly-advised drive. This time, the flaccid attempt ends poorly as he turns it over quickly.
Look what happens on this possession when Young doesn’t touch the ball once. Oklahoma is lost for 25 seconds. At one point in the possession, perhaps in a Freudian slip of spacing, Young is alone on the right side of the court while every other Sooner is on the left side of the court. Jakolby Long denies Young this entire possession, and it ends with Jordan Shepherd embarking on a drive to nowhere and getting blocked by Cameron Lard.
Trae Young is finally fed up. He was unselfish and made the right basketball play for a majority of the first half, and it resulted in Oklahoma trailing by 15 points. On this possession, Young comes off a ballscreen with Donovan Jackson trailing him and Solomon Young with his hands high ready to challenge. Trae tries to launch a 3 anyway, and his shot is blocked.
After continued failures by his teammates when Iowa State went on a first half run, it seemed like Young got fed up. That’s how you get a terribly forced 3-pointer like the one above. It’s like Trae Young finally said, “Okay, I’ve tried to play how I’m ‘supposed to’ and let you guys do this. I’m tired of it. Let me fix the situation.”
The entire situation between Trae Young and his teammates is a real chicken or the egg scenario. When Trae Young is taken out of a possession, do the other Sooners struggle because they’re not good enough or do they struggle because they are so used to standing around while Young does everything that they’re ill-prepared when it’s their turn?
This is my major concern with Oklahoma at this point. It does not feel like a team built out of togetherness or unity. It is Trae Young, and then it is everybody else. For the “everybody else” guys, that does have to be a bit upsetting! These are Division 1 athletes; they’ve been great basketball players their entire lives, and now they’re spending a season defined by Young. At this point, from a national perspective, Oklahoma games are no longer Oklahoma games. They are Trae Young showcases. The Trae Young ticker at the top of the ESPN scorebug is the surest sign that’s what’s happening. Everyone always says you should be a team player, but what do you do if your star player is such a supernova that he overshadows the entire team? It has so be an incredibly frustrating situation for college athletes who are also human beings that can experience complex emotions.
This was what people always talked about in the “bad” years of Kobe Bryant’s time in Los Angeles. Yes, he’s your best player. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily fun or enjoyable to be blamed for not helping the star player when you lose and have all the credit go the star player when you win. I don’t see any fun or joy right now watching Oklahoma games.
There was a possession in the Oklahoma/Texas Tech game that was the perfect illustration of this entire situation. Oklahoma was on offense, trailing 57-53 when an offensive possession meandered its way to nothing through 19 seconds. The ball was knocked out of bounds with 11 seconds left on the shot clock. Here’s what happened next.
Imagine being one of Trae Young’s teammates in this situation, but also Trae Young in this situation. As a teammate, you understand that the shot clock is in single digits, but still, we can’t get a better shot than this Trae? Really? As Trae, you probably think this is the best shot your team can get in this situation.
Look at the bench when that ball is in the air. There is no emotion out of any of his teammates whatsoever. No one is standing up, hoping that this shot will somehow go in, cutting the margin to 1 in a huge road game. There’s nothing. Focus on OU’s bench the next time you watch the Sooners; I am always alarmed how the bench reacts even when Young does make one of these bombs — it’s pretty damn subdued most of the time.
I think this entire situation is a problem that cannot be solved this season. I would be shocked if Oklahoma reached the NCAA Tournament’s 2nd weekend at this point, let alone its 3rd. Things can obviously change — playing better defense would be a nice start for the Sooners. If they don’t, this season feels destined to end in disappointment.
Coming Up: 2/17 vs. Texas, 2/19 at Kansas
7. Kansas State Wildcats (Last Week: 6th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 18-8, 7-6
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 46th, +13.94
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 114.1, 47th, 5th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 100.2, 82nd, 7th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 65.7, 306th, 10th
Kansas State’s offense, which was ranked 16th nationally in Kenpom’s Adjusted Offense on January 26th, has now fallen all the way to 47th in that metric. In 4 of their last 6 games, Kansas State has scored under 1.00 PPP. This graph charts their offensive performance since Big 12 play began (the Georgia game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge is included).
That is a pretty steady and noticeable decline. Earlier this week, I saw the great @jorcubsdan on Twitter drop this nugget.
A fairly disturbing trend in Bruce Weber’s coaching career is that teams tend to smother his motion offense when seeing it for the second time in conference play. KSU has scored at just .78 ppp against B12 teams in rematches this year. Granted, those teams were WVU, KU, and TTU https://t.co/CGp6eVymJZ
— Jordan Majewski (@jorcubsdan) February 14, 2018
Someone responded on Twitter to Jordan Majewski with this statistic.
Weber is 22-26 SU (regular season only) when playing a Big 12 team for the second time. He was 7-2 his first season, so is 15-24 since that time.
— Mike Rouse (@Turnksu) February 14, 2018
So Kansas State’s offensive decline throughout the Big 12 season really shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is a trend that has been present under Bruce Weber for the last five seasons. Once teams get a scout on his squad, they start to struggle.
The hope for Kansas State fans has to be this — this team has more offensive talent than years past. Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes, Xavier Sneed, and Cartier Diarra all are versatile offensive players with the ability to make plays and knock down shots. Second, the return of Kamau Stokes adds a bit of a wrinkle into the “scout our first game against them” idea. If Stokes missed that game, or even if he played in it, Kansas State is now playing differently as they are starting Diarra and bringing Stokes off the bench.
Kansas State fans have to be hoping that their players can overcome this concerning Weber trend as they make a late push for another NCAA Tournament berth.
Coming Up: 2/10 vs. Texas Tech, 2/14 at Oklahoma State
8. Texas Longhorns (Last Week: 7th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 15-11, 5-8
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 44th, +15.16
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 108.4, 112th, 10th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 93.2, 8th, 2nd
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 65.9, 293rd, 9th
I’ve wanted to write about this at different times this season, and I officially cannot ignore it any longer. I don’t care about the potential backlash to this section. That being said, what is going on with Dylan Osetkowski’s hair? As someone who has fairly long hair myself, I watch Osetkowski’s hair journey this season with some parts intrigue, some parts fascination, and some parts confusion.
This was Dylan Osetkowski at Tulane.
That’s your standard, middle-of-the-road, young white man haircut. Boring, sure, but it’s what you’d expect. I give it a 4/10.
Here is Osetkowski’s most common hairstyle this season.
Okay. Sure. This makes sense. I remember that stage of my long hair. Long enough to make you stand out, but not too long that you can’t give up on that hairband. That’s an essential hairband at this stage. The beard (while slightly Amish) is a nice added touch. I give it an 9/10.
Here is what Osetkowski sported for a game a few weeks ago.
This is not good. This is, in fact, very very bad. Osetkowski apparently got bored with the growth stage of his hair and decided to go with some (horrendous) braids. He looks like a sorority girl who went to Spring Break in South Padre in March and came back talking about what a great experience she had. I give it a 1/10.
And last week, Osetkowski sported this.
When did Bronson Arroyo start playing for the Texas Longhorns? The only two basketball players who have pulled off dreadlocks in the last 15 years are Kawhi Leonard and Allen Iverson. You’ll notice Dylan Osetkowski was not named in that last sentence. Still, this isn’t as bad as the previous look. I give this 2/10.
I can’t wait to see what Osetkowski has lined up next. I tune into Texas games at this point first to see his hair and second to watch the actual game. (17th on the list is watching Shaka Smart’s offense.)
Texas has now lost three straight games, and they are 15-11 overall and 5-8 in Big 12 play. Osetkowski sported the braided sorority girl look in their win over Mississippi. He donned the cornrows a week later in Texas’ win over Oklahoma. In Texas’ four losses since the Mississippi game, he’s had his standard long hair with a hairband look. BRING BACK THE BAD HAIR, DYLAN. IT’S YOUR ONLY HOPE.
Seriously though, Texas needs to win and with three of their next four games being on the road at Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Kansas, Shaka Smart could be staring down a second straight season of missing the NCAA Tournament after being picked to finish in the top-3 of the Big 12 during the preseason by many writers. At least Texas fans are known for being notoriously patient with their head coaches!
Coming Up: 2/17 at Oklahoma, 2/21 at Kansas State
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Last Week: 9th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 15-11, 5-8
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 72nd, +11.12
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 110.9, 76th, 9th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 99.8, 76th, 6th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 69.4, 125th, 4th
I don’t think any Big 12 team is more dependent on a single player having a productive offensive game than Oklahoma State is with Kendall Smith. Smith was recruited as a grad transfer to replace Jawun Evans’ production as best as he could. The results have been spotty and inconsistent. It was probably unfair to place so much of the offensive responsibility on Smith — the step-up from the Big West to the Big 12 is a large one.
Take a look at Smith’s production during Big 12 play. This graph shows Smith’s performance per two statistics — Offensive Rating and points scored per game.
First, it’s positive that Smith has gotten better throughout Big 12 play. I think Oklahoma State fans would agree with that assessment. Smith was a major factor in the Cowboys’ recent huge road wins at Kansas and at West Virginia.
Second, Smith’s efficiency is so incredibly reliant on his scoring. That’s common for most players, but the mirror image of the two lines here is clearly evident. When Smith is not scoring, you’d hope he’d positively impact the Oklahoma State offense by making plays for others and recording assists while avoiding turnovers. That’s not been the case for Smith.
Third, Smith’s three highest Offensive Rating performances were in the wins over Oklahoma, Kansas, and West Virginia. His four best scoring games were in Oklahoma State’s four conference wins. In fact, he’s scored 20 or more points in all four OSU conference wins and has scored less than 20 points in all of their conference losses. His differences in performance in wins compared to losses is blindingly clear in the table below.
|Event||Offensive Rating||Points Per Game|
|In OSU Wins||120||21.0|
|In OSU Losses||87||9.6|
If Oklahoma State is going to upset either TCU or Texas Tech in their next two games, monitor the play of Kendall Smith during the game. As he goes, the Cowboys clearly go as well.
Coming Up: 2/17 at TCU, 2/21 vs. Texas Tech
10. Iowa State Cyclones (Last Week: 10th)
Current Record (Overall/Conference): 13-12, 4-9
Kenpom Ranking and AdjEM: 94th, +7.71
Adj. Offense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 111.3, 74th, 8th
Adj. Defense (Efficiency, National Rank, Conference Rank): 103.6, 139th, 10th
Adj. Tempo (Possessions/Game, National Rank, Conference Rank): 68.9, 152nd, 5th
Iowa State’s most pleasant surprise this season has been the play of redshirt freshman Cameron Lard. Lard was ranked 143rd in 247Sports 2016 recruiting rankings. He arrived at Ames in January of 2017 and redshirted for his first semester. I think Iowa State fans were hopeful regarding Lard’s talent and impact, but no one could have expected this level of production. He’s averaging 13.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 2.2 BPG on 64% shooting from the field. In conference play, he’s averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.8 BPG on 63% shooting from the field. He’s been a revelation.
Lard’s best skill is his offensive rebounding. Lard is currently grabbing 15.6% of available rebounds on the offensive end of the court when he’s on the floor, which ranks 10th nationally and 1st in the Big 12. The next closest figure in the Big 12 is Mitchell Solomon at 13.7%. There are only two players in major conferences who have been better than him on the offensive glass this season — Nick Ward of Michigan State, with an OffReb% of 19.3% and Nick Rakocevic of USC, with an OffReb% of 16.9%. The fact that Lard is doing this as a freshman makes it all the more impressive.
In Iowa State’s win over Oklahoma, Lard had 19 points, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 7-11 shooting from the field. 9 of his 17 rebounds were offensive rebounds. I cut a video showing all 9 of those offensive rebounds.
Of his 9 offensive rebounds, he directly scored on 4 of them with offensive putbacks. On another one, he was fouled on his putback attempt, went to the FT line, and made both FTs. In a game Iowa State ending up winning by 8 points, Lard scored 10 points himself directly on offensive putbacks. The argument could be made that his offensive rebounding was the main reason Iowa State won the game.
Of Big 12 players who have recorded 25 total possessions on the season with an offensive putback attempt, Lard ranks 2nd in possessions per game featuring this play type, per Synergy Sports. His 2.5 possessions per game ending in offensive putbacks trails only Jo Lual-Acuil at 2.6 per game. Offensive putbacks make up for 21% of Lard’s possessions, which is the highest figure in the Big 12. He averages 1.19 PPP in these possessions, which is effective but also has room for improvement. For comparison, Lual-Acuil averages 1.29 PPP, Mo Bamba averages 1.32 PPP, and Sagaba Konate averages 1.40 PPP. If Lard starts to have less turnovers on these possessions and starts to shoot it better from the FT line, that PPP figure will improve.
Here’s a table from Synergy Sports showing all of this data for Big 12 players in the query I ran. (Click here to expand image in new tab.)
Iowa State’s current season won’t end with the NCAA Tournament berth its fans wanted. But with Lard and fellow freshman Lindell Wigginton (assumed) return next season, there’s reasons to be encouraged about a return to the NCAA Tournament next season.
Coming Up: 2/17 at Kansas State, 2/21 vs. TCU