Friday Figures: Kansas’ Zone O, Baylor’s Rebounding Woes & Texas Tech’s Defense

Posted by Chris Stone on December 8th, 2017

After a couple of weeks off, Friday Figures is back to dive into some of the most interesting statistical notes from around the Big 12 with a look at issues surrounding Kansas, Baylor and Texas Tech.

A smart game plan can make a big difference. It’s rare to see a team play against the same iteration of a zone defense in back-to-back non-conference games like Kansas did last week, but since Washington hired former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins in March, the Jayhawks faced Jim Boeheim’s notorious 2-3 zone twice in five days with wildly different results. Kansas rather easily handled the Orange behind 35 points from Devonte’ Graham on Saturday before stumbling against a much worse Huskies squad in Kansas City on Wednesday night. So, what changed?

The Kansas offense couldn’t find success against Washington’s zone. (Image credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s all about shot selection. Hopkins brought the wings of his 2-3 zone all the way out to the perimeter to deny the Jayhawks’ three-point attempts in the half-court, effectively creating a 4-1 zone. He wanted to deny a potent Kansas offense its most efficient shot, and it worked like a charm. According to Hoop-Math, just 17.4 percent of the Jayhawks’ half-court attempts were threes against the Huskies compared with a wild 57.1 percent against Syracuse. Add in Kansas shooting just 3-of-12 on quickly taken threes and there is the anatomy for an upset.

Given that opposing defenses have more control over three-point attempts than actual three-point percentage, it’ll be interesting to observe if other teams try something similar against Kansas this season.

What’s up with Baylor’s offense? The Bears are off to a 6-2 start that includes a quality win over Creighton, but things seem a little bit different this year in Waco. Baylor’s adjusted offensive efficiency is down about five points per 100 possessions year-over-year, dropping the Bears from 23rd nationally to 39th this season despite a lower team turnover rate and a higher free throw rate. The big difference has been on the offensive glass. After four straight seasons with an offensive rebounding rate hovering around 40.0 percent, the Bears are currently snagging just 32.7 percent of their own misses. The culprit, in large part, seems to be the individual decline of Nuni Omot. The 6’9″ forward’s offensive rebounding rate has dropped dramatically this year — from 10.1 percent to just 3.0 percent. Last season’s team had three quality offensive rebounders on the floor in almost every lineup, and while freshmen Tristan Clark and Mark Vital have been excellent on the offensive boards in their stints this year, having only two quality offensive rebounders on the floor has eliminated some of the extra chances that have been a staple of recent Baylor offenses.

Expect Texas Tech’s defense to regress a bit. The Red Raiders have been a pleasant surprise for the Big 12 so far this season, picking up a pair of resume-building wins over Northwestern and Nevada en route to a 7-1 record. Point guard Keenan Evans has played like an all-conference player, but the real standout has been the team’s defense. Texas Tech currently ranks 10th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, a massive improvement from last season. However, some of its early season success might not be sustainable. While the Red Raiders are turning teams over more frequently and protecting the paint at elite levels, they’re likely to see some regression as opponents start knocking down their outside shots. Teams have made just 29.4 percent of their threes against the Red Raiders this season despite taking a nearly identical percentage of their total shot attempts from deep. Evidence suggests that percentage should come up as the season progresses, leaving the Red Raiders as a really good, but maybe not elite defense.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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