Friday Figures: Diving into the Big 12’s Freshmen Guards

Posted by Chris Stone on February 16th, 2018

Welcome back to Friday Figures, a weekly look at interesting and (occasionally) important statistical facts from the Big 12. This week, we’re diving into the big numbers surrounding some of the Big 12’s best freshmen guards.

Trae Young’s struggles aren’t Oklahoma’s only problem. (Photo Credit: Timothy J. Gonzelez, AP)

  • Trae Young’s struggles are real, but Oklahoma’s problems run deeper. By now, the Oklahoma freshman phenom’s recent troubles have been well-documented. Young has converted only one of his last 17 attempts from behind the arc, and 7-of-41 during the Sooners’ recent four-game losing streak. Dating back even further, the team has lost seven of its last nine games as its leading scorer has struggled to adjust to attention from quality opponents. Against KenPom’s Tier A group — the equivalent of games against the top 50 — Young is shooting just 33.1 percent from three-point range and his turnovers are up during conference play. Yet, it’s not clear if Oklahoma’s offense has any better options. With Young on the floor, the Sooners are still averaging 1.15 points per possession, per Hoop Lens — the equivalent of a top 20 offense. So what gives? It’s the defense. In Big 12 play, Oklahoma is conceding 110.1 points per 100 possessions, seventh in the league, per KenPom. There’s only so much the Sooners can do about opponents shooting 38.0 percent from three, but they rank dead last in tcreating turnovers with a lowly 14.5 percent turnover rate that would 347th nationally over the course of an entire season. While Young’s inefficiency has been a lightning rod for criticism, it’s arguably missing the bigger issue. Poor defense magnified by some bad three-point luck is swinging the pendulum against the Sooners.
  • Jarrett Culver’s emergence has been a boon for Texas Tech. At this point, everybody knows about the Red Raiders’ stifling defense but Culver’s development has turned them into a more well-rounded Final Four contender. Head coach Chris Beard inserted Culver into the starting lineup last month after a foot injury sidelined senior Zach Smith, but, since losing its first game without Smith, Tech has reeled off seven straight wins and taken sole possession of the top spot in the Big 12. Culver’s presence transforms the Red Raiders’ offense — they average 1.12 points per possession with him on the court compared to just 1.05 without him, per Hoop Lens. Culver has been Texas Tech’s most frequent three-point shooter this season, converting 38.4 percent of his chances and logging a sub-14.0 percent turnover rate. Once a sub-300 recruit nationally, Culver ascent has helped make the Red Raiders the favorite to win the Big 12 this season.

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Big 12 Burning Questions: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 10th, 2017

This preview is part of RTC’s 2017-18 preseason coverage.

Burning Question: How much will Kansas’ small ball lineups compensate for another thin frontcourt?

It took some time for Bill Self to embrace both his roster and basketball’s changing landscape in the era of pace and space, but he did just that in 2017, even if it took a season-ending injury to center Udoka Azubuike to fully make the leap. Three-pointers comprised 35.9 percent of Kansas’ shot attempts last season, the highest rate of any of Self’s teams during his illustrious career. The Jayhawks connected on 40 percent of those tries from distance, powering them to a highly successful season that included an 18-game winning streak, a 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title, and a run to the Elite Eight. With a National Player of the Year leading his backcourt, a lottery pick on the wing and a heady center like Landen Lucas patrolling the middle, Self once again succeeded without the services of a deep stable of big men. The question for this season is whether Kansas can continue playing that way without any of those three elements in place — because the pressure will certainly once again be on Kansas’ guards to convert from deep.

Devonte’ Graham knows what the 2017-18 Jayhawks will be all about. (Getty)

Kansas’ backourt shouldn’t regress significantly from last year despite the departure of NPOY Frank Mason. Devonte’ Graham will lead the charge as the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, but transfer guard Malik Newman could become the team’s leading scorer after sitting out last year. The redshirt sophomore averaged 32.5 points per 40 minutes during the Jayhawks’ August trip to Italy, and while those numbers aren’t fully indicative of how he will fare against better competition, they may provide a hint of what to expect. It feels like Svi Mykhailiuk has tested the waters every summer he’s been in Lawrence, but he’s back in a Kansas uniform for his senior year. The Ukrainian can get hot in a hurry and play some point guard in a pinch, but he’s also a defensive liability that clearly frustrates Self from time to time.

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