Ashworth: Despite offensive struggles, Kansas still title threat

Before I start this column, I’d like to preface by saying that I think Bill Self will consistently have this offense running smoothly by the time March Madness comes along.

That being said, in the last month, other than the games against Kansas State and Texas, the offense has been teetering between stagnant and moribund. Similar to Jack Dawson at the end of Titanic, there were times when it seemed the Jayhawks’ offense was going to make it onto the piece of driftwood, but there were also times when they were so cold that hypothermia seemed all but certain.

Like I said, I have nothing but confidence that Bill Self will find an effective offensive game plan. It appears that transformation has already started. But even if the offense doesn’t continue to improve, the Jayhawks are still a title threat. This is because all other teams are having similar troubles.

Scoring is down all around the nation this year. Five years ago, when Kansas cut down the nets in San Antonio, 16 teams averaged over 80 points per game. This year, four teams average more than 80, with only one team from a power conference (Indiana). The Jayhawks were 10th in the nation with 81.5 points per game in 2008. That would put them in third this year.

Take a look at the games from Tuesday night. There were marquee games between Indiana and Michigan State, Miami (FL) and Virginia, and Missouri and Florida. No team scored more than 72 points, and the team with 72 was the “high-scoring” Indiana Hoosiers. In essence, offenses all around the nation have been about as effective as laws prohibiting underage drinking.

Trends from the last ten years would suggest that Kansas is not a title threat. Statistical whiz Ken Pomeroy, creator of kenpom.com, finds trends that help predict who will compete for national championships and who will not. Since he began tracking statistics in 2003, every champion except two (Syracuse in 2003 and Connecticut in 2011) has been ranked in the top four of offensive efficiency. Most are ranked one or two. Kansas is currently ranked 25th. Also, every champion in that time has averaged at least 73 points per game. Kansas sits on the fence at 73.4.

This year could be a year that breaks the trend. The last three national championship games have resulted in the following scores: 61-59, 53-41, and 67-59. These games are exactly the kind of games Bill Self wants to see with this team.  If a game is in the 50s or 60s, Kansas is right where it wants to be. In a high scoring affair, Kansas will struggle to keep up offensively. However, if the past three championship games are any indication, the Jayhawks should feel comfortable relying on their defense and an offense that simply needs to be adequate.

That’s not to say that Kansas will win the national championship. Right now, I wouldn’t put my money on it. But they certainly are still a threat, and potential for offensive struggles do not preclude them from contention.

If Bill Self can keep the offense improving, all the better.

  • Updated Feb. 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm
  • Edited by Tyler Conover