Kansas vs. Oregeon Elite 8 Preview
KANSAS IS ON A ROLL...AND ONLY HAS TO WIN AGAIN IN KANSAS CITY TO THE REACH FINAL FOUR
The Kansas Jayhawks sure picked the right time to peak. After a disappointing "one-and-out" in the Big 12 tournament two weeks ago, the Jayhawks truly hit the ground running in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Thursday night's win over Purdue featured one of the most impressive stretches of basketball ever. Kansas closed the game on a 73-33 spring against a #4 seed. Hard to find stuff like that in the history books!
Now Kansas must come back two days later ready to win again. And, this time, they're not facing a Big 10 foe (Michigan State and Purdue were the last two victims). Talented Oregon brings some dynamic weaponry to Kansas City for an Elite 8 showdown. Let's crunch some numbers and see how the game might play out...
We start with a look back at Thursday's boxscores...
Kansas 98, Purdue 66
2-point Shooting: Purdue 48%, Kansas 56%
Three Pointers: Purdue 10/27, Kansas 15/28
Free Throws: Purdue 8/12, Kansas 15/22
Rebounds: Purdue 29, Kansas 36
Turnovers: Purdue 16, Kansas 10
Phantom Score: Purdue 57, Kansas 74
For you first timers, Phantom Score is a handy stat that estimates what a final score "should" have been based on key fundamentals that loom large in tournament basketball. It's simply the sum of two-point scoring plus total rebounds. Kansas controlled all the stats that matter. But, this was a 32-point rout instead of a 17 point laugher because the Jayhawks were a lights out 15 of 28 from three-point land. Tough to do that on command. Make it 10 of 28, and it's still a blowout. Amazingly, if you reduce any category to a tie, it's still a blowout! That's how amazing Kansas was Thursday. Great at everything. Purdue had no chance once the locomotive started chugging.
Oregon 69, Michigan 68
2-point Shooting: Michigan 52%, Oregon 44%
Three Pointers: Michigan 11/31, Oregon 8/17
Free Throws: Michigan 7/7, Oregon 9/16
Rebounds: Michigan 31, Oregon 36
Turnovers: Michigan 8, Oregon 5
Phantom Score: Michigan 59, Oregon 72
Could have gone either way at the end. Michigan cooled down from their prior three-point shooting. That's ultimately why the Wolverines will be home watching TV with the rest of us this weekend. Great job from Oregon in terms of ball protection (just 5 giveaways), and a solid effort on the boards. Michigan is mortal when they're not shooting well. That was going to get them eventually. Oregon did impress in Phantom Score, but will still have to lift its game from this to compete with Kansas.
Moving now to our traditional key indicator stats from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin.
Kansas: #3 at Kenpom, #3 at Sagarin
Oregon: #15 at Kenpom, #11 at Sagarin
Very similar assessments here. Kansas has risen dramatically in both sets of rankings with their recent blowouts. They now do grade out as a number one seed after a regular season that didn't impress computer analysts as much as pollsters. Oregon redeemed itself from its Pac 12 tourney lost to Arizona by lasting longer in a less-friendly region. Edge to Kansas, which is no surprise.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kansas: 122.8 per 100 possessions (#3 in the nation)
Oregon: 118.3 per 100 possessions (#17 in the nation)
Kansas does so many things well that opposing defenses can be at a loss on what to do. The best hope is to try to be stingy inside while hoping Kansas misses some treys. It's important to remember that Oregon is more athletic and dynamic than Purdue was Thursday. That at least gives the dog a shot to hang close this time around. Two elite offenses anxious to put on a show.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kansas: 94.4 per 100 possessions (#23 in the nation)
Oregon: 94.4 per 100 possessions (#24 in the nation)
A tie to the first decimal point. Pomeroy has to go to a hundredth of a point to find separation when adjusting points allowed per possession for strength of schedule. Defense wins championships, and these guys play defense. Kansas does that more with speed and athleticism than with size. Oregon would have been better equipped to deal with that if Chris Bouchard hasn't been hurt. Overall, this might be a matter of the Ducks having one or two fewer bodies in a battle of similar skill sets.
Kansas is fast...and moves even faster when things are going well. Oregon is slower than average, but may have to turn into a virtual Princeton to keep things in check. You have to make Kansas work for shots. You can't allow them those alley-oop dunks on fast breaks. If Kansas can impose its tempo on proceedings (which is easier to do in front of a friendly Kansas City crowd), then the Vegas line probably won't matter again. Oregon must keep a lid on things.
Against the Spread
The full season issues Kansas had with covering the spread are kind of moot now. They blew past the number vs. Cal-Davis, Michigan State, and Purdue in the Dance. They are playing their best ball of the campaign right now. Oregon wasn't as impressive against Iona as the score made it sound, then really had to sweat the closing moments against Rhode Island and Michigan. It's at least worth remembering that the market has underrated Oregon this season, and may be doing so again with the current Elite 8 line.