By the Numbers: Kansas vs. Memphis

It has come down to this. One game separates the Kansas Jayhawks from their first title in twenty years. The stage is set, and even Danny Manning is on the floor once again. It feels like now or never. Shake off the goose bumps, and let's look at some numbers.

 

Analysis: Last 5 Games

The charts below illustrate the performance for each team over their last 5 games. The red bar represents each team’s current Sagarin Predictor rating, which best represents team strength for the entire season. The “Performance” is calculated by taking the opponent’s Sagarin rating for the game and adding (subtracting) the margin of victory (loss) for each game. Since all of the games in this analysis took place in the NCAA Tournament, there is no adjustment for homecourt advantage.

 

In this analysis, Kansas has outperformed its #1-ranked season average by about 3.7 points. The only time Kansas has performed below its season average in the last five games was against Davidson. It is now well-documented how well they responded to that subpar performance. In the national semifinal game, KU crushed the #1 overall seed, North Carolina in their best performance this postseason.

 

Memphis has slightly underperformed its #3-ranked season rating by 0.5 points over the last five games. The trend has generally been positive for the Tigers, as their performance rating has been close to 100 in each of the last three games.

 

In terms of performances in this tournament, Memphis has performed above KU’s season average in three of its five games. Kansas has performed above UM’s season rating in four of its five games. In summary, over the last five games for each team, Kansas has been 6 points better than Memphis, meaning this specific analysis projects the Jayhawks’ first championship in twenty years.

 

Statistical Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

These advantages are based on raw statistics derived from Kenpom.com scouting reports for each team. In cases where one team’s ranking in a category is strong where the other team’s corresponding ranking is weak, an advantage is projected. For example, if Team A has a #30-rated eFG%, while Team B has a #280-rated eFG% defense, then Team A would be projected to have an advantage in eFG% for the game.

 

** Denotes that team with advantage also ranks in Top 50 in that category

Clear Advantage for Kansas

Memphis FT%

Memphis FT Rate

Memphis % own 2FGA's blocked**

 Clear Advantage for Memphis

 Memphis TO rate**

 

PSAN-Related Player Ratings - Kansas in NCAA Tournament

For information on these ratings, click here.

(Only includes players in the regular rotation during NCAA Tournament)

 

PLAYER

cPSAN

cPSAN70

Mario Chalmers

30.61

8.01

Brandon Rush

21.70

5.51

Darnell Jackson

21.14

7.96

Russell Robinson

18.43

5.33

Darrell Arthur

16.33

4.55

Sasha Kaun

14.26

7.28

Cole Aldrich

8.77

8.98

Sherron Collins

8.24

2.63

 

Game Outlook

For proof that past results do not guarantee future performance, one need look no further than the Kansas versus North Carolina blowout. The wheels came off the hot Tarheels, while Kansas found its groove again after a near-miss against Davidson. On Monday night, Kansas is once again the slight underdog according to oddsmakers. But by most accounts, this game should be extremely close.

According to TeamRankings.com, Memphis and Kansas are #1 and #2 respectively in both the neutral court ratings and the last ten games ratings. Kansas and Memphis are #1 and #2 respectively in the LRMC ratings, which have been proven to predict late round games particularly well. In two of the most respected predictive power ratings systems (Sagarin and Pomeroy), Kansas is rated #1 with Memphis as either second or third.

So, what can we expect from the game dynamics of this anticipated nail-biter? First, we can expect a fairly uptempo game, at about 71 possessions according to KenPom.com. Memphis will most likely do a great job of avoiding turnovers, which right away will be a major difference from what KU enjoyed in the UNC game. On the other hand, UM will most likely have plenty of their shots blocked inside and make very poor use of the free throw line. The free throw statistic is based on cumulative season data, however. Memphis has done a much better job of utilizing the line in the NCAA Tournament. Still, those season-long tendencies often have a way of creeping back when a team is under pressure.

In reality, two teams with as many weapons as these two have should generally produce an entertaining, close-fought battle. Put them on the grandest stage in college basketball, and it should produce an instant classic. Will the athleticism and guard size of Memphis prevail? Or will the depth and balance of Kansas be too much for the Tigers? Fortunately, we won’t have to wonder for very long. On Monday night, there will ultimately be only two numbers that matter. So long as your favorite team’s number is the larger one, it should be a night to remember.


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