The national media has overwhelming given into the Kentucky machine. With their undeniable NBA talent, great chemistry, great coaching, and gaudy record, they look every bit the national champion that everyone is already painting them to be. Instead of looking at the strengths of Kentucky, let’s look at the only glaring weakness of the veteran underdogs Kansas who have a penchant for making comebacks.
Everywhere you look, credit is given to Kansas’s defensive efficiency numbers and strong interior presence with Withey and Robinson. Kansas however has been susceptible to losing to teams who can rain a barrage of 3’s at a high percentage. In Kansas’s 6 losses, it has given up on average 9.17 3FG and 42% from 3. In Kansas’s 32 wins, it has given up on average 5.55 3FG and 33% from 3. During this tournament run to the championship game, Kansas has given up on average 5.8 3FG and 35% from 3.
In their head to head matchup (which Kentucky pulled away in the second half after an even first half), Kentucky went 7-15 (47%) from 3. Is that truly indicative of how Kentucky typically wins basketball games?
Kentucky has on average made 5.46 3FG and 38% from 3 for the season. The Kentucky season averages closely correlate with how KU wins games, but the tournament run averages split. During this tournament run has on average made 4.8 3FG while shooting 43% from 3. The volume of 3’s is low, but the percentage is fantastic. Considering all of Kentucky’s wins except Louisville has been blowouts, they can be forgiven for the volume with how fantastic their offense has been otherwise.
Let’s also look at Kentucky’s two losses this season. Kentucky went 2-7 (28.6%) against Indiana and went 6-28 (21.4%) from 3. Both losses, Kentucky shot poorly from range and didn’t approach the high volume number that typically spells a Kansas loss.
Since the emergence of Jeff Withey, KU’s defense has dramatically improved from that team that faced Kentucky at the beginning of the season. Coach Self has the players contesting almost every single 3pt attempt made during this tournament. I believe Kansas can win if Kentucky fails to shoot from deep with great accuracy and volume while combating the debatable notion of the difficulty of shooting 3’s inside a dome and Coach Self’s occasional usage of the Triangle and 2. After Kentucky went 2-7 against Louisville in the Superdome on Saturday night, I think clearly the media is overlooking KU’s ability to win and will be writing more puff pieces on Tuesday morning about how they are shocked that Kansas was able to beat Kentucky for the national championship.