LAWRENCE — Every Monday, The Star delves into Kansas basketball — and the week ahead. Here's the fourth installment of the new series.
By RUSTIN DODD
Kansas City Star
Wilt Chamberlain played 1,045 NBA games … and never fouled out once. It’s a memorable basketball oddity, amazing really, and Bill Self recalled it last week when he was asked about another KU center’s ability to avoid whistles in the paint.
KU senior center Jeff Withey leads the country with 5.7 blocks per game, a mark that would be tied for the nation’s 19th-highest team average if Withey was his own squad. But here’s something that makes Withey’s prolific shot-blocking even more important: He’s been whistled for just six fouls in seven games.
For Self, the numbers may suggest that Withey needs to be a little more aggressive. Not that you'd expect Self to say anything different.
“But on the flip side,” Self said last week, “it does show that his timing is off-the-charts and his ability to stay away from body contact when he’s blocking balls is tremendous.”
1 Jeff Withey, Kansas, 6.66
2 Terry Allen, Richmond, 5.00
3 Kevin Johnson, Seton Hall, 3.00
4 Jared Berggren, Wisconsin, 3.00
5 Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State, 2.50
Can Withey keep up the ridiculous pace? Not likely. Last season, he ranked sixth in the same stat, but his ratio was a more realistic 1.44 blocks per foul. (St. Joe’s C.J. Aiken led the country last season with a 2.50 blocks-per-foul mark.)
Still, Withey’s ability to block shots while not fouling is just part of his solid start.
Consider these numbers:
** Kansas’ opponents have attempted 405 field goals this season. They’ve made 35.3 percent (143 makes) of them. And Withey has blocked 9.9 percent (40) of them. Put another way: Withey’s blocks make up 15.3 percent of opponents’ misses.
** Withey is second in the country with a 19.98 block percentage. This means that Withey is blocking around 20 percent of opponents’ field-goal attempts while he’s on the floor.
** Withey, announced as the Big 12 player of the week on Monday, had 12 blocks last week against San Jose State. There are 29 Division I teams in the country that have fewer blocks for the season.
So let's sort this out: If you take away Withey's blocks, KU opponents are shooting 39 percent from the floor. Based upon this number, Withey is saving KU nearly five points per game on the defensive end. But this is just some primitive calculating. And considering we're not even factoring in the shots he alters, or that teams generally shoot better inside the paint (where Withey gets most of his blocks), the true number of points saved would seem to be considerably higher.
What to make of the Buffs? Colorado made a surprise NCAA tourney run last season before starting the season 6-0 and notching a 60-58 victory over a ranked Baylor team on Nov. 16.
But in its last two games, Colorado needed two overtimes to beat Texas Southern at home and fell to Wyoming on the road.
The Buffaloes, coached by former KU guard Tad Boyle, will take on Kansas inside Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon. But first, they’ll battle rival Colorado State on Wednesday night.
Kansas will play just three times in the next 15 days. After the Colorado game on Saturday, the Jayhawks will play Belmont (5-2) on Dec. 15 and Richmond (6-2) on Dec. 18. Belmont has a victory at Stanford but also lost to Northeastern and VCU. Richmond lost 72-57 at Minnesota and 73-48 at Ohio.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.