LAWRENCE -- — Every Monday, The Star delves into Kansas basketball -- and the week ahead -- at KansasCity.com. Here's the sixth installment of the weekly series.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
You might say that Kevin Young is the most anonymous of Kansas’ five starters. And that’s not a major stretch. Three members of KU’s starting five played major minutes in the national championship game last season. The other, freshman Ben McLemore, is the Jayhawks’ leading scorer and was selected Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Monday morning.
Young, though, has proved himself plenty valuable as the final piece in the Jayhawks' pentamerous puzzle. After Young played sparingly during KU’s first three games because of a broken right hand, the Jayhawks have won eight straight since the senior forward entered the starting lineup on Nov. 19, including a 74-66 victory against then No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday.
Young’s value, KU coach Bill Self has said, is both quantifiable and intangible. He’s proving himself to be the Jayhawks’ most capable rebounder at the power forward spot, snagging 7.0 per game, but he also may be KU’s best interior passer, giving center Jeff Withey more opportunities to score.
Here are Withey’s numbers with and without Young in the starting lineup:
In games Young came off the bench or didn’t play:
12.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.3 blocks
In games Young started:
14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.3 blocks
It’s probably no coincidence that Withey is scoring more and rebounding less with Young in the lineup. Despite his slight build – he carries just 190 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame – Young pulled down 10 rebounds against Ohio State on Saturday. And as of Monday morning, Young’s defensive rebounding percentage (number of available defensive rebounds a player grabs while on the floor) was 24.5, the 48th best mark in the country.
Kansas did more than just help itself out with a victory over Ohio State on Saturday. The Jayhawks also got a little help. Two of KU’s future opponents upset top-10 squads; Temple beat Syracuse and Kansas State took down Florida, providing a little boost to KU’s schedule.
In addition, an enigmatic Baylor squad helped out the perception of the Big 12 with a convincing victory over BYU on Friday.
Here’s a look at KU’s next five games, including the first three conference games:
American, Dec. 29
Best win: at UMBC
Worst loss: Columbia
Temple, Jan. 6
Best win: Syracuse (in New York)
Worst loss: Canisius
Iowa State, Jan. 9
Best win: BYU
Worst loss: at Iowa
Texas Tech, Jan. 12
Best win: Northern Kentucky
Worst loss: McNeese State
Baylor, Jan. 14
Best win: at Kentucky
Worst loss: College of Charleston
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.