Every week, The Star takes an analytical look at Kansas basketball here at KansasCity.com. Here’s the latest installment:
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
The Embiid Watch is on.
On Monday night in Ames, Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks (and seven turnovers) in 28 minutes. He dominated for stretches, altering shots and using his mix of size and finesse to finish nearly everything around the basket.
So let’s take a look:
In Kansas’ last seven games — against seven teams ranked in KenPom.com’s top 75 — Embiid is averaging 13.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes per game. He’s shooting 72 percent. He’s getting high percentage shots, too. For the season, more than 76 percent of his field-goal attempts have come at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com. And when he catches inside, he’s nearly automatic — he’s finishing 78.9 percent of his shots at the rim.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see Embiid move to No. 1 on ESPN Draft analyst Chad Ford’s latest Big Board, surpassing teammate Andrew Wiggins, who is now No. 2.
“Embiid is one of the few big-man prospects who passes both the eye test and the production test,” Ford noted. “There isn’t a player in this draft with a higher ceiling.”
Earlier this year, we compared Embiid’s freshman numbers (per 40 minutes) to some other recent college big men who have gone No. 1 in the draft. Here’s an updated look at those numbers:
• Joel Embiid, Kansas, 2013-14
19.9 points / 13.8 rebounds / 4.7 blocks / 10.7 FGA / 67.7 FG%
• Anthony Davis, Kentucky, 2011-12
17.7 points / 13.0 rebounds / 5.8 blocks / 10.5 FGA / 62.3 FG%
• Greg Oden, Ohio State, 2006-07
21.7 points / 13.2 rebounds / 4.5 blocks / 13.3 FGA / 61.6 FG%
• Andrew Bogut, Utah, 2003-04
16.4 points / 13 rebounds / 1.8 blocks / 11.6 FGA / 57.7 FG%
• Tim Duncan, Wake Forest, 1993-97
13.1 points / 13.7 rebounds / 5.0 blocks / 8.8 FGA / 54.3 FG%
• Shaquille O’Neal, LSU, 1989-90
19.8 points / 17.1 rebounds / 5.1 blocks / 13.9 FGA / 57.3 FG%
• 2. How rare was Kansas’ 77-70 victory at Iowa State on Monday? Well, the Jayhawks have now won nine of 10 at Hilton Coliseum, so not that rare. But the formula probably shouldn’t be repeated that often. KU finished with a season-high 24 turnovers, the most since the beginning of last season. The Jayhawks made up for the turnovers by outrebounding Iowa State 53-36 — and of course it helped that Iowa State shot 22 of 70 (31 percent) from the field.
But strangely, Kansas is now 2-1 when committing 20-plus turnovers since the beginning of last season. The Jayhawks had 23 turnovers in the loss at Florida earlier this year. But the victory over Iowa State most clearly resembled Kansas’ win against North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Remember? In the third NCAA meeting between Bill Self and Roy Williams, KU turned the ball over 22 times in a 70-58 victory. One reason: North Carolina’s line was eerily similar to Iowa State. The Tar Heels were outrebounded 50-36 and shot just 22 of 73 (30 percent) from the floor.
• 3. Comparing freshmen: Here’s a little statistical evidence on why Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins’ offensive numbers are a little behind Duke forward Jabari Parker and Kentucky forward Julius Randle.
Wiggins is averaging 15.8 points after scoring 17 against Iowa State on Monday; that trails both Parker (18.8) and Randle (16.9). But according to an ESPN study that looked at isolation plays, post-ups and pick-and-rolls, it could be because Kansas isn’t running its offense through Wiggins as much as Duke is utilizing Parker or Kentucky is using Randle.
According to the study, both Parker and Randle average more than six isos, post-ups and pick-and-rolls per game, while Wiggins averages around 4 1/2. Wiggins has had his struggles on offense — as have Parker and Randle — but his overall production could be more about usage than talent.