While waiting on the Kansas basketball press conference Thursday, I asked one of the media members what he thought Frank Mason’s two-point percentage was in Big 12 play. The only hint I gave was that Mason is shooting 53 percent from three in league games.
“Sixty percent,” he said.
I bet most KU fans would guess about the same, which makes the answer a bit more surprising.
In actuality, Mason has made 48 of 121 inside shots in conference play — good for 40 percent.
The caveats probably need to start here. Mason still is the most valuable Jayhawk. His three-point percentage is amazing, and his ability to drive, pass, get to the free-throw line and make shots there has given KU’s offense a huge boost.
Having said all that, the two-point percentage still seems low, doesn’t it? Mason has never been a great shooter inside the arc, but he’s still made 46 percent for his career. In non-conference games this year, he was at 48 percent.
So what has changed?
It seems like a few factors could be at play.
The most obvious one is fatigue. Mason has played 90 percent of KU’s minutes in Big 12 games, meaning that extra explosion needed to score over big men inside might not be the same as it was a couple months ago.
Mason has especially struggled recently. He’s 3-for-16 on twos in his last two games, and quick video study of those shots indicates other teams deserve some credit for defending him well.
One thing Texas Tech and West Virginia both did effectively was get back in transition. According to Hoop-Math.com, Mason shoots 68 percent at the rim on fast breaks and 46 percent in the half-court, so sending back a potential offensive rebounder to slow the Jayhawks’ running game (and Mason) could potentially be a smart coaching decision.
There’s more to it than that, though. Mason is best on close shots when he can lean into potential shot-blockers so they can’t extend to block his shot. There was a great example of this in KU’s season-opener against Indiana when Mason put his body into forward Thomas Bryant before finishing with a layup and foul.
West Virginia and Texas Tech both were effective at not letting Mason get this advantage. Both teams focused on strong help while forcing Mason to shoot over outstretched arms.
Mason hasn’t been himself inside lately. He’s 2-for-8 at the rim in the last two games and 10-for-21 in his last five.
The good news for KU is that Mason doesn’t need to alter much to keep his team’s offense rolling at an efficient pace. He’s still a standout three-point shooter, and his ability to get his shoulders past defenders on drives doesn’t always have to result in a shot himself; many times, forcing help can create passing lanes for kick outs to the perimeter, where he has four teammates shooting better than 36 percent.
A tough test awaits Saturday, as Baylor features a three-man defensive back line with a combined 21 feet of wingspan.
In the first matchup, Mason went 0-for-4 at the rim ... but had six assists to two turnovers and also was a perfect 12-for-12 at the free throw line as KU won 73-68.
There’s more than one way to help a team to offensive success. And Mason, more often than not, has found the correct path while helping his team come through in close games.