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The Jayhawks won the national title last year. It was not an upset because they had the second highest win probability by my numbers. Kansas had a high ceiling with future NBA players Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun.
It was an upset since they had only an 8% win probability compared to 32.6% for Gonzaga. Kansas was a great team but looking up at the favorite.
This year, Kansas is actually better on defense. They rank 6th in my adjusted points per possession, an improvement from 15th on their championship team.
This improvement is particularly impressive because they are doing it without size. Last year, they had David McCormack at 6’10” to take up space and block shots. This year, Jalen Wilson is their tallest player at 6’8”, and he is more of a wing than a big.
Kansas looked awful on defense against Texas in the Big 12 championship game. They gave up multiple uncontested layups in a 76-56 loss. However, this performance seems like an outlier given the strength of their season long numbers.
However, Kansas is not nearly the same as last season on offense. As Agbaji and Braun are now both getting significant NBA minutes, Kansas has dropped from 6th last season to 31st this year.
Jalen Wilson has become the leader. However, he is not nearly as efficient as Agbaji last season.
- Wilson in 2023: 47.4% from 2, 33.8% from 3.
- Agbaji in 2022: 53.3% from 2, 40.9% from 3.
Kansas freshman Grady Dick might have a higher ceiling than Wilson, Agbaji or Braun. The Athletic has him as a lottery pick at 10th in the 2023 NBA draft, and he’s making 39.9% of his threes. However, his usage is low, which suggests this freshman won’t suddenly carry the offense in March.
Backup guard Joseph Yesufu has a jump shot that makes Shaq’s release seem fluid. Dick Vitale said that Yesufu “can really shoot the ball,” but his 26.6% three point field goal percentage suggests otherwise. Dickie V or numbers, you can decide which to follow.
Kansas’s rank of 31st on offense isn’t bad, and they are a blueblood that is getting picked as champion in almost 12% of brackets on ESPN. However, my numbers give them less than a 5% chance to win, as they are in the Region of Death out west with teams like Gonzaga and Connecticut.
I’m more likely to fade the Jayhawks.
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