What UVA Basketball fans will never need to know about Kansas

uva basketball
Photo by Dan Grogan.

In a perfect world, defending national champ Virginia could be the East Regional champ, getting ready for a matchup in the Final Four this weekend with overall #1 national seed Kansas.

And for once, casual college hoops fans might actually be rooting for Virginia.

Boring? Sure. But at least you’d know going in that Virginia wouldn’t have to take its banner down if it were to have emerged from the weekend as the two-time champ.

Kansas, ah, man, yeah, issues there, but on the court, the Jayhawks were clearly the best team in a down year in college basketball.

Three losses all year – Duke in the season opener way back in November, at Villanova in December, a rare home loss, to Baylor, another #1 seed, in January, which KU avenged with a win at Baylor in February.

Kansas fits the profile of a national champ. After combing through KenPom.com numbers dating back to the 2001-2002 season, there was a noticeable trend in who the eventual champ would end up being.

National champ Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Virginia (2018-2019) 123.2 (2) 86.1 (2)
Villanova (2017-2018) 127.4 (1) 96.0 (22)
North Carolina (2016-2017) 122.1 (4) 94.1 (25)
Villanova (2015-2016) 118.3 (15) 91.6 (7)
Duke (2014-2015) 124.3 (3) 94.9 (37)
UConn (2013-2014) 111.4 (57) 92.2 (12)
Louisville (2012-2013) 114.3 (17) 83.2 (1)
Kentucky (2011-2012) 120.6 (2) 88.8 (6)
UConn (2010-2011) 114.8 (21) 93.1 (27)
Duke (2009-2010) 119.3 (4) 87.7 (5)
North Carolina (2008-2009) 122.6 (1) 94.1 (37)
Kansas (2007-2008) 121.4 (1) 87.5 (3)
Florida (2006-2007) 120.9 (2) 92.1 (14)
Florida (2005-2006) 116.0 (13) 92.1 (18)
North Carolina (2004-2005) 121.1 (3) 91.8 (12)
UConn (2003-2004) 116.2 (11) 90.3 (10)
Syracuse (2002-2003) 113.9 (18) 94.0 (31)
Maryland (2001-2002) 118.2 (4) 91.3 (12)


You can see the bias in the numbers. It’s toward teams that are elite on both ends of the floor.

Seventeen of the 18 champs in the KenPom.com era were ranked in the Top 37 on offense and on defense, and when you dive down deeper, you get 11 champs ranked in the Top 20 on both ends, and four, including the 2008 Kansas team and the 2019 UVA team, ranked in the Top 5 in both.

The Jayhawks ranked eighth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency this season (1.158 points per possession) and second defensively (.855 points per possession).

Florida State, our South Region champ, ranked 32nd on offense (1.117 points per possession) and 15th on defense (.915 points per possession).

Villanova, our West champ, also fits the bill from our analysis, ranking 15th on offense (1.139 points per possession) and 36th on defense (.940 points per possession).

The fourth team in our field, Virginia, is historically, even hysterically, unbalanced. Tops in defense (.851 points per possession), and on offense – would you believe 234th (.993 points per possession).

You watched the games, so you would believe it.

Getting to know: Kansas

KenPom.com also loves KU’s roster, ranking 6’2” sophomore guard Devon Dotson (18.1 ppg, 4.1 rebs/g, 4.0 assists/g, 46.8% FG, 30.9% 3FG) and 7’0” senior Udoka Azubuike (13.7 ppg, 10.5 rebs/g, 2.6 blocks/g, 74.8% FG) in the top 10 among players nationally.

And, yes, that field-goal percentage number for Azubuike made me do a double-take, so I checked it against Hoop-Math.com, and, wow – dude gets 69.8 percent of his shots at the rim, and converts on 85.2 percent of those shots.

He is seven-feet tall and 270 pounds, so, that’s working for him, which is nice.

Coach Bill Self went basically seven deep in his rotation down the stretch. Dotson starts and gets the bulk of the minutes at one, with 6’5” junior Marcus Garrett (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rebs/g, 4.6 assists/g, 44.2% FG, 32.7% 3FG) at two, 6’5” senior Isaiah Moss (7.9 ppg, 38.7% FG, 34.8% 3FG) at three, and 6’5” sophomore Ochai Agbaji (10.0 ppg, 4.2 rebs/g, 42.8% FG, 33.8% 3FG) at four.

6’10” sophomore David McCormack (6.9 ppg, 4.1 rebs/g, 52.9% FG) gets minutes behind Azubuike at five, and 6’6” freshman Christian Braun (5.3 ppg, 43.1% FG, 44.4% 3FG) getting time off the bench at two, three and four as need be.

How UVA would have matched up

Azubuike is a tough matchup for everybody at the college level with his size and skill at finishing around the rim. Either of Virginia’s two options at five, 6’9”, 224-pound senior Mamadi Diakite (13.7 ppg, 6.8 rebs/g, 47.8% FG, 36.4% 3FG) and 7’1”, 243-pound junior Jay Huff (8.5 ppg, 6.2 rebounds/g, 57.1% FG, 35.8% 3FG), would have a tough time handling the big load.

I’d expect some minutes in this one for 7’0”, 244-pound redshirt freshman Francisco Caffaro (1.4 ppg, 7.5 minutes/g), just because Caffaro has size and, basically, five fouls.

I’d like the matchups for Virginia at two, three and especially four, assuming that the bulk of the minutes at four would go to 6’8” senior Braxton Key (9.9 ppg, 7.4 rebs/g, 43.5% FG) on Agbaji.

The other tough matchup for Virginia would be at one, but 5’9” sophomore Kihei Clark (10.8 ppg, 5.9 assists/g, 4.2 rebs/g, 37.5% 3FG) has proven himself up to most tasks the past couple of years.

Story by Chris Graham

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