Monday, March 7, 2016

A Historical Look at KU and One-and-Done Players

The ball is tipped. And here we are.

The calendar has flipped from the consequence-free National holiday of Leap Day over to March 1st, marking the unofficially official start to the College Basketball season.

To celebrate, I wanted to do a historical study consisting of the few debatable topics surrounding Bill Self's tenure at the University of Kansas: NCAA Tournament success and one-and-done players.

The premise of this statistical look is simple: Was there a one-and-done player on the roster vs. how did KU fare in the NCAA Tournament? For shits and giggles, as well as a bit of a control group, I threw in another factor pundits often point to when it comes to success in The Big Dance -- senior leadership.

Lets start with Bill Self's first year at KU, the 2003-04 season, which will be referred to as 2004 in this article, for clarity's sake. I've also simplified the following chart to read "Senior" for what I'd consider sufficient senior leadership, and "Freshman" for the presence of a one-and-done player on the roster. If neither are present, I simply put "None." The final number in the chart is how many games KU won in the NCAA Tournament that season.

  • 2004 - None - 3
  • 2005 - Senior - 0
  • 2006 - None - 0
  • 2007 - None - 3
  • 2008 - Senior - 6
  • 2009 - None - 2
  • 2010 - Senior - Freshman - 1
  • 2011 - Senior - Freshman - 3
  • 2012 - Senior - 5
  • 2013 - Senior - Freshman - 2
  • 2014 - Freshman - 1
  • 2015 - Freshman - 1

Another look:
  • NCAA Tournament wins under Bill Self: 27 = 2.25 average wins
  • NCAAT wins with a One-and-done player: 1, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 1.6 average wins
  • NCAAT wins without a One-and-done: 3, 0, 0, 3, 6, 2, 5 = 2.71 average wins
  • NCAAT wins with Senior leadership: 0, 6, 1, 3, 5, 2 = 2.83 average wins
  • NCAAT wins without Senior leadership: 3, 0, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 1.67 average wins

  • I declared no senior leadership for a few teams that people might disagree with: 2004 (Jeff Graves), 2006 (Jeff Hawkins + Christian Moody) and 2014 (Tarik Black). I didn't consider any of these players among the top on the team. Also it helped balance out the study.
  • I gave Ben McLemore the one-and-done label for 2013, even though he was technically a second year player, having redshirted the season before.

Statistical Analysis:

Self's most accomplished teams have come equipped with senior leadership and no one-and-done players, reaching the National Championship Game twice out of four such instances, while losing in the Elite 8 and first round in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Over the last six years, the only time KU's season didn't end in (what I would consider) disappointment was 2012, the one year without a one-and-done. Furthermore, every Bill Self team with a one-and-done player at KU has bowed out to a lower seeded team in the NCAA Tournament.

In fact, throughout his time at KU, Self has only lost to a higher seeded team three times - Georgia Tech in 2004, Michigan St. in 2009 and Kentucky in the 2012 National Championship Game. This serves as both a testament to KU's shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament, as well as how good KU has been in the regular season, earning top seeds year after year (KU's seedings under Self: 4, 3, 4, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2).


I think it's obvious to say every coach would love to have senior leadership up and down their squad, but that's not really a task that is easily controllable, so case closed on that one.

But what about the recruitment of potential one-and-dones? You may look at this data and already be convinced it's for the worse. Or you may dismiss this data due to sample size and happenstance.

However, at what point do these results become an undeniable trend? Or will it never reach that point, given that a championship team with a one-and-done and no senior leadership would more than likely balance the scales?

For transparency's sake, I've never been in favor of having one-and-done type players, a personaly philosophy dating back to before the beginning of this case study. I had an irrefutable argument up until Carmelo Anthony (or maybe, Gerry McNamara, to be more accurate), a pretty strong case before Anthony Davis, and finally, something resembling a case until Jahlil Okafor last year.

My stance has since lessened slightly, but I still argue those are generational type players, and for whatever reason, they haven't panned out at KU, even including a #1 draft pick like Andrew Wiggins.

But why would that be?

My arguments, outside of the first 1,500 words of this article: 1. It's easier to sustain greatness and build team chemistry with three and four year players. And 2. I don't trust the motives of one-and-done players, who I believe are generally more focused on their draft stock than winning games in March (don't hate the player for this, hate the game).

The initial counter-argument is clear and simple: You never turn down talent. You want the best basketball players you can find and you figure out the rest later. Additionally, the players reaching the NBA are reaping dividends for the program throughout their careers.


The goal of this article wasn't to sway you one way or the other, but rather to supply the data and the arguments for both sides of what I consider a great debate that is getting more and more interesting over the years.

I wouldn't consider this highly scientific study to be anything conclusive. We're still talking about a small sample size, given the single elimination nature of the NCAA Tournament.

Obviously, the much better barometer of Self's career at KU would be the 11 straight conference titles, one of the more impressive achievements in the history of sports. However, nobody debates the greatness of Self or KU as a regular season titan. The questions begin to surface when it comes to late March.

So the only question that remains now is how the 2016 Kansas Jayhawks, armed with senior leadership and a potential one-and-done player, will affect this debate?

His Dirkness

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