Kansas basketball has been winning games this season with its stellar defense, which is arguably the best in the country.
Kansas basketball beat the TCU Horned Frogs yesterday 60-46 on the road. It was an ugly game offensively for the Jayhawks, but Kansas dominated the Frogs with their defense. This isn’t the first time this season Kansas has won a game on the strength of its defense either. The Jayhawks have held six of their last eight opponents to 60 or fewer points, paving the way for an eight-game win streak.
After the TCU game yesterday, Kansas basketball became the number one team in the country defensively according to KenPom, after already being the number one team overall. West Virginia and Virginia are also close behind the Jayhawks. Torvik also rates Kansas favorably on defense, putting them tied for second. So what does this mean for Kansas?
In his time at Kansas, head coach Bill Self has had two teams finish at the top of KenPom’s defensive efficiency margin ranking: the 2007 Elite Eight team, and the 2008 national title team. The 2012 national title runner-up team was ranked third. While having an elite defense is completely necessary to make a run, it certainly doesn’t hurt (the 2018 Final Four defense was no. 47).
The thing about good defense is that it almost always shows up, unlike offense. Every year without fail, there’s a great offensive team in the tournament that gets knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen or earlier by an inferior team simply because they can’t get shots to fall. With defense, you give yourself a chance to win even when the shots aren’t falling, like Kansas did against TCU.
Against the Horned Frogs, Kansas was an abysmal 24-58 from the floor. The Jayhawks only had one player shoot over 50 percent from the field, and that was center Udoka Azubuike. Still, the Jayhawks won by 14 points. Grated, TCU isn’t a good team, but the Jayhawks have had other instances of their defense keeping them in games.
The Villanova loss comes to mind, where the Jayhawks shot 44% from the field, yet they had a chance to win in the final moments.
The bottom line is that Kansas basketball has a chance to win it all this season. Their offense is great, their defense is phenomenal, they have a hall of fame head coach, and future NBA stars. As long as everyone stays healthy, there may be no stopping the Jayhawks in March.