February 28, 2002


Of late, the Kansas Jayhawks have been unbeatable, taking the best shots of ISU, Nebraska and Texas, while creaming the rest.  They can score at will, run the floor, play tough defense, and seem to truly enjoy themselves.  I just love to watch them play.  In all due respects to the 1952 and 1988 national champions and the great clubs in 1997, 1986, and 1971, I can't help but think that this may be the best team KU ever.

As a basketball junkie and amateur statistician, I’ve found that Martin Manley’s Production Indexes are very useful in comparing teams and players.  It’s a simple formula, where you add the statistics of the ‘good’ things players do (including points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals), and subtract the ‘bad’ things (missed field goals, missed free throws and turnovers).  The sum of that is then divided by the number of games played to derive a Game Index (GI), and the sum can be divided by minutes played to derive another index which shows how effective they are when on the court (MI).

The 2002 Jayhawk’s Game Index (GI) is 117.43 through last Wednesday’s KSU game, and its’ Production Index is .585.  Previously, Williams’ highest statistically-ranked team was in 1990, when they went 30-5 and had a GI of 112.00 and MI of .560.  By way of further comparison, the 1991 team, which played for the national championship, had a GI of 95.80 and a MI of .484, while the 1998 team (starring All-Americans Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce) had a GI of 104.71 and a MI of .522 (the third highest of Williams’ tenure at KU).

Almost a year ago, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article contending that Kirk Hinrich was a better point guard than ISU’s Jamaal Tinsley.  I backed up the assertion with a variety of statistics, including the GI and MI, which gave Hinrich an edge over All-American Tinsley.  Of course, I caught a lot of hell from my Cyclone friends and acquaintances.  In a subsequent article, I agreed that, while the stats showed an edge for Hinrich, various intangibles gave Tinsley the nod.

This year, I believe that everyone would agree that Hinrich is even better than last year, and the stats prove that to be the case.  This year, Kirk’s GI is 19.75 compared to last years 17.38, an improvement of 13.6%.  His .522 MI in 2000-01 compares to .615 so far this season, an improvement of an astounding 17.8%. 

Just to compare Hinrich again with the best, Duke’s Jason Williams (everyone’s pick for All-American point guard), has a GI of only 18.12 through 25 games, or 8.3% lower than Kirk’s GI.  Williams’ MI is .539, 12.4% below Hinrich.  I’ll probably take some flack from Duke fans, but I’ll take Kirk anytime.

Aaron Miles GI of 11.39 and MI of .424 compare favorably to Jacque Vaughn freshman stats of 9.87 and .390.

Drew Gooden, however, stands as the one of the highest rated Jayhawks since 1984, the first year that the aforementioned formula could be used.  His GI of 25.07 is slightly lower than Danny Manning’s 27.17, but his MI of .828 exceeds Manning’s .783.


Good news for Raef LaFrentz (KU ’98)!  He finally got out of poisonous Denver (the Nuggets were 20 games out in the Midwest Division) and headed to the Dallas Mavericks, who are in first place in the Midwest Division.  With Mark Cuban’s money, the Mavs are now considered to be THE place to be now in the NBA.

Dirk Nowitski has a lock on the 4 position, so Raef is still going to have to play at the center position, rather than his natural power forward position.  Nonetheless, look for Raef to finally develop into one of the league’s stars.  He’s second in the league in blocked shots and has a 15 PPG average.

Jacque Vaughn (KU ’97) is now getting considerably more playing time (24 mpg) this year with the Atlanta Hawks than he ever got with the Utah Jazz, and is finally getting his shot to fall (6.1 ppg).  Scot Pollard (KU ’97) is getting a lot of respect and PT (25 mpg) with the Sacramento Kings, backing up PF Chris Webber and post-man Vlade Divac.

Paul Pierce (KU ’98) is having an all-star year with the Boston Celtics, and is currently the league’s third highest scorer with 26.1 ppg.  In a recent SLAM magazine (a ‘hip-hop’ rag), he said that the intelligence he uses to read the floor is attributable to Coach Roy Williams, saying, “he taught me the game”.  However, he went on to say that coach O’Brien’s system in Boston has helped him flourish to his potential, opening his game up.  For the first time since high school, “I don’t have to look over my shoulder when I take a shot.”

Danny Manning (KU’88) and Greg Ostertag (KU ’95), are both now bench warmers and likely in their last NBA year.

The Philadelphia 76’ers dedicated Friday night’s game to the 40th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s (KU ’58) 100-point game on March 2, 1962.