What's the matter with Kansas?
A few weeks ago, I was tempted to write this post after noticing a downward trend in Kansas performance
Kansas Net Efficiency Margin (NEM) in 2009-2010
This shows the Jayhawks' total NEM (five-game running average) over the season. After game 29 (the Feb. 27 85-77 loss at Oklahoma State), they hit their nadir. I would have been a little concerned, especially because the drop was driven largely by defense.
Kansas offensive (blue) and defensive (red) NEM in 2009-2010
After posting a below-average 3.5 defensive NEM in that game (0 is Division I average, and negative defensive NEM values are better) - preceded by a 0.4 at home against struggling Oklahoma in a win - their previously stellar defense had fallen off.
However as both the total NEM and splits show, powered by two wins over Kansas State the Jayhawks are arguably playing their best ball of the year on both ends. Perhaps they were showing a bit of a 2007 Florida and 2009 North Carolina switch flipping. Those two teams finished well, if I remember correctly.
Syracuse Net Efficiency Margin (NEM) in 2009-2010
Syracuse offensive (blue) and defensive (red) NEM in 2009-2010
Syracuse's recent defensive trend isn't as encouraging. Since their February 10 win over Connecticut, the performance of the 2-3 zone has slipped. The offense has stepped up to compensate, but defense is generally a better indicator of tournament success than offense. If they face an opponent who deals well with the zone, the Orange could be a potential upset candidate, especially if Arinze Onuaku doesn't return to form soon.