How are college basketball's contenders built? SI.com's Luke Winn breaks down five different sets of Hoops Architectural plans.
PLAN NO. 2: KANSAS
ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: Modern Opulence
CHARACTERISTICS: KU has a ritzy roster, with four McDonald's All-Americans from the classes of 2005 and '06. It practices small-ball modernism with three-star guards and a non-traditional, athletic power forward. The baby Jayhawks started three freshmen and two sophomores last season, and were stingy on D, boasting the second-best defensive efficiency rating (.847 points per possession) in the nation.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Said coach Bill Self, "I've changed over time. I now think you have to have guys who are not position players, but just players -- and then fit them into a system where they can utilize their talent. We don't play with a 1, 2 or 3. We play with guards. We don't play with a 5. We play with big guys. What I want is to have two good shooters on the floor at all times, to stretch the defense, and have great speed and toughness with our perimeter D."
PROJECT STATUS: Tied for Big 12 title in '05-06. Considered one of the nation's top three teams (along with Florida and UNC) this season, as well as the overwhelming conference favorite. The caveat: KU has been upset in the first round the past two NCAA tournaments.
PRIMARY MATERIALS: Backcourt troika of point guard Russell Robinson (9.3 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.3 spg), combo guard Mario Chalmers (11.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.7 spg) and shooting guard/wing Brandon Rush (13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 47.2 percent 3s), as well as five-star freshman Sherron Collins, the first man off the bench.
This group has redefined the Jayhawks, stylistically, from the post-oriented squad that thrived in '04 and '05 with All-America big man Wayne Simien, into a sleeker -- and probably more dangerous -- perimeter team. "We probably ran as good a high-low offense as anybody in the country for several years [with Simien], and we're still doing that a little bit," said Self. "But we've evolved into the thinking that the hardest thing to guard in college basketball is the ball, so we're trying to open up and give the guards the freedom to be more creative."
While Rush handles the bulk of the scoring, Robinson and Chalmers have been the main instigators of change. Both had Assist Rates (a kenpom.com stat: the percentage of teammates' field goals, made while the player is on the floor, on which he records an assist) of above 27, ranking in the top 150 nationally. And they were absolute pests on D: Chalmers' steal percentage (percent of defensive possessions while he was on the floor on which he recorded a steal) was ranked No. 1 in the nation at 5.9. Robinson was ranked 31st with 4.6.