Skip to content

Elijah Johnson overlooked as Kansas’ best weapon

Mar 31, 2012, 8:45 AM EST

spt-120330-EJ AP

It’s no secret that Anthony Davis and Deshaun Thomas have been killing it during the NCAA tournament. Thomas leads all players in scoring, while Davis the favorite to win MOP for the Final Four.

But they’re hardly the only ones.

This instructive post by Dan Hanner over at RealGM.com details the offensive ratings, percentage of minutes played and percentage of possessions used. Basically, who’s playing, who’s scoring well and who’s playing the largest roles.

For Kentucky, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb could stand to be more aggressive, while Jared Sullinger’s been more efficient for Kentucky while using more possessions. Louisville’s Russ Smith still isn’t scoring efficiently, but he’s somehow been better than he was during the regular season while using even more possessions. (Russ-diculous indeed.)

Then there’s Kansas guard Elijah Johnson, one of the few Jayhawks who’ve been able to score during their Final Four run. (Center Jeff Withey also deserves some kudes.)

Johnson’s boosted his scoring from 10 ppg to 13.5 ppg, his shooting percentage from 42.5 percent to 51 percent and is shooting 11 percentage points higher from beyond the arc. Considering he’s played more minutes than any other Jayhawk, he’s probably undervalued as a major factor for Saturday’s game.

“I’ve become much more mature,” he said. “I think I’ve understood how the college system works.  I understand how college basketball is supposed to be played. I think it shows in my game.”

The nice part for Kansas and coach Bill Self? He could be even better.

“I think Elijah is probably as talented or right up there as talented as any guard we’ve recruited here when you talk about explosiveness, touch, vision, being able to slide.  I mean, he has all the physical attributes, plus he’s got a great skill set,” Self said.

“He’s played great the last month for us, probably been as good a performer as we’ve had in the tournament. But, again, I think he’s still got another big step to take.”

That’s a promising sign considering Johnson will probably be the go-to guy for Kansas next season.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.