Is Markieff Morris, not Marcus, the key to Kansas winning it all?

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Marcus Morris gets most of the acclaim when it comes to Kansas. The 6-8 forward was the Big 12 player of the year and is among the Wooden Award finalists.

But his twin brother Markieff might be more important to the Jayhawks’ title hopes.

The 6-9 forward doesn’t put up as many points as his brother, but is nearly as efficient a scorer and is a better rebounder and shot-blocker. In fact, on a team filled with offensive talents, Markieff is the dominant defensive player. I’d say that makes him essential to winning it all.

How do I know? Because of David Hess.

Hess spent much of his time the last few months charting every Kansas game for a feature on his blog, The Audacity of Hoops. That painstaking detail yielded Project Defensive Score Sheet, an effort to produce useful individual defensive data. Put it this way: He spent a lot of time watching time and charting the results.

So he summed up the results over at Luke Winn’s tournament blog for SI.com, and showed just how good Markieff’s been during Big 12 play. From Hess:

I used my charting data to calculate a few more key defensive stats for the twins, as well as for Thomas Robinson, and it turns out Markieff is ahead almost across the board. Robinson is a monster rebounder, but Markieff turns opposing shooters into Alcorn State, forces more turnovers and sends people to the line less than the other Kansas bigs (despite fouling more often; apparently many of his fouls are moving screens or elbows).

It should be noted that Marcus is hardly a defensive liability, though. He’s just behind Markieff, Robinson and guard Tyrel Reed overall.

Also interesting: When Hess broke down the Kansas guards, purported defensive stopper Brady Morningstar gets an average defensive rating.

As anyone who’s watched a lot of the Jayhawks the previous four seasons would probably say, that’s not a surprise. Morningstar excels at preventing his opponents from getting the ball. After that, it’s up for debate. (Then  again, Morningstar often gets stuck with the best offensive player, so he wouldn’t rate as well.)

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