The Kansas Jayhawks 7-foot senior Jeff Withey tied Greg Ostertag for Kansas' all-time blocks record on Saturday. During tonight's matchup against Kansas State (9 ET, ESPN), he’ll likely break the mark of 258.
But how does Withey measure up with Kentucky Wildcats freshman Nerlens Noel, who leads Division I players in blocks per game (4.5) and had a six game stretch in SEC play earlier this season where he averaged 7.7 blocks?
Noel may lead Division I in blocks per game, but Withey is right behind him, and he's done a better job of turning his blocked shots into positive production for his team.
2012-13: Most Blocks per Game D-I
Of Withey's 93 blocks, all but 10 have been kept inbounds (89 percent), a higher rate than Noel, who has kept 84 of his 103 blocks inbounds (82 percent).
However, the bigger difference is in how many blocks have ended up in the hands of a teammate. Noel is more of a “swatter,” liking to block the ball as hard as he can, while Withey controls the direction of the basketball much better.
Withey has had 71 blocks that resulted in defensive rebounds (76 percent) and the Jayhawks have turned those into 66 points. Only 56 of Noel’s 103 resulted in Kentucky rebounds (54 percent), and they've resulted in 56 points.
2012-13: Noel vs Withey Post-Up Defense
Noel does have one advantage over Withey. He's more apt to use either hand when he blocks shots,
Noel has blocked 61 shots with his right hand and 42 with his left. Withey has blocked 90 of 93 shots with his right hand.
Another way to analyze their defensive prowess is to look at their post defense.
In terms of points per play, both Noel and Withey rank in the top five in Division I.
Noel has allowed 0.49 points per play in the post, second-best in the nation. Withey is fifth with 0.52, but has allowed nine fewer points.
Withey and Noel are also in the top 10 in Division I in guarding the right block, albeit a smaller sample size. Opponents are shooting 4-for-18 (22 percent) in such situations against Withey and 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) against Noel (min 20 plays).
What is the best way to attack these two players? Shoot jumpers. Withey ranks 86th out of 104 Big 12 players guarding jump shots, allowing his opponents to shoot 41 percent. Noel allows opponents to shoot 38 percent on jump shots, 101st out of 146 SEC players (min. 10 plays).