Kansas’ Malik Newman’s rattled off a string of great offensive outings, and they couldn’t have come at a better time.
Malik Newman is only a sophomore, but he’s already had a lengthy college career. Once a consensus top 10 high school recruit and potential one-and-done, Newman spent his freshman season at Mississippi State before transferring out of the program.
He committed to Kansas nearly two years ago, sat out the entirety of the 2016-17 season due to NCAA rules and was in the crowd last March when the Jayhawks stumbled against Oregon in the Elite Eight.
Now, thanks in large part to Newman himself, those Jayhawks will have a shot at redemption come Sunday.
The 6-foot-3 guard led No. 1 Kansas with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting in an 80-76 win over No. 5 Clemson on Friday night to advance the Jayhawks to their third straight Elite Eight. For Newman, it was just another excellent offensive performance in a long line of them lately.
Basketball statistician Dean Oliver developed the idea of individual offensive rating in his 2004 book Basketball on Paper. The purpose of the stat is to essentially measure how many points a player creates when he tries to create them. It’s a reasonable facsimile for offensive impact.
To help measure just how good Newman’s been recently — especially following some real growing pains in November and December — I calculated a 5-game moving average of his individual offensive rating and plotted it below.
The good news for Kansas? Newman’s hitting his stride at the right time.
In five of Newman’s last six games, he’s topped an offensive rating of 120, a benchmark for an excellent performance. His lone slip up came in the Jayhawks’ opening round game against Penn when his backcourt mate Devonte’ Graham went for 29.
Newman credits his recent uptick to a mental shift.
“My confidence is sky high. I’m not really out there thinking anymore, just playing, doing what Coach asked me to do and just trying to make plays,” he told the media following the Clemson win.
That’s exactly what the Kansas staff sold him on when he committed. “They just want me to handle the ball, make plays and make the team better,” Newman said back in 2016.
The 20-year-old’s college career hasn’t exactly gone as planned, but he’s peaking at the right time, and the Jayhawks need him to. Whichever team they play on Sunday will sport one of the country’s elite defenses. Newman’s scoring could prove critical.
“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “This is what you come to Kansas for to, like Coach said, experience the best.”