Coming into Wednesday, the Kansas City Roos are tied with New Mexico State for the best record in the WAC. Both the Roos and the Aggies are the only teams with winning records. The Roos have a chance to take the top spot once again when Kansas City travels to Iowa State on Wednesday night.
How legit is Kansas City? That is an interesting question. Yes, the Roos have won three of their last four games, all against Division I opponents. But, for those that rely on analytics to determine how good a team is, the wins haven’t been that impressive. Some will argue that the three wins over Division I opponents are against sub-200 KenPom rankings. This is correct. Others will make the argument that despite the 5-4 record, Kansas City still has a sub-200 KenPom ranking at 251. This is also correct.
But here is the thing. Regardless of what the analytics say, Kansas City is winning games. It’s a pretty simple concept. Sometimes fans, writers and others get so caught up in analytics that they don’t give credit where it is deserved. Isn’t it about winning games? Even if it is an ugly win, a win is still a win. Yes, Kansas City isn’t putting up gaudy offensive numbers. The Roos average just 71 points per game and shooting 45 percent from the field. The Roos only make 6.4 3-pointers per game and are shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc.
It’s in the defensive numbers where the Roos find success. Kansas City allows 62 points per game. And opponents are only shooting 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range. The Roos are also forcing 16.4 turnovers per game and 9.4 steals per game.
It is what new head coach Billy Donlon wants out of his players. During WAC Media Day in October, Donlon spoke about what he wanted out of his guys.
“You want to teach them the value of hard work first,” Donlon said. “And you got to teach them how to compete. The competitive level is a lot more important than the schematic…we have some guys that are proven scorers in our league and now we have to make them proven defenders.”
In a Mid-Major Madness article by Greg Mitchell, Donlon had this to say about finding ways to win.
“If you could draw up a way to win a game I’d take that way, and I’ll tell you why. This is a new group with a lot of guys getting to know each other, and now five games from now we can point back and say, ‘we were down late and had to get a stop, then had to go get a bucket, had to get a stop, had to make free throws,’ and those are growing opportunities.”
With 10 new faces including Clemson transfer Javan White and BYU transfer Jahshire Hardnett, Kansas City is off to a solid start. With returners Brandon McKissic, Jordan Giles and Rob Whitfield, the pieces are in place for Kansas City to keep winning games.
White averages a team-high 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. McKissic is the only other Roo in double figures at 10.3 points. So, it is a collective group effort to win games. In the win against George Washington, Hardnett had his best game since coming to Kansas City with a career-high 25 points. The following day against East Carolina, Rob Whitfield hit seven 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 29 points.
Remember what Billy Donlon also said at WAC Media Day?
“The number one standard to being an all-conference player should be ‘did you impact winning?'”
With a big test coming in Ames, Iowa on Wednesday night, perhaps the Roos can prove that they are legit. Don’t count out a Billy Donlon-coached team. Donlon led Wright State to three 20-plus win seasons in four years and three appearances in the Horizon League tournament title game in four years. For reference, the most games any coach at Wright State had won prior to Donlon being the head coach was 13. Donlon led Wright State to the Horizon League regular season crown before he was let go by the school’s athletic director for unknown cause.
Billy Donlon knows how to win. And if the Kansas City players buy into what he’s selling, this team will surprise people in 2019-20. And remember, it’s the final season in the WAC for the Roos. So, wouldn’t it be fitting to end its run in the WAC by shocking the world?