The Unknown Unknown



  • The known unknown (e.g., Frank Mason’s RISKY probability of developing into a top D1 PG) can be anticipated and hedged for (e.g., CF can be practiced at PG and Devonte can be added).

    We know injuries will happen, but not to who. KNOWN UNKNOWN. Depth is the solution.

    Mismatches will happen. Known unknown. Help is the answer.

    Slumps will happen. Known unknown. Multiple shooters is the answer.

    Teams get the flu. Known unknown. Depth is the answer.

    But the unknown unknown is a bitch.

    Last year, Naa’s selfie of making the beast with two backs went viral.

    One season Darrell Arthur asked not to start.

    Mario Little decides to go house to house looking for a girl fiend.

    TRob loses his adult family and becomes his sisters guardian.

    Scalpinggate and realignment gate go on for years.

    9/11 happens

    An alum buys the Naismith Rules but doesn’t display them in Allen Field House ever.

    Your starting PG averages 10 TOs per game for part of a season for no apparent reason (Tyshawn), then decides he has more important things than basketball on his mind and wants a few weeks off…during a conference title run.

    Your SHOECO, which signed you because of your tradition and brand begins requiring you to wear stupid looking uniforms frequently.

    Referees inexplicably begin calling fouls that make no sense for half a season, then start NOT calling obvious fouls for half a season. No explanation given.

    The next Lebron plays soft much of the time.

    None of these events were eventualities Self could anticipate, and so hedge for in advance.

    They were issues that had to be dealt with in real time.

    There was no instruction manual for how to deal with them.

    Somehow Self won or shared ten conference titles, and one ring, while other coaches in the conference never won one title outright, or a ring.

    It took some luck for sure, and endless hard work.

    But in the moment, when the chips were down, again and again Self showed amazing strength of character.

    Once I studied risk management extensively related to the unknown unknown. I overlooked character as a hedge technique then. Now, after watching Self the past decade, I think character and hard work may be the only controllable hedges against the unknown unknown.

    Character is not only the right stuff, but it is resilience of the right stuff. It is sticking with good choices, when everyone else is scrambling for solutions, when they cannot even fathom the problem. It is getting better at what you know, when you cannot yet know more. It is accepting things as they are and working at getting better, rather than deluding yourself into thinking things can be different in the moment.

    Character is committing to getting better at what you can do rather than wishing yo could do something else.

    Time and again this is Self’s great edge: he finds ways to get better at what they already do, when others are wasting time and energy budget on learning to do different things.

    This why so many both marvel sat his accomplishments, yet clamor for him to do different things.

    Because he tends to focus on getting better at what he has decided any particular team can be best doing, there always are a lot of other things he might be trying instead.

    But because he is such a shrewd judge of what his teams can be good at, and keeps them getting better at doing it, while others are asking why aren’t you doing this or that too, and while other teams are trying this and that, Self’s teams keep getting better at what they do do.

    And apparently over the course of a season it makes his teams get very good at what they do, but leaves them vulnerable to teams in the tourney uniquely suited to disrupting what Self’s teams have become so good at doing.

    And therein lies the seeming paradox of an awesome W&L statement and lots of tournament upsets.

    And perhaps the insight needed to adapt.



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  • @jaybate-1.0 Great post! Perfect summation of Self, in that while we praise his accomplishments, we clamor for him to try something different.

    Thus, as you also put it: it is maybe why we have an awesome W/L resume, yet also early tourney exits.

    I would slightly counter with our older discussions about Self’s teams being competent & versatile enough to play “take what they give us”. That requires an experienced roster, which we didnt have last year. Last year’s team was competent and versatile at nothing.

    You mention the one-thing we get good at can get disrupted by a tourney opponent. My counter observation is that if the Self team is experienced enough, with a well-developed, well-rehearsed bag of tricks in their repertoire, than they can survive a rough outing: Davidson in '08, or even that Memphis '08 game. I point out the glaring differences in efficient execution (& toolkit size) between the 08champs vs the '13-14Wiggyhawks. Glaring differences, starting with zone-busting. 08 guys ate zoneDs for appetizers.



  • @ralster – and the 08 guys even played a little zone of their own.



  • @ralster

    And this is why I don’t place as much importance on the NCAA tournament since luck and the right match-ups play too large of a role. If the Elite 8 and forward are played as best of 3 or best of 5, KU does not win in '88 and even '08 is a tossup but it wins at least 4-5 others where it was the superior team with a bad game at the wrong time. This is why every major professional sport other than football (logistically not feasible) uses a “best of” format instead of a single game. Just my opinion.



  • Agreed. I’d like to see the Final4 as a best-of-3 series or something, or maybe just the champ game?



  • @JayHawkFanToo

    “and even '08 is a tossup”

    I’m trying to think of a team that would be a toss-up with us in '08 in a best of 3 and can’t think of anyone.

    Who did you have in mind?

    Surely not Memphis State!



  • @drgnslayr

    A lot of talent in that Memphis team. If not for several missed free throws by Rose (can’t blame those on Calipari), KU does not get close and tie the game in regulation. I was watching the game and had pretty much accepted that Memphis was going to win…it was comeback for the ages!!!



  • @JayHawkFanToo Ahh, but interestingly, we can blame Calipari for the FTs because recall that (in)famous on-camera interview during the '08 tournament where Cal was sitting with CDRoberts and actually admitted on-air that he does not coach/drill FTs because “they’ll make em when they have to”!?? I recall that plain as day. I recall yelling at the TV during a champgame replay that “ya, thats what you get! Like us in '03…”.

    To this day, I wonder, since everybody saw that natl interview, that if in those critical minutes, his quote was echoing in Rose + CDR’s heads, as a distraction on the FT line. All this love for the 08 guys aside, the 2nd half was not their day, and it was Memphis game to win…but, they couldnt shut the door, and the comeback is legend. Just like EJ missed 1 of 2 FTs late, that woulda put KU 4pts up on Michigan–> right before Burke’s Trey…But here’s the difference: EJ was a decent FT shooter, better than Tyshawn, so I cant blame Self for that FT. But I can jeer at Cal precisely because he systematically admitted the FT coaching/practice “gap” in his system.

    Even Memphis fans would lament that admission by Calipari. They literally feel he short-changed their team. And they are correct.



  • @JayHawkFanToo

    It is impossible for me to view that match-up without a bias. I still believe we were the better team and had better depth.

    I thought we underperformed until those last couple of magic minutes (and OT), when we finally put it in overdrive.



  • @ralster you’re in my wheel house. So many people want to make a case of greatness from the success or failure of March Madness.

    The reality is the tournament is really a crap shoot. Yes the cream for the most part rises to the top but very seldom does the best team ever wins it. A tough bracket, bad matchup or basically playing a true road game, a team needs a little luck.



  • I was there with my father. I remember with a couple of minutes left-I was thinking the only way we can win this is if we play perfect the rest of the game. When we hit the three at the buzzer I thought its over-this much momentum will carry us in overtime which did. That weekend in San Antonio will always be one of my best memories-and it isn’t limited to KU memories either.



  • @ralster

    It is easy to bash Cal for not focusing on FTs. There is a reason for that. He was living the NBA dream in his head and he thought it was below him to focus on such a simple part of the game. Cal has since admitted that his own personality has often caused issues with becoming a good coach. Maybe it was his lame way of admitting he isn’t a good coach.

    I look back at that game and, for me, it really wasn’t about Memphis missing FTs (I know it was a huge part). I focus more on our “Hail Marys”… Sherron stealing the in-bounds pass, getting it back and nailing the long ball, and then Mario’s shot “heard around the world.”

    To be honest… I give Sherron more credit than Mario. His steal and shot were infinitely harder to accomplish and so so rare.

    I know there are other crazy steals in basketball… but something that comes close to what Sherron did was Gerald Henderson’s steal and basket that put the Celtics into overtime with the Lakers in Game 2, 1984. The comeback in regulation helped finesse Boston in OT and they beat the Lakers. That was the pivotal game in the Finals, and Boston took out LA to win it all.



  • @ralster

    Memphis FT average for the season was a poor .608 and at the Title game shot 12-19 for an above average .623. KU FT average for the season was a.702 and shot 14-15 for an out-of-this-world .933 FT average, well above the season average. Douglas Roberts and Rose were the best free throw shooters in the team and had season FT averages of .720; Douglas Roberts shot 6-9 FT at the game for .667 but two of the 3 missed free throws were with 16 second left and Rose shot 3-4 FT at the game for .750 but his one miss came with 10 seconds left and could have put Memphis by 4…instead it put them up by only 3 and we all know how it turned out. In short, it was not as much the missed free throws that doomed Memphis but WHEN they were missed. Had Rose made that free throw, he would have been 1…000 from the free throw line, highly unlikely in a Title game.

    Memphis did have a very good team and I would be curious if someone ran a simulation to determine who would win a 3 or 5 game series. Enough history, the good guys won.


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