Losing Conference... Winning National

  • We’ve gone around the block a few times in here now discussing which has the most “value”… our conference streak or winning another National Championship. I’m definitely NOT trying to reopen that can of worms.

    But there is something we have not discussed. The potential relationship of our conference streak with our performance in the big dance.

    With every year that we continue to win our conference it has grown in importance because adding another year builds the strength of the expectation for future years. It also earns us plenty of positive media attention and it is a solid indicator of how great our coaching staff is at Kansas.

    No other team, in any other conference, will face the pressure this Kansas team will face in their conference performance and outcome. The world is watching and most fans of college basketball either support us to win another conference title or hope we do not succeed and extend our amazing streak.

    Imagine for a second, that this year’s team is the team that loses our conference streak. No other team in the nation will take it harder for not winning their conference because no other team has so much to lose.

    What would losing our conference do for this team in March? I can imagine that it would finally be the chip I scream about us needing every year in order to win out in March. This team would definitely feel the need to redeem themselves. Regardless of the outcome in March, we would definitely be a tougher out than we were last year (and most years).

    What would winning our conference do for this team in March? It should give them confidence to know they can play with anyone including winning in very tough venues. But what does it do for our hunger in March? Does it help or hinder us? Might this team say to itself… “hey, we’ve already had a good season!” Is that what we want these guys thinking as we enter into March play? Surely a big weight will be lifted from their shoulders when they win conference. Is that a good thing?

    Personally, I think it will make March a harder road if we win our league. Don’t get me wrong, I have a total appreciation for our conference streak, it is definite proof of what our coaches have built at Kansas. However, it feels like it may add another bump in the road while driving for another National Championship. It seems to be a bump as long as we win it, and it seems to offer us a down hill path if we lose it by creating a gigantic chip on their shoulders. Imagine a big chip on the shoulders of this rough, tough and talented team?

    I definitely am not saying we need to lose our streak. I’m just discussing the possible dynamic relationship between winning conference and playing for another National Championship.

    I’m curious what you think. Please post your thoughts on how you see our conference play impacting our post-season play.

  • Coach Self has repeatedly said that the first objective is to win the conference since this means that you have arrived as a team and puts you on a good place going into the tournaments. I f you cannot win your conference, you would have an even bigger problem winning the NCAA tournament. I agree.

  • Success begets success. Championships are HARD to come by at any level including high school school and club athletics. Not every kid has confidence and being a part of a winning team does a lot to enforce an athletes belief in himself and the team. (Case in point-ku bBall vs football.) Luckily for the ku bBall program our athletes are elite and have proved themselves many times over by the time they put on a ku uniform. Winning the conference builds confidence in the team and a high seed in March. I for one prefer a big 12 title over a team with no title and a chip on the shoulder. I think doubt can lurk in the minds of some with losses. I’ve said before losing Embid lost a near lock to the final four last year. In other years we’ve just let it slip through our hands (Michigan) or underperformed (VCU) we have to remember there is a lot of parity these days. That said, We should have at least one more if not two NCAA titles under our belts

  • Since '08, '12 was the only team that carried a chip and almost won a title. We didn’t have a single McD’s AA on that team.

    That was the only year since '08 I’ve seen us play inspired basketball in March.

    These kids have a lot of pressure on them. And it seems to be building in March because the talk around campus is that we underachieve in March. For these kids to overcome the natural pressure that goes with playing for Kansas I believe it takes some kind of circumstance that pushes them up and beyond their normal state when entering March.

    That explains KU’s trophy in '88, and I’d say also in '08, and our near trophy in ‘12. It explains what happened at UCONN last year, Louisville the year before and probably most years’ winner. Hardship brings teams together and makes them tougher.

    I hear what both of you guys are saying. I’m just not sure the way we are structured right now it is working in March. If anything, winning our league seems to make us over-confident and we are not prepared for opponents like Stanford, VCU, Bradley, Bucknell and Northern Iowa. How can we look at these five losses and not realize we have preparation issues in March?

  • @drgnslayr “For these kids to overcome the natural pressure that goes with playing for Kansas I believe it takes some kind of circumstance that pushes them up and beyond their normal state when entering March.”

    Agreed lots of pressure for 18-20 yr old kids. Perceptions are diff in young vs more mature guys. The TRob tragedy did just the trick to create that bond & chemistry in 12. JMO but I think the chemistry/relationships on the personal level these kids have with themselves & coaches, can be the diff in playing loose or playing not to lose as it seems when we make the premature exit in March. Kids can be pushed too hard & consequently try too hard & I don’t just don’t believe we can legitimately question preparation. Ultimately it’s the kid’s job to execute the plan & I can only point at 3 or 4 losses total in 10 yrs that I think are on Bill or his staff. Those are only when we’ve had big leads under a couple of min remaining. At least that’s the way I perceive it. In all fairness to Bill & preparation, we can ALL remember when we were down double digits & came back to pull the rabbit (08 NC) outta the hat too. Not many of us can get the scoop from the loop, so I really can’t see it any other way. The pressure just makes them fold sometimes & it’s really a science to get any athlete to play loose. I almost at times think if they get a whooping earlier rather than later in conf, the adversity can help them gain & keep the confidence level high in opposition to later losses, closer to Mar. Am not a big fan of the conf tournament being right before the dance either. Wish there was an alternative way to time it but have no clue how to do it. ISU &UT will be tough to hold off, so peaking at the right time is very difficult to achieve.

  • I’m definitely not advising we blow our conference streak this year… but I do want to encourage that we expand our conversation in here about how to fix our March performances.

    We’ve discussed several things before… but I thought this was kind of a new twist on an old subject. It’s all good to add to the overall conversation because it pokes all of us to come up with a better explanation and way forward.

    I never expect us to win out in March. But I would like to expect that we always put our best foot forward and I don’t believe we’ve done that and I don’t believe it is easy to do all the time. We can always play teams that have more to prove… but can’t we up our energy level to match or exceed almost every team out there?

    I am not satisfied that we bring the needed intensity all through March every year. It doesn’t match up with us losing on 5 occasions to teams we should have drubbed. Yes… all those team were decent and played to their max. That doesn’t excuse our losses because we had far superior players (and some could say coaches) in all of those games.

    Any team can lose to any other team now and then. However, it seems like we have lost to too many lower teams and it is enough to show a trend that something needs to be addressed and fixed.

  • Someone here once discussed the power of the # 1 seed and debunked the old ‘being #1 is too much pressure, I’d rather be a 2 or 3 seed’ myth. Winning conferences gets you number one seeds and the supposedly easier road to the final four. For this reason alone, I hope we win conference from now until there is no more college basketball (perish the thought)

    I’d rather see our conference step it up and become stronger. That provides the tough road atmosphere that we need to become tougher ourselves.

  • @drgnslayr – “Might this team say to itself… ‘hey, we’ve already had a good season!’ Is that what we want these guys thinking as we enter into March play? Surely a big weight will be lifted from their shoulders when they win conference. Is that a good thing?”

    No, it’s not a good thing. It is the odd dynamic in which Kansas basketball lives. There is an odd fixation and pressure related to this streak is a distraction from the real goal.

    But truthfully, I’m beginning to think that Self does not overemphasize the streak and winning conference.

    The most recent example is what he said in his press conference about using the press. He made the point of saying that he wants a consistent style of play that can be successful in the “postseason.” Subtle, yes. But telling in my opinion.

    Self says that his in-season approach is based on establishing a style of play that he thinks is best suited to win in the postseason.

    I think Self, like many coaches, take great pains to devalue publicly the importance of the tournament. Why? Because to emphasize would be to highlight their own failures. They don’t want to be defined by a one and done tourney. So you hear most every coach steer clear of that hyper-focus on the tourney.

    Self’s comment might be a bit of an insight.

  • @drgnslayr Interesting discussion. I think it helps to break the season down into three segments, non-con, conference, and tournament. Each with specific goals and foes.

    The 08 team had all these things happen to set a tone for each segment. In 06-07, we played and beat the defending champs early in the season. Then we stumble in the tournament only to see the team we beat earlier win it’s back to back championship. That team learned that if it only had another chance at Florida, then they could’ve been champions. So in 07-08, the early non-con season was about fixing the weaknesses that were exposed in the tournament. By the time conference season rolled around, all anyone was talking about was Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant, DJ Augustine, DJ Augustine, Texas, Texas; and how they were the best in the Big 12. Thus giving them something to fight for and against. When the tournament started, we had to show toughness to advance to get that shot that missed out on the year before. Plus, it was the first time we got to play UNC since Roy left; again something to prove.

    In 12, similar circumstances. Disappointment in the tournament the year before. Plus the whole “is this a rebuilding year at KU” questions. Conference season we saw a raise in the ranks of our biggest rival in their last year in the conference, and we wanted to spoil their plans for a big exit. By the time we got to the tournament, it was clear that we were on a crash course with a team that beat us earlier, and was the presumed best team in college basketball ever. In addition to the fact, that our All-American was putting up better stats and playing better than UK’s All-American, but wasn’t getting any love from the media.

    In both instances we had a different goals and different foes for each segment of the season.

    This season, we have the non-con goals of finding an identity and fixing the problems of last year. We have a game with the team that played in the title game last year, and will probably make another run this year. That game will expose us and hopefully fuel a fire inside to want to get another shot at them in the tournament (whether we win or lose the early game, it doesn’t matter) In the conference season we should be reminded of the claims by OU and ISU, that they are going to unseat us in the Big 12. Plus, I’m sure Texas will get some hype from the media about Turner. The tournament should be about righting the wrongs of last years early exit, and being on a crash course with UK again.

    Last years team was about living up to draft expectations. When we did face a tangible foe, we played pretty well. (the Duke game, Wiggs vs Parker, in the battle for number 1 draft pick)


  • Okay… we are starting to get somewhere with this thread. Let’s keep going.

    What has to happen for these guys to enter March this year with the determination of a gladiator ready to fight to the death?

    Who is going to step up in March and lead this team?

    Will we have the toughness this year?

    Can we become so determined that our determination crosses the threshold of high pressure to the point where these guys just go out and execute at a high level?

  • @drgnslayr Another thing for this team.

    By conference season, the players need to quit looking over their shoulder and seeing advisories for playing time, and start seeing teammates and coaches who will help them beat the opponent that’s on the floor. They need to come together as a team with one common goal; to beat the other team, not to be better than their respective backups, not to improve their draft stock, or anything like that.

    I’m so ready for the season to start! I think all the individual chips have been build on their shoulders and now it’s time for the team to help each other knock those chips off and stick up for each other, especially against the opponents out on the floor!

  • @jayhawkbychoice

    “I think all the individual chips have been build on their shoulders…”

    Hmmm… now that you mention it:

    Conner - He has something to prove, can he play at D1 level?

    Frank - He has something to prove, can he translate his game to Self-ball?

    Wayne - He has something to prove, his injury last year brought his numbers down.

    Cliff - He has something to prove, will he be ready for the draft next summer?

    Devonté - He has something to prove, can he get big minutes at point?

    Svi - He has something to prove, no one knows Ukrainian ball here.

    Kelly - He has something to prove, or does he want to stay in Lawrence for several years.

    Jamari - He has something to prove, can he be a major contributor?

    Landen - He has something to prove, can he get any minutes this year?

    Perry - He has something to prove, can he finally play some defense and not play soft.

    Hunter - He has something to prove, “Hunter who?” because no one knows what he can do.

    Every single guy has something to prove… to us and to themselves. Let’s hope they can realize the necessity to prove something as a team!

  • @drgnslayr Right on! I hope that they can see each others chips and help each other. I posted about this a while back to JB about how players seem to get out of the “HCBS doghouse” by having a buddy in the doghouse too. No one has ever gotten out by themselves (Naa). While guys like RussRob and Mario worked together to get out.

    I really think, IMO, that Frank and CF could really work together and be a two-headed monster that would give the team a different look at times in a game. Playing off each other (changing pace), being a pressure relief for each other (always knowing where the other is at all times), and looking out for what the other may not notice (offensive and defensive shifts) while in a two guard set.

    Rock Chalk!

  • Banned

    @drgnslayr I’ve always been confused why so many want to compare KU’s conference streak to their lack of success in the tournament. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The tournament though being the most exciting thing to watch is really nothing but a crap shoot. Sure the cream does rise to the top for the most part, but it’s not a giving. So many things can go wrong to derail a good season.

    Yet so many think if you don’t do anything in the tournament well the season was a failure. Yet to increase you chance of having a good tournament run depends on getting a #1 seed. Getting a #1 seed usually means winning your conference.

    The crazy thing is some will say the Big 12 sucks because KU wins it ever year, but they’ll be the same ones saying KU sucks because they didn’t win the Big 12. Go figure.

  • @drgnslayr

    First, Wooden’s teams won ten of eleven rings and about the same number of conference titles. Therefore we can infer that winning titles is not an insurmountable obstacle to winning rings.

    KU’s '08 team won a title and a ring.

    But there are also examples of teams, like KU’s '88 ring team, where a team is wracked with injuries, or sickness, then gets well and then seems to go on a tear making up for lost opportunities.

    I really don’t think it helps to lose a title in pursuit of a ring, unless the team loses because of adversity it did not create, and somehow bounces back.

    Teams that win championships are motivated by adversity that they do not create.

    But winning while playing well breeds self confidence and breeds awe in opponents.

    Many teams were beaten by UCLA “before” they played, because of the UCLA mystique of winning everything.

    I really think champions are born when the pieces needed for a fine basketball team happen also to be extraordinary competitors; i.e., happen to have what Wooden defined as competitive greatness; i.e., being at your best when you need your best.

    IMHO, all great teams, all great performers, all great leaders, have “competitive greatness.” They do not win, or prevail, because they are so much more talented than their opponents. They win because in the decisive moment, the decisive game, the decisive battle, the decisive campaign, they are at their best, when their best is needed.

    Champions win by being teams that have enough talent to beat anyone else and then are at their best when they need their best as a group.

    The flaw that I see in Self’s approach is that he always comes back to talent

    Self apparently always believes you have to have the most talent to win before you can coach it up to winning.

    Self in talking about why he doesn’t like to press referred to Eddie Sutton saying something like if you have the team with the most talent, which is better winning 100-79 pressing, or 80-60 playing half court. Self said the answer was no one knows. It was a strange answer, because Self usually plays to win 80-60, or 70-50, which I call 70 point take what they give us in half court. But I believe what he means is that the most talent wins and so the goal is not to beat yourself by increasing the number of possessions and so increase the chances for mistakes to tip the outcome away from your greater talent.

    The problem with this approach is that it assumes a normal distribution of performance; i.e., it assumes that a team of players cannot reliably be at their best when they need their best. It assumes that they are randomly good a third of the time, bad a third of the time, and average a third of the time.

    But you see Wooden’s less talented teams, and his uber talented teams, and Knight’s uber talented '76 team, and his less talented other ring teams, suggest that talent alone is not decisive, and Wooden’s string suggests that normal distributions of performance are not inevitable.

    Teams capacities to be at their best when their best is needed, can be skewed by having players that HAVE competitive greatness.

    I believe it takes someone with competitive greatness to know someone with competitive greatness.

    I believe most great coaches are very smart, very hard working, very knowledgeable, good recruiters, and know how to fit the pieces together to make exceptional teams.

    But I think only a few great coaches have and so recognize competitive greatness in prospective players.

    I believe Self recruits talented characters, as he said he does, because he enjoys and understands characters. He feels he was a character and he feels he knows how to coach up characters.

    But talented characters do not necessarily have competitive greatness, too.

    And when talented characters lacking in competitive greatness come up against talented players with competitive greatness the latter group wins most of the time.

    So: what it will take for this year’s KU team to be ready to win a ring is not just talent, and not just being characters, and not just being Marine Corp tough and Marine Corp resourceful in terms of tactics.

    Self has to wind up with a talented seven or eight man rotation that fits together well by March and that has competitive greatness in each player.

    The guys on the '88 ring team were an incredibly bunch of human beings that were at their best when they needed their best. They went on to have extraordinary professional careers after basketball. They were a special group of human beings that ran into adversity they did not create, fought and scrapped to survive it, and then seized the moment and became a team for the ages.

    Talk of losing to win, having been explored, must cease.

    To loosely paraphrase Patton: we cannot have talk of losing intentionally stinking up this field house of brave men.

    And to quote Churchill directly…

    “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

  • In 2008 we won our conference and conference tourney before going on to a National Championship.

    I definitely realize the benefit of winning our conference… good seeding and some level of confidence. However, I am looking for whatever it will take to get these guys raging in March. We clearly haven’t been that way in a long time, and why not? If winning our conference builds confidence then why don’t we see it in March?

    Maybe it is just something simple like Self accentuating a bit too much emphasis on conference play. So the guys feel like they can let up a bit after winning the title. Look at last year… I know Embiid was out for most of it… but we lost 4 of our final 7 games after we clinched our conference. There is no excuse for that and we didn’t exactly breed exuberance after clinching our conference.

    Maybe our issue is the conference tourney. It is set up as a “everything to lose but nothing to gain” tournament for us. We so often don’t come ready for that tourney and we clearly don’t care about it like we care about winning our conference. We seem to coast through our conference tourney.

    So how does that work? How do you press hard through conference, back off in the conference tourney, then press hard again in March?

    This gets into some old posts from @jaybate-1.0 where he discussed Self “throttling down” for certain games.

    Using '08 as a marker… it seems we need to make sure we win our conference tourney, too… even if it means playing an extra game and risking injuries. Does it ever make sense to “play it safe” when it comes to competition?

    I’m starting to think our conference tourney attitude and preparation bleeds over (heavily) into our March play. After all, we all seem to agree that winning builds confidence. So how much confidence do we lose when we lose in the conference tourney?

    Playing soft in our conference tourney sort of supports an attitude of entitlement… “hey, we are Kansas, and we’ve already proven ourselves so we don’t need to hustle for this one!” Does that attitude disappear before we enter March play?

  • @drgnslayr

    You are so right to note that the last two KU teams under-performed in March; i.e., seemed to play beneath their abilities and levels of performance earlier in the season.

    Self has clearly NOT learned how to control when a team peaks and he has talked about trying to design and develop a team to be ready for the tournament, so we know he is trying to get the hang of it.

    Wooden decided that the best way to get a team ready for the tournament involved the following:

    1. make the team believe, regardless of level of talent it possesses, it will be the best conditioned team all season long and in the tournament;

    2. create an offensive scheme that it runs to perfection from the beginning of the season, regardless of who it plays, in order to get the team focused not on what it is doing, but how close to perfection it can get doing it (be so predictable to an opponent that occasional surprises invariably work);

    3. eliminate all non-goal oriented activities and behaviors during the season during practice (no joking around during work, keep practices short and densely active);

    4. focus all minds on the UCLA way in pursuit of singleness of purpose and focus and elimination of distraction;

    5. eliminate victory as the measure of accomplishment for one can win playing badly sometimes;

    6. the criteria of success for each person and the for the team is did we practice, or play, to the best of our abilities that day;

    7. use only players with fire in their bellies for only that fire can drive players to focus all season on being the best they can be every time they step on a court (being the best they can be every moment is not viewed as an impossible ideal, but a goal always within reach for those willing to work);

    8. all activities related to basketball must contribute to the team goal of the players becoming the best each can be in their roles of making the team the best it can be; thus there can be no stars, only great players; thus great players must be shielded from the star making system; thus the players on the team that contribute the least must be equals as teammates of the greatest contributors for the only way the team can become its best EVERY practice and EVERY game is for EVERY player to work to be the best that he can be at whatever his role is;

    9. hard work at becoming the best a team can be is the litmus test for potentially great teams;

    10. competitive greatness is the acid test distinguishing potentially great players and teams from great players teams.

    11. standard is “at your best when you need your best and you need your best every day.”

    The key to Wooden’s greatness was that he trained his players every moment of contact with them to be their best and to make their team its best. The normal distribution of human performance was known to him. I believe he thought that the way to win was not to accept the normal distribution as something to scheme around, but rather that the entire normal distribution of the individual and the team could raised upwards dramatically over the course of a season by habituating being at your best when you need our best and recognizing that you need your best every second in order to reach your best.

    Players “with good motors” is a modern euphemism for players with fire in their bellies. Thomas Robinson had a great motor. Tyshawn Taylor discovered he had a great motor his last season. Sherron Collins had a great motor that unfortunately drove him to eat to escape it. Kevin Young had maybe the greatest motor of them all. Tyrel Reed had a great motor that did not pass the eye test. Joel Embiid had a great motor until he was injured. Frank Mason so far looks like a guy with a good motor.

    But here is the critical difference between Self’s KU teams and Wooden’s UCLA teams. Every player on Wooden’s teams–at least those one saw in the rotation, but likely even those on the bench too–had a great motor. They had to have one, or he would not take them.

    Wooden was reputedly attracted to African American players in the beginning, because they were a group of players not being used because of prejudice (he was a young coach looking for an edge), and in part because he reputedly believed they experienced so much adversity in their lives that if he found one with ability and enough fire in his belly to survive the pernicious effects of racism, that that player probably had competitive greatness hard wired inside him. One can debate whether this implied a subtle kind of racism in Wooden, but one cannot plausibly debate that he knew how to recognize and attract players with competitive greatness. People often forget that Wooden played over the years many African American and many Caucasian American players that were not considered “better talents” than what were on opposing teams. But I can never recall a Wooden player being outworked and out hustled, and very rarely was their competitive greatness exceeded either.

    Compare Self’s teams, where about half the players on Self’s teams have good motors, sometimes less than half.

    Therein lies a key difference between Bill Self and John Wooden.

    Bill Self has found a way of playing the game that has let win a higher percentage of his games and many more conference titles and one more ring than John Wooden won in the first half of his career. It is a heady, remarkable accomplishment by Self. It is to be respected and applauded and praised to outdo the greatest coach of all time in the first half of one’s career.

    But to put it in perspective, Wooden’s first half of his career was spent in the back water programs of Indiana State and UCLA, which was converted juco and inconsequential commuter school and ugly sibling to Cal Berkely through out the first half of Wooden’s career. Wooden NEVER got to coach at an elite program, as Self has done the last ten years. Wooden had to create his own elite program the second half of his career. He had no tradition to “sell” as Self likes to say. And the first half of his career, he didn’t even sell what he had to sell: SoCal climate, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, beaches, and babes. Guys contacted him to play for him, He did not contact them. When Wooden finally started using Jerry Norman to recruit the very same way elite programs did, i.e., with alumni booster money under the table, Wooden began winning titles AND rings, first with lesser talent, then with greater talent. Never forget Wooden’s first two ring teams had distinctly lesser talent than the elite teams of the country at that time. Never forget that one of his lesser talented teams went 32-0.

    Bill Self found a way to win 60-70% of his games at lesser programs with lesser talent. He found a way to take lesser talent to an Elite Eight. It got him a shot at coaching Illinois, where he won a heady rate; that got him to KU where he has been brilliant in winning 82% of his games, ten titles and one ring.

    But the last two teams, which have fallen short of expectations due largely to injuries, have also not played up even to the abilities of the talent that remained. Bill Self said last year’s team was not tough enough, as if that explained the flame out last year. But the team the year before WAS tough enough, yet it was not at its best when it needed its best either.

    When Bill Self met UK in the finals and lost to a vastly more talented team, he had no trouble diagnosing the problem and the Petro ShoeCo dynamics enabled him to shift gears to recruit vastly more talented players–OADs to be exact.

    But the last two seasons indicate that he faces another obstacle to pursuing becoming the best he can be.

    He does not have enough guys on his team with good motors, with fire in their bellies, with competitive greatness.

    And whereas it took Bill Self only one loss in one game to recognize he needed more talented players, it is taking him (so far) two seasons to recognize that he needs more players with good motors in the rotation, more players with competitive greatness, more players that are at their best when they need their best and that understand that they need their best every day in order to habituate that into being reliably produced under the severe conditions of March Madness three weekends in a row, two games each weekend, under the withering spotlight of Big Media.

    And it concerns me that Bill Self has concluded that toughness was what was lacking last season.

    Toughness can only take you so far.

    Toughness can take you through the one third bad games, but it cannot raise the level of performance in all of your games, so that KU’s one third bad games are not only sharply better than other team’s one third bad games, but also sharply better than their average games. And toughened talent alone cannot condition you to be at your best for six games WHEN YOU NEED YOUR BEST!


    It may be his greatest challenge so far in his career, because it is quite likely that he, as a player, had great work ethic, great toughness, was a great character, and had a brilliant basketball IQ, and charisma, to boot, but lacked competitive greatness, or never played for a coach that had it and so did not know how to bring it out of him, and coach him up to it, when he was a player. Competitive greatness may be a blind spot in Bill Self.

    (Note: it apparently is in John Calipari and Stumpy Miller, for though they are getting the best players in the greatest numbers both coaches’ records so far indicate that while they can win a lot of games and go deep in the Madness, winning rings remains largely a randomized event for Calipari, and a mystery to Stumpy.

    Mind blindness is the greatest obstacle of all to getting better at anything. Mind blindness means you cannot even see and conceptualize what it is you are not doing. Mind blindness means when someone tells you you are not doing something you need to do to get better, you cannot even grasp what it is they are talking about. Mind blindness means that even when someone tells you what to do you cannot understand it until they find a way to visualize the problem for you. Mind blindness is like looking at Vanna White pointing at a bunch of boxes with not letters showing and having no clue what even MIGHT be the word. Mind blindness means you just keep mistaking probable solutions, and randomly trying solutions.’

    But the great thing about mind blindness (at least the part that means one does not need to feel hopeless about it) is that if you can find someone that knows what it is you cannot see, because they can see it, and they can stop telling you what not to do, and stop telling you what to do, and start giving you a visual image of what is actually in the block of bad pixels in your Plasma TV in your head, suddenly your brain will burn in the nets and you will henceforth see what you have not been seeing, and then begin to use all of your formidable abilities, skills and experience, to supply what those bad pixels had been obscuring from, and supply clearly resolved solutions.

    You know you have mind blindness about something when you do not make the logical inferences about what is the problem, so you are never able to look for the fitting solution.

    This applies to and works with everyone at any age in any activity.

    Never tell a person what they are doing wrong.

    Never tell them what they ought to do right.

    Find out what they cannot see and visualize it for them.

    The get the hell out of the way and watch them solve it themselves.

    Many things have contributed to champions of the past: great talent, great coaching, willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team, exposure to great teams and players during pre Conference, exposure to same during the conference win or lose, exposure to some great teams that were beaten instilling belief in a team’s ability to conquer the best, and so on.

    But the only constant theme through all the champions I have witnessed and can now more or less recall are two or three players with every game MUA, a team full of guys with great work ethics and a rotation full of players with competitive greatness.

    This is what I hope some great coach living or dead through words spoken, or written down, can help visualize for Bill Self.

    Play the guys with the great motors and competitive greatness, even if they have a little less talent.

    Let Kevin Young be your guide.

    They can be frustrating.

    They can be out matched some times physically.

    But the game is won inside a triangle with a corner at each ear and at the heart in the chest. Somehow this triangle includes competitive greatness. An outward indicator of it is a good motor. Talent is ante to any activity. Equal talent is required to play for the big pot. Competitive greatness decides who can survive the losses and surmount the obstacles of learning to and finally be at their best when they need their best during the long pursuit of the ultimate prize. Rings are not one in one game. Rings are a long process of winning many battles, overcoming all obstacles, winning every necessary battle, and winning the last battle.

    Fill a rotation, or better yet a team, with players of equal talent to opponents and triangles brimming with more competitive greatness, and that will raise the normal distribution of your team’s performance above the normal distribution of your opponents, and your teams will reach 99 percent of their potential, and in combination these will lead to winning rings without even listing doing so as a goal.

    Rock Chalk!!!

  • @jaybate-1.0

    Long post and well worth it to read!

    I recall a brief comment made by Wooden where he broke down every player’s responsibilities into three categories:

    1. Physicality - every player was personally responsible for physical training to get into good enough condition to push tempo for 40+ minutes. I added the + because there were no excuses for tiring in OT. Physicality also related to practicing FTs, shooting all over the floor, and making sound moves.

    2. Hustle - every player was expected to put all physical and mental efforts into every possession, regardless of the score. Because “winning” related more to the players’ performance throughout than winning the game with more points. Winning with more points was a consequence of a winning performance by players and the team.

    3. Basketball Intelligence - every player was expected to study the game. They were expected to know every aspect of the Wooden system, starting with their own position but working through every position so knowledge was complete and the players were responsible to not only monitor their own play, but their teammates, too.

    Wooden believed he shouldn’t even have to be present at a game. Every aspect of the game was taught to the players and the players were held accountable for knowing and executing. Winning and losing fell on the players’ shoulders, not the coach. Sometimes he sort of implied he wasn’t even a basketball coach, but more a life guidance counselor, and if you follow much of what he was saying, it does sound like a better title than “head basketball coach.”

    Wooden was the great philosopher and teacher. But no one should expect Self to become another Wooden. That just isn’t going to happen. Wooden was Wooden… and a big part of what made him successful was his abilities, but also the time and the place. Wooden offered a complete set of guidelines to live life by and back in the turbulence of Vietnam, LA and the protests and campus life, Wooden attracted players to practice a kind of Wooden zen to shelter them from the chaos. The Big Redhead used to talk about it.

    I’m not sure if Wooden would make it today. Kids are so indoctrinated into the lifestyle of “instant gratification” that he would have a hard time recruiting. I think top tier players would be more enticed by Calipari and his bait of offering Drake coming to campus more than Wooden and his strict policies and focus on player responsibilities and being held accountable.

    Self must surely be torn with this dilemma, too. He wanted Wiggins so much and had to give in to the reality of setting a different set of rules for him over the rest of the team. There is no way to do that without damaging team chemistry.

    I do agree with Self that toughness was a definite issue last year. There were other important issues that cost us, too… like the lack of leadership, the lack of team cohesion, the lack of optional sets to run when our offense wasn’t working, one or two real type-a personalities willing to step up when everyone else was in retreat.

    If I had to pick one overwhelming issue… I’d easily select our lack of leadership.

  • But let’s get back to our conference tourney…

    Can everyone comment on the idea that our lack of focus in our conference tourney may impact our performance in March.

  • @drgnslayr I don’t think we have a lack of focus in con. Tourney. This year was odd, weird, because we played a much better team, osu, than their seed-due to smarts suspension. We barely lost to a really good ISU, who I believe would have gone pretty far if not for the injury.

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    What if Self never spoke much about winning our conference regular season and just spoke about winning our conference tourney and put his energy into that… would we be having the same results?

  • @drgnslayr I don’t agree w/you on this. Jmo

  • @drgnslayr

    Wining the regular season indicates excellence throughout the year; winning the Conference Tournament means you get lucky for a few games, when other teams that have their tickets punched might not even play very hard. The Conference Tournament Title is really meaningful to teams that are borderline and winning it or making a good showing puts them over the top. Yes, it is nice to win the tournament but in no way I believe it is the equivalent to the regular season title. In many ways it is just a reward junket to the teams that get to spend a few days in the limelight

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I know all that and I agree.

    But we are talking about how we get this team to play better in March. And recently most will agree we aren’t playing our best in March, and we aren’t playing our best in the conf tourney. Could there be a relationship with that?

    Maybe we need to break the season down into 4 seasons… pre-conf, conf, conf tourney… and March.

    Right now we have 3 seasons… conf tourney is only a few games, but it isn’t even up on the board in discussions.

    Maybe it should be.

    Like I said above… it seems to give us an attitude of entitlement… an idea you do not want floating around in your guys’ heads as we roll into March! I definitely feel like we go into March with an attitude of entitlement. That’s obvious because we don’t seem to adequately prepare for many of these lower seed teams (that end up upsetting us).

  • Banned

    @drgnslayr I get the feeling HCBS doesn’t care much about he conference tournament. Not saying he doesn’t try to win it, but maybe he doesn’t pull out all the stops for it. Maybe it’s because KU has already won the conference championship and has pretty much secured a #1 or #2 seed.

    I’m no expert so take what I say with a grain of salt. HCBS seems to me as the coach that hits his stride when he has a team that sticks together for 3 years or so. He’s a true coach and a master of the game. However College Basketball is no different than any other sport. Get the best athletes and they are hard to beat, no matter how old they are. That KU team that lost to UK in the championship game was a great team. They had everything you wanted as a coach. However UK a big man (Anthony Davis) that could block anything that went at the rim, so much that in the second half even KU’s guards where scared to even put it on the rim.

    It’s like a double edged sword. It’s hard to win with nothing but oad, but it’s hard to beat a team that has nothing but oad. I don’t have the answer, I wish I did. However I will say this I have a pretty good feeling about this years team. Yea we lost Wiggs, Embiid, and Black, but the rest of the team is coming back. Another year older and wiser plays right into HCBS’s wheel house.

    Hope this helps?

  • What I find really interesting in this thread…

    No one in here supported the idea that losing conference might give us an edge in March.

    That either shows a lack of understanding the value of a “chip” or pretty much everyone has jumped on board with valuing our conference streak about as much as another NC.

    I’m very surprised no one brought… “I’d definitely give up the streak for another NC!” Not that I was baiting for that but I did expect to read it on this thread.

    In my search for a reason why we underachieve in March I’ve uncovered the idea that our conference tourney focus (or lack there of) may be impacting our March performance. I’m going to hold on to that one this season and I’ll be looking at our conference tourney play as a barometer for what we’ll do in March.

    I like what @JayHawkFanToo said about conference tourneys…

    “The Conference Tournament Title is really meaningful to teams that are borderline and winning it or making a good showing puts them over the top.”

    I totally agree with that statement. Certain teams come in with a big time hunger to prove themselves. Sounds like March to me and it sounds like that long list of underdogs teams that sent us home early.

    From here on out I’m going to value our conference tourney as the proving/test grounds for March. As many have said in here… “winning builds confidence” and there is no reason to think that still doesn’t hold true for conference tournament games… the last games played before the Big Dance.

    Bringing anything less than our very best game to any game we play in is a recipe for developing an attitude of entitlement. I faced those attitudes a few times back in my day and I was always glad when that attitude wasn’t on my team, but on the other side. It made us play so much harder when we felt the other team had that attitude.

    If we don’t bring a voracious appetite for victory to every single game in March, we are going to lose. And when we don’t bring that voracious appetite, our competition can sense it and they sense that they are not being taken serious by us. When we don’t bring that voracious appetite we feed motivation to our opponents because we’ve made it personal and we are slamming them and they will stand up and fight because we’ve given them that much more they have to prove.

    Imagine that long list of 5 underdog teams we’ve lost to in March (under Self) and tell me how many of those teams we would have beat if they were in our conference and the games were played in our conference season? I venture to say we would have beat most of them (or all) even in their own gyms!

    Look at what we are… our biggest strength (under Self) is our ability to beat tough conference opponents in their venues. That is the #1 strength we have. That is what lifts our overall record and helps earn us a good seed in March.

    Why are we able to beat tough teams in their venues but we can’t beat lessor teams in a neutral venue?

    I believe it is because we honor the strength of our league and we are up to the challenge of playing our away games. We know we are an underdog or at least have a good chance of losing on the road in our conference. Self talks most about winning on the road in conference.

    We lose some of that focus by March and our competition senses it. We are supposed to kick their azzes and when we don’t we just fuel their victory. Part of it is we show them they have a chance, another part is that we don’t take them serious enough and that pisses them off and gives them something extra to prove.

    We should get up for all our games like we do when we go to ISU for a conference game… or Texas or OSU or OU or Baylor or KSU…

    Play every game like it has the same value. @jaybate-1.0 called it right… it’s the Wooden way.

  • @drgnslayr I wondered the same thing 1,000 times, but I ended up drawing a somewhat different conclusion. I believe poor guard play has sunk us the past two years- because winning the conference in 2008 and 2012 certainly didn’t hurt us in the tournament. For every UCONN or Louisville story, there are literally dozens and dozens of teams who lost their conference, and do nothing in the tournament every year. Over the past 8 years, we have bowed out early twice, with 6 Sweet Sixteens, 4 Elite 8s, two final fours, one national title, and a runner-up.

    Now, I can be accused of cherry picking by leaving out the back to back 1st rd losses in Bill’s first 3 years, but I don’t think they are still relevant. Even when we lost early in the tourney in the past 8 years, we still managed to win at least one game. So, my Devonte myopia is now reaching epic proportions, and I am hoping for the light bulb to turn on for Frank, because I would LOVE to see us have a big run in the tourney this year.

  • @drgnslayr

    I expect Bill Self to be greater than John Wooden.

    Not because it is probable but because it is possible.

    Greatness is a process.

    Wooden did not start out great.

    Nothing he learned or mastered was inevitable.

    Each choice he had success and failure in its distribution of possible outcomes.

    I met him.

    He was human.

    His greatness was a path.

    He bids everyone to follow not him but the path–walk down it–walk farther. He knew he had only walked as far as he could. He knew there was more ahead.

    If not Self, who?

    If not now, when ?

    Self is farther down the path than anyone in his generation than Donovan.

    They are the only two with a chance this generation.

    Stevens threw it away.

    No one can be anyone else.

    But anyone could walk farther down the path.

    But they have to get to the end Wooden reached before they go beyond it.

  • I was a bit spoiled as a track athlete as in time and distance is not subjective. My high school football coach was a math teacher (and hall of fame coach) who made it clear to us that the transitive law does not apply to sports. Since I can’t remember jack, I will add a refresher as he spelled it out-but in big12 sports language - KU > KSU, KSU > Baylor, doesn’t mean KU > Baylor. (Cut to Yoda voice-Always in motion is the future…). Other than maximizing profits this is why I like NBA and MLB having a series to determine championships. Winning six games straight for the title is REALLY hard, as is winning it all in the NFL or NCAA bBall. I for one think it we had a best of three (or five) series in NCAA- BBALL, KU would have many more titles. And I still feel there is luck with a matchup or a bad or good bounce.


    “winning the conference in 2008 and 2012 certainly didn’t hurt us in the tournament.”

    This has become about winning our conference tourney. We did win our conference tourney in 2008.


    Always great to read a philosophic description of Wooden, especially since he was the Grand Philosopher! He really wasn’t so much a basketball coach as he was a life coach. His techniques could be applied to anything… imagine him coaching employees in the corporate world? Laying out the basic groundwork for seeing the big picture and developing accountability within every position.


    Not sure how we could structure a series tournament. At the most, we could put a best-of-three in the Finals. That wouldn’t help Kansas much. I doubt we could have won 2 of 3 from Kentucky in 2012.

    Ultimately, teams have to bring their best game for every game in March. Luck is a factor, too, but no one can count on it to save them. There is a magic that helps build fan momentum in a single-elimination tourney. I’m pretty sure many schools fans feel they would do better in a series tournament.

    As I’ve said many times before, I don’t expect Kansas to win it all every year, or every other year or so. All I expect is that we bring a big hunger to win in every game in March. I just don’t see it consistently play out like that. I thought we brought good energy in 2008 and 2012 consistently… and the results were there. If we always come with a big appetite, I think it will be rare when we lose to a much lower seeded team. No way can I include our 5 recent losses to low seeded teams as rare.

  • This post is deleted!

  • Banned

    @drgnslayr I can’t speak for nobody but myself. I just don’t see how losing the conference will inspire a NC?

    So if KU loses the Conference Championship this year and then doesn’t win the NC? Then What?

    You win the games in front of you. One game a at a time.

  • @DoubleDD

    I think people misunderstood my point and thought I advised we should blow winning our conference.

    My only original idea was that if we didn’t win conference, this team would realize they were the team that blew it for Kansas, Self and themselves. They would be recorded in history as the team that lost the streak. Pretty bad juju.

    You can bet that team would want some redemption in March. They would be carrying a monstrous chip. Perhaps a chip almost the size that Manning and our Jayhawks carried into the 1988 NCAA tourney… That team exemplified what a group of guys can do with a sizable chip on their shoulders. It played out perfectly that we got another shot at OU in the finals… the team that haunted and taunted us going into the finals…

    My point was we need a big chip.

    Then my direction turned towards our conference tourney. Is it a good thing that we can’t match other teams in our league for enthusiasm in that tourney? Yes… other teams have more on the line going in… but I’m concerned with what we have going out of the conference tourney. Not exactly the great confidence builder leading in to March play.

  • @drgnslayr

    Wow, my internet has been down for like 3 days!!!(squirrel probably chewed the line somewhere 😉 ) Just got it back today and it’s so frustrating reading this stuff and not being able to comment. (I can read at work but not post)

    In regards to the conf. tourney, I always kind of thought that it should be used as a practice tournament. A chance for the team to get used to playing consecutive games and a chance for the coaches and players to practice preparing for teams so quickly without knowing who your next opponent is going to be. It just seems the whole logistics of having a game would change in a tournament compared to normal seasons.

    In this case, it may hurt us a bit that we play a true round robin conference schedule. By the time we face a team for the third time, we’ve already scouted them twice and know them pretty well. So maybe we don’t get the advantage of practicing “getting ready” for an unfamiliar team on short notice.

    Just a thought!

  • Self wants to win all the time, period. He may talk more now about focusing on March, but he says a lot of things that he winds up not doing. He is very convincing except when he talks to himself.

    Roy always bad mouthed the conference tournament. He didn’t win the conference tournament as often as Self, and he had an 8-year streak of not making the Final Four. So I don’t think losing the conference tourney is the panacea for playing better in the NCAAs.

    Self is 3-1 in April: that is pretty good. The underperformance is in the first weekend of the NCAAs. We make the Sweet 16 every year and no one can reasonably talk about underperformance: every team has had its VCU.

    drgnslayr asks if ending the streak will give the players a “chip” in March. I wonder we should focus on the players. What will ending the streak do to Self??? Losing in the first weekend is on him: underscouting, underpreparing, not enough in-game adjustments and general tightness on the sideline. Will ending the streak loosen him up? I don’t see it.

    If the team needs to overcome adversity to get that extra boost, I’d rather it come a little earlier. I would prefer getting Niked by UK to losing the conference streak.

    Anyway, I prefer “competitive greatness” to the “chip”. Everyone out there is getting better; this team has to get better faster than everyone else, starting three weeks ago.

  • Winning a national title comes down to developing a team that has “it.”

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