A Little Early Season Commentary and Analysis (and Unease)

  • Nov. 3 Washburn (exhibition) Holes begin being dug by players that fail to pressure one pass away, fail to make the post entry pass, fail to protect, fail to make the easy play, and let missed shots foil their concentration. KU wins with sheer numbers.

    Nov. 11 Emporia State (exhibition) Corrections after the Washburn game that repeat in this game spell the end of several players’ bids for rotation PT without their knowledge.

    Nov. 14 UC Santa Barbara

    It is good the game is at home. because it comes only 4 days before a road game with UK and the Gauchos are no slouches on the offensive end. Their defense has been historically mediocre under Bob Williams, but this team returns mostly intact and one would expect a significant improvement on the defensive end this season. Our freshman and our barely experienced sophomores could really struggle, if Self tries to prepare them for UCSB and UK 4 days later. I suspect Self knows the only must win of the two games is UCSB and he will let UK beat the snot out of KU. If KU were to be “upset” in pre-conference, this would be the game. The Gauchos are always underrated. Bob Williams has them playing strong offensive basketball and coming in first or second in the Big West 3 or 4 of the last 6 years. Most of the team returns. And Big Al Williams, a 6-7 senior center, who finished high in KenPom’s kPOY standing nationally, will be a perfect early test for our “small” bigs. Williams walks the slayr talk of low CG on the block combined with long legs and short trunk. He can slide with guys much taller than him, get up and under, and cause problems on both ends. He is talented, skilled, strong, experienced and has a “good motor.” If our small bigs can lock Williams down, we can rest assured that our small bigs can handle the small bigs they meet all season; then we need to find out if they can handle “big” bigs, which the following UK game will answer. But it is very likely that Williams will hang some numbers on our guys. Williams is the perfect guy to break Cliff Alexander in on…briefly. Williams will probably get Alexander fouled up in 3 minutes. Self will have so much depth inside, though, and so much advantage on the perimeter, that KU should win this one with defense, depth, and home court advantage. But if experience still counts for anything, KU better be very focused on UCSB.

    Nov. 18 vs. Kentucky (at Indianapolis)

    UK playing in Indy is like KU playing in OKC, or St. Louis. Not a big edge, but some edge. And UK is a team that doesn’t need ANY edge. Long Cat Strategy again. Cal’s favorite kind of team. Substitute length every where for skill and transition for precision, play above the rim on both ends, add mousse and watch the other team get too intimidated with the unprecedented length even to hit what few open looks they get. Cal won it all with the Davis super team that really only had six players. This UK team is ten deep in Mickey D’s and this early in the season none will be disgruntled with lack of playing time. I expect Cal to substitute constantly and to break KU wide open and win by 30 or more. KU fans are going to be XTRemely disappointed after this game. No Victory. No moral victory. No close game. A brutal beat down by a superior team, with more depth and more experience and more talent. If Self were to find a way to win this game, then he ought to quit and be declared the greatest coach of all time.

    Nov. 24 Rider

    Rider from New Jersey at AFH is a win. But playing Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett is one of those coaching curtesy/EST recruiting exposure things you do in preseason on the lesser half of your 12 pre conference games. Self has a thing about Phillie ball and Baggett played for Jim Boyle at St. Josephs. And when Boyle disappeared from college coaching Baggett became one of those hard luck disciples without a working mentor that wander the basketball wilderness trying to pay the rent and find a new mentor. Baggett scrambled awhile and attached himself to Tom Dempsey of Rider for several years only to see Dempsey slide out of favor with Rider AD and former head coach before Dempsey, Don Harnum. So: Baggett is a guy with recruiting connections in Phillie, Maryland, and New Jersey. The concrete reason for scheduling Baggett’s Rider Broncs is that this Rider team is significantly bigger, and stronger, than KU, on the perimeter, and plays a muscular brand of Phillie ball albeit in the Garden State that should harden up Self’s haricot vert perimeter to the realities of smash mouth in D1. UK, you see, will have dazzled KU with overwhelming length and finesse, and though it will have handily beaten KU, UK will not have actually spent 40 minutes, smoking KU’s eyelids and punching KU’s cigarette, to paraphrase Bob Dylan from “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” KU could lose this game too, if it were too demoralized by UK, but I suspect KU will win this one and we will find out who our real point guard is in this game.

    The scary thing about this early part of the season is that KU could conceivably start 0-3. 1-2 is a significant possibility. But 2-1 is the probability.

    We are going to learn in the UCSB game how good Self believes this KU team is out of the gate. In a normal season, with the talent levels he has had since 2006-2007, Self would NOT amp the team for a team like UCSB. He would NOT put in any wrinkles unless absolutely necessary. He would show a press briefly on defense to make UK practice for it and it would not be the press he would run against UK. He would let the team labor against UCSB and focus everything on going for a win against a top team, like UK. But I suspect Self understands this KU team, at least at this early time in the season, has no chance against UK. And I suspect he realizes he does not dare risk an upset loss at home against UCSB. So: me thinks Self will amp them for UCSB, and hope energy brings home the W, so that he can keep as many wrinkles and looks concealed versus UCSB, so that he can at least confuse UK a little with surprises…and maybe limit the blow out.

    This is life without three every game MUAs, one being a rim protector.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    Always JB… always good!

    Thought this read might stir up some conversation about our game with the Wildcats:

    Kentucky and John Calipari have a good problem: too much depth

    Cal discusses the idea of having two lineups, each playing around 20 minutes.

    It will be interesting to see how he shuffles all that talent. We all know Cal’s greatest strength is his recruiting. He may (one day) match that strength with his ability to blend egos and expectations of all those top tier recruits. I’d put that down as a “maybe” because every team is different every player is unique.

    We’ll get to scout them for a few games before we play.

    The answer is to beat them through the x-axis… 96% of the game will be played there. It should even be to our advantage if none of their guys plays more than 20 minutes. It should take them quite a while to figure out how to adapt to losing 96% of the game!

  • I believe your analysis is very logical except for the Kentucky game. Even with Joel, the defense last year was pretty awful at times. I still think it is possible that Mickelson could be a good rim protector, though not to the level of Jeff or Joel. Again, I am going to wait until the season starts to make any determinations about this.

    I guess I am not ready to throw in the towel yet on the year just because there may not be 3 muas. I think the best thing to do is to wait to see the team play and how far they have progressed, especially on the defensive end.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Lose by 30? Naah. Self is worth about 25 points over “The Squid” in their coaching duel.

    Here’s a funny read on Best/Worst Case scenario: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/the-dagger-s-preseason-top-25-with-best-case-and-worst-case-scenarios-172911761.html

  • @KUSTEVE I want to believe, but 10 mcd’s half with experience starting last season are a lot to overcome for guys that haven’teven learned if they are starting material.

  • @jaybate-1.0 True confession : i haven’t felt we’d lose a game since Ted Owens was coach…hehe…

  • @KUSTEVE Howling!


    Go, man, go!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Great post!

    I don’t know about a 30 point blowout, but it’s going to be a game that will definitely be a wake up call for the whole team. I think it could be a good thing to lose this game to humble the team (and us) and to put some fire in their bellies to get better, and want another chance at them.

    If you believe there are a few untouchables on this team like Perry, Wayne, the OAD’s, etc., then this would be a good game for Self to use the hook on them for sloppy play, poor defense, or lack of toughness. I mean, if you’re going to lose anyway…might as well send a message even in a “big game”.

    Also good early season practice for “amping” and preparing a team for an opponent. This TEAM will need to develop over the season, probably more so than last year. They need an identity and to build some character.

    Nevertheless, here’s to hoping we kick the snot out of them!!!

    Rock Chalk!!!

  • @drgnslayr This could be a good litmus test to see if HCBS has embraced the x-axis game, and if so, how far our guys have come along learning it. What do think? Will the team play the x-axis game?

  • @drgnslayr In my illustrious basketball coaching career I had a team of 5th grade boys. We had 10 players. League rules dictated players play even amounts of time. All ten players practiced faithfully, so no need to discipline a kid for not practicing by not playing him as much as others. So I had two teams. They practiced as a 5 man team against each other every day. Come game day, they already knew how their team would react. We went undefeated. The boys ran a basic motion offense that led to unguarded layups when they ran it correctly.

    I hope Coach Cal doesn’t figure this out. On the other hand maybe I’ll send an email to Self and give him a few tips. We could be deep enough to play two 5 man rotations as well!

  • @KUSTEVE If you look at recent activity on KU Buckets you’ll see we’ve been discussing that article all week! By the way, I don’t go back far enough to remember Ted Owens, but I have also been confident we’d win every game since Larry’s been here.

  • @wissoxfan83 I hope he doesn’t figure that out also, though I get the feeling that he might have.

    I have no doubt that Kentucky is the team to beat and, barring a collapse or a phenomenal performance by some team, will be in the final four and will probably win the championship. Is it possible that they could go undefeated using the methods that you yourself utilized and what The Squid is planning on doing? Yes, it is possible. I do not think it is probable, just possible. There have been other teams in the past, such as Florida in 07, UNC in 09, and Kentucky in 12, that were arguably just as good if not better than Kentucky this year and didn’t go undefeated.

    As for this year’s KU team, I feel as though going to the final four is definitely a strong possibility. They will probably lose to Kentucky next month, but I highly doubt that it will be by 30. A few weeks later they play Florida at home, which is a major advantage, and they should win that one.

    I feel as though everyone is putting too much emphasis on not having a shot blocker extraordinaire on the team this year. I should point out that the 08 team did not have someone like Joel or Jeff. I have been going through YouTube and watching some of their games and noticed that the way they played team defense negated the fact that they did not have a premier shot blocker. Now that is not to say that Kaun, Arthur, and Jackson were incapable of being good rim protectors, because that would not be the case.

    If you think back to the teams that have made the final four the past five years, how many of them had a great shot blocker? Not very many of them.

    The point of all this is to point out that a great shot blocker is nice to have and makes defense much easier, but is not required to succeed in the post season. For Pete’s sake UConn was able to beat Villanova, Iowa State, Michigan State, Florida, and Kentucky all without much height in the post. As we have discussed ad nauseam, guard play and the x axis are the key to post season success.

  • @DinarHawk I was listening to Self’s post Late Night comments, and he brought up once again the idea of playing Wayne at point in some match ups. That leads me to openly speculate if he’ll start Wayne at point guard in the Kensucky game. The fact that Kensucky has announced that Poythross is going to the play the 3 makes me wonder if we’d have Wayne at the 1, Greene/Oubre? at the 2, Perry at the 3, Cliff at the 4, and Landen at the 5 in that game to mitigate somewhat their huge height advantage. I could be all wrong, and probably am, but this might be the one time we could afford to play Perry at the 3.

  • @KUSTEVE I think that it would be a good strategy for the Kentucky game, though I’m not sure if Self will actually do it. I think that it would help to somewhat even the playing field in terms of height. Kentucky figured out how to utilize their size last year in the tournament, so this would definitely be a possible strategy to beat them.

  • @KUSTEVE Personally I don’t think that Bill will change his starting lineup around for this game…or any other game for that matter. Bill is pretty set in his ways as we have all discussed.

    With all of that, I think it may actually be an advantage to play smaller against this much bigger team. How many times has KU been the much taller team and had to watch quicker guards run all over us. It seems to happen at least a few times a year. The WVU game last year comes to mind. The VCU game comes to mind. UCONN beating UK in the title game last year as the much smaller much quicker team comes to mind. I say we put our best players on the floor at their appropriate positions and play one hell of a game. To beat UK we will have to hit a bunch of 3’s. I hope CF and Greene see plenty of minutes…although they probably won’t. They will probably come into the game, miss a couple of shots and then never seen the floor again.

  • @joeloveshawks I understand playing small - why does Coach keep talking about Selden playing point?

  • @KUSTEVE maybe against Kentucky?

  • @jayhawkbychoice

    “Will the team play the x-axis game?”

    This will be the year Self may decide to try some things. He typically likes recruiting height and we may not have our height domination (y-axis) team this year. I say “may not” because we don’t know yet how a player like Hunter might impact this team.

    Still… x-axis ball is focusing on everything that happens from a little over 6’ to the ground. Passing, stealing, ball handling, screens, creating scoring space via non-vertical approach, tempo, pressure, driving, driving lanes, passing lanes, hustle, communication, help defense, ball fakes, shoulder/body fakes, no look passes, everything lateral, hedging… then I’d add into that… scouting… I could go on and on because I’m talking about all of basketball except that tiny bit played above the rim.

    Players get sucked into some of the same pitfalls coaches and others do. They walk on a court and see a team much taller than themselves and they panic. They get intimidated instead of realize the advantages they do have. It’s easy to draw fouls on tall and big guys… especially these days with the way they are calling games. It’s easy to stop tall dribblers because the height of their dribble.

    Analyze the game and be aware of the physical, mechanical dynamics. Long wingspans are great for something, bad for other things. When these guys are reaching in on a ball handler their longer arms extend out farther. That can be an advantage… also a disadvantage. The extra length is harder to retract. If the ball handler entices the long extension then drives into… who gets the foul? RIght… the long-armed defender. And how about “lateral nimbleness?” How about the fact that long guys just can not be as nimble in lateral movement because their body limbs are longer? Get them going in one direction then change a direction and make them foul you because they don’t have the ability to control their lateral movements down the court the same as a smaller player.

    So for teams like Kentucky, spread the court, stretch the game and make them guard in space.

    Another good x-axis strategy; be VERY good at the FT line. Work on getting fouled, and then knock down FTs.

    If we really went at Kentucky the right way, we would expose their weakness (height) and expose their gimmick attribute (height). Cal is counting on everyone they play getting intimidated by their size and no one figuring out that beyond their size they have weaknesses like every other team.

  • @drgnslayr Your explanation on how to beat Kentucky is exactly why I do not think that the game will be a blowout.

    The reason that Kentucky went to the title game last year was because they were bigger than the teams they faced and utilized it well, while the teams they faced did not have an answer for it, except of course for UConn.

    I know they have had this off season to improve and develop better chemistry as well as add some Mickey Ds all Americans, but we can’t forget that it took several fortunate three pointers at the end of the Louisville, Wichita St., Michigan, and Wisconsin games for them to get that far. The only game that did not require any heroics was the K State game.

    My gut feeling is that Self is starting to figure out how to advance in March, and he has a very good blueprint in how to do it because of UConn. He needs to sit the team down and show them every single UConn game from the tournament and instruct them on how to apply the x axis strategies that you enumerated in your post.

  • Starting last season, I shake my head every time I read a comparison to the 2008 team. Folks, my head hurts, this has to stop.

    The 2008 team was the 2007 team one year later. OK, Wright left but that’s it.

    What I mean is the 2008 team had experience and had played together a long time. Last year and this year we are counting on too many freshmen to allow comparisons with 2008. Even 2007 is a reach.

  • @DinarHawk

    “The reason that Kentucky went to the title game last year was because they were bigger than the teams they faced and utilized it well, while the teams they faced did not have an answer for it, except of course for UConn.”

    That’s it! I thought Marshall was going to figure it out and his PG sort of did, except his game was off that day. The Shocks were intimidated by the size and they got stuck trying to play them like other teams… cutting off passing lanes and applying some pressure. They should have applied even stronger pressure out on the perimeter. Done a better job of denying the twins a dribble and easy pass making them anxious and confused… They were really the right team to beat Kentucky prior to UCONN.

  • The early Kentucky game is the perfect early season heavyweight game. Last year we played great against Duke and pulled the game out with some Wiggins heroics.

    I’ve said to limit the depth this Kentucky team has we have to switch our defense up. Baylor last year early in the season gave them fits with zone defense and beat them. Kentucky will not be great when we play them and depending on how how our team comes together early we could stand a real chance of winning. Their superior advantages come from front court depth and length at every position. Besides the twins and freshman Booker, they have no shooters on this team. Why wouldn’t we exploit that to cover up our lack of size against them. Limiting dribble penetration is the other huge part of this teams philosophy and throwing a zone as a wrinkle would do wonders in our chances. This could limit them from getting 40 free throw attempts, putting our players in foul trouble etc.

    If Self is set on changing things up like the smaller guard lineup, then I’d love to see him do the same on D. Switch it up Self

  • Games are not won on paper. They are won on the court. There are probably 10 teams that are capable of winning the whole thing. Each year, it is a combination of skill and luck. Who knows what team will win it all? I don’t have a clue, but each and every year I hope it’s the Jayhawks. When we lose it sucks, but the Program goes on. Question: In the past 10 years, with the exception of the Championship Game (because that’s the end of the tournament) how many teams have beat Kansas in the NCAA Tournament and gone on to win the National Championship?

  • @KansasComet Happened a couple times with Roy, but never in the Bill Self era… since 2004, lost to Georgia Tech, Bucknell, Bradley, UCLA, Mich. St., NIU, Michigan and Stanford. Won one championship game, lost one.

    Roy’s teams lost in two F4 semi-final games (North Carolina in 1993 and Maryland in 2002 who both went on to win the championship) Most memorable was probably the Arizona team that plowed through three number 1 seeds in 1997, beating us in the Regional semi’s.

  • @DanR Michigan State was the most “normal” loss. If memory serves, they were seeded higher and went to the Championship game.

    Roy had fewer “bad losses” in the Tournament and fewer “great wins”. I think none of us would trade our NC for zero losses the first weekend.

  • @DanR Thank you. I went back ten years because of course that is the Bill Self Era. Great breakdown of what happened in the Roy Williams Era. You were all over it. Again, thanks! No one has beaten Kansas in the Bill Self Era and gone on to win the National Championship. That is a fact. I think it has a lot to do with the physical and mental emotion it takes to defeat an outstanding program on one of the biggest stages. After the KU games, i feel, most teams don’t have anything left. They have reached their ceiling. Everything else is a let down. Just my humble Jayhawk Fan opinion.

  • @ParisHawk I still like Roy. He meant a lot to Kansas Basketball. I did not like the distraction UNC created as we were going on a title run in 2003.

  • @KansasComet said:

    @ParisHawk I still like Roy. He meant a lot to Kansas Basketball. I did not like the distraction UNC created as we were going on a title run in 2003.

    I agree about UNC, but I will never blame a guy for going home for a job.

    Did it burn at first? Heck yeah it did, but it worked out for KU and UNC, so I don’t worry about it.

  • @JRyman especially since we have his number! I think he hates to play us!

  • @DinarHawk

    I’m just not sure Kentucky will have a good replacement for Young. He was the guy that saved them in so many possessions throughout the year. He was definitely their “go to” guy when things were impossible, like 5 seconds left on the shot clock. He bailed them out on hundreds of occasions. I have a feeling he will be the guy they really miss this year. Not so much Randle.

    Yeah… they got lucky with those haymakers. They shouldn’t have even been that close late in those games.

    Kentucky’s offense last year looked horrible.

    It would be great if several teams could beat them playing small ball this year, and then get the media focused on Kentucky’s weaknesses. For most teams, that would be what they want so they can fix it in time for March. I just don’t have the confidence in Cal’s abilities in that area and it would be fun to watch the Big Blue Nation suffer with not being able to fix something made so obvious that even the media ran with it!

    Think about it… there are many ways for Kentucky to totally implode this year!

    Their real issue is Cal’s inability on x’s and o’s. He tries to mask his weakness by over-recruiting… putting too much height on the floor… things like that. He’s doing all of it to compensate for the weakness he knows he has. If you don’t believe me, search the internet for some of his interviews and listen to him defend his x’s and o’s.

    The ultimate this year is for Kentucky’s weaknesses to be exposed early, and then Cal can’t fix it by March. That would create a colossal unraveling, and everyone would be blaming everyone else.

  • @drgnslayr

    Let;s not underestimate Calipari’s capabilities as a coach. Sure maybe he is not in the top 3 but certainly he is in the top 10. This 3-month ESPN article list him as #2 behind only Donovan and ahead of Coach Self who comes in as #6…

    Link to story…

    This one has him as #4 and Coach Self as #7…

    Link to the ranking…

    This ranking has him as #4 and Coach Self as #5…

    Link to story…

    Here is one that list who would the NBA draft and Cal comes a #1 and Coach Self as #3…

    One more link…

    You can look for yourself and I don’t believe you will find him ranked outside the top 10 anywhere. Keep in mind that he learned coaching from Coach Brown sitting on the the KU bench and Coach Self inherited the position when Cal left for and assistant coach position at Pittsburgh. Underestimate Cal at your own risk.

  • @JRyman It was Roy’s right to leave. Glad we got Coach Self.

  • @JRyman

    I believe Coach Williams did great at KU and he has always been vocal saying how thankful he is for getting the opportunity and how respectful he is of the program. He even got in trouble with his own fan base for wearing a Jayhawk on his sweater at the NCAA.

    I don’t blame him for going back home; we all knew it was matter of time. However, I do think the way the left was questionable and for this I blame Kansas native and KU alumnus and former Assistant Coach Dean Smith; he really showed where his loyalty was…and it was not his home state of Kansas.

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