...And then the C-Axis

  • Self’s public performance has been pretty clear in its purpose from the beginning. Self’s rhetoric dating to last summer has been a tight wire act aimed at shaping the battle field for the UK game–the second game of the season.

    Self has walked a balancing act of preparing the fans for being blown out in Indy by Cal’s Nike-Wildcats, AND he has been laying down smoke screens and disinformation at UCSB and the Nike Wildcats in hopes of getting some kind of edge going into the contests. But what kind?

    Self’s history in using the media is to use the media exactly as a 2 guard, which he was in his playing days, uses options and faints, when initiating on the wing. A wing intiator can:

    a.) look to post feed;

    b.) put it on the deck;

    c.) reverse the ball;

    d.) shoot; or

    e.) pump fake and do anyone of a through d after the fake.

    If one stops to think about it, as Bob Knight was always trying to get every player, ever coach, every announcer and every fan to do every chance he could, it is quite a long menu of options for a defender to have to successfully defend, if an offender is truly skilled in execution of the options and in fainting.

    The key to wing initiation is not to hide that you are initiating. The key is to make sure the defenders knows and respects and so has to choose what he is going to commit to stopping among your options. Its is the options signaled and received and the forced choice that gives the edge to the wing initiator.

    So: what we have heard non stop and what we have been shown in the two exhibition games and to much lesser degree were faints for Cal to have to assess.

    Based on Self’s very controlled showing of his hand in the three games so far, entering the KU-UK game Cal knows that he is going to have a huge height advantage inside, as he always will, but outside, Self has made clear to him that he is not going to know for sure whether he will be playing tall, or short permeters, and Cal will have to tell his starters they will have to prepare to guard (and offend against) a minimum of three different players at each of the perimeter positions.

    Think about what Self has done by this long orchestrated smoke screening.

    The goal of all highly athletic teams is to get to where they are playing and not thinking, exploding and not thinking, transitioning and not thinking.

    There is a very old heurist in thinking. It goes like this:

    –anyone can think of one thing at a time;

    –some can think of two at a time;

    –but it is only a very tiny percentage of the population that can think of three things at once effectively.

    One of the ways you can tell amateurs, and light weight professionals from the highly skilled in any field is not just on their feet processing speed, but by how many things they can juggle simultaneously on their feet in real time, how many variables and parameters can they coordinate skillfully. For instance, lightweights in board destabilization would create two fake aliases, not three, and when they tried to mask this by creating three they would be asymmetric and unsubtle in how they used them. Conversely, if they were skilled and created three in the first place, then they would in time be exposed as well trained pros, if they handled them well. Either way they leave a signature. 🙂

    The entirety of advertising and PR and the propaganda and psy-ops techniques that have descended from early mass advertising and circulation war driven yellow journalism of the Pulitzer/Hearst era are premised on this heuristic. Create something persons have to focus on, then give them a stimulus, a counter stimulus, and then a suggestion. The ordinary, undefended person experiences cognitive dissonance from the stimulus and counter stimulus. If the target created for them to focus on has sufficient attraction, then they have to resolve the dissonance by accepting the suggestion. Amateurs are particularly unskillful at all of this. Pros are particularly skillful. So: both leave an unmistakable signature in short order. But I digress. 🙂

    The point here is Self is both and old 2 guard and some one that has studied psychology extensively and someone that has shown an ability to think skillfully and strategically in terms of use of media as a channel for signals.

    We can try to know persons like Self and Cal by the signatures of their teams.

    Self and his teams boast a thousand page play book.

    Cal and his teams boast the simplest offense ever devised that has also been effective.

    Both coaches appear to love athleticism, but Cal apparently loves it so much more than Self that he signed with Nike, which apparently has the vastly greater talent pool, while Self signed with adidas, which apparently has the vastly thinner talent pool. The choice of which PetroShoeCo to sign perhaps suggests a lot about the personalities and preferences of each coach IMHO.

    Self apparently believes that team work, getting better, toughness, sound strategies and tactics can counter raw talent. This is an approach that requires a brilliant coach to pull off.

    Cal apparently believe overwhelming talent playing the simplest, quickest to master offenses and defenses, together for brief periods, is the better approach.

    Too many spend most of their time judging the morality of the two approaches, which is okay to do, but does not generate any insight for actual battle.

    Self appears to be creating a realm of personnel complexity on the perimeter that forces an unusual amount of uncertainty and thinking on the UK perimeter, where he apparently finds a very formidable UK team most vulnerable, given KU’s small size inside.

    It is critical to recall what you and later I noted about the UCSB game. Self tried a lot of things the first half, things that when viewed in combination with the tape of the two preceding exhibition games, reveal UK will be playing a KU team in which UK’s point guard will have to prepare to guard three different KU players, and UK’s 2 guard will have to prepare to guard 4 players, and UK’s 3 will have to guard 4 different players. And of course there are five players that could show up at either the 4, or the 5. (That’s the stimulus.) But in the second half, Self went with a seven man rotation. (That is the counter stimulus.)

    Thus, Calapari, the guy that prefers to talent, and his staff, and his players, all of whom are in the program to make Cal’s program work, are being made to think. They are probably proactively sifting through tapes, and comments by Self, looking for an edge in scouting. But even if they were not to, even if they were to do it the Wooden way and ignore what the other team is doing, even if they do not sift–the interesting thing is that the news media can be used to confront them with the issues simply through questioning at pressers (note: certain in the media might even be primed by Self precisely to prompt them to do that).

    So: while we fans have been focusing on the X-axis, and patting ourselves on the backs for being thoughtful enough to do so, at 'slayr’s nudging, and while some are beginning to focus on the -Z-axis of tempo (i.e., varying pace and point of attack on offense and on defense), Self has been ratcheting up what I will label an C-axis (the Complexity Axis) for UK and Cal, who apparently basically do not like complexity. He has been been moving the level of competitive interplay as far out the C-axis as his talent permits him credibly to signal doing.

    The attractiveness of moving out the C-Axis is that it makes them have to think about more variables than they are probably comfortable doing generally, AND it makes it really tough on UK’s 5 or so freshman phenoms. Self, coming off Wiggins and Embiid, knows first hand just how limited these “great talents” are the first month of the season, especially the first few games.

    By moving out the C-Axis, Self is in effect shortening Cal’s bench, for as Cal goes to his bench, while he may get a great athletic play or two from great athletes, he is sharply increasing his likelihood of bone heading because of guys trying to figure out who they are guarding, and offending on, and how to guard and offend on one versus another, of 3, or 4 different players.

    But there is another juicy benefit of moving out the C-Axis, or at least appearing to. With an opponent like Cal that is predisposed to reduce things down to talent and overwhelming match ups, Cal will be very tempted to try to “decide” which 7 Bill is going to rely on MOST. In other words, Cal, who probably believes he is pretty good at distilling things, and who knows he has half a team that does not yet really gasp the reality of the speed and violence of a D1 major, is very likely to opt to try to beat Self with his first five, and not necessarily with his inexperienced depth. And once Cal commits to such a path, then Self gets to pick at each of his perimeter positions the guy he figures creates the biggest problems for UK initiating action with.

    UK is very predictable, as all of Cal’s teams have been since his adoption of the Dribble Drive. Get it in the paint. Shoot or kick out. Outside. Ball screen. Dribble drive. Pull up, drive or dish. Repeat. You know what’s coming every play. The problem is it IS a sound strategy and if you let it unfold with Cal having superior athletes, he wins.

    (Note: Self’s high-low can get very predictable, too. Substitute perimeter passing for ball screening and dribble driving and the old in-and-out is the same. But the high-low always has to advantage of ball movement, forced sliding by the whole defensive team, and so a wider range of the floor where the point of attack may come. Ball screening is a wicked tactic guard well constantly, but it has the flaw of being limited to the running speed and distance of the guy that’s going to set the screen giving the defense ample time to anticipate point of attack, once it is used to guarding it. I am convinced this is why Self does not adopt more ball screening, or run more screens, and prefers fade curls of screens, when he does. Self seems a fanatic about not EVER letting the opponent anticipate exactly where offensive impact will come. Thus he is partial to passing creating open spaces that the KU player actually determines the point of impact in in the moment, rather than at a tightly scripted, predetermined time and place. If even KU does not know exactly where the impact point will be; that is, if the KU offender is supposed to create within the space, then the defense cannot defend the spot. They have to defend an area—not a spot. But I digress.)

    But as with any other offense and group of players, if you get them reading their cues wrong and thinking too much about their choices (as in “which guy is this, what is his strong hand, what are his tendencies, what can I give him, and what must I deny?), and if you vary degree of pressure and pressure points of your defense, and if you consistently force the ball in the ball screen into the shooter with the lower percentage, and then go to the other end and play efficiently on offense, you win, or come close.

  • @jaybate-1.0 So glad somebody over on the kusports site told me where some of the old posters there went to. I never got much out of the actual articles, but really enjoyed reading passionate people pontificate profusely about my jayhawks.

    Using terms like cognitive dissonance and C-axis to describe a game about putting a ball thru a peach basket… obsessive overthinking? Yea, maybe, but… bring it on!

  • @Jyhwk_InTigrtwn

    Thx and good to learn you found us. They do what they do and we do what we do. Their sunk costs and access needs are high, so they can bring one product. Ours are both low, so we can bring another. Together, you get a nice blend for your Jayhawk enjoyment. 😄

    And remember the pioneer and award winning leader of interactive sports journalism–@Jesse-Newell Newell–is over on CJonline.com. He does state of the art live interactive game casts plus QA on Steroids analysis of KU hoops and basketball. He offers fans anonymity in participation during his live blog game casts AND in posting comments to his stories on his blog. JNew’s combination of friendliness, QA depth, fan anonymity and interactive live game interactive experience takes basketball fun to whole new level. And he remembers where he came from–Emporia, KS. Rock Chalk!

  • Yikes, tough read for the first week back on the job! Nice to see the Pyscho-Econo-Marketing prose from you, Sir 🙂

  • Please note one of the benefits of this site on FULL DISPLAY in this thread: No limits to the size of the post 🙂

    This allows @jaybate-1.0 and everyone else to write uninterrupted… Thoughts may flow to all of us directly as they were intended, without the need to stop the post and start a new one because of an arbitrary character count limit.

    I like to think this makes our site as the compact disc was to the 8-track tape, which occasionally had to switch tracks in the middle of a song (for those who aren’t old enough to have had that experience.)

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