How to beat Kentucky (or anyone else): slow it down, deny their treys, turn them over inside and in transition, once inside don't foul them, make FTs and shoot all threes

  • Louisville lost to UK 58-50. KU lost 72-40.

    UL crammed it inside and took 58 2ptas, making 25.9%, which was strikingly similar to KU which took 56 2ptas, making 19.6%.

    UL took only 14 3ptas, making 21.4%, again similar to KU taking only 15 3ptas and making only 20%.

    So why did KU get blown out and UL come within 8?

    Two reasons:

    1.) UK got 8 fewer 2ptas and the same 3ptas, because UL disrupted the shizz out of UK by forcing 18 UK TOs, while stealing it 1o times; and

    2.) UK got 10 fewer FTA, despite UL applying all the pressure.

    KU in comparison turned it over MORE than UK, and gave UK about 10 more FTAs.

    But rebounds reveal the most bizarre comparison. UK out rebounded UL +13 but only out rebounded KU +5.

    Take away: UL conceded rebounding to UK and tried to strip and turn over UK everywhere on the floor including on the way into the post, but then let UK’s footers score once they got scoring position, so as to ensure UK got to the foul line less than UL. Doing this encouraged UK to slow it down.

    This high pressure, low fouling approach is something that any team including KU could apply.

    But as successfully as UL applied their strategy, they STILL lost by 8, which in a low possession game is a considerable amount.

    What could they have done differently?


    Why waste 58 attempts from 2pt range making only 25.9%, when you could have been shooting those same 58 attempts from trey and making their admittedly pitiful 21.4%?

    UL scored 30 points from 2ptas cramming it inside. Plus they got fouled and made 17. Let’s say 15 of those made FTs came from cramming it inside, and two came from miscellaneous fouling. That means they scored a total of 45 points from the inside shooting strategy.

    Compare this with UL having hypothetically shot all 58 actual inside attempts from 3pt range instead.

    UL would have scored 36 points had they made their actual trey percentage of 21.4%. That is 9 points shy of the inside strategy.

    But what if UL had gotten fouled twice on missed 3pta and shot their actual 70%; that’s 4 made FTs. That does not seem improbable on 58 attempts, especially coming off screens and fade curls.

    So that 36 points with made FTs would really be 40 points. Well, that’s still 5 points shy of the 46 and wouldn’t have closed the gap.

    But what if UL had shot 25%? UL would have 46 points and that would have been one point more than they scored with the inside strategy.

    So: what if UL had shot 30% on 58 3ptas? It would have made 52 points plus 4 FTs, or 56 points; that would have been 11 more points than the inside strategy.

    And 11 more points would have left the score board reading UL 61-UK 58.

    Now perhaps UL is an absolutely horrible three point shooting team and 30% would be beyond their wildest dreams.

    But KU, with its long wings and high trey shooting percentage perimeter, if it ran action each possession to shake its trey shooters free, ought easily to make 30 percent from shooting treys on every possession were they to meet UK again. 30 percent is not very high, when your trey gunners are sighted in.

    I know shooting 70 treys in a game sounds utterly fantastic, but I am increasingly convinced that doing so would win almost every game, if one’s team were top flight pressure defense players capable of stripping and turning opponents over, while holding down fouls by conceding 2pt shots once the ball got into the footers.

    Think how much pressure our guys, especially our mobile bigs could apply, if they were not sagging and doubling to help our short bigs try to guard 4 footers.

    Guard the passing lanes, not the footers.

    Disrupt everywhere, concede the inside basket.

    Hold down the fouls.

    Forget about rebounding against guys a foot taller than you.

    Shoot treys every time down the floor, except when there is an obvious open uncontested shot at the rim by one pass.

    Make 70% of what few FTAs you get.

    Slay the giant.

  • I watched this game, and it fueled my vision of x-axis basketball.

    With all the giants in this game, the outcome was largely determined by Ulis, the 5’9" PG who was the high scorer for Kentucky.

    Louisville performed some aspects of x-axis basketball that kept them in the game, especially in the first half. Lots of pressure up top, and they forced Kentucky into a lot of TOs. Unfortunately, UL failed, in most cases, to take advantage of those TOs with made baskets, especially in the open court (a key opportunity in x-axis).

    I recall Jay Bilas saying several times how successful Louisville was when they used shot fakes. He said, “every time Louisville used a shot fake, Kentucky bought in to it” and “it lead to scoring.” This was another part of x-axis we didn’t use in our game with Kentucky.

    If we have the misfortune of playing Kentucky again, here is what I would do:

    1. I would play small. Forget the inside game. Concede it to Kentucky. We aren’t going to sky high for boards and win our share with Kentucky. Instead, we play for speed and outside shooting ability. Fight harder for long rebounds, something we can control and help statistically balance out rebounds.

    2. Give minutes to players with offense, primarily guards. Brannen, Kelly, Frank and Svi would be getting 30+ minutes of action.

    3. Run a high-speed motion offense. I’m talking about running a 4-guard offense. All of these guys have to be in a constant state of motion. Actually, all 5 of our players would be in constant motion… setting legal screens on ball and off ball. Work hard until someone gets an open shot, preferably a 3.

    4. Use fakes. Shot fakes, head fakes, body fakes, eye fakes, ball fakes, motion fakes. Kentucky overplays everything on defense. We should be able to get all 9 McDs AAs in foul trouble. I’m serious.

    5. Draw fouls. Use the fakes, also push the contact. When UK players reach, drive into their arms. Sell the call. Draw fouls and eventually we’ll be shooting FTs and Kentucky will have to lay off heavy pressure and the idea that Kentucky’s depth prevents them from foul trouble is suddenly toast.

    6. Make FTs. We have to make FTs because we will be shooting a boat load and it may end up competing with the amount of points we score from 3.

    7. Crash boards on the long ball. When we shoot the 3, we need to obtain a good share of the rebounds. Rebounds from the long ball typically go long, meaning, the height of Kentucky is somewhat neutralized. Players should look for open spots on the floor where they will win the contest for the board. If Kentucky starts to get open court baskets off this strategy then partially abandon it to prevent their run outs.

    8. Play aggressive perimeter defense. This works against Kentucky. The twins, once again, showed their vulnerabilities to pressure. Stunt their offensive rhythm and we can neutralize their size advantage.

    9. Push hard after a steal to score an open court basket. If it’s one-on-one to the hole, go into the body of the defender to draw the foul. If the layup isn’t there, look for a trailing player to hit a 3 on initial break or secondary break.

    10. Defensive post has to play hard for court position. Make them shoot over us and fight hard to deny interior passes. Of course this is a lot to ask for, but we don’t have to shut them out of scoring in the post, we just have to limit their effectiveness.

    11. Crash defensive boards. Limit extra Kentucky possessions. Control the potential damage.

    12. Don’t turn the ball over! TOs kill us, especially against Kentucky because they will score in the open court.

    13. Constantly rotate players… perhaps every 3 or 4 minutes (when necessary). Let the players know they need to expend all of their energy while on the floor, and when they need a breather, signal the bench. We don’t have the total depth Kentucky has, but we have MORE DEPTH with smaller players, guys that usually have better stamina.

    In this game, possessions rule!

    Strangely enough, Kansas has the right tools to beat Kentucky. We are athletic and have a bunch of capable perimeter shooters. We have a tough PG in Mason. It’s all about strategy, something we completely didn’t have in our first meeting.

    This is a solid x-axis strategy. Put our energy into limiting the vertical part of basketball… the only part of the game where Kentucky is dominant. This is the only strategy that will bring down Kentucky, except for a lucky hot team. It isn’t necessary to be lucky and hot. Just play smart… and win.

    Kentucky’s real threats are Ulis and Booker.

    If any players on the team don’t buy into this strategy, leave them home. No more wuss-ball!

  • @drgnslayr You just listed 13 things that needed to be done to beat Kentucky. I think that says it all. They may slip up and lose once this season. Who knows if it will be in the tournament or not…but I don’t remember anyone being such a prohibitive favorite as they are now.

  • @jaybate-1.0 and @drgnslayr

    This is the recipe. We have weapons but we can’t beat them playing their game.

    We have to outsmart them, outstrategize them, outCOACH them!

  • @drgnslayr

    Play X-axis.

    Play pressure defense solely to deny trey, and to strip and force TOs.

    Never contest an inside UK shot.

    Keep UK off the FT line.

    But take every FGA at 3pt range and with fakes to encourage 3 shot fouls.

    Make 30% of 71 trey attempts.

    Make 70% of 3-shot FTAs.

    Win every time against anyone shooting 15 3ptas and the rest 2ptas.

    This is mathematics.

  • @drgnslayr Very good post. This is the way to beat Kentucky. The problem is I don’t think Self would do this. If we play them again, he probably won’t change a thing just like a couple seasons ago.

    One thing I would like to add to your strategy is that when the guards drive the paint, thy need to not only shot fake but also jump stop then fake. I am frankly tired of seeing guys drive into the lane and put up a floater instead of jump stopping and evaluating their options.

  • @jaybate-1.0 It’s going to be tough to accomplish, no matter how simple the math, when a player practically gets benched for shooting a trey.

  • @nuleafjhawk

    Self’s approach is designed to beat the most teams we face.

    Self’s approach is premised on riding probabilities as far as they will take us and then hoping a tactical gamble and luck gets us by the improbable. All Self’s teams are built on this logic. The ring team was the one time the luck came at the right time–8 down with minutes to go–and delivered the ring against a team with equivalent talent and a superior star player (DRose). Self believes in hanging around until the opponent beats himself, or lets you beat him. The philosophy is a widely held one probably first articulated in basketball by Phog Allen. Play to your probabalistic strengths, hang around with good defense, and high percentage shots, and let the opponent beat himself, or expose a weakness that lets you exploit.

    Sound strategy I embrace in my approach, however unorthodox it seems.

    I just differ radically for the first season in his tenure with Self regarding which probabilities to ride. I say ride the 3pt probabilities and work to become better at disruption every way possible, so as to always shoot more 3ptas than the other team shoots 2ptas and let the inherent advantage of 3 points outweigh the Pynchonesque inherent vice of 2ptas.

    It is as plain as the nose on Self’s face that this team cannot depend on their bigs and 2ptas on 3 out of 4 possessions that he has shown as scheme so far and win consistently without the other team beating itself.

    Temple is the problem with this scheme.

    UK is the problem with this scheme.

    And any team that can do what either of them can do is the problem with this scheme.

    Few teams can beat you the way UK can. Duke and UA fall into UK’s category. UA has been upset, same with Duke, so you know one or two of them will be upset on the way to the ring. Probably only one. So probabilistically speaking: you have to worry about meeting 2 of the three from the 16 on. Apparent Nike stacking seems set to make this a parameter of sorts, too.

    If these sorts of teams were the only probabilistic obstacles, as 2-3 teams are every season, I would be behind Self’s approach whole hog this year as usual. We haven’t got enough talent to beat them, just as most seasons there seem to be 2-3 teams that our talent falls short of equaling, so scheme to beat everyone else, and hope for luck in tournament match-ups, and some daring gambles, to save us against these teams, if we have to play them. And accept defeat graciously when it doesn’t happen, because well that’s the way it goes.

    But, as I said above, Temple is also a kind of team we cannot beat with this scheme (unless Temple beats itself) and there are at least ten Temple’s out there. Temple is a much, much better team than anyone realized. They are a Top Ten and perhaps a Top 5 team with the addition of their two players AND Dunphy is a first rate coach. There is a reason Temple took us apart like a coroner cuts up a cadaver. BUT…there are ten Temples around this season, maybe 15, and that number is too high to go against with this current scheme…with this version of who we are…and give this roster of KU players a reasonable chance in battle. Every team deserves a fighting chance from their coach.

    Self has said recently that he has to find a few things, not many, that the players can believe that will work for them. He recognizes the problem. I believe he is working on it. I believe he is a genius at this stuff.

    But I have worked with genius a number of times and I learned that genius was no more a guaranty of reading situations correctly than was non genius. It can even be an impediment at times.

    Reading situations correctly is just a matter of hard work at thinking and intellectual honesty about the circumstance.

    Grant and Eisenhower were great generals, not geniuses. They were tireless workers sweating he details so that they read the circumstance correctly. Because they did, when they put their geniuses into battle, their geniuses stunning moves were not wasted the way Erwin Rommel’s were by his leaders.

    Genius comes into great advantage only when the situation is correctly diagnosed BEFORE the genius moves are made.

    Rommel was a genius. But his leaders frequently incorrectly diagnosed the circumstances they forced him to operate in. Thus, Rommel’s genius was continually squandered.

    I am intentionally looking at this situation WITHOUT genius. Its easy, because I am NOT a genius. I am wearing the practical lens prescription I require, and here is what I see.

    Self is bringing a strategic knife to a gun fight…unless he sharply alters strategy and/or sharply increases the tactical tools in the tactical tool chest of the current strategy during “the time of getting better”–between now and the start of conference play.

    I suspect he will add several tools, rather than sharply alter strategy. It appears everyone here thinks the same thing. It is the rational thing to do, because it rationally builds off all the work that has been done so far–the work aimed at using daily struggling to “become who we are, i.e., who we set out to be from the beginning.”

    Self has, after all, learned the joys of getting out to an early conference lead by playing well at home and stealing some wins on the roads with tactics he did not show before the break. This was the formula he applied last season to win a conference title unexpectedly quickly.

    But the success of this depends entirely on whether or not what Self saw at the start of the season regarding “who we are” and “who we can become” with hard work realistically recognized what he had to work with, AND what kind of basketball teams he was up against.

    Self obviously did not expect Embiid to jump last season, but Self at least knew by summer that Embiid was out of the picture. He apparently treated AWIII in a way that made his exit likely, so he was likely expecting that. CF had to be a wild card. Self apparently wanted CF in one kind of role on this team, and not in the role that CF wanted. Self appeared to try to walk a tight rope between encouraging him to stay with the team in the function Self envisioned, and making it clear that it would be better for him to go if he could not happily accept the role envisioned. It would appear with hindsight that up until a few weeks before CF departed that Self fully expected to have CF for the season; that CF’s departure at the moment he left WAS a surprise to Self; that Self apparently expected CF to at least hang on till semester break and likely till summer before transferring. And so Self’s sense of “who we are” and could be included CF and when that did not happen the timing of the development of others became much more critical.

    But Self said that CF’s departure actually would allow some less juggling and some more development minutes for other guys. And Self left unsaid that it put an end to the vision of moving Selden to all the positions 1 through 4. And the team settled into Mason and Graham at 1, Selden and Svi at 2, Oubre and Greene at 3, Ellis at 4 and first Traylor at 5, and then Lucas and Cliff at 5 and Traylor filling both 4 and 5 as MUs allowed.

    But then Selden regained no pop, could not get up backside for a lob, and shot the trey poorly.

    And then Oubre probably got a knee injury–the one that he wears the lingerie on and still favors–that was spun as being slow on the uptake.

    And then Perry couldn’t cut it against the L&S types.

    And Cliff’s mind could not rapidly absorb how to play D1 post on either end of the floor, and so he had to be brought along slowly, under the guise of protecting him from fouling, when the obvious problem was he was not “getting” how to play his position within the team flow. Cliff’s individual numbers have all been very good from the beginning. He can make plays no problem. He is very physically gifted. His problem has been reading and deciding what to do and so the idea has apparently been to have him watch the action for 5 minutes before throwing him into it. This makes perfect sense. Right thing to do. No blemish on Cliff. But in the OAD era, players like Cliff come into fill empty slots. There is no bringing them along slowly. They have to play. And they have to carry a 12/8 and preferably a 15/10 burden to make the team any good. That couldn’t happen. Cliff needed mental transition time even without injuries. You can see the confusion in the expressions on his face most of the time.

    Self has appeared to view this team very similarly to his 2000 Tulsa team, as I predicted he would. References to the few aspects of the '08 ring team may even have been authentic on his part, despite the absurdity of comparing this team with one of the greatest defensive teams of the modern era, and a team with five fully matured pro, or near pro grade players. This years team has not one player that will be as good at the end of this season as the first six players were on the '08 ring team the season BEFORE the '08 season!

    What Self apparently envisioned this team being was a 2000 Tulsa team with 3-5 potential 40% trey shooters. It gave reason for optimism, even if only 3 of them lived up to expectations. But CF left. Svi bombed as a shooter. Graham got injured. Greene can’t guard. And so Self is left with virtually a copy of his 2000 Tulsa team–one good trey gun in Mason, and a bunch of brick artists, except for Greene, who’s defense is so weak he can’t stay on the floor.

    But Self has a bigger problem than trey shooting, because his 2000 Tulsa teamed proved you don’t need more than one 40% trey gun, if you can disrupt and rebound.

    This KU team cannot disrupt or rebound…yet.

    Note: teams can lean to disrupt with the aids of a variety of defensive schemes that Self has so far been unwilling to consider the application of. Rebounding is a much tougher thing to acquire.

    So this KU team not only cannot stay on the floor with UK grade teams, it can be manhandled by Temple grade teams, and it has to win ugly with MSU and Utah grade teams.

    Note: winning ugly is a deceptive term. What it really means is hanging around and hoping the other team will beat itself. It inherently involves luck; i.e., you are not controlling your destiny, you are depending on others to screw up under pressure.

    For this reason, I am saying that going forward with this scheme, of hoping for others to beat themselves, even with the added tools of “the time getting better” is bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    It is a strategy aimed only to see if he can steal enough road Ws on the first half of the round robbin (when the coaches haven’t seen his wrinkles to what they have already done) to keep his team from going into double digit losses on the back half; then go out early in the Madness, and hope for signing Zimmerman, or some Euro footer we haven’t heard about yet.

    I don’t believe its the best we can do. And I’ve never been able to say that about Self’s team schemes before…ever.

    Why isn’t it the best we can do? Because he’s only shooting 15-20 treys a game; that’s why. He is scheming to shoot 3/4s of his shots inside the trey stripe with players that aren’t as good as other good team’s inside players; that is bone head strategy. Sorry coach.

    And I don’t believe that ANY strategy that depends on inside scoring, even in combination with drawn fouls and FT shooting done inside, by ANY of our players give this team a fair chance of being the best it can be.

    All the statistical tendencies and physical abilities possessed by this team are against this team every second of the game that it plays offense inside the trey stripe. No amount of improvement playing inside is going to change this team into one capable of beating most of the Top 15 teams most of the time, when those teams play well. KU is winning close games against good teams by hanging around and letting those teams beat themselves. But as those teams improve over the season they get better and better at NOT beating themselves. So this approach is a recipe for failure.

    Whenever KU meets another team that does not beat itself, KU doesn’t just lose, its gets the snot beaten out of it. That is a dead giveaway that the scheme for this team is fundamentally not orchestrating team’s capabilities into any “who we are” that can win by playing well, even when the other team does not beat itself. And any really good team has to be able to beat some teams at their best, or the Ws are fools gold–to borrow Self’s recently used term.

    The three point shot changes college basketball as much as rifled artillery and machine guns changed infantry warfare in the Civil War and WWI, carriers changed sea battles before WWII, and nuclear weapons changed warfare and diplomacy post WWII…COMPLETELY.

    We live in a time where basketball coaches with great big men have forgotten all the lesssons of the early 3point era taught the game by the Missouri Valley Conference coaches, and by other mid majors, back before other mid majors could start landing rim protecting bigs.

    If you don’t have rim protecting bigs, you can beat any team if you take enough 3ptas and make 35% and disrupt enough to hold the other team to fewer FGAs. You don’t have to outbound them. You don’t have to score inside. You just have to make 70% of what few FTs you get randomly, give the other team their inside buckets, after trying to strip their passes into the paint, and play tirelessly.

    It is also probably wise to play low scoring games which magnify the worth of each possession, but I haven’t fully worked that logic through to may satisfaction. Probably the sounder way to think is to play whatever number of possessions maximizes your chances to wind up with the greatest advantageous spread in possessions ending in shooting attempts, provided yours are 3ptas and theirs are 2ptas.

    It is just a mathematical function that if you shoot 71 3ptas out of 71 possessions and make only 30%, while disrupting another team into 8-10 fewer 2-pt attempts, and that team is shooting 3/4 of their FGAs as 2ptas, you will be in the game even if that other team does not beat itself. And you are biased to win, if you shoot 35% or better. You only have to shoot 40% or better from trey, when you are shooting only 15-18 3ptas per game.

    Self is being blinded by conventional wisdom about three point shooting.

    He needs to shake off the conventional wisdom. He needs to break out of the prison of his own experience.

    Wisconsin showed last season what a bunch of trey ballers with a footer could do. It was only the tip of an ice berg. The key was NOT the footer. The key was the trey ballers. The footer only was decisive against lesser teams that lacked a footer.

    Disruption all over the floor is just as good as disruption at the rim. All that matters is creating fewer possessions that end in a FGA attempt for the opponent than for you, plus shooting vastly more 3ptas than the opponent.

    This is like Nimitz saying he could be the largest naval fleet in history with four battle ships and a broken code.

    No one thought he could.

    But he knew the principle was sound.

    He knew that he did not have to sink the Japanese battleships and cruisers to beat them. He only had to find a way to sink enough of the Japanese carriers that they could no longer provide enough air cover to protect all of those battle ships and cruisers.

    We don’t need to attack and sink UK’s four footers.

    Or anyone else’s superior front court either.

    All we need to do find a way to disrupt their supply lines to those four footers enough times that we get more 3ptas than they get 2ptas, and this turns this into a game of 3pt shooting versus 2 point shooting and win, unless they are willing to switch and have a 3pt shooting battle. And frankly, if they do that, we are better at that than most.

Log in to reply