Self's Migration to Option-Enriched Offense and the MBMAP Innovation

  • (Note: this post was a response triggered by a wonderful post by @JhawkAlum about Self moving away since 2006 from more mechanical set plays and toward more improvisational,option-enriched type of offense.)


    I agree with your reading completely.

    What persons often don’t appreciate is how difficult it is to make leaps of insight like that you refer to being made by Self.

    We truly are prisoners of experience, but also of our expectations which are the products of that experience.

    We have experiences.

    They create expectations.

    We have a bunch of related experiences.

    They create an expectation complex.

    When we can devise actions through that expectation complex that get us where we want to go, or get us what we want to get, then we “believe” that expectation complex is real, and the actions are repeatable with some minor adaptations.

    But when we get the snot beaten out of us, we look at the expectation complex and say, hmm, maybe there is another action consistent with it that we have overlooked.

    We look for it and find one, because we always find what we look for, and that is very scary truth. 🙂

    Sometimes the new action works. We continue to embrace the expectation complex.

    Sometimes it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work enough times, if we are very smart and very brave, we stop looking for new actions for the old expectation complex.

    Instead we question the expectation complex. Is my expectation complex sufficiently fitting? fitting at all? i.e., is my conception of the context I am operating in wrong?

    Again, we find what we are looking for and again that is a scary truth.

    We rebuild our expectation complex. We do it by studying what is actually going on and by soul searching about our capacities.

    Due to difficulty of seeing the scope of our context very comprehensively, we often only partially rebuild our expectation complex to fit it.

    This leads to successes some times and to failures sometimes.

    Successes we select toward, but usually the successes are only partial so we keep searching the context for more fitting expectations and in turn more fitting actions.

    If you understand the process I have outlined, you can see why Self would only after many years of coaching have the insight that more fluid, option enriched play might be more fitting than more mechanical, option narrowed play. The longer he coached the more he noticed that situations were not highly predictable, i.e., the expectation complex of games and individual situations in games were much more complex than he had once appreciated. Creating more options in any given situation made a player harder to guard, and capitalized on the players on the spot judgement, if a player had good on the spot judgement. Designing impact space rather than designing impacts began to make more sense, because it made his guys harder to guard and less mechanistic in their actions. They performed better up to a point, if he recognized that there could also be a point of diminishing returns.

    This is all well and good, but notice what Self did NOT change when he changed his expectation complex and changed his action menu.

    He still had long big men play with back to basket the way they always had and he still had them occasionally run out to the top of the free throw circle to stretch the defense and clear out the lane and take some shots.

    And he still had perimeter guys still playing with faces to the basket and either taking open looks, or creating looks in spaces, putting it on the deck and going to iron.

    It never occurred to him, or at least he did not have the talent constraints of players, that forced him to think about using both bigs outside and playing them face to basket not to stretch the defense, but rather to put them in a similar mode of attack to perimeter players. Yes, he had used Marcus in this way, but never both big men.

    But then he got this set of small big men. And no matter how he tried coaching them up, they just werent very good at back to the basket play, when playing against LASs. He tried everything and nothing worked. No action solved the problem. He had to examine his expectation complex. His expectation complex was that one big man was out high and another big man was down low. They rotated. When one was out high,he faced the basket. When one was low one played back to basket. Something made him say: why not change that expectation complex? Why can’t they both be out their facing the basket? Either in turn, or simultaneously? Why can’t these guys just be face to the basket types so that they are always on the run to the basket and jumping?They are short but they are good jumpers. With running jumps they can play much taller than grinding for position back to basket and still being too short to sergeant jump or one step jump against these LASs that just eat them alive.

    I have no idea what Self calls this new approach to big man play within this new expectation complex that he appears to be evolving. I call it:

    MBMAPs–mobile big man attack platforms.

    Each of KU’s bigs is no longer a dedicated traditional type of big man, either down low, or up high.

    Now each KU big man is a long bouncey face to the basket that is focused on slashing and crashing. He is focused on using his speed and hops to convert into playing taller, rebounding taller, and scoring taller by attacking rebounds, attacking the rim and attacking opponents. They are attacking ball screens now. The word of the day is attack.

    I call our big men platforms because they are player capable of being channelled into all kinds of attacks based on the abilities of the opponents they face. These big men of ours are platforms that deploy that are then programmed to attack with a menu of options, like our perimeter guys have always had.

    I call them mobile, because this face to the basket play can be deployed down low or out high, or eventually anywhere on the floor and they are on the move during attack, too. Jamari Traylor was the definitive MBMAP against Baylor. MBMAPs need to be explosive. He is. But now instead of exploding out of fixed positions on the court to help other teammates he is more often exploding to attack the basket. They can even revert, situationally, to back to the basket play if it were ever useful, but it rarely is against top teams with LASs.

    And Oubre is really not a perimeter player any more. He is now like a wing post man, a MBMAP placed on one wing to force an overshift of the defense to that wing, so that the other two MBMAPs (our form high low posts) have lanes of attack from the over shifted defenses.

    Opponents once always knew where our high and low posts were going to be, and they knew they were going to rotate from high to low, or side to side. Those days are over for opponents. They can no longer can be sure where our MBMAPs will set up. There will be places they tend to set up, but there will be more of those places and more menu options for attacking from them. It makes our small bigs harder to guard.

  • Very well said.

    Two types of offenses are grasped easier for freshman. A set play offense (Old Self) and a drive and kick offense (see UK offense). We see new players in the beginning of Self’s era succeed like J.R. Giddens. No one in their right mind would say Giddens was smarter and had more of a basketball IQ than Selden, Henry, or other new comers. He simply played in a system that was more concrete and easier to grasp.

    Maybe Self needs to change it again with the incoming talent expected to put up big numbers game in and game out. But when a team as a whole stays together for 2 or 3 years, something magical happens. Of course 08 and 12 comes to mind. However, lets not forget about the season of '10 and '11 with a flukey Northern Iowa loss and an overconfident team against a scrappy VCU. Those teams would torch defenses.

    Good news is I can only see one player gone in Oubre after this year. Next year, we will have the core back and ready to make a serious run. I am not ruling out this year of course, but next year, I predict the Self offense will be back to pretty passing and easy buckets like we are accustomed to seeing.

  • @JhawkAlum

    You know, this whole simplification thing makes sense, but…

    Self seems to be going the exact opposite direction everyone else is going.

    While everyone else seems to be going back to Dick and Jane Primer playbooks, you know, “See Dick ball screen, see Jane dribble drive, see Jane dunk.” Self seems to be taking the current team into off the charts variety of sets and menu options.

    The team plays different ways almost every game.

    Its kind of insane, but he is 12-2.

    If he keeps having success at this, I think he may actually complexify things even more.

    So far, Self has really kept defense pretty rudimentary and has forced the guys focus onto all the offensive variations.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he follows K.I.S.S. until the first really tough conference team and goes all emergent complexity on defense then.

    This team has the athleticism to do more provocative things on defense than it is doing now.

    It feels to me like Self is saving the defensive wrinkles for later in the season, so long as the team keeps eeking out Ws without showing his down cards on the defensive end.

    The underlying premise of everything he seems to be doing, however, is scheme and play in ways tailored for each opponent to encourage it to beat itself sometime in the second half. It seems to be the Phog Philosophy dusted off.

  • @jaybate-1.0 think Cliff is still on the “run Dick run”!

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Yeah, Cliff looks like a grad student in very tough program being asked to not only formulate answers, but formulate the questions, too, A little overwhelmed.

    But he will get it. He seems very close.

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