Shabazz on Beating Kentucky...and the Birth of the BAD BALL

  • Read a story somewhere yesterday, meant to post it, got hurried, forgot where it came from, but I will paraphrase the comment UConn’s Shabazz M made when asked about how to beat this year’s UK team.

    Basically he said it would be very, very tough to do, but that it would have to be done the same way UConn beat UK last season. A good point guard has to speed it up and get a lead, the slow it way down and defend the lead, then keep repeating the whole game.

    Inference: the roots of BAD BALL may be found in the UConn defeat of Kentucky last season.

    Inference: Shabazz didn’t think of it on his own. Kevin Ollie told him.

    Inference: Kevin Ollie skulled with Larry.

    Inference: BAD BALL, as Self has constructed it, is one part guard control of tempo to create and defend leads cyclically, one part shrinking impact space to maximize FTA advantage, one part expanding rim attack from perimeter players to include mobile big man attack platforms, one part stretch 4 attacks from all over the court, one part outside shooting threat, and one part offense-defense aimed at disruption of flow on both ends, rather than simply at winning the disruption stat [(blocks + strips)/turnovers] on the defensive end.

    You’ve heard of The Birth of the Blues?

    This is The Birth of the Bad Ball!

  • @jaybate-1.0 This is an interesting inference. I really enjoy how you toss out theories. Makes us think. But I was kind of buying the theory that has been forwarded here by others that our style of play is vintage Michigan St. How does our approach differ from the MSU approach?

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I guess Ollie must be a really bad student; apparently he forgot the lessons from last year and now he is playing in the NIT…

  • To do what you suggest, a team has to have a guard that can dominate the ball and score more or less on demand without turning it over or tiring.

    If that is the case, the only team that I can see beating UK is maybe Duke because Jones can do that. Nobody else has the right combination in the backcourt to do that. Utah also has a chance because of Delon Wright, but those teams are in the same bracket and are opposite UK (and would need to get by everyone else, first).

    Simply put, bad ball may bring UK down, but its going to be tough because the best candidates are not immediately in UK’s path. Maybe Cincy uglies a game up with them. Maybe Maryland has their three big scorers all go crazy at once. Maybe Huggins’ press frustrates them again. But there’s not a lot of teams with the personnel and coaching to take down UK without being absolutely perfect.

  • That UK is the hardest team to beat in a long time (IMHO since each of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Jabbar’s UCLA teams, and two of Walton’s teams, each of which had an undefeated ring season if I recall correctly–@JayHawkFanToo augment me here) we are in full agreement.

    My point however is that KU’s BAD BALL is much, much, much more systematic than what UConn used to beat UK.

    I think Frank Mason, if his knees hold up, is absolutely the right guard to do what Shabazz did, AND I think KU’s BAD BALL, which focuses and achieves to an unprecedented degree, disruption of flow, rather than strips, TOs, and blocks, is the team and system that if it played perfectly, that could most likely beat UK.

    UK is simply too talented and too favored by referees to be able to be beaten by teams that just modulate tempo and play the way UK has seen over 35 games plus six before the season started.

    UK has to see something they have never seen before and something that forces their young players into making an almost constant series of choices about attack coming from all directions and all players.

    KU is the only team able to do it. No one else in college basketball can really pull out bigs away from the basket with one player and then attack from that player, or from four others.

    No one has the defense AND that kind of offense that have been intentionally designed in combination to disrupt flow end to end.

    UK has had it slowed down on them. It has been roughed up. It has seen all of the conventional approaches to overcoming greater talent.

    But it has not seen BAD BALL.

    UK is a low possession team.

    Cal schemed UK precisely as a low possession team because he had 4 footers and he knew everyone would slow the ball down and try to muddy it up on UK all season. He has even prepared his team for having its centers pulled out. Cal was very, very smart to do what he did.


    BAD BALL can be played at different tempos.

    BAD BALL is about shrinking impact space and attacking from all points on the court.

    It is about disrupting flow, not winning disruption stats, and this UK has never played against.

    It appears to me that that first KU-UK game has focused every move Self has made the rest of the season about developing capabilities aimed to contend with a team like UK.

    UK is just a better version of what it was when we played them the first game of our season after they had already played 6 games.

    KU is not only not the same team, it is playing a kind of basketball UK has never seen that has been being developed the entire season to deal sooner or later with meeting them.

    UK is designed to do what it does no matter who it meets.

    KU is designed to disrupt the flow of whatever another team does on both ends of the floor.

    Something has to give in this sort of an encounter.

    Self designed the confrontation this way.

    Self is a defensive coach and this solution of his is the thinking of a defensive mind.

    KU is now effectively playing defense on both ends of the floor.

    Everything KU does is designed to disrupt flow, to stop runs, to create scoring opportunities at the FT line where how good UK is does not matter.

    Self’s logic distills to this: it is easier to disrupt flow than it is to impose flow.

    And if a team with superior talent cannot flow, cannot stay in any rhythm, its greater talent can be defended, and outscored at the FT line, and on a good trey day, beaten with as few as 10 3ptas, and as many as 25 3ptas.

    I don’t know if KU will be whole enough to play a perfect BAD BALL game if it survives to meet UK.

    But if it is, and if it plays a perfect BAD BALL game, which will not look at all like a perfect Good Ball game, unless UK plays a perfect, slow, Dribble Drive game to counter it, KU will win.

    I don’t really think UK can play a perfect, slow Dribble Drive game with rhythm and flow against KU.

    I think KU can play a perfect BAD BALL game against UK.

    I am only saying its possible.

    Nine out of ten games KU loses.

    But when you are trying to scheme a team to beat the most talent stacked team of not only the talent stack era, but in at least 40 years, and probably in the entire history of college basketball, I am pretty confident that Self has built the only mouse trap that could do it even once.

    You can bet Cal has his entire team practicing against each other driving into each other to guard intentionally shrunken impact space. Cal knows exactly what Self is doing. But the beauty of BAD BALL is that even when you know its coming, even when you practice defending against attack from all directions and positions into you, it is still disrupting your flow and breaking up your rhythmn and flow.

    Frank, Wayne, Devonte, Kelly, Perry, Brannen, and Svi can all break out in canned heat from three.

    Everyone but Brannen can drive it into their man and draw a foul.

    Not a one of them fear being blocked any more.

    They only thing they have to keep focused on is to keep driving in so tight UK has to either commit to the block and our guys make sure our shooting elbows make contact with some part of the Kentucky defender every play, or if the Kentucky defender does not commit, that our guys reverse under the basket so the rim is between them and their man, and if help comes to stop them on the reverse side of the rim, they either make shooting elbow contact with the help defender, or kick to the man he has left behind that has floated out to the trey stripe. Or more likely simply attacks from where he is. This is the essence of attack basketball. Short NBA players have been playing this way at least since the days of Bill Russell or back to Tom Gola. KU players have to learn to use the rim as a screen on almost every shot. And if they can’t use it as a screen, then reset, or kick for the trey. We’ve got the athleticism to do this at almost every position. This is not a pipe dream at all. Basketball can be played this way.

    But we’ve got to pray we can win a couple of close skirmishes before we even get to UK.

    I am much more worried about getting to UK than I am about UK. We have been designed to beat UK. But we are going to see ways of playing that are new to us before then.

    Most of our guys are young and have never been to a Madness; this is our biggest enemy the first weekend.

    We’ve got to get guys believing they can play at this level and able to recognize, and react correctly to styles of play they are seeing the first time. This is what Marvin Menzies was talking about when he said he is not going to outcoach Bill Self. Notice Marvin did not say he could not outcoach Bill Self. He was saying that he is going to rely on his experience seniors to recognize and react to familiar tournament circumstances better than KU’s green team will. He is playing to his strength. KU has to play to its strength–BAD BALL–something NMSU has not seen.

    Two wins in three days this week end will do the trick.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    It might have more to do with not having Shabazz. 🙂

    But I get your point.

  • I think Kansas playing the ultimate game of BAD BALL can take down Kentucky.

    It would have to work like this:

    1. Defend, defend, defend. Give up no easy stuff. It starts on the perimeter. Disrupt their flow, tempo, passing lanes. Contest shots. Make them shoot over us. Try to get them to speed up.

    2. At least match rebounds. Definitely don’t give up a lot of offensive boards.

    3. Score by pushing the ball in the paint and drawing fouls. Also… running some plays on perimeter and burying some 3s.

    4. Do not turn the ball over! (key)

    5. Make a high % of FTs.

    6. Variate the tempo, be aware of the tempo, and maintain the tempo that gives us the best advantage. Control the game!

    7. Prevent Kentucky runs. If they get going on a run, immediately flip to zone or junk defense. Revert back at a good time.

    8. Maintain poise throughout all 40 minutes.

    9. Play tough! Get the 50/50 balls! Hustle! Keep moving your feet!

    As tough as this sounds… we aren’t that far off from playing like this.

  • Focus now!! NMS!

  • @drgnslayr

    “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play…” –John Fogarty

    Thanks for weighing in on this.

    It can be done.

    Your recipe hunts.

    I have a hunch that speeding it WAAY up and then slowing it WAAY down; i.e., the amplitude of the cycle is important when playing against so much length.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    The short form is that Ratso has always relied on a mixture of physical intimidation and on plain old bodying and bumping to intimidate the other team psychologically. They really play the game pretty much the conventional way with conventional offenses and defenses.

    BAD BALL is not about intimidating anyone physically, or mentally, at all. Often KU is taking all, or most of the physical abuse for great stretches of the game.

    BAD BALL is about shrinking impact space, while cycling through your offensive formations that include 1-2-2, 1-3-1, 1-4, 4-1, or a four corners spread.

    We are playing as hard nosed as Izzo, but Izzo’s teams were never about Joe Frazier style of play at all. They were/are Sonny Liston, Mike Tyson type sluggers trying to hurt you and scare you into losing your nerve.

    We are Joe Fraziers boring in, in, in, in, and taking the hail of punches until we can get close enough to get you. We are trying to take away your advantage in athleticism by getting ourselves into positions where the advantage does not matter.

    We are attacking, and attacking and attacking to get so close to you that your great advantage in height, and your great advantage in athleticism may not matter. And while we like to get you fouled up, we really don’t care if you get fouled up or not, because we are disrupting your flow by getting to the foul line and by getting into your impact space, no matter what.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    Much like Liberace…I mean Weber, a one time wonder with someone else’s players???

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Time will tell on Ollie. Why I am not willing to judge him yet is that he won a flipping national championship and could not land a boat load of OAD/TADs aka draft choices, or have I forgotten again and he did?

    This leads me to one of two conclusions and I cannot yet pick between them.

    First, it could be that Ollie just does not have the personality and judgement about staff to be able to capitalize on his great good fortune last season.


    Second, Ollie got caught up in this high tide of talent stacking that sucked the OAD/TAD players almost completely beyond the reach of all non elite majors and sharply limited the infusion of talent to most elite majors, like KU and UConn and Louisville and Indiana and MSU and UCLA.

    If it were the former, then Ollie is the flash in the pan that you perhaps suspect.

    If it were the latter, then Ollie may just be one of many good coaches caught in the buzz saw of a suddenly, sharply uneven redistribution of recruiting linkages.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I am not sure we have the size and bulk to take and inflict paint like smokin’ Joe could. Maybe we should try the fly like a butterfly, siting like a bee Ali’s approach…quick penetration and dish the ball out for the short jumper or tree. We cannot really penetrate and score, they just have waay too much capable size inside and did not work out well the first time around.

    What we need is guerrilla warfare with quick strikes and retreats, Che Guevara’s Minuet theory, which much like the dance, consists in striking quickly, moving back and striking quickly again somewhere else to keep the enemy off balance.

    @jaybate-1.0, I bet you never thought I would write a post like this…:)

    For the record, Che Guevara was a blood thirsty, sadist and truly evil individual with no redeeming values for whom I have nothing but contempt…and yes, I really, really know what I am talking about on this subject.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Just read Che’s wiki page…seems like the perfect man to take down UK!!!

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I know we can beat UK w bad ball. However, we need a good set of zebras to call a tight game so we can get to the line.

  • @VailHawk

    Che’s history and background has been sanitized by the the left wing press who think is cool to wear t-shirts with his likeness and most don’t have a clue of the type of person he really was. He was a text-book sociopath that killed people for fun; he is right up there in the same class as Stalin and Pol Pot.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I hear ya!

  • @JayHawkFanToo


    Interesting take about Che Guevara being like Stalin, or Pol Pot. I have to admit near total ignorance about him and so I did not realize he was a bad actor of that magnitude. I have never read him or studied him. I just recall he used to be an icon on posters and t-shirts in the 60s and 70s. And about every 10-15 years later, there would be a book or movie about him, but he never seemed pivotal to any historical processes I have been attracted to study, so I never paid them, or him, much attention. If he were like Stalin, or Pol Pot, I guess I grossly underestimated his impact. Oh well, I guess I can add him to a long list of subjects I haven’t studied and should before I leave this mortal coil. A funny thing about this list of subjects is: the longer I live, the longer the list gets. I can remember in my 2os, when the list of things I intended to learn was rather short. Now here I am in old age, and the list is the longest its ever been, even though I do my damnedest to keep ploughing through the list. Maybe if I posted less on on here I could shorten it up. 🙂

  • @jaybate-1.0 question about bad ball premise that it is easier to disrupt than impose flow. If disrupting flow is key to bad ball, why doesn’t Self call quicker time outs when opposing runs are imminent?

  • @approxinfinity

    Good question.

    What I notice is that he some times still does, but not always.

    So my inference is that he still uses time outs as other coaches do. He uses time outs to disrupt flow only when his BAD BALL fails to and he cannot afford to save the time out for time and flow management late in the game when the need for clock and flow management may be most accute.

    This is the dilemma on faces with any strategy of play in a game of emerging complexity with limited time outs. Do I intervene now, or wait till later? Now I know what is happening, but what if later things get really dicey? Should I intervene now and risk not being able to later, or will intervening now keep things from getting worse later?

    My guess is that all the FT shooting and varying tempo and varying offensive formations are supposed to disrupt so much that he does not have to call timeouts. This enables him to save his time outs till late in close games when he can intervene to clock manage and flow disrupt as much as possible when a close game hangs in the balance.

    So: in both GOOD BALL and BAD BALL a coach is trying to let his system–impose flow in GOOD BALL and disrupt flow in BAD BALL–accomplish its purpose as much of the game as possible, so as to conserve his TOs till the decisive moments late in a close game.

    ALSO, and this is a really kind of weird QA notion Self probably doesn’t consider, but the geek in me might, but if flow were disrupted and a run was still occurring, you might consider it a random run not to worry about; I.e., you might stay the course because things ARE disrupted and think stopping the clock during disruption and giving them an escape from the disrupted flow might enable to get organized enough to reimpose flow. This is pretty arcane and extreme, and there is a rule of thumb that any strategy extrapolated to its logical extreme can lead to outsmarting one’s self. All strategy and tactics have realms where they hold and limits or frontiers where they break down. The skill lay in recognizing and adapting near those limits.

    Regardless, your question is the best kind.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    All good engineers have a touch of poet in them and all really good poets have a touch of engineer in them. If you can ever get an engineer to wade through the old English of ChAucer, or Milton, and show them that these great poems were engineered and “built” the engineer marvels at them. Same with the architectural sound of great classical music. Engineers often get that better than other persons. Engineers are just impatient with all the horseshit “about” the poems and music. 😀

  • @jaybate-1.0 could be a tv TO coming up too.

  • @JayHawkFanToo We weren’t patient the first time around. We tried to score quickly, with no shot fakes and zero craftiness. Next time, we will have to be sure to possess the hell out of the ball à la UConn/Napier last year. Long possessions with multiple attacks spreading their defense is the only way. We will obviously need to hit some 3’s and play killer, killer defense.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I was fortunate that as youngster I was exposed to a lot of “culture.” My mom loved classical music and classic literature and my grandfather loved the Greek classics and opera and I became and avid reader and music lover. Living in Europe in my teens further opened my eyes to the Fine Arts and periodic museum trips were an entertainment staple in those days. In my older years I have come to enjoy R&B and now I am trying to “understand” jazz but I am not quite there yet.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    You’re a renaissance man-engineer!

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