The Izzo Template

  • During this time of considering/analyzing our season/playstyle/coach/players, I’ve looked at other systems, especially those that have some elements in common with KU, and I’ll focus on MichState. I believe deep down that Self loves the consistent toughness that Izzo’s squads possess. As a former B10 coach, Self had to deal with those big green galoot bruizers regularly. These bigs arent top ranked finesse bigs, with NBA pretty post moves, or stretch bigs with range (mostly not). To help the analogy, my list of KU bigs that would fit Izzo’s mold would be DJackson, Kaun, Cole, Twins, Cliff, TRob, Tarik Black(!!), Lucas, Traylor. Guards could be guys like Russell Robinson, Rush, Sherron, Tyshawn, Mason, Graham, Rodrick Stewart, Reed,& a more accurately-ranked Selden.

    Notice most of the MickeyD-OAD guys are not on the list. Notice how the McDs who came off KUs bench as frosh, stayed more than 1 yr and got tough are on the list.

    The fact that all these guys were tough enough to play in Izzo’s system made me reconsider my oft-stated phrase that “Self is a better recruiter than Izzo”…maybe thats not correct? The common denominators to Izzo’s deep tourney runs was a whole team of guys that stayed & matured physically & mentally. So maybe Tom Izzo is by design keeping his roster stocked with a certain type of player, & definitely no OADs. Notice the current salivating/drooling going on about whichever top10 17yr old still has KU on his list or not…I’m coming to see this as the recent trap our program has fallen into. What magically happened to make us think freshman can duplicate the pinnacle success of Self’s past jr’s and sr’s? Man, that KY-pixie dust wont work with Self’s (or Izzo’s) brew!

    Notice 2 things: How OAD-distraction plagued is Izzo’s program? (it’s not, they can focus on bball) Also notice that most all of these OAD /top10 kids do not have MichSt on their short lists–I just dont think Izzo courts them. Izzo wants to keep his lawn green, Spartan green…not money-sniffer green. Cant grow a lawn if you’re always filling “holes”? I’m simply seeing the benefits of Izzo’s design, because I think Self’s basic philosophies and playstyle are most similar to Izzo’s.

    Now it can be argued that Self is trying to 1-up Izzo by getting higher ranked guys & making them play tough. Maybe the ceiling is higher? Notice Izzo with a great number of F4’s, but only 1 NC. So could that fact be revealing the “ceiling” of Izzo’s grunts-first recruiting? Or is that poor metrics to try to use a single-elim tourney as the litmus? Well, we certainly are using the tourney yd-stick on Self right about now.

    The complicating factor for Self, if he indeed was trying to out do Izzo-model, was that Self hit gold with that 08 squad, complete with several bangers (guards&bigs)+5 McDs, none of whom were pansies. The only McD who hardly played was the frosh, Cole Aldrich, and he was no pansy.

    What changed for Self? Well, nothing quick, as 2 yrs later we saw Jr Twins and Jr Aldrich still playing the developed-upperclassman roles.

    Now see the last 2 yrs, where we’ve simply had too much roster turnover which has without question (sorry, Bill I’m using your phrase) hampered team chemistry, team execution as newbies just dont know the playbook. Even an intelligent, motivated grad-student transfer (Black) struggled like a frosh for half of his season. That learning curve & maturation curve is inescapable!, events have proved. And our coach has been left scrambling trying to fill holes, play frosh & sophs thru their mistakes…and you wonder why we look so roller-coaster the last 2 seasons. Self isnt being allowed to grow a steady, thick, strong lawn, as the money-sniffer distractions (OADs) keep leaving glaring roster holes.

    My thought is Self needs to re-think his recruiting philosophy, because its overshot his own playstyle philosophy that began under Sutton, then being consistently bludgeoned on him by Izzo’s veteran troops.

    My point in all this: What’s truly best for KU? We’ve had our 2 most distraction-filled seasons, filled with unreliable performances. Looking at every parameter of the personnel plugged into the playstyle is a necessary exercise. Something has to change, back to “solid” & “poised”.

    Remember that classic Charlton Heston movie “Moses”? Well I’d like a spartan-green phog mist to find Bill&Cindy’s house in Lawrence (the one with our crimson/blue paint across the door sill)…and make the mental image of Tom Izzo make Billy sit up suddenly out of his 08dream, in a cold sweat, here in March, 2015. Why is Bill in Lawrence in March of 2015 anyway? Oh ya, his lawn’s got holes to fill…

  • Self will not re-think his recruiting strategy in the next few years. You are talking rebuilding. That endangers the streak.

    Come back when Self has beaten Wooden.

    A streak in the hand is worth an NC in the bush. If you don’t think so, I’ll bet the house Self does.

  • @ParisHawk If that’s true - he’s an idiot.

    Let’s win 79 Conference titles in a row and be sent packing on the first weekend of the NCAA’s every year?

    Not seein it.

  • @nuleafjhawk said:

    Let’s win 79 Conference titles in a row

    No, just 2 more to tie, 3 more to beat Coach Wooden.

    We are already guaranteed of not losing on the first weekend every year of our streak, or did you forget?

    I don’t get this “NCAA Tournament is the only thing that counts” mentality - I guess being an idiot is a handicap.

    The NCAA is such a corrupt, money-grubbing institution that I wouldn’t want to play in a tournament bearing its name.

  • Izzo went all in trying to get Jabari Parker. I don’t think Izzo simply does not want OAD kids. I am sure he would take them when they make sense for what he does.

    Great post.

  • @ParisHawk The NCAA Tournament is not the only thing that counts. Neither is the Conference Championship.

    Everybody (the rest of the basketball watching U.S.) remembers KU getting beat the first weekend. Nobody but the Big 12 followers remember the CC’s.

    I’d prefer to do well at both.

    And, OK, I’m confused about the “We are already guaranteed of not losing on the first weekend every year of our streak, or did you forget?”
    I don’t understand. We lost the first weekend this year. Help me out please. Thanks!

  • @ralster Great post. A couple of minor observations. First, I don’t think Traylor would get off the bench with Izzo - he doesn’t defend or rebound well. While Self yanks guys for 3 pt shots early in the shot clock, Izzo yanks guys if they stand around and don’t block out. Second, and this is simply conjecture/amateur psychologist on my part, but what changed with Self is the '12 loss to UK. He had a prototypical Self team - a veteran tough, hard-nosed bunch of guys with great motors who didn’t quit. But, he lost to a team that simply had more talent - mostly, but not solely, Anthony Davis. My guess is that he decided he didn’t want to be out-talented again…

  • Interesting thread… great job Ralster!

    I think Izzo has no OADs because he is still pitching recruits what Self used to pitch when he wasn’t getting any OADs… “you come to Kansas, you’ll have to fight for PT. Nothing is a gimme. You first have to learn our system…”

    I really think highly of Izzo. In the “teaching toughness” area, he’s tops in the country. Even Huggy could stand to take notes from Izzo.

    I think it’s a mixed bag with OADs. Unless the player is a super freak… like JoJo, Wigs or the Unibrow, these kids need to stay in school for at least 2 years. Kelly, for example, isn’t ready for the league and he hasn’t even contributed enough to Kansas. We aren’t coming out ahead with these kids going OAD. Maybe Wigs and JoJo were worth it because they will bring more attention to Kansas in the future. I do give them credit for helping us secure #10 in a complete rebuild year.

    Calipari has it going on right this year. He has a team FULL of OADs but half or more have returned for year 2. Had all that talent crop left and he was stuck in a re-do year, Kentucky wouldn’t be a contender for a NC… not this year.

    I just think we need to find quality top recruits that want to stay more than one year in college… so we actually get a dividend out of them. Self is still building his own resume with OADs… so he is still stuck in the mode of how fast can he get them ready for draft day and positioned high in the draft. He is playing the old “revolving door” game. Once he gets this to the point Calipari has taken Kentucky, then he can loosely advice some of his OAD players to stay an extra year. Calipari orchestrated this year to happen. He sold most of his guys to stay.

    I’ve been amazed with the media. They have been responsible for sending guys (like Kelly) out the door too quickly. When B12 regular season started and Kelly finally started showing some promise, the first words out of media were… “be prepared Kansas fans… you only have a few more games left with Kelly because he is gone!” Seriously?! I know that plays in these kids’ heads. It’s sickening. The kid only scored 333 pts as a Jayhawk but he’s ready for the pros? What kind of return did we make on him?

    The game still has to be played. Kentucky is no shoe-in this year. I can even see the possibility that they may not make the FF. If they don’t win it all, those guys will be laughed at from here to the moon and labeled “underachievers!” To be honest… all those guys except the twins and Cauley-Stein are underachievers. To have that much talent and be satisfied in a system where they only got half game PTs. None of those guys are showing they have a bit of alpha dog. Any of those guys could play anywhere else and be counted on for production and playing 35 mpg. The twins and CS are a different story. They weren’t high draft material last year, and they have worked extremely hard in the off season to lift their games. They have improved (but still vulnerable). Pretty impressive to see their character to stick it out and work hard and Kentucky is now cashing in on signing them.

    And what about basketball IQ? Wow… it really does matter who you recruit. Okafor and Alexander were considered neck-and-neck last year. Anyone think that today? Alexander’s only offense was the stuff. Where would we be now if we had signed Okafor instead of Alexander? I’m guessing we would still be playing and a likely FF team!

    I agree with @DCHawker … Self’s FF Runner-up was the corner for him. Proof that OADs can win titles. But come on… Davis was a super freak! And now look at him! He’s killing it in the league.

    Investment in the super luxury player suites is proof of the direction we are going in… O A D territory!

  • @drgnslayr self use to say you have to earn pt? See oubre and cliff, they had to earn it, remember how many fans complained about them not starting or playing much?

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    If you go back several years ago… those guys would have hardly seen the floor at all in their freshman year. Look back at Cole. He really broke through against UNC in the FF. People were shocked that we had a guy as talented as him hidden away on the bench.

    In the old days, most programs had JV teams. Guys like Cliff would have been on the JV team for two years before going to varsity.

  • @drgnslayr Cole shocked me! I was saying that Coach doesn’t guarantee them pt. I think you said he use to say that, like he doesn’t say that anymore.

  • @drgnslayr remember how much it likely helped BMac to have been forced to redshirt a year.

  • Another way to make my original implied point about experience + toughness needing to be the cornerstone for the whole team (McDs included)…would have been for me to say the 08 Champs would have wiped the floor with either of the last 2 Jayhawk teams. Understanding why brings to light all the secondary reasons.

  • @approxinfinity

    Yes… Plus, I think of these kids. What are they, 18 or 19? It’s so much pressure to put on them.

  • @approxinfinity I didn’t see BMac play before the redshirt.

  • @nuleafjhawk said:

    Everybody (the rest of the basketball watching U.S.) remembers KU getting beat the first weekend. Nobody but the Big 12 followers remember the CC’s.

    Wow, the media sure talks about it all season, and attention will build until Self passes Wooden or the streak ends.

    And, OK, I’m confused about the “We are already guaranteed of not losing on the first weekend every year of our streak, or did you forget?”
    I don’t understand. We lost the first weekend this year. Help me out please. Thanks!

    What I meant was, we haven’t lost the first weekend 11 times in a row. During our streak we are 3-1 in Final Four games.

    Playing my broken record again, do we underperform in March or do we overperform before then? I think it’s both. Our vision of the team’s strength is skewed every year by Self’s incredible win % at Allen.

  • @ParisHawk

    “Our vision of the team’s strength is skewed every year by Self’s incredible win % at Allen.”

    I kind of wonder if that is the problem with our entire conference. This can explain why the rest of our conference doesn’t perform well in March, too. Most of our league plays well in their own home.

    This may have something to do with travel. Our conference is too spread out. You go back east and a lot of those teams are just driving across town to face their next game.

    I’m going to throw up a new thread on this… let’s see what everyone thinks.

  • @ParisHawk that’s an excellent point and one I’ve never really considered. Does our unmatched home-court advantage mask deeper issues that manifest themselves on the road and most noticeably in the March elimination tournaments? That’s an interesting question.

  • @VoyagingJayhawk Great point. Most of the time, KU teams are very good road teams as well, since veteran teams that play D well are hard to beat anywhere. Defense travels. (Notice the parameters that each KU team has to live up to, in order to be road-worthy. Experience. Good D to begin with. Veteran.) Now see why the last 2 seasons have been a struggle, at least to KU’s/Self’s standards.

  • @drgnslayr Not sure travel schedules account for it. Not sure what conferences “back east” you are thinking of, but while they may have a few more shorter travel games (e.g., Duke-UNC-WF-NCSt) all of the leagues are pretty far flung now, arguably more so than the B12. WVU is the only real haul for most of our teams. ACC ranges from Boston to Miami. Big East from DC to Omaha. American Athletic covers half the friggin’ country - and UConn won it all last year coming from that conference.

  • @DCHawker

    With the change to super conferences… those leagues will have to travel far, too. I’m wondering if they will have some of this type of impact over time.

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