For Valid Comparison of Recruiting Approaches, Hold the Injury Clusters and Off Court Player Problems Equal

  • (Note: this post grew out of comments two of our erstwhile posters, @BeddieKU23 and @HighEliteMajor made under a thread about the virtues of recruiting 20-50, or 20-100 rank players. The thread was about Marques Bolden. I found some flaws in reasoning that I have tried to lay out below.)

    @BeddieKU23 said:

    if the recent trend continues we should pick wisely which top prospects we do chase.

    As with @HighEliteMajor, I feel your frustration, but…

    Shouldn’t Coach Self should pick wisely, regardless of the present trend continuing, or not?

    Of course he should. So: your remarking in this fashion is a straw argument. Now, I know you and know you are not prone to making straw arguments, so I have to infer that you are accidentally making one due to your authentic concerns about KU’s recent and potential recruiting shortfalls.

    More specifically, you appear, as do many here, very uneasy about the perils of the new recruiting battlefield that has apparently rather calculatedly been crafted by NBA Commissioners past and present, and subordinated to by the NCAA. KU’s choice of adidas also contributes to the problem some. If KU were with Nike, KU would at the very least have a some what greater supply of potential recruits being channelled toward it by agents and agent runners, if one were to assume Rick Pitino’s comments, as posted in full by @JayHawkFanToo, have credibility.

    Top line, as opposed to bottom line, because its always best to take your points off the top before the accountants get to the numbers–this recruiting battlefield (or game space if you prefer) has induced some foreseeable and some unforeseeable current dynamics of asymmetric distributions of talent emerging from the current regime of the PetroShoeCo-agent complexes.

    Put more specifically, adidas trying to increase its North American market share to offset revenue loss in the on-going European recession, plus the Nike-agent complex logically pursuing its agenda to preserve its market share against adidas attempts to increase North American market share, in an NBA instituted OAD game space, has appeared to combine to redistribute asymmetrically (i.e., concentrate) talent at a few programs and so heighten supply scarcity of OADs outside those few programs that appear to be being stacked 9-10 deep in some cases and 4-6 deep in other cases in each of the Power Five Conferences).

    I am pointing out a straw argument as respectfully as I can here, based on what appears to be a false assumption arrived at out of apprehension and concern for our KU program. Apprehension and concern are understandable, but they appear to be obstructing clear thinking.

    It seemed (and seems) conspicuous to me that you would suggest that the game’s winningest coach for an extended period the last decade and a man who has taken not one but four consecutive programs to significantly higher levels than where he found them, and that has adapted effectively to many profound changes in the rules of play and recruiting over the years, is going to evidence “unwise” thinking depending on whether a current trend continues, or not.

    Coach Self might well be mistaken. Nothing is certain but uncertainty and unforeseen consequences in strategic planning and execution in competitive activities. But I fail to see any evidence of lack of “wisdom” on his part, and I fail to see any historical pattern of lack of wisdom suggesting that we should be apprehensive about him acting unwisely in a hopelessly repetitive way.

    So, again: I can only logically infer that discussing Coach Self in terms of “unwiseness” is…a straw argument.

    Do you see the problem with this line of argument?

    The reason I have gone to some length to outline this is NOT to pick on you. Rather, I see what you did with the best of intentions as emblematic of a trend among board rats. These sorts of straw arguments based on false assumptions being made about Coach Self with increasing frequency concern me. My best guess right now is that they signal a palpable fear among our board rats regarding the future of KU being able to recruit successfully and that fear being errantly projected onto Coach Self. When the rules of the game and the game space are changing, mistakes rise, and the cause is not likely “unwiseness” on an experienced coach’s part. The obvious probably triggers are the rule changes and the game space changes.

    The question then is: is Coach Self adapting to the changes? Bo Ryan is going the route of lesser ranked players for four seasons that Self appeared to shift from after the 2012 Finals loss to then unprecedented 6-stack UK. Look at how great Ryun is doing. Maybe Self should go back to that? Well, let’s think on that briefly. How would Ryan’s team this season and last have done with the injury pattern Self’s teams had the last two seasons? Two seasons ago, Kaminsky does not play the last month and a half due to back injury. Without Kaminsky, UW might not have even made the tournament and surely would not have lasted beyond the first round. How about this season? Well, they probably would have made the tourney, but it would depend on when the injuries would have occurred as to how well UW would have done, right? Let’s assume Dekker get the same injury pattern as Perry, and their 3 gets the same injury pattern as Oubre, and Kaminsky gets the same injuries as Lucas and Traylor down the stretch. I don’t think UW gets to the Sweet 16 even.

    Now back to the recruiting issue.

    All coaches in D1 not at stack schools are in something of a pickle right now until they find a way around the apparent stacking of certain programs, and the scarcity it induces in non-stack programs. And there is no need to buy into my hypothesis regarding the drivers for the pattern of the stacking to agree with my assertion. It does not matter (for this assertion) why the stacking is occurring. It is precipitating scarcity of top talent for Self at KU and Ryan at Wisconsin, and Pitino at UL, and, until Coach K apparently caved in recently, Coach K, and until Izzo apparently caved in before this past season, Izzo.

    Ryan called it “rent-a-player.” Pitino called it agents and agent runners channelling certain players to certain brands and said he concluded the NCAA thought it legal. Regardless of the names and description, it appears a real phenomenon quite independent of one’s wisdom.

    Frankly, it is kind of insulting to Coach Self to hint that he maybe too “unwise” to get what is going on, and too “unwise” to recognize the risks and effects of his latest strategy and tactics in trying to pursue the best talent available.

    And it is kind of reductive to ignore the flurry of injuries that hit KU the last two seasons that seem independent of the age of the players involved.

    And of course it is the height of reduction to say, oh, well other teams have had injuries, too, that should not be an excuse for the last two seasons. Ha! Look at the Final Four teams this season, heck, look at the Elite Eight teams, and show me one team that was playing with a team as “nicked up” as KU. There wasn’t one team remotely as banged up!!

    Every great coach has seasons damaged by injuries; that is a given and fans ought to realize that.

    So: why am I writing about injuries, when this is about recruiting and Self’s lack of “wiseness” about how to recruit and who to recruit?

    Simple, most of the arguments I read about Self’s lack of wisdom in recruiting, or errors in recruiting, carefully point out that as result of Self’s recruiting we have not been as successful as we would have been had we signed other players, or not signed some of the players we did sign. They leave the implication that the last two seasons sub par finishes were driven by who Self recruited, and failed to sign, and who Self failed to recruit, and failed to sign. KU would have been much better off if Self had acted differently.

    This is of course reductive and fallacious, because it leaves out the clustering of injuries the last two seasons.

    There are two simple tests for the error in this sort of reasoning.

    First, assume the same injuries had occurred both seasons with the scenario of Self not signing Wiggins and Embiid and Selden, because those three were too highly ranked to be “wise” for KU to sign. Assume Self had kept AWIII and signed some 20-50 prospects instead. Assume best case for AWIII: 40% trey, no drive game like Wiggins had, not as good of defense as Wigs, and never capable of threatening to hang 30 against anyone on any given night, and an average of 11 instead of 14ppg. Assume instead of Embiid dominating the paint and rim, leading us to a title early, assume a green weak Lucas, plus a new 20-50 big recruit-- some one like Lucas only greener and weaker manning the 5 by committee. Maybe even include Traylor and Mikelson. Oh, and scratch Selden as a member of the team and add in a 20-50 that can’t play very well because he lacks Selden’s athleticism. Oh, and give him the same operable knee injury that Selden played with an entire season. Give him the same lost pop. He plays waaaaaay worse than Wayne, because he isn’t as talented and just as green.

    Oh man, that alternative team would have gotten smoked all season long. .500 if lucky!!!

    Now move forward to this past season. No Oubre. No Cliff. Just a couple 20-50 types that really can’t play well their first seasons at all. But AWIII has serious experience now. Still can’t drive it. Defense comparable to Oubre, when Oubre is gimpy, but inferior to Oubre when Oubre’s knee gets somewhat better, before getting worse. Next, assume AWIII has to sit with a knee injury the first month, as Oubre did, then assume he comes back, but then gets injured down the stretch and wears the big white gauze cotton ball on his knee a la Oubre. Just for kicks, assume they keep AWIII’s injury a secret, same as they kept Oubre’s. No don’t. They would have let us know, because he wasn’t going to be drafted. AWIII’s only strength, outside trifectation plummets to 35% with bad wheels, same as Oubre, Tyrel Reed, and other outside shooters have with bad wheels. Still no drive game. His now average defense crumbles, because of the weak wheels. Because he is not as talented as Oubre, he is not as effective as Oubre playing injured. Now, imagine the Selden replacement. The 20-50 guy is just learning to stay on the floor in rotation. But like Selden, he is playing without pop and he is having some head problems just like Wayne had. That’s only fair to include in this simulated alternative scenario, right? So he REALLY sucks all season and NEVER has any of the few stellar games Selden has, because, well, even after a second season, he is not as good as Selden.

    But, oh, wow, here is where the really big payoff comes recruiting less talented bigs,right? It comes inside where we have a second season 20-50 big backing up Landen Lucas. Ouch! Let’s assume he has the same injuries as Traylor, too. I think we could have played Taps for last season’s chances for getting an 11th title, right?

    I could go on here, but I think the picture is getting increasingly clear.

    Self HAS made the best choices in a very difficult situation.

    This is what we want in a head coach.

    Any good coach can negotiate the good times with easy.

    It is the tough times, the times when the deck is stacked against you, that you need a really great coach, a guy with sound judgment making sound decisions, to get you through a mine field.

    We want to sign the best talent we can get.

    We have to recruit the best to get the best.

    We have already tried it the other way.

    We need to move down the exact path that Self is moving.

    We need to expect that there will be trips and mistakes and unforeseen shizz to deal with.

    We need to realize that there will be clusters of injuries and Cliff’s which ever path we take.

    We need to realize that rising uncertainty makes people afraid and fear doubt whatever choices are made.

    We need to suck it up and start dealing with our fears, rather than making straw arguments that only seem sensible if you leave out most of the adversity that the alternative scenario would have had to deal with same as the actual scenario had to deal with.

    Rock Chalk!!!

  • P.S.: I am as vulnerable to this unease with the uncertainty and suspense with waiting for uncertain outcomes, as anyone. I don’t like that things have changed over from what they were. Self has gotten a lot of good players in the 20-100 rank and we have won 82%, 11 titles and a ring. Who wouldn’t want to perpetuate and improve on that? I would. I liked getting to know the players. Living and dying with their growth and peccadilloes and so on. I would like for Self to have been able to continue plucking the occasional OAD out of an imploding program, like Xavier and Josh, and continuing to rely heavily on the 3-5 year guys. I liked him putting players like Chalmers in the toughening box on and off for 3 seasons before unleashing them and watching them play brilliantly. But since NBA OAD rule has reached full adverse effect, and the PetroShoeCo-agent complex regime has responded as it has, and since the NCAA got hit with the Ed O’Bannon case, imploding basketball programs seem temporarily a thing of the past, fleeing OADs looking for an honest program non existent, and the likelihood of 3-5 year players winning against 9 and 10 stacks in the Final Four improbable, well, change hurts, but we have to find a path forward through the change and not back.

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