• Been away for several days, saw some headlines (about Lagerald Vick picking KU over KY), and saw some of the usual “stacked deck”/“NC or bust” type of posts. Didnt bother to post there.

    While we may have all the pieces “on paper”, there are several caveats to consider before we can contemplate being a Final Four caliber team:

    There are NO freshman saviors under Bill Self. Rush dropped 24 & 12 on KY in '06, but his team flopped in March. Arthur almost single-handedly beat defending-NChamps FL, made Joke Noah cry like a girl behind his ponytail…but Shady’s first KU team folded in March, with Shady actually benching himself the second half of that season. Wiggins, as Andrea Hudy showed me his computerized performance data, was simply the best, most physically-gifted athlete the University of KS has likely ever had, certainly throughout her tenure at KU…he can drop 40 on WVa, yet gets gameplanned out of the picture masterfully by Stanford’s coach, causing another sad, early exit in March. Of course frosh can look good in many games, like the above guys, Embiid, Oubre some, and certainly Graham…But seriously, no frosh has LED a KU Self team to the F4. Knowing Self’s system, it would almost be oxymoronic to expect it (if a frosh is so good, that doesnt speak well for the other 4 guys, which, by definition makes such a team fundamentally flawed–no way such a team makes the F4, nor have they…) No diss to Vick, but I’d beat the ‘picked KU over KY/Duke’ drum if it was J.Randle or J.Okafor. That would be the type of pre-frosh-season news that might be impactful to a F4 run.

    Enough wanking about recruits…the REAL issues that play out in our system and our playstyle are actually irrespective of pre-college rankings: Execution. Heart.

    Execution. Ahh, let’s stare this devil-in-the-details right in the face both positively and negatively. Frank Mason and Brannen Greene echoed their coach: “we lost track of our assignments, forgot what we were supposed to do, got away from our defensive principles”. There in a effin nutshell is the flaw in this team that explains blowing a 17pt lead to Hoiberg’s ISU, and the equally disastrous 2nd half vs WSU. Hey, its as simple as if our guys cant execute the gameplan, then they dont deserve the W, and likely DO deserve a butt-chewing with bite marks Bill Self’s dentist would recognize…what are you guys doin out there wearing those k.a.n.s.a.s. jerseys?? The offensive execution and timing fell on Perry, Kelly, Cliff, Landon, Jamari, Selden, Frank, and Devonte. Selfs O can be a thing of beauty (08 Champs, who set the standard on executing these plays), or it can be ugly and lackluster (last 2 seasons, for a multitude of reasons, mostly experience-related). The other aspect to offensive breakdowns or busted plays, is the crunchtime baller aspect: sometimes you just gotta go “get a bucket” (ie: attack). Great examples of this ability were Chalmers, Sherron, Tyshawn, Mason, & Graham. The whole team shifts their mindset in that moment to boxing out, rbds, or screening…& go clean-up a Tyshawn/Sherron miss…and yet too often we saw Mason’s team not ready to help their tough little warrior in those very moments. Come on, we all know Self has given Mason & Graham the “drive-it-like-Tyshawn/Sherron green light”, but many fans only see the first half of the dribble drive equation (‘tired of him driving into the trees’), failing to ask where are the teammates at that very instant? Execution success or fail? Lots to judge. This team’s RETURNING pieces have a lot of improving to do. Right now the ghost of 2008 would beat beat the current 'Hawks silly in the execution dept. But finally, we have enough returning talent & expierience to improve every aspect of play. It must improve, or this will be the first Self team not to be able to perform to the standards this coach + his past teams have already set.

    The other big, big quality is heart. The fight, the will, the never say die. Again, I almost get emotional thinking right this moment about 08 vs Davidson, UNC, and Memphis…and equally emotional thinking about '12’s comeback Ws against Mizzou, Purdue in the Madness, and fighting like men in the F4, winning over OhioSt, but running out of time vs KY. The raw utter emotion out of TRob, Tyshawn, and EJ at midcourt after Purdue would epitomize “heart” in my book. They found a way. No excuses: undermanned, double-teamed, poor shooting, they still almost always found a way. Nobody gave them a F4 chance, but they found a way inside themselves.

    So, yes, we’ve got some nice pieces…but I’m not looking for a frosh savior…In this system, I’ll judge the execution and heart to see if this team is worthy of “Final Four” speculation.

    They’ve got a tradition to uphold, and they’d do well to remember the sweat, the reps, and the fight of the guys who wore this jersey prior…so, as Thomas Robinson thundered from midcourt: “LET’S GO!!”

  • CliffNotes summation of the above: If your 4- & 5-star squad with some McDAAs gets beat by some midmajor with NO top50 players (UNI, VCU, Stanford?, WSU?), what’s the lesson? There must be more to it than recruiting? KY 2015 is a great example: simply impossible to recruit any better. But what felled them? Execution and heart.

  • @ralster

    Another great read.

    I think the “frosh savior under Self” flew the nest after we lost Jaylen Brown. He was quite possibly a guy who could be counted on to carry just enough weight to put us over the top. Maybe.

    I’m excited about landing Vick, because he gives us a multi-year player that has potential to develop into quality. As of today, Diallo appears to be the only possible OAD newbie on our squad. So… we will not be another Kentucky next year either.

    I would have salivated all over landing Brown, just because I look at him like he might be the piece that would have put us over the top. But… it didn’t happen, and who is to say what our potential will be. I don’t see Vick as the savior role guy… but he is capable of driving the hole and getting a basket and one down the stretch in March, just like Frank or Devonte could.

    Recruiting is vital, but I’m not typically looking to just grab as many McDs AAs as possible. I’m liking how our team is shaking out for next year and would love to add someone like Paschal to the list for down the road when we lose a big chunk of our team after the coming year.

    Your post nailed the red flag we need to watch for this coming year. Execution is king. I like how you explained how the rest of the team would just stand there watching Frank. The year before it was our guys just standing there watching Wigs.

    The game requires a complete commitment from everyone. Guys should never be standing there as spectators. I think Self really needs to go back through old footage and show these guys how players have stood around watching the game. ND was the team to watch this past year for offense because they completely over-performed on offense. Any of their guys lottery picks next month? Right… they applied a team approach and the guy with the rock would look to pass it right up until the ball left his finger tips because he had multiple cutters working to get open during his drive.

    Self’s big sell to our guys is to get them to play hard 100% of the time they are on the floor. No resting while standing around. Maybe we need Self to rotate more guys in and out quicker and push them to up their pace away from the ball.

    The one area of Self’s coaching that I have never felt great about is his ability to motivate his players to come ready to play and to play 100% of the time while on the floor. Recruiting the right guys has something to do with this, too. I’m not trying to slam Self here… because most D1 coaches have the same problem. I also wonder if part of it relates to our playbook needing simplification so guys don’t have to over-think during play. It’s hard to hustle and over-focus on a playbook at the same time.

  • @drgnslayr Good points. The thing about “simplifying the playbook”, is we saw the watered-down, simpleton version of Self’s offense is much easier to guard, so it breaks down to Mason-go-get-a-bucket…

    My other BIG issue (personally) with a dumbed-down playbook, is that it doesn’t speak well for the current roster’s intelligence level, if they cannot execute what '08 and '12 could execute.

    Why would we let these guys off the hook? Its pretty much these guys who have given us the Stanford + WSU ignominious distinction. They need an azz-chewing, and reps, reps, reps. And someone needs to show Wayne Selden his own highschool mixtape, as well as the 2nd half of the FL game this last December. The knee is fine, no reason to pull an Elijah-headcase act…

  • @ralster

    Brilliant response!

    I might add though… we now count on some freshmen to provide vital minutes. Diallo should be a 30+ minute player this year (late in the season). On the '08 and '12 teams we didn’t rely on any freshmen, right?

    I think the key to our offense is to develop the intangibles. That means guys being able to EFFECTIVELY create their own shots. Teams can’t prepare against that. So we run our structured offense, with guys given the green light to EFFECTIVELY go get their own shots, too. We need players with high basketball IQ who can see the patterns in defenses and know how to attack their weaknesses.

    We won’t face many teams that don’t adjust to what we run. What we run is a secret to no one. There exists over a decade of Self-ball available on tape. But… just adding in a few twists where players make a small penetration for an easy mid range knock down, or feed off their penetration will create complete havoc for opposing teams.

    At some point some one has to “get their hands dirty” and have some contact or take some chances by mixing it up tight with the opposition. I know it is very effective when we can make quick passes to guys who are properly spaced for easy spot up shots. But I would never count on that winning us games by itself. Contact should remain a part of this game and we have to mix it up with teams if we want to put them back on their heals in foul trouble.

    I can usually sense how well we played in games by examining the fouls on both sides. When we play aggressive, we shoot lots of FTs. Sometimes it is just one or two guys playing aggressive, and they live at the line. When Selden put his foot down on the gas late last year, he earned some FTs. Look at the rest of the year, the guy rarely shot a FT.

  • @ralster Pure & Simple… PHOF !!

  • @ralster. My other BIG issue (personally) with a dumbed-down playbook, is that it doesn’t speak well for the current roster’s intelligence level, if they cannot execute what '08 and '12 could execute.

    2008 and 2012 were teams loaded with upper class men throughout the rotation and both had senior PG’s who multi year starters running the show. The past 2 years have been teams with a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the rotation and had sophomore PG’s in their first year of starting. Nobody should’ve realistically expected the past two teams to be able to run the more complex sets that the 2008 and 2012 teams could because the experience just wasn’t there.

    The 2015-16 team will be mostly upper classmen in the rotation with a multi year starting PG like the 2008 and 2012 teams. This team is also going to get over a month of unlimited practice in the summer with all be one player (Greene) able to practice for about 3 weeks before they leave for South Korea. Do not underestimate just how huge those practices will be for this team, especially with someone the caliber of Nic Moore running the second team against the starters. This is a year (barring injuries) that anything short of a Final Four will be a huge disappointment unlike the past two years.

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