KU vs. P-State: Clunky High Low, NOT Bad Ball, Plus Analysis of the Committee at the 5

  • In another thread, @wissoxfan83 wrote that last season I called what we saw against Pittsburg State Bad Ball.

    Uh, no.

    Actually, I never called that Bad Ball last season and wouldn’t call it that this season.

    We just watched clunky High Low Post offense being worked on in the first game of the predicted touch call era.

    In contradistinction, Bad Ball is a specific way of running the High Low Offense that Self adapted and resorted to increasingly from mid season on last year, until accrued injuries made Bad Ball the ONLY offense he ran at the end of the season. Bad Ball is running the High Low Offense to shoot short threes by driving INTO your man to COLLAPSE IMPACT SPACE (from all positions on the team), rather than trying to BLOW BY him and DRIVE TO THE RIM uncontested. Collapsing impact space is the coin of the realm of BAD BALL. Opening up impact space is the coin of the realm of the normal High Low Offense, and of what I call its Good Ball variation that was played in the WUGs.

    The Pittsburg State Exhibition game appeared to me to be mostly just this team trying to practice running the High Low normally out of the blocks to see if the KU bigs had improved enough to constitute a credible scoring and rebounding presence in the paint.

    To be clear, I am not talking about the 4 position, when I talk about the bigs. Perry is what he is. He looks good inside against guys his size, and not against guys bigger than him, unless they are incredibly slow footed and don’t body him. Against the blue meanies, Perry has to turn into a stretch 4 and attack face-to-basket to be effective.

    What I am talking about is the 5 position and the committee of players that will staff it most of the time. I say most of the time, because there will be 5-10 minutes every game, when Perry will take a blow and Bragg will fill for him and we will have both 4 and 5 positions staffed by our “bigs in question.”

    The N of 1 (an exhibition) indicated KU’s bigs, subtracting Landen, who got fouled up and so did not show his game, are better offensively, somewhat improved on rebounding, but hardly dominant in either…yet.

    If we look at Traylor, Mickelson, and Bragg as a committee at the 5, well, they beasted!!! They scored 33 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. If we had a single starter have that kind of night, we would be saying we had a future All American on our hands!!!

    (Note: Isn’t it about time that Jesse Newell and Ken Pom started tracking and packing the stats that would enable us to talk empirically about an All Committee team? Even the best teams usually have at least one position staffed largely by committee. Part of Self’s greatness is his ability to find committees that work. We need an All-Committee Coach, i.e., a coach recognized for his particular gift with committee work at the various positions on his team. But I digress)

    The only down side to Self’s Three-mittee at the 5 was Traylor still appears unable to rebound beyond random grabs. He played against a Division II team and only got to two offensive boards in 16 minutes. He grabbed not a single defensive rebound, which means he remains clueless as a senior about how to block out a guy his own size with less athleticism and then go get a basketball coming off a rim. It is a strange, inexplicable deficiency in his game. They perhaps ought to have him hypnotized at this point. When Traylor cannot get a single defensive rebound against a D-II team in 16 minutes, something deeply psychological appears to be the impediment and NOT what the coach is asking him to do. I mean, does anyone think Self actually tells Jamari, “Yo, 'mari, don’t defensive rebound tonight?” In 16 minutes guarding in the paint, a big man, even a little big man, should catch at least one random defensive carom!!

    Enough with ragging about the Jam Tray’s anti-rebounding.

    Why do I say better as a team on rebounding after just railing about Traylor? Because Bragg and Mickelson grabbed 12 between them, and that is a decent, but not dominant night against a D-II team. We need those two to grab 12 between them against Duke, UK and UNC. This means we are probably better rebounders than last season simply because Self is finally playing Mickelson, and has added Bragg. But let’s not kid ourselves. Until we see Bragg and Mickelson pull down 12 between them against the Blue Meanies on a top Division I, while getting punched out and muscled during the game, the jury is out on whether or not we have improved ENOUGH to be one of the top teams in the country.

    (Note: Bragg and Mickelson WILL BE PUNCHED OUT A COUPLE OF GAMES, if Self stops leading with Lucas and Traylor. So: I think Self will lead with Lucas and Traylor as long as he can to protect Hunter from getting his pointy nose pushed out the back of his head before mid season, and to protect Bragg from head hunters and knee kickers, too. It is obvious Self is NOT playing Lucas and Traylor ahead of Mickelson and Bragg, because they are better. They aren’t. What Self is doing is warming Lucas and Traylor up for coming back in to relieve with EXTREME PREJUDICE, which ever and whenever one of his relatively inexperienced bigs–Mickelson and Bragg–or his finesse stretch 4–Perry–get punked. It is basically a foregone conclusion that Perry will be punked again after the success Marsha and his Shocks had with that tactic.

    Also, starting guys like Lucas and Traylor let them take the early fouls that refs will be calling to establish the level of contact allowed. Better for Lucas and Traylor to pick up those early fouls than Bragg and Mickelson.)

    Though KU resorted a few times to BAD BALL vs. P-State, we can reasonably infer that KU was playing it very infrequently, because KU took 19 3PTAs; that rarely happens in BAD BALL. 19 3PTAs is the kind of number that comes with normal High Low Ball, or with Good Ball.

    At this point, let’s summarize the possible offense schemes Self and KU bring to each game, whether used each game, or not.

    KU runs three offenses that we know of so far: Normal High Low; BAD BALL; and GOOD BALL (what we saw in WUGs).

    Self was clearly tinkering with the normal high low in the first exhibition game.

    My guess is that the second exhibition he will start with High Low again, but then tinker more with Bad Ball and/or Good Ball; so that the team will have a rounded exhibition experience with all three schemes.

    But all offense and offensive preparation involves both strategy and statistics.

    The three schemes are the strategic element of preparation.

    The statistical element of preparation is something like 3PT shooting percentage.

    The team shot 21% from trey vs. Pittsburg State. Self has to make a judgement call about his team’s 3pt shooting. Are they going to shoot back to their average the next game, or are they starting the season in a slump and so one should expect the bad trey balling to continue a couple of games.

    To make the judgement, Self will look at the practice shooting percentages. If the team has been shooting poorly in practice, then the judgement would be that the team would be starting the season in a slump. The prescription for that is for them to take 20-25 3ptas again the next exhibition game in order to bring the team closer to shooting out of its slump. Slumps are stochastic phenomena. The fastest way out of a slump is shoot as many treys as possible ASAP, short of shooting so many misses that you jeopardize winning a game. Against a second consecutive D-II opponent, it is logical to assume that KU’s bigs can control the game, while Self lets the guards shoot a high number of treys, in hopes of shorting the remaining length of the slump, and so shortening the number of regular season games early that must be played during a slump.

    On the other hand, if the team has been shooting the trey well in practices, then the prescription is to tinker on the offensive options (i.e., work on Good Ball and Bad Ball) independent of the 21% performance vs. Pittsburg State, and assume that the team will shoot back to its average this next game. In other words, don’t infer a slump and don’t try to manage for one.

    In the regular season, your options would differ, because you would be trying to maximize the probability of winning against stiff competition. Typically, Self holds back on 3ptas, when he thinks his team is in a slump, or when he thinks his players are too injured to shoot them well, or when the team has been so hot for so many games, that he expects a slump to start sooner rather than later. He does this in order to guaranty a win by winning “ugly”, i.e., by grind it out, or by shifting all the way into playing Bad Ball. You just take treys when you have a solid lead. The rest of the time you play for short threes only. If you fall way behind, then you take treys and try to burn up the slump attempts and hope the slump breaks.

    To conclude, it was a rocky start for the High Low Offense. Those dreading Bad Ball will have to remain in suspense; that wasn’t it. Regarding the front court, we finally have some small evidence for optimism about improved offensive productivity from our bigs. And we have some reason for improved rebounding from the bigs, but not from Traylor, and that’s BAD, because many teams will go small on us, if they know Traylor can’t rebound regardless of who he is matched up with. Lucas will take another game or two to assess. He gets you what I now call “The Newell Factor” on the tipoff, so he might keep starting just for that. But surely he can do better than what he showed vs. Pittsburg State, after all these years.

    An ugly win to start the season.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    Only different.

    More offense and rebounding out of the 5.

    And isn’t that what we needed most?

    Even if it ain’t purty?

  • @jaybate-1.0 said:

    Also, starting guys like Lucas and Traylor let them take the early fouls that refs will be calling to establish the level of contact allowed. Better for Lucas and Traylor to pick up those early fouls than Bragg and Mickelson.)

    I know of guys who always played better coming off the bench than starting. They could see the game for a bit before getting in and just have that little edge, maybe it’s how a D is playing a certain passing lane or how the refs are calling it.

    But the committee does have 20 fouls to throw at an opponent as it stands now. Not sure if thats a good or bad thing.

  • @JRyman

    There is quality and quantity.

    It is best to have both. 🙂

    But there are ways to get by with either.

    In WWII, the Germans had the 88s and the better tanks in fewer numbers.

    The Americans had the 75s and lesser tanks that caught fire easily but had vastly greater numbers of both.

    We kicked their asses with air superiority and greater numbers.

    My rule is have one great player (air superiority) and a lot of numbers (lesser tanks in greater numbers).

    We will have to hope that one of our guys in front or back court blossoms into a great player and has a great season, because we definitely have the numbers.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    KU has 5 players ranked in the top ESPN 100 college players…

    • #23 Ellis
    • #33 Mason
    • #39 Selden
    • #47 Diallo
    • #98 Bragg

    FWIW, Kentucky has 6 players, Duke 4, Wisconsin 2, Maryland 4, Michigan State 2, LSU 2 and Wichita State 2 (both rated higher than Perry).

  • @jaybate-1.0 Yay! We got to see our first game of the season for KU! I know its a pre season warm up but it still counts to me. Im psyched for this season big time.

    Aside from Ellis, I thought Bragg and Hunter were our best players. I loved it when they were both out there together. Great tandem!

    Our guard play sucked i thought. But, Im going to rewatch the game right now on espn replay just for fun and see what I missed before.

    That Pitt State team is gonna be good this year. They really gave KU all it could handle for the first 15 min or so.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Interesting. In abstraction, KU is still one shy of UK after UK’s worst recruiting year probably since Calipari got to UK. Hmmm.

    And that’s in the abstract.

    Now let’s drill to reality.

    Let’s look at our guys in terms of which of these guys will hold every game MUA if we were to get all the way to the Final Four.

    Ellis–a 3 in real inches playing the 4 in KU inches that is proven not to be able to play effectively b2b against normally sized 4s and taller. Perry looks great inside and out, until he meets a 6-9 to 6-10 that moves as well as he does and with a mean streak, which is most every big that will be drafted in that size range. When Perry meets that guy, especially in the Madness, unless the opponent has extraordinarily slow feet, which they rarely do, then KU has to hope Perry’s trey is falling or someone else on the team has a career game; this is the problem with building a team around a guy that does not promise every game MUA. Late in the Madness, Perry will tend to be an MUD (match up disadvantage).

    Mason–a relatively short, former Towson State commit that struggled splitting time as a shooting guard and point guard his first season, and then blossomed as a point guard on a team that could not go deep in the Madness. I think Frank will at least stay even with most guys he meets, even the future pros in the Madness. He is an MUA, or an MUE (match up even), even late in the Madness.

    Selden–hurt, as usual. The probability is always that Wayne will be injured or subject to lost pop. He showed just how good he could be in Korea, but that is probably not the Wayne you get for most of a season. The Wayne we saw last season is much closer to the Wayne we will see this season, than the Wayne from Korea. It is a bad break for Wayne to be so injury prone, but that’s how it is for some players. Therefore, rank Wayne an MUD in the Madness, unless he some how hits an injury free stretch.

    Diallo–not eligible. If you can’t play, you are by definition a MUD.

    Bragg–not in the top 3 at his position, while being recruited, he now appears to be growing into a potential gem, though perhaps a year away from being able to put a saddle on him. Since Bragg has never been classified an OAD, one has to rank him an MUD this season late in the Madness, because of his youth. His sophomore season, barring injury, he is an MUA all the way to a ring. Alas, we are talking about this season.

    So: KU only has one Top 100 player that could be an every game MUA, or even MUE, and that’s Mason.

    So: this team is very much like Self’s team last season, but without anyone on the team as good as Kelly Oubre.

    Thus we have to hope for an injury free season to get the most out of what we have.

    In reality, KU is much thinner in talent than the ESPN 100 numbers would suggest.

    And FWIW and perhaps as importantly, UK, UNC, Duke, LSU, and probably MSU have sharply higher ranked Top 100 players than KU has.

  • @Lulufulu

    Hell, yes, its great we made it to the season!!!

    At my age and in my condition, its great to make it to tomorrow!

    I agree that Bragg and Mickelson would be a great starting tandem, once both get their feet wet.

    And, as usual, I would probably commit to a year of uninterrupted public service in the next Ebola outbreak, if Self would commit Perry to the 3 and make Selden his backup. But that will happen, when Self shaves his head for the Final Four and tattoos hyperpolysyllabicsesquepedalianism on his Johnson. 🙂

  • @jaybate-1.0 HA! Nice alliteration. Is that even a real word? whatever it is, its long…is that the reference there? Coach Self has a long johnson?

  • @Lulufulu

    Uh, well, he da man.


  • @jaybate-1.0 Alright 😉 in all seriousness here. Finished the first half of last nights game again. I retract what I said earlier about our guard play. It wasnt horrible. Pitt State is just better than an average DivII team. I mean, Selden, despite his ankle, got to paint whenever he wanted, had a couple nice assists, threw down a sick one handed jam off a drive. So, yah Selden is good. Mason and Devonte’ were as good as I remember them being. Svi looks better to me also, even though he didnt get many minutes. Brannen is the same to me also. Im not sure if he is 100% yet or not.

    Our bigs, again I really really like the duo of Mickelson and Bragg!! Those guys just kill it on the court together! Both crash the glass hard and get to 50/50 balls, can knock down mid range shots and set eachother up for hi/lo stuff. Perry is smooth as the silk he designs with but he has more pop, more I dont know what. Traylor seems better suited to play the 3. I may have seen him get one rebound, he had a good drive baseline from the left side and made a bucket off a putback tip in. Seems to have energy on the defensive end too but still is a liability on defense?

  • @Lulufulu

    Your latest assessment seems pretty accurate to me.

    Though fans that pride themselves on trying to learn the game and be objective in their assessments don’t like to admit it, all of us are biased by the long ball not falling.

    Shooting 21% from trey on 19 3ptas colors our perceptions of other things, particularly guard play, for awhile after games.

    Cold outside shooting does have some real adverse effects on what guards can do, of course.

    So our perceptions are not totally a product of missing lots of treys.

    It gets harder as the game goes on to drive the ball, if they quit honoring your trey, because you are bricking so many.

    But I am convinced there is a psychodynamic between poor trey percentage and the feeling that the team, especially the backcourt, isn’t playing well, when in fact it may be playing okay, but just not making shots.

    Coaches are usually more objective about this sort of thing than fans, but even they succumb occasionally to the bias of missing the long ball.

    The purpose of play is to make more baskets and FTs than the other team.

    It doesn’t feel good on a basic level, when we don’t make’em.

    And when we do make’em, it feels soooooooooo good that we sometimes think we are playing better than we are.

    This is one of the ways you begin to know you are making progress as a student of the game; you see through the effect of shooting on your perceptions of the rest of the game.

    On a subconscious level, everyone was, as shrinks say, experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance because of all the clanked treys. We enter this season with lots of question marks in the front court. We aren’t sure who can play and who can’t. We aren’t sure if Diallo will be cleared. We aren’t sure if Bragg can come along fast enough to gives a scoring and rebounding presence in the paint. We aren’t sure if Selden will ever be healthy. We aren’t sure if Hunter will play as well as he did in the WUGs. We aren’t sure if Svi is a complete bust. We aren’t sure if Brannen’s hip will bounce back. We aren’t sure who Perry can and cannot score on in D1…

    But we felt sure our perimeter guys could pot the triceratop, could trinitize the trifecta, could R2D2 the C3PO, could replicate the triplicates of last season and last summer.

    It was like, well, at least we know going in we have one thing we can count on: the guys can ding from downtown.

    But then they shot 21% and it was like Bohr and Heisenberg telling Schroedinger, sorry, you’re making this too complicated. The stinking cat really is alive AND dead. Or its like Bohr and Heisenberg telling Einstein, Podolski and Rosen, sorry but changing the spin of an electron will change the spin of an electron across the universe instantaneously and quantum entanglement does involve superluminal speeds fellas.

    Human beings, especially ones trying to practice the fine art of thinking about something systematically, really hate have their foundation kicked out from under them.

    No, we all subconsciously cried, not our three point shooting assumption, NO, basketball god, don’t take that away from us!!!

    But the basketball god laughed at us and took away our three point shooting, as surely as the god of the universe laughed and took away the locality assumption from Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen.

    Woe is us for awhile now.

    We can’t be sure of our outside shooting anymore, until our guys shoot their way out of the slump, if they do.

    We have to wonder: was last year as freakish a year of three point shooting as it was a freakish year of injuries?

    Maybe we weren’t as good of trey ballers as we thought we were.

    And all that doubt causes angst, and all that angst adversely colors our perceptions of other things, like floor play.

    But a little time passes and suddenly we are able to get our bearings and things look a little better.

    Rock Chalk!

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