Small ball is here, or is it really small ball?

  • Banned

    I don’t think Coach is gambling this time

    All I ever asked from Coach was to play to his strengths. Yet even this one has me reeling a bit. Is this the dawn of a new era of KU basketball? Has Coach lost his mind? or is he just coming to the reality of what he has and what he recruits. Could this hurt in recruiting big men in the future? Is the seven foot center a piece of basketball relics that only old timers like myself can talk about?

    I have no answers. Just know and feel the game is evolving. We used to say combo guards, now we are saying hybrid big men that can stretch the floor. Has the true center become nothing more than a novelty item? I would say no as JE the lion killer is just now starting to crank the very potential he will be. Yet how many JE are their really out there?

    Still I have to remain skeptical of this new 4 and 1 Coach talks of, well until I see it.

    Is Coach being for real? or his he pulling our chain?

  • @DoubleDD On the small ball talk how small will it be? I’d say not very if you put Jackson or Svi at the 4, people forget tho they aren’t post players they are both listed at 6’8. I think some teams in college and the Nba are going to a smaller, quicker small ball type of game like golden state. But I also think their is value in a shot blocker down low for obvious reasons. In regards to Embid some may disagree with me on this and that’s fine, but there are only a few 7 footers that have came around that have his foot work and agility. Look at shaq if it wasn’t a dunk he missed it most the time. After watching several players and from youtube videos there are about 3 guys that are around his size and have his moves IMO. Wilt, Kareem and Hakeem. If he continues to work and stay healthy he could the best pro KU player in awhile.

  • @DoubleDD

    Historically, Self will say anything to make other coaches wonder, and prepare for something extra.

    He has talked about being a pressing team and not pressed.

    He has talked about shooting more treys and shot more one year and not others.

    Every year he says we will run more and we don’t.

    Here is my prediction: HE IS BLOWING SMOKE on 4 out one in.

    Unless injuries have hit his bigs, expect 3-2 75% of the time and 4-1 25% of the time.

    He learned 4-1 works, so he will use it situationally.


  • @DoubleDD It’s for real. Slide JJ to the 4, and bring in Vick when you sub for CB. That’s simply an astonishing lineup of athletes all playing together- Frank, Devonte, Vick, JJ, with LL in the middle. Now, here’s the ironic part- that small lineup is taller than last year’s regular lineup. And they could sub Svi for one of the smaller guards, and we’d have 3 players over 6’8" in our lineup of littles. Our starting 5 will be the best rebounding team in the country, imo, and substituting some boards for the offense that Vick, and at times Svi, will bring would be worth it. I just don’t see too many teams where we’re going to get outsized enough to worry about muscle at the 4. Just my take…

  • Well, at this juncture, from what I am reading, there appears to be no way that Coach will keep Vick glued to the bench. And Svi has got to be on the uptick. So…

  • If Jackson or Bragg are found to be struggling on any given night or in any given situation, or if tired legs should dictate change, Bill Self has considerable extra ammo to fire into the fray.

  • Just imagine a scenario, during a really tough contest, at the 33 minute mark Self’s bringing in the fresh legs of Vick or Svi or Udunka to spend four minutes changing the pace or pattern of a tight game.

  • @kjayhawks Speaking of Jo Jo did you see what he did last night even though they lost? he is going to do very very well as long as he can stay healthy. 15 pts and like I think 7 rebounds in 20 minutes. - - -led the team in scoring. YA he gonna be just fine. - -ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

  • I don’t believe anything I hear at this point of the year. I’m undecided if this is Self performing Psy-Ops or if this is Self seeing what he should do early, but reverting to form under pressure with perhaps some shading of his standard approaches.

  • I think Coach Self will play his 4 guard rotation a lot in the preseason/exhibition games. Washburn, and Emporia State will provide the perfact environment to be highly successful in doing so. Right out of the gate we have Indiana and Duke. What better way to make both teams have to prepare for KU’s high/low (norm) Coach Self’s bread and butter, or something neither team has seen before? Both teams will have to watch tape of the two exhibition games where KU will run 4 guards. My guess is Coach Self will revert back to his high/low rotation during the first 2 games for the regular season because that’s his comfort zone. We might see 4 guards on the floor for short spurts but the high/low will be prevalent. Its anybody’s guess really but that’s my 2 cents.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    Yeah… I’m wondering the same.

    Is it because Bill is the “Riverboat Gambler” who often runs bluffs?

    Or is he just giving us a “heads up” to the possibility even if it doesn’t happen just so we aren’t shocked with the smaller lineup later?

  • @Statmachine

    I’m thinking that, too.

    Plus… maybe we just need to put in lots of work in practice first before playing a bigger lineup. Maybe Bill is just putting our best chances of winning on the floor early in the year. Maybe he doesn’t want him and some of his players to get hugely criticized for not being able to play better in the early part of the year.

    I don’t know. I just have ideas.

  • @drgnslayr

    Its both! 😃

    Self is always both.

    Self does have a problem with all his bigs being largely unproven behind Lucas, and Lucas has never really been focused on as the guy to stop before either.

    So: Self has to anticipate the significant possibility that Bragg takes a full season to develop and won’t really be a cornerstone weapon till next season. And know also that he might make one of those few nonlinear leaps big men make their third seasons earlier…say in Bragg’s second season this year. He has to be ready for either contingency.

    And the further down you go in the depth chart in the bigs, the more risky it becomes that one of them will become a rotation guy capable of playing rotation minutes in big games.

    Coleby is coming off a nasty injury and has never played ball at the level of intensity that KU players have to be ready to play at. When you play at Miss State, everyone on your schedule is not gunning for you the way they do KU, and the pre conference schedule is not one of the toughest in the country the way it tends to be at KU. Thus, Coleby is a huge question mark even as a back up.

    And with a huge guy like Udoka, the odds are 1 in a 100 that he will be able to do all the things a big has to do to play rotation minutes against a top opponent. I doubt Vegas would even give odds that Udoka will be able to hedge defend on pick and rolls 20 feet from the basket this season. Udoka will contribute some each game, I reckon, but it likely will be a tiny, narrowly scoped role.

    This means that though Self has a lot of big men to rotate a lot of them may not be street legal this season when we face the top opponents.

    So: Self will have to do some of this and some of that.

    I would not be at all surprised that at crunch time, the line up is Lucas, Bragg, Jackson, Graham and Mason. Call that 10 minutes of each half.

    But because our useable depth at big men will likely only be useable against the lesser opponents, figure that Self will have to look at the other 2ompg as varying considerably from opponent to opponent.

    Against weak opponents, I suspect Self will play 3-2 75% and 4-1 25% of those “other” 20 minutes.

    But against the really good opponents, unless our bigs develop unusually fast, I reckon we will see 4-1 being played 75% against good opponents and 3-2 played 25% of the “other” 20 minutes against good opponents.

    Player development and opponent will dictate the mix of styles to be played in the “other” 20 minutes.

    In the crunch time 20 minutes (the decisive 10 each half), I believe the Lucas, Bragg, Jackson, Graham, Mason quintet is the best we can field and allows the strongest rotations to rest them.

    An interesting wild card in this is Self’s comment that he anticipates playing Josh Jackson at 1, 2, 3, and 4, since he played all those positions in high school.

    This could again be smoke. Self has often talked about using guys many places and then has done so very sparingly, or not at all.

    Thus, this is for sure an statement made to give opposing coaches more to prepare for early regardless if he intends to do it, or not. Strategic logic is that you never signal an opponent what you are actually going to do, so this is another reason we will not likely see josh at four positions in a game anytime soon. At most we will see him in a couple positions early on. Most likely we will see him at one position and Self trying figure out if he can protect, guard, help, feed the post, and make a trey, so he knows just how much of the FGAs he can afford to give him over the long season.

    On the other hand, if player development of the Bigs inside, or of Svi and Vick outside, lags behind normal expectations, well, then it would be crazy not to play Josh anywhere and everywhere to keep the opposition from scheming to stop him at one spot, while also adding to flexibility of resting the other starters.

    The game down the stretch of the season is to find a scheme that results in the best five starters at playing together, with the least drop off, when substituting, based on the players stages of development at that point of the season.

    Barring major injuries to the top rotation players, I keep coming back to the probability of Lucas, Bragg, Jackson, Graham, Mason with Coleby backing up the two in the paint, and Vic and Svi backing up the perimeter. This means a lot of 3-2 and only occasional 4-1. when we need to trey shoot our way back into a game, or into a quick lead, that we can then defend 3-2.

    Really, we will be doing much the same that we did last year, but with legitimate big men to resort to. Whether those big men can score as much as Perry, I doubt. But they will get a lot more rebounds, and reduce the opponent’s inside scoring efficiency significantly, and trigger a lot more outlets for breaks by a potentially awesome transition threesome in Mason, Graham and Jackson.

    I don’t look for a running team per se.

    KU will walk it up the floor on made baskets, whenever its in the lead.

    But I look for a sharp in crease in transition baskets from more rebounds and more regular release of three perimeter guys from rebounding duties. And with Lucas and Bragg being able to run the floor pretty well after the rebound and release, I look for Self use the secondary break 4 times a half.

    All the issue of steals and run outs that you have raised I think remains to be seen in how much gambling on defense Self decides is optimal for this bunch.

    Devonte and Frank are great strengths, but they still have never impressed me as usually gifted thieves the way Chalmers and RR were. On the other hand, roster talents their previous seasons have dictated that it was best for them to play defense very conservatively since they lacked much rim protection behind them. They could surprise me with more ability to steal than we have seen, and so fulfill your expectations. But a lot depends on whether Lucas and Bragg have that ownership mentality in the paint and the springs, want to, and timing to get up and become human drones loitering around the rim as shots approach. Both could become rim protectors, neither necessarily is that type naturally. So: i have to beg off and say “wait and see” on the steals and runouts.

  • @jayballer54 Didn’t watch but yes saw his line which was solid very encouraging

  • Vick is too good not to get at least 20 minutes, and they want to give Svi good minutes as well. Why not take some of them from the 4?

  • @KUSTEVE There’s 120 minutes to go around in the back court at the 1-3 positions. Vick may end up being a good player, but he’s 5th in the rotation and based on history and there’s no way Graham, Jackson, and Mason don’t average 90-95 of those 120 minutes. Svi may end up in the 20 minute range if KU plays small as much as Self has indicated KU could, but I just don’t see a scenario for Vick to play 20 mpg without injury or suspension being related and I know nobody here wants to see either of those happen.

  • At this time and based on the projected starters, Mason, Graham, Jackson, Bragg and Lucas, the lineup is solid at every position with the only unknown being the 4. We have seen only glimpses of what Bragg can do but the question is how much has he developed and can he stay out of foul trouble? He will be replacing the very capable and oportunistic rebounder that was Perry. If Bragg and Lightfoot develop as expected, it could be a solid position but the jury is still out.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I always enjoy reading your posts, if for no other reason than to appreciate your use of the English language. Well done. But you also have great content, too.

    I find it unlikely we will have a post player capable of scoring like Perry for quite some time. He might not have had the needed muscle at times, but he always brought a polished arsenal to the game, and I already miss Perry!

  • @drgnslayr said:

    I already miss Perry!

    Me, too.

    And thx.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I’m hearing very positive things about Mitch. He is going to be a player and he will contribute something this year, too.

    I agree with your post. A lot depends on Carlton staying out of foul trouble.

    What I like most about Carlton is his potential range. By the time he leaves Kansas he will be a solid trey shooter. He will show us a bit of that this year. And he will definitely show us a huge midrange game.

    We need one big to have range.

  • @drgnslayr

    Perry will be sorely missed, not only for his basketball skills, but also for the quiet and steady leadership he provided on and off the court.

    I have Lightfoot as my surprise player, I believe he might end up being a more athletic version of Ellis.

  • @KUSTEVE said:

    Why not take some of them from the 4?

    The answer to your question depends largely on how good Bragg turns out to be this year.

    If Bragg becomes a 15/10 guy, or even a 10/10 guy, giving up more than 5 minutes per half really eats into a very productive guy, who is likely to be an efficient scorer, a solid inside defender, and a guy that can consistently prevent second shots by grabbing rebounds. Going with Vick and Svi at the 4 mean guys like Frank or Devonte likely cannot be released because they have to go in and board. Remember Frank’s freakish 10 rebound games at the point last season, when Perry was playing on the perimeter and hoisting treys?

    Self proved last year that you can play that way; that you can use your perimeter to rebound more to make up for going short at the 4, but…

    Coaches really love backboard control. Self’s closest thing to a mantra is offense starts with defense. And good defense without good rebounding is a hateful thing to Self. Rebounding is the defensive equivalent of finishing on offense. You finish on the defensive end with a rebound (or a steal).

    Unless Svi, or Vick, turn out to be freakishly good rebounders at the 4, Self would likely rather have Lucas and Bragg grabbing 10 boards apiece than have a few extra treys and drives from Svi and Vick and 6-8 fewer rebounds and 6-8 more second shots by the opponent.

    You see, the beautiful thing about a rebound is that it means the other team is stopped, and you get to go make them pay with a long trey, or a short trey.

    A big time rebounder at the 4 is like a licensed concealed EDC. It just changes the balance of every defensive discussion EVERY TIME! It takes you from the defensive to the offensive. It makes your attacker turn and run at 45 degree angles to jump back over the mid court tense and hopefully find cover to stop you from shooting him in the back. It takes the game into his back yard and out of yours.

    This is as nearly a moral good to a coach like Self as there is. Sliding defense is manhood in motion. But a rebound is finishing the act of stopping.

    Self liked 4-1 ball. He medalled at the WUGs, won 30+ in D1, and got to an Elite Eight. That is pudding with proof that it can work. But…

    Self’s 4-1 sensies ran into some trouble in an alley with Jay Wrong’s mugs from Rockyville. The refs gave the edge to Nova, whenever KU was defending; that appears undebatable (and despicable). But once the refs hamstrung KU’s sliding manhood with the asymmetric March Carney whistle, well, a manly man bunch of Jayhawks with an EDC at the 4, and not just Lucas, working the boards, likely would have grabbed enough rebounds and delivered enough hurt inside to have let KU’s great perimeter players overcome Nova and its homeboy refs. Not for certain, but a much better probability than 4-1 sensie ball.

    Self will never forget that Nova game EVER. Its stuck in his craw along with that loss to Shacka. And those couple of minutes in the second half of the 2012 Finals game against UK, when things might have gone differently and he might have pulled the upset of the century. But the Nova game is particularly bitter, because it was Jay Wrong–Self’s true arch nemesis. And Jay did it with muscle. Jay stripped 4-1 sensie naked in a big spotlight.

    Self wants to be big again! Self NEEDS to be big again!

    Self wants the EDC, when has to have it.

    He knows there IS NO guaranty in this world.

    Sometimes you lose no matter what.

    But with two true bigs, with some brawn, with an EDC at the 4, well, you can take a bunch of them with you when you go down, and given how Self keeps getting a leeeeeetle better each season, with an EDC at the 4, well, he figures he can find a way to handle the Jay Wrongs of the world.

    And if he can find a way to play 4-1 sensie ball with Bragg on the offensive end, while still getting brags defensive rebounding on the business end of the floor, well, then that is Bill Self coaching orgasm time.

    I just don’t think Self will ever willingly give up that licensed concealed EDC that Bragg could be. If Bragg can defensive rebound, then he is the difference maker Self has been needing at the 4 in this regard. Lucas is overt rebounding piece, the hog leg the opponent knows you are going to claw for when the ball comes off the iron. Bragg is the concealed EDC. He is the guy you can pull out down on the blocks so you’ve got two rebounding weapons, or he is the guy that you can keep pocketed awhile, let float out and chase, and then pow! Withdraw him and crash him on the glass so you just dominate the whole backboard!!!

    Self loves rebounding, because he loves stops.

    Vick and Svi can play some 4-1 sensie on one end, but The Vapor and the Crimean Kid are not what I would call capable of being licensed concealed EDCs on the boards for Self the way Bragg can be if he develops quickly.

  • @DoubleDD

    I think he’s being for real about going small. To what extent I don’t know.

    Is he willing to lose defense in order to gain on offense? That’s the trade-off of going small in theory. It’s possible that when Bragg needs rest, Jackson slides to the 4, and either Svi or Vick come into the game. Or when Lucas needs a rest, Bragg plays the 5 and the same rotation from the wing happens.

    It’s quite possible that Jackson is already a better defender than Bragg is. We are just hoping Bragg is not a defensive liability, and we hope his length and athleticism bring more to the table then even a Senior Ellis could. His offense has always been ahead of his defense. Speculating that putting Jackson at the 4 with Lucas and bringing another scorer into the game would be better then bringing in Coleby or the freshman. At 6’8 and crazy athletic Jackson has the ability to be that hybrid forward that often works for other teams. In theory we shouldn’t lose much, we may even be better for making such a move. Keeping Lucas on the court for his rebounding/smart defense is the smart play.

    If we go small with Lucas out of the game, we’ll most likely be a really athletic and fast 5 out there. I couldn’t predict how well we would defend anyone but offensively we could really be lethal. This lineup could match up well with some of the Big-12 teams that will play small.

  • I think we’ll see JJ and maybe even Svi at the 4 in certain situations. I also think there will be rumblings calling for Vick to start over JJ after the first few games of the season. I think Vick is that good. I just can’t wait to see him shoot that amazing jumper. The name that keeps cropping up for me is McLemore.


    did anyone really say Vick would play the 4? I’m sure while we are at it, we might as well try Frank at center as well

  • Some of this discussion will depend on how smart Josh Jackson is. Can he handle prepping to play 1-4? As a freshman with an 18 year old brain, probably not. It’s clear his max potential is at the 3 so he will get a majority of his reps there. Is he good enough at 3 to give up practice time there to work on what he would have to do at the 4? And while he is 6’8", he is not wide or heavy enough to hang with most D1 4s. So he will have to develop some coping mechanisms to overcome that weight disadvantage. Even Wiggins, probably the most freakish 6’8" athlete to come through KU, couldn’t really handle defending or scoring from the 4 spot not to mention rebounding.

    My hope would be a focus on JJ at the 3. Maybe give SVI some time at the 4 if we need it. But let the young fella focus on the one thing we really need him to do, which is impact from the 3. Focus is hard for for a young brain. But it is quite possible that JJ has an above average brain. People keep talking about his polish both on and off the court which might lead one to believe that he is capable of handling multiple positions. I’d be conservative though with predictions of how much time JJ will spend NOT at the the 3.

  • @benshawks08 JJ played 4 in highschool and on the AAU circuit. Its not like he hasnt done it before. If Coach Self is serious about having a line up like 1 Frank 2 DG 3 SVI 4 JJ 5 Bragg, then Im sure he can get those guys ready for that. He is the best coach in Div 1.

  • @Lulufulu I agree that Self could get those guys ready for that. But I would argue his main focus will be on the 1 FM 2 DG 3 JJ 4 CB 5 LL line up rather than the “small ball” line up. The other question then would be if Bragg can handle the 5 spot. I assumed the small ball line up would rotate around Lucas as the 5 so he could defend and rebound. But reports say Bragg is STILL growing, so there is a possibility he could hang at the 5.

  • The small ball line up is for substitution purposes and not as an all the time deal.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 I think some will depend on matchups. There were several times we couldn’t play withey, mizzou for one. We struggled matching up w/niang and their athletic 5. Forgot his name!

  • The point remains, opposing coaches without much film of this team to look at the first few weeks of the season, are forehead palming and saying, “Okay, we have to prepare for 4-1, TOO!!!”

  • @jaybate-1.0 Villanova’s 18-19 free throw performance (we made 7-11) was a big difference. We couldn’t get to the free throw line. Villanova had a 3 quarter press it played nearly the whole game. it kind of took us out of rhythm. The refs also took us out of rhythm with the no-calls. We were the better team. I wish coach would have trusted his bench. 6 minutes for Bragg? None for Diallo?

  • @KansasComet Wont be an issue this year.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Can Bill Self beat Coach K at the 4-1 game?

  • @KansasComet

    If I could change anything about our great coach it would only be to add that 3/4 court zone to the mix

  • @Lulufulu

    With even talent and symmetric whistle? YES!

    But Nike rarely lets the talent be equal and whistles in THE MARCH CARNEY are never symmetric.

    I haven’t studied Dook. Are we equal in talent in the first 9?

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    you mean Predator, aka McKay

  • @BeddieKU23 that hair!

  • @Lulufulu


  • Even going small it is really not that small since we still likely play two 6’-8’ players and whoever plays center, either Bragg or Lucas at 6’-11"…that is pretty tall for many, many teams.

  • @BeddieKU23

    Well…Klingon was taken by DeMarre Carrol…

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