HCBS - Worst Defense Ever?

  • So, HCBS railed after giving up 88 points to the Mildcats and the Svi Euro-step-step-step-step escape with a W that this is the worst defensive team he’s had at KU. Is he simply trying to light a fire under the guys, or is he talking truth?

    Well, by advanced metrics, he’s right - at least so far. After the past two games, the Hawks Kenpom defensive efficiency rating has fallen to 25th. That is worse than the season ending DER for any previous Self team at KU - indeed, far worse than all but two other seasons. The 10 loss team ended up 22nd and the '04 team 19th. Most of the Self KU teams have had top 10 DERs.

    What about conventional metrics? Well, I just did a quick compare and contrast to last year’s team. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, most of the key defensive metrics aren’t appreciably different from those of last year’s team: opponents FG% - 40.1 v 39.7; 3PT% - 35.2 v 32.1; SPG - 7 v 6.7; BPG - 5.6 v 4.2; TOs forced - 13.6 v 12.9; PPG - 69.9 v 67.6.

    So, seemingly a bit worse on most metrics, but not dramatically so. However, I would argue that these metrics are a bit misleading. The numbers for last year’s team were for the full season - through the tournament. The non-conference schedule this year turned out to be pretty week compared to many prior years (few really bad teams, but only a couple of good ones). And, our 2 conference games have come against what is supposedly the lower echelon of the conference.

    What about the eye test? At least to my eyes, it looks like we are giving up a LOT of easy baskets. Opponents are getting into the paint and to the rim all too easily - and there really isn’t any rim protection. While BPG are up from last year as of now, that’s likely to decline as a lot of that was Doke - more blocks than Lucas and Bragg combined in a fraction of the minutes. Other teams “bigs” seemingly have routinely had career games against. While Lucas had put up more than solid scoring and rebounding numbers the past two games, neither TCU or KSU have real bigs and he hasn’t shut anyone down this year. And, I mentioned in the game thread, Bragg is a defensive liability at the 5 - his footwork and positioning defensively was just awful (he’s much better suited to the 4 spot).

    Can we get better? I certainly hope so - defense improved down the stretch last year. But unless Self can get the guys more focused on the defensive side of the ball, then he will be right - this will be his worst defensive team. Good thing it’s also one of his better offensive teams - because we may have to rely a lot more on simply outscoring opponents this year…

  • The answer to the question in your first paragraph is that it’s a bit of both. Definitely trying to light a fire, but this team really is limited defensively.

  • Well, you are right that we are giving up a lot of easy baskets. Fran last night correctly noted big guys that were having career nights against us, but erroneously correlated that to poor post defense (go figure there). How quickly everyone forgets that we were giving up easy baskets at times even with Udoka. I think everyone needs to watch replays of Nova’s games this year and see the best example of small ball. UConn in '14 occasionally ran the four guard lineup, specifically at important junctures in the regional against Iowa State and Michigan St. in addition to the game against Florida in which they came back from an early deficit, but that was a smaller sample size. This year and most of last year, Nova has been dominating and winning tough road games against much bigger teams.

    Again, we will go as far as Frank and Devonte take us. I agree with KUSTEVE - I just get the feeling that both of them are coasting at times and saving energy. Maybe I’m wrong, but the eye test tells me they are not giving it their all. When Devonte does give more effort, he makes poor decisions and tries to get steals and gets burned because of it. But that is easily correctable with a little coaching or an introspective evaluation, so I’m not too concerned about it.

    In essence, it is all about perimeter defense. Heck, I could go out there right now and play the five for Nova and be just fine even though it has been about six years since I played organized ball and I would be giving up about seven inches to 7’2 Isaac Haas (slight exaggeration, but you get my point). That is the level of perimeter D Nova is playing. We aren’t there - yet. Are we at a physical disadvantage when compared to Nova? Do they have more talent? Is Jay Wright that much better than Self? I say no to all three and I firmly believe we have the potential to play in a similar fashion.

    When you think about - what has changed from last year in terms of our size? We are the same height as last year, essentially. Half the time, Perry and Jamari, each closer to 6’6 or 6’7, played in the post together. And yet, we were a couple turnovers away from the Final Four.

    HEM brought up outscoring opponents. This will work against teams not named Kentucky and UCLA. But even Roy’s good teams played defense when needed, specifically in March. I was rewatching UNC vs Nova and UNC vs Michigan St. in 2009 and was surprised at their effort defensively. It was '08 levels by any means but they were making a conscious effort.

  • How did we get so much worse defensively from a year ago while losing 2 rotation players? 1962, the last time KU let up that many points to KSU at Allen. Pathetic, idc if your a homer or not, it’s flat out unacceptable.

  • Unwittingly…despite Self’s best efforts…We have become RoyBall: try to outscore the opponent.

    We’ll see if this public calling-out as “worst defense” lights the embarrassment fire…because this is damn embarrassing. Pitiful. Made the guys from Manlesshattan feel like…men.

  • With such poor defense against the Wildcats, how on earth will we beat the real Wildcats (of KY)? Hate to speculate on a KU-KY score for that upcoming matchup…

  • @ralster you’re right. Unless there is an attitude change and they start taking things seriously, the game at Kentucky could make the 2014 blowout look like a nail biter.

  • @HawkChamp

    We will actually be able to score against UK this time. The problem will be whether we can get enough stops to not have this game played in the 90s or 100s. I predict a 97-93 final. Don’t know who wins, but plenty of points will be scored.

  • @kjayhawks said:

    How did we get so much worse defensively from a year ago while losing 2 rotation players? 1962, the last time KU let up that many points to KSU at Allen. Pathetic, idc if your a homer or not, it’s flat out unacceptable.

    That is what I have been wondering…we lose Wayne and Perry…replace them with Josh and a combo of Svi, Vick, and Bragg…doesn’t make sense that we would regress that much.

  • @Hawk8086 my theory is they are saving it for later on. Recall that our perimeter D was really good at stopping penetration against Duke, specifically in our big second half run when they couldnt score on us. If Landen doesnt have a sore foot, Josh is more comfortable like he is now, and Devonte doesnt have cramps the whole game, we dont lose to Indiana. That is not a coincidence since Devonte did not have any cramps like he did against Indiana and struggled to play through them. We are not any shorter than last year’s team as Mick and Diallo didn’t really play in our elite eight run. Our defensive prowess is solely predicated on our guards regardless of what anyone says. I have seen too many small ball teams excel in March to believe otherwise.

  • @Hawk8086

    Maybe we are still not giving Perry enough credit for the influence he had on the team. His quiet leadership and work ethic were inspiring.

  • @HawkChamp I agree…that whole athlete-respect thing. Just like the 08 guys (and about every Self team I’ve seen) plays “up” and “down” to the level of the competition.

    KSU and TCU didnt command the level of player respect that KY and Duke garner…

    Dont know how to combat this tendency…

  • @Hawk8086 They may well be saving it for later - meaning later in the season? Others have suggested that we can get stops when we need it. As to the first point, there may be something to that, but why can some teams - like Virginia - seem to be able to be focused on the defensive end game in game out? And, to the argument that we can turn the defensive pressure on and off within a game, while that seemed to be case in the Duke game, it seemed like we really never got stops when we needed them in the Indiana and KSU games.

    To your point, intuitively it seems that replacing Selden with Josh and Ellis with Svi/Bragg/Vick combo shouldn’t mean a significant regression, but by some measures we have regressed. Really due to Ellis senior leadership???

    I’m still at a bit of a loss. Would like to believe that we have superior defenders on the perimeter, but they’re not demonstrating it yet. It’s not just giving up the 88 to KSU, but the fact that KSU got to the rim routinely, that entry passes weren’t really contested, and we had only 2 steals against a team that isn’t known for it’s ball handling is what concerns me.

    Yes, it goes in the books as a W, but gotta believe that we need to really tighten it up against the upper echelon of the league - and certainly UK…

  • I like what Self is doing by saying all these things to the media about the defense. It forces the issue to be on the players minds until they as a group decide to buckle down. Because they haven’t lost a game in so long Self doesn’t have a lot of ammunition to draw from currently and until this team drops a game due to its defense we may not see the change we all want to see.

    Maybe it’s going to take a loss for the guys to regroup and start focusing on stopping teams or this team is truly going to be an outlier in the Self Era. It’s too early to tell because we have the guys to be good defensively.

    We may also just have to accept that in order to be the offensive juggernaut we are, we might have to accept average defensive play. This team may not be capable of playing 2 way ball. From injuries to not enough depth in certain area’s we are who we are. A damn good team that is still not firing on all cylinders

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