Kansas Jayhawks... meet Oklahoma City Thunder!

  • My wife must really love me. There is no other possible reason why she would tolerate me during basketball season. During this time of year, basketball rules our DVR hard drive. All other content eventually gets tossed away to make room for more game footage. Anything “basketball” gets targeted for recording; talk basketball shows, some NBA, all college ball, sometimes HS ball, documentaries about basketball, movies about basketball, vintage old games being rebroadcast, etc. etc. etc.

    Often I get ideas by putting miscellaneous games side-by-side for my viewing pleasure. Last night, I caught the Oklahoma City Thunder’s total beat down on the Miami Heat and then went directly to the tip-off of Kansas and Iowa State.

    What amazed me this time, was the passing flow of the ball for OKC towards the end of their game, and then the same thing for KU in the early part of their game.

    It took the sequential viewing of these games for me to finally totally understand Bill Self’s philosophic teachings of rapid ball movement. I was a believer before, but never had I seen what level of potential was possible at the college level.

    I’m an old Boston Celtics fan. So many of their games from the Larry Bird era are still replaying between my ears on my own personal DVR. What sticks out the most in that golden era of Boston basketball was the passing. Boston was never the most physically gifted team, but they understood the game of basketball better than anyone in their day. The foot speed of players can never compete with the ball speed of the pass! I’ll type it again in its own space, because this is what we need to understand as fans. Bill Self already understands, and it is time we realize a big part of his philosophy and how he has become one of the most-successful coaches of modern times.

    The foot speed of players can never compete with the ball speed of the pass!

    Last night, there were moments in the OKC-Miami game that reminded me of some moments of Larry Bird’s teams in Boston. OKC moved the ball so rapidly making Miami look slow. It isn’t easy making Miami look slow. And as the game wore on, the Heat players wore out. Game over… with OKC bringing the beat down to a beat down Miami Heat. Next game…

    Kansas got out of the blocks quickly last night. Our first run was our best run all season. Our guys were spaced properly and the Cyclones appeared to play like Cyclones; running around in circles. It was during that run when the lightbulb came on in my head, and I fully understood the vision of Bill Self and his drive to prevent the ball from sticking. And it was this game where Bill Self showed more smiling teeth than in any other game he has coached in recent years.

    What I am wondering now is did the same lightbulb in my head come on in the heads of this team? Imagine the possibilities if it did?! Imagine the possibilities if this team carries this quality forward to every game remaining this year? Imagine Kansas in March playing a team like Syracuse? Imagine what they will do to the 2-3 zone of Jim Boeheim? We could experience the biggest beat down in NCAA March Madness history! Imagine Carmelo Anthony in attendance, being interviewed after the game and being asked, “what happened?”

    I hope I’m not the only one whose lightbulb is burning now. I hope many of you are seeing the potential of this team and recognizing why Bill Self teams never lead the conference in low TOs (because he is striving to create a modern-day college version of an old NBA Celtic team). There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is brightly shining from my head!

    Rock Chalk!

  • Goodness is contagious.

    Keep it up.

    This is a great insight well expressed. The writing moves the way the ball you describe does. Pop. Pop. Pop. Each sentence moves to the next.


    The game is a model for so much.

  • @drgnslayr

    The first 10 minutes of the game were the best KU has played all season and I kept thinking…that is a Championship caliber team. If KU can consistently play 4-10 minutes segments like the first 10 minutes last night, I just cannot see any team that can stay with them.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I totally agree. And when our offense isn’t dominating on that level our defense needs to withstand pushbacks. It should be a very slow process of giving back a lead… something that takes the remaining energy our opponents have so they run out of energy by the end of the game, when they need a burst to get over the hump and beat us.

    It was a bit like that last night. ISU was uncharacteristic in turning the ball over 3 times in a row down the stretch… which put the game out of reach.

  • @drgnslayr

    Coach Self’s philosophy has always been that everything starts with defense. Having the offense take front place is a change. Knowing Coach Self, defense will continue to improve and by March the team will be running on all cylinders. The upside of this team is scary high.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    That is correct. People know him more for his focus on defense.

    But on the offense side of the ball he is about ball movement and when possible, running everything through the post (hi/lo).

    I’m with you… I’m psyched to see his defense consistently improve. Currently, our biggest weaknesses on defense (ranked by importance):

    1. Naadir - pretty much all PGs he face seem to blow right by him. It has become such a problem that Naadir is getting in foul trouble, and he’s allowing these PGs to get our bigs in foul trouble.

    2. Wayne - He seems to have a slow first step… which lets his man drive by him. And sometimes he is inattentive on defense and falls asleep and gets burned by a back screen, etc.

    3. Perry - Perry was a bit better last night, and he even had a couple of blocked shots. He mostly needs to just play more intensely on defense. Sometimes he appears disinterested to play d.

    For the most part, Andrew and Joel are picking it up on defense, faster than the rest.

    Since we have such a high-powered offense, it may not be necessary to have the level of defensive proficiency Bill Self is famous for… but it still needs to be close! We need to do better, and we have been improving. I can’t recall but it seems like our overall defense was holding opposition down to around 48 FG% before conference. Now we have it down to 40.9 FG%. I’d like to see it down to around 38%.

  • @drgnslayr

    Here is an interesting link from Massey, which I believe has one of the better models, that lists the probabilities for the remaining games:

    Probabilities for remaining games

    KU is favorite in all remaining games except the Oklahoma State that is listed as 50% or a tossup.

  • @drgnslayr Its mid season and I really don’t want to put too much into this but everyone is feeling what I am at this moment. Our guys have what it takes to reach that final four this year. Every game getting better. Every game decreasing their margin for error.

  • @drgnslayr Im telling you guys, its like this team has morphed into one of 'Ole Roys teams. High powered offense and good but not great defense.

  • @Lulufulu85 I totally agree with your point about this KU team being akin to Roy’s teams, specifically the '09 team. I have watched replays of that team in the 2009 final four and championship game multiple times and each time coming away thinking that their defense was potentially underrated. The difference between Roy’s teams and this KU team is that KU still has so much room for improvement. They still seem to be about a step too slow on defense which allows the other team to blow by them. In order to prevent this, they have to be on their toes, not heels, and really focus on staying in front of their man.

    That said, they are doing a lot of things well and can certainly reach Dallas if they really focus and play with energy.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I can’t put much faith in those numbers. Need to just keep winning!

  • @DinarHawk & @Lulufulu85 Agree that there’s a deja vu about this team. I find my heart glowing with pride about the players and the collective team the way I felt about the '97 team.

    Even the Hinrich-Collison-Gooden combo wasn’t as captivating as '97 and this squad.

    I’m hoping this is the year the Basketball Gods fix the whole in my heart that remains from that loss to Arizona.

  • @Lulufulu85

    “Im telling you guys, its like this team has morphed into one of 'Ole Roys teams. High powered offense and good but not great defense.”

    That may be the most dead-on statement for the month of January! I hope we can go beyond Roy’s teams by March.

    The thing is… we are not that far off from playing great defense. We have the eventual ultimate blocker in Embiid, super athlete with speed and length in Wiggins, and decent athleticism all around and off the bench. The potential is there and improvements are happening.

    I think the real question is: Will this team continue to improve at such a fast clip? Xmas break is over and the kids are back in school and regulated on practice. I think one way we can continue to improve is build confidence… as a team and individually. But with freshmen… you never know if they can keep that confidence on the big stage in March.

    Last year we looked good as we entered B12 play and then we sort of plateaued at about this time.

    I am hopeful because our talent level is so much higher… but it is college basketball and anything good or bad is possible.

    One thing is for sure… we need to stay healthy! I hope Embiid will fully recover!

  • @Lulufulu85, a lot of our past expectations are tending to put Self in a box.

    If the team were to try to defend the way the past teams have, when XTReme Muscle Ball was allowed, the entire rotation would probably be fouled out by the ten minute mark of the first half. We would not like that. 🙂

    On the other hand, if Self adjusts his defensive play to fit the foul calling, we say they are not defending as well as they used to.

    I suspect Self has, as usual, made a pretty good trade-off between offense and defense, given the way the game is now called.

    I know KU is not as high in the KENPOM rankings defensively as some teams are, but it is so far hard to argue with Self’s approach, given his initially green team, and his W&L statement in the conference.

    KU’s KENPOP ratings would like be significantly higher, if he were simply to sand bag for 30 mpg and play his starters 40 mpg, as he has done much of his last two lean depth seasons.

    But Self is playing his bench, especially his bigs, to keep the fouls off his starters and keep them fresh, for the second half, when opposing teams’ bigs are tending to be fouled up, and/or gassed.

    I believe the defense is probably better than it looks right now. One of the things that makes Self Defense look special is when Self tells them to turn on the high pressure defense. Self has not been telling them to do that since one or two of the pre conference games, apparently, because the competition has not been of a sufficiently high quality to force him to do so. He has been able to win by trying to keep the defensive pressure within the envelope of the developing green wood and relying mostly on numbers to gain late game advantage in fouling and energy budget among his bigs.

    But there will come an opponent, sooner or later, that will be good enough to provoke Self into surprising that opponent with KU turning on the hyper pressure. They haven’t shown it much, so opponents don’t have much tape to study. It will be a big surprise when they uncork it.

Log in to reply