When the Hurtin's Done, Give Us a Nike 5-star at the 5
Brand Ball beat College Ball.
Though they played more of a finesse game, there were many similarities between the 2017 Jayhawks and the 2012 team. Both had extraordinary human beings with considerable talent for the kind of game Self schemed for them. Both fit elegantly together and played greater than the sums of their parts.
But in the end both succumbed to the Nike brands ability to deliver more good players after leaving on the floor the first game of a 2 in 3 day set of March Carney games.
KU shot poorly–25% from trinity–and lost to a fine Phil Knight, er, Oregon Duck team with a coach with a career .656 record that had failed at K-State, that coached 16 seasons at Creighton, that had never won a ring, yet who could “somehow” recruit OAD/5-star point guards and centers, plus depth, to a PNW school that has not been to a Final Four in 68 years, and which was assigned to the Midwest Regional–the only regional with a one seed with no depth, no OAD/5-star/4-star 5 and which had been pre-tenderized by two B1G Bang Ball teams strung consecutively in its previous path.
That about sums it up, doen’t it?
KU was softened up with two Big Ten bang ballers–one the conference champion-- and then brand rolled by a rent-a-team, as Bo Ryan might have called them.
Note: thank heavens Bill Self was more diplomatic after being brand-rolled than Bo Ryan was against Duke a couple years back. Ryan shortly resigned and surprise, surprise, had an affair exposed. Sometimes basketball foreshadows national politics.
Promoters of the March Carney and the Supreme Shoe Commander’s reputed D1 Top 100 recruiting hegemony served up a gob of SHOEWARS-style, entertainment-value-driven basketball.
Apparently lackey broadcasters, like Clark Kellogg, bungling the obviousness of it all just added insult to injury. The apparently better team did NOT win, Clark. The better “team” had a bad shooting night and likely would have won on a good shooting night. But the better “team” wasn’t able to overcome the lesser “team” loaded up with more talent and shooting lights out from as much as 32 feet out. Dorsey and Brooks put on quite a show. They were the best guard combo I have seen this season–everything Frank and Devonte were, only bigger and stronger and faster and with greater shooting range–NBA range. Oregon was so deep it could smother all three of our exceptional perimeter players AND use Jordan Bell to dominate us inside AND bring subs outside and inside. When our starters coming off a 90 point game with only Vick outside for a credible sub, and no credible subs inside had to conserve till the final 10 minutes, while shooting 35% overall, Nike-Oregon’s numbers and talent proved decisive.
So apparent Nike talent, a KU shooting slump, and prior Carney seeding PATHWAYS OF KU AND Oregon, apparently proved decisive yet again. And what KU fan can help but wonder that if KU had shot normally that the hoary head of Carney whistle asymmetry would have shown its shameless, ugly face again, as it apparently did in Bo Ryan’s last Wisconsin game against Duke?
Now all of the above refers to the apparent context of the KU-Oregon game that I suspect a head coach of KU might likely have foreseen in a way that I did not, because I had not closely studied Oregon before either the Purdue game or before the Oregon game. I had decided to just enjoy the ride this season, or my usual analyses might have foreseen what some layman post game analysis suggests might (and I emphasize might) have been Self’s plan.
Before the Purdue game Self apparently had to decide which team to amp for, i.e., which game to risk a high possession game–KUs best approach to beating these two teams with good inside and outside games–a balance KU LACKS.
An amped effort against Purdue with a surprise defense probably promised a decent chance of victory. KU was quicker than Purdue and could defend them. Alas it left a slim chance against Oregon the following game.
The same kind of effort would have promised a slimmer chance of victory against Oregon, because none of KUs starters or back ups in the paint could contain Oregon’s Bell.
Alas, a no amp, no surprise game against Purdue would have risked disaster and Oregon was the likely second opponent.
So Self appeared to wait to see if KU could shorten the Purdue game, but Purdue jumped out ahead, so Self appeared to put the spurs to his team for a maximum effort and got the third straight great shooting performance that, coupled with a surprise defense, triggered a huge victory that, alas, left little gas in the tank for Oregon, even resting starters as much as he could.
So: Self was faced with a huge risk for Oregon. A bad outside shooting game from shooting back to average was a high probability. But Oregon had great size and shooting on the perimeter and would take a super defensive effort by our perimeter to keep them from blowing us out. Such an effort would mean they could not be counted on totally even for driving for scores. Further, since KU’s starter and backup bigs would likely not be able to stay on the floor with Jordan Bell, unless he were fouled up, it apparently followed that Self would have to attack Bell with Lucas and Josh and hope to foul-up Bell. Then when Bell were fouled up, KU could use its backup bigs, shorten the game, stay close, and go in maximum attack for the last 10 minutes. Hardly an unprecedented plan.
In turn, Self gambled on senior Lucas rising above his limits and playing through Landen to try to foul up Bell with Josh also driving on him.
But Josh got a foul early and was too intense, so Self sat him to settle him down and began feeding into Lucas. Alas Lucas could neither draw fouls nor make shots and KU was forced to fall behind. Then three things happened, while KU tried to shorten the game. Lucas got DEMORALIZED and AND Graham got cut off from the flow of play, while JJ could not make shots. KU was on the ropes and only a furious last 15 might even get them back in it.
KU began to go to Graham to force him into the action the second half, but he could hit nothing, nor did he drive effectively. It was the spookiest total flameout by a KU Starter this season, since it appeared Graham had the one KU MUA on the floor, when he tried to score. Graham went o fer for the second half and game. Thus Lucas’ first half failure to score and foul up Bell, plus Graham’s second half flame out, combined with Josh struggling and Frank going only 8-20 to put us in the rock and hard place down the stretch.
Once Oregon took a break from draining 32 footers, a Herculean KU defensive effort at the game’s butt end saw KU have nearly 6 straight failed scoring opps on stops that would have driven the game into possibly winnable single digits. But the KU rim kept shrinking till it was like KU was shooting ping pong balls into surgical tubing.
Wasn’t. Going. To. Happen.
The only lingering doubt, when a team shoots 35% FG and 25% from Trey and one of its finest shooting guards of the Self era-- Graham–goes O fer, and the Lucas experiment failed, was: should KU have played through Josh from start to finish even though he was clearly not in the top third of his normal distribution. Frank needed his 20 to get 8 makes. But Landen’s and Graham’s FGAs might in retrospect have been better used. But that’s hindisight. Still, if you’re strangling taking what they give you, maybe start strangling with your best larynx and see if raw athleticism can find a way?
I have gone on at length here NOT to pick nits with Self, but to show the extent to which even a great shooting team, which sooner or later, has a cold night, cannot realistically be expected to overcome the apparent Nike recruiting asymmetry, and Carney seeding path asymmetries.
The only likely takeaway for Self from the Oregon game for next season may be Self embracing Dana Altman’s switching defenses. The switching defenses largely took away KU perimeter player’s usually stellar ability to quickly recognize driving alleys and penetrate effectively. I have long been a proponent of this benefit of switching defenses. It slows team’s seeking high trips and quick strikes. It creates misreads and stops. It sewed doubt even among KU’s experienced players. And when Oregon switched during possessions KU completely broke down.
All in all a great, great season by a highly ranked team that won 31 games, a thirteenth title, a one seed, and reached the Elite Eight, while playing some of the sweetest team basketball I have ever seen, producing KU’s most admirable OAD ever–Josh Jackson, and yielding a truly deserving national POY in Mr. Frank Mason III. Every rotation player on the team was decisive in his contributions to wins at one point or other. Every player got better and several reached exhalted heights of performance that will live in memories of all who hung in with this remarkable TEAM.
KU continues to fight onward despite unlevel playing fields in recruiting and seeding with the greatest coach in the game. Every Elite Eight he has come up short in, he would almost certainly have reached the Final Four with one OAD/five star at either the 1 or 5 positions. With two such players, one each at the 1 and 5, he would have won rings.
Give this 2017 team just one such player at the 5, and with Landen sharing the 5, this team would have been unstoppable.
The mission objective is clear. Solve the recruiting constraint ASAP. The coach is NOT the problem. Shoe brand is.
LONG RANGE, we have to solve the seeding asymmetry by either joining a power conference with an EST PRESENCE, or we have to expand the B12 eastward.
No ifs, ands, or buts.
(Note: this post was all opining and speculation based on appearances from the remote and virtual perspective of a fan alias and without insider knowlege or professional expertise.)
@jaybate-1.0 Wasn’t this team given that star player at the 5 in Udoka?
While Udoka might have sufficed, he was a project 5, even though he was clearly good enough to complement Landen. Yes we would likely have gotten by Oregon with him. But in the Final Four you need more than Landen and a project footer.
KU needed (and needs) a legitimate OAD/5-star 5 that was (is) NOT a project. KU NEEDS what Duke, U.K., UNC and now Oregon appear able to sign. A 5 that can play now.
Next season, Udoka could be that player, but even without injury he was a project this season.
Billy Preston looks like a 4, but if he can play 5, maybe the worm has turned!
The match up zone and Oregon sending 3-4 back immediately on missed shots to prevent transition run-outs changed everything Kansas wanted to do. Even with just 1-2 players staying back for the rebound it seemed like the ball just bounced their way more often, than not. Similar to the last two ridiculous 3 pt shots before the end of the first half. Still Kansas did everything they did to fight back into it, and got into it. That last rebound tipped away from each other and then giving up the 3 sealed it and that was at 2:30 left with plenty of time to come back had they secured the rebound, scored a 2 and got it within 4 at that point.
Many of the principles of the MUZ were exact remedies for KU’s strength.
So the part that I have had a little trouble with the last day is on Friday Self alluded he had not done much to prepare them to play against the MUZ. I know little could have been implemented in a day or two. And I understand the philosophy you just do you and worry about what got you there and don’t try changing what you do. But the fact remains that this team was not prepared to face a MUZ defense and had no solutions prepared for it. Driving and kicking was one thing they did try but because Bell owned the paint and could handle it on his own, it didn’t really collapse the wings and created the open shots we normally see.
Even all that said–the team had their shots and just couldn’t make 'em. Sad way to go home.
By a 5 star OAD 5 you mean 6’7’’ Jordan Bell that was ranked between 50-75 and is currently a JR? Because that’s what Oregon trotted out there and kicked KU’s butt with.
@BShark 6-9 but still not a OAD
HAPPENS to be a freak of nature with his blocking abilities
I’ve seen anywhere from 6’7’’ to 6’9’’. Truth probably lies somewhere in between. But yeah he is a good player, but not close to a OAD type.
Who would you rather have had?
Jordan Bell or Landen?
Jordan Bell or Bragg?
Jordan Bell or Coleby?
Those were the choices.
I’m saying the recruiting is so asymmetric at KU that Self cannot EVEN sign and develop a Jordan Bell, much less a 5-star, or an OAD 5.
Here is the blunt truth about KU recruiting.
In terms of recruited talent, we started a high mid major roster supplemented with an OAD, a troubled 5-star shooting guard backup (Vick) and a foreign project (two if you add Doke.).
This KU team is frankly a hybrid of a good mid major with an OAD.
Except for Josh and Vick, you are looking at a mid major not unlike Self’s best Tulsa team that made it to an EE.
Compare the rosters of the FF teams with this KU team, and outside Josh, who on KU would for sure be starting for UNC, Oregon, USC and Gonzaga.
Frank and Devonte have played superbly and exceeded everyone’s expectations, but…
Dorsey and Brooks looked more like top D1 major guard bodies and NBA prospects to me than Frank and Devonte. And head to head they played like it. And as great of shooters as Frank and Devonte have been, they have never shown the kind of range Dorsey shows most games.
And which of those four teams has less depth and less inside game than KU?
Self did an awesome coaching job this season and post season.
@jaybate-1.0 Isn’t that the same as Gonzagas roster? Mid major recruits. One 6 star recruit in a 7ft freshman.
What does South Carolina have in regards to 5 star recruits?
Does Oregon have guys that came out of HS as 5 stars?
Ok ok UNC has some 5 stars on their team.
Exactly. KU was was not even as talented as these teams. All these teams have inside games AND more depth than KU.
My guess is that as recruits, Frank, Devonte, and Landon were ranked significantly lower than their counterparts on the four Final Four teams.
But even if they weren’t, KU WASNT DECISIVELY MORE TALENTED THAN ANY FINAL FOUR TEAM, AND IT MOST LIKELY WAS SHARPLY WEAKER AT POST AND IN BENCH THAN THE OTHER FF TEAMS
Frank, Josh and Devonte played fabulously well this season, but not even Josh held MUA on his off night.
To win rings, sooner or later you have to win one on your worst night.
That is when your level of physical talent and depth have to carry you.
KU didn’t have enough.
@jaybate-1.0 The lack of bench was disheartening to me. It seemed like it was 7 guys to play, one injured guy post surgery, another guy healing and getting into game shape and then the other half of the bench was walk ons that are there for practice.
As a former coach it is just important to have guys not only that can run the scout team but mimic the ability to a point of the opposing team as well. KU didn’t have that unless perhaps past players were coming in to practice against the starting 5.
I don’t see college basketball staying with a true 5 anymore. But going to tall and athletic, such as Oregon, Louisville and UNC for a few. Versitle players playing multiple positions. Almost like what Josh Jackson could do. Ball handler, driver, post up, shooter.
Heart can go along way, look at Frank Mason. His heart made him a great player. He wasn’t the most athletic guy on the court, he wasn’t the purest of shooters. But there were times he was the best player on the court for either team playing. Why was that? Heart. Hard work. Determination. Bescuase he had heart.
You are looking at it through the lens of how it turned out. Self signed Cliff, Diallo and Bragg. All big time HS post prospects at the time of their signing. Diallo and Bragg had UK offers.
Guards I would not disagree. Outside of Josh the staff lucked into Svi, while Mason and Graham were post grads that Self developed. Now the only guard signed in this class is Garrett, whose HS coach is friends with Self. We need to see things turn around for the 18 class. Gotta close Grimes (with the help of Adidas perhaps?).
I wouldn’t trade Frank, or Devonte for any true D1 Major 5 star types. I loved their games.
But they needed one mor backup than just Vick and they needed a 5 star 5, whatever type of 5 star five plays 5 now.
Frank is a once in a generation come from no where to stardom guy. He is special. He is everything college ball is about.
I will never forget his great shooting, his D, his unreal rebounding, and that photo of him “facing up” that big lug.
Frank is the Ernie Banks of KU Basketball and if you know of Ernie you know that is the highest praise!!!
Been through this before. Each of those supposed “exceptions” had the baggage coming in that they showed when they got here. It was just concealed from fans. Self would never have gotten them without the baggage. So they really weren’t exceptions at all. Self can get “those” kinds of 5 stars and OADs. What he can’t sign are the OADs and 5-stars at 1 and 5 without the baggage that can come in and start and play the way Josh has. Good lord, Coach K and Roy and Cal sign them every season.
You have to stop living in denial about the recruiting regime in D1. It is what it is. KU needs to find a way to get around this impasse, not live with it and blame Self.
Frank is the Ernie Banks of KU Basketball and if you know of Ernie you know that is the highest praise!!!
Yes. Yes it is.
You could see how bad Frank wanted it the other night. How often in all the games he played at KU did you see him get after another player verbally on the court? He did it with Svi, he did it with Josh too against Oregon, perhaps a few other teammates got it too that the camera didn’t catch.
The other thing I love about Frank was win or lose, great game for him or whatever. He always gave credit to his teammates and coaches. He never set blame to anyone. In a loss he gave credit to the other team and coaches.
He was modest beyond belief. And a true leader. I hope someday he’s on a sideline coaching young boys into becoming young men the right way.
HAPPENS to be a freak of nature with his blocking abilities
What’s even more freaky is he somehow picked up just a single foul all night while trying to block everything in sight.
I hope so too. But I’ve given up guessing who has the gift for coaching at a young age. Only a few like Larry Brown seem to have that uncanny insight. But among those I have seen lately, I sure wish it for Frank. He could help a lot of kids.
An excellent point!
I have tried to lay off complaining about the refs, because it seems increasingly apparent it’s been “problematic” the last few years.
But your point DEFINITELY deserves mentioning.
@tis4tim I didn’t feel like the refs missed fouls on Bell.
I do think the second foul against JJ was as BS of a call as you could find. To have Bigs constantly body to body in the paint with no calls and all of the hand checking going on all tournament to see that incidental and inadvertent contact by Josh on his arm was a complete farce.
It did appear to me that the refs missed a lot of traveling violations.