How to Beat Long, Strong and Athletics (LSAs):

  • As some of you probably realize, I am not partial to continuing to think in the box when the box is getting the shizz beaten out of you.

    Well, if Self and Company cannot yet figure out how to beat long, strong and athletic opponents (LSAs) like Florida, SDSU, and Texas, let the Greek Chorus of become a hot bed of strategic and tactical thinking outside the box, if only to create a karma of problem solving that might free Self and Company to find their own path outside the box.

    There are three dimensions in which to play the game: end to end, side to side, and up and down. Each dimension has a spectrum of play within in it. End to end can be walked, run, or anywhere in between. Side to side can be played from zero to 90 degrees off horizontal. Up and down can be played from staying on the floor to jumping as high as one can. The object of strategy and tactics is to find a means to play in each of these dimensions that optimizes one’s advantage versus an opponent that likes to play a certain way in each of these dimensions and their ranges of play within each dimension.

    Fear not, dear board rats, I am not going to go dimension by dimension and spectrum by spectrum, though that would be the systematic way, if one were being paid for such things, to find an optimal strategic and tactical path through the thicket of how to beat LSAs. Instead, I will cut straight to some distillations.

    A general rule (that should probably be thought of as a law) of strategy and tactics is never attack a strength. In order to honor this rule, one must decide what the strength of an LSA opponent actually is.

    Another general rule is always use their strength against them, when ever they do try to deploy it, despite your best efforts to play away from it.

    A final general rule is friction (and related fatigue) is the enemy of all execution of strategy and tactics in competitive environments. Clauswitz gets the lions’s share of the credit for articulating this one, though most great general’s have understood at least since Sun Tzu.

    So keeping these basic rules in mind, let us turn to defining the LSA opponent.

    What does an LSA do that is different than other teams? What is its essential strength?

    Answer 1: Rim protect, i.e., deny you access to the rim from 8 feet and inwards scoring by first muscling you on the way to the basket and then skying and blocking your shots around the rim (Exhibit A: pracitcally every close shot KU took). The muscling is not so bad as the skying and blocking and altering of shots that ensues from the skying and blocking and altering drive FG% to the 30s and eventually trigger so much friction in execution that the offensive players lose first their confidence to shoot, and then their will to compete.

    Answer 2: Run and jump trey protect; i.e., as the ball reverses to the back side, or is kicked out same side, the LSA wing runs three steps and leaps and blocks the shot (Exhibit A: 6-7 Brannen Greene with good hops getting his high arched J crammed into his grille because an LSA was given a running start. Though few actual blocks of treys occur from the running start and jump there is an altering effect almost every time and friction inducing memory of what is about to come that makes cowards out of normally fearless trifectates).

    What exactly do LSA opponents need to rim protect and trey protect for 20 minutes per half with a half time rest in between?

    Answer 1: They need to NOT have to expend their leg strength on other forms of guarding, so they have enough leg strength to lift their length and muscle mass above the rim.

    Answer 2: They need 2 to 3 steps to maximize their jump.

    Answer 3: They need to not be fouled up.

    Answer 4: They need you to be intimidated by them blocking your shots and stealing your rebounds.

    In short, LSAs need an energy budget devoted to skying, they need some approach space to transfer horizontal energy to vertical explosion, few fouls, and an opponent that views itself as an LSA that can sky and block, so that when it is outskied, and outblocked, it cowers.

    Ok, Institute for Strategic Basketball Studies (ISBS), what are the obvious counter measures?

    a. get them to expend their energy budget on things other than bumping and jumping with a one, or two step run; this means create a horizontal game; this means make them guard and guard all over the floor; this means stretching the floor to run them and then compacting the floor to run offense so that they dont have any two step jumps; this means no more driving at opponents in the paint and going airborne before they do; this means no more leaving the floor before the opponent does; this means lots of pump faking and feigned threats at the basket (i.e., wasted jumps); this means 2-2-1 zone pressing them to make them expend their energy budget on parts of the floor where there is no pay back for them and that leaves them with less energy budget for bump and jump; this means burning their energy budget and over time sapping their jump.

    b. do not give them an alley to approach (no 2 or 3 step jumps).

    c. make the LSA pay for running out to block the trey by pump faking and passing it back inside immediately.

    d. shove the LSAs sideways, whenever they jump; LSAs do not like the sensation of being shoved sideways while jumping; it is an attack on their favorite fun thing to do; it angers and annoys them no end.

    e. every teammate must from tip off run under EVERY LSA that leaves the floor in the paint; each opposing LSA must realize instantly that the moment he jumps there will be a KU player sliding under him to make him pay for leaving the floor defensively (note: backup bigs can be employed extensively for this duty early to take any fouls called on the KU players for doing this).

    f. all outside shots come off pump fakes or curl screens, until the LSA opponent has stopped leaping.

    g. make the LSAs slide more and more.

    It is always wrong to blame one’s soldiers, or players, for failing in frontal assaults on an opponents strength. It is a sure sign of a general, or a head coach, out of his strategic and tactical depth. Note: I am writing this expressly to supplement my post last night about the players needing to compete. It is never enough to tell players to compete harder. The head coach must given them the means that puts them in a position where they CAN compete harder. No matter how "hard " you tell a little dog to fight a big dog, it has no chance unless it is given a means that can win.

    Always, always, always shape the battle field to play away from strength and attack weakness with maneuver and strength.

    Reestablish and reward competitive will in carrying out the plan as throughly and effectively as possible.

    Armies and teams that adapt win.

    Those that don’t, don’t.

    Travis Releford, and LSA if ever there were one at the 3, learned to play an old man’s game that turned him into one of the toughest, most consistent defenders KU has ever had. He could pick his spots to explode with hops. And when he ran into the occasional opponent with greater length, strength and athleticism than he, his defensive footwork and positioning, his recognition and his anticipation, made him able to handle almost all of them.

    Bulletin board slogan: Deny them their two step jumps. Make them pay for leaving the floor. Lock them down when they don’t.

    Rock Chalk!

  • Good post, @jaybate !

    How to beat long, strong and athletics?

    First and foremost, don’t back down! We backed down immediately in our game with Texas. We backed down against SDSU, too.

    If we are going to point fingers at players, then the finger pointing has to start with our two “seasoned veterans”… Tharpe and Ellis. Both played like children on Saturday. Our freshmen are going to be freshman when faced with a tough challenge, and Texas was a tough challenge. Freshmen are looking to follow a leader, and they were looking for help from Tharpe and Ellis. And ultimately, the freshmen were looking for help from Self. He’s the guy who has been through all of this before. He didn’t seem ready for Texas anymore than his troops.

    We are normally the LSA team in the pissing match. But this time we met a team that had some size (mostly width) and a “big dog” attitude. Anyone can play big with the right attitude. We still had athleticism and length over Texas… it just didn’t seem like it by watching the game.

    We came to Austin with no plan for playing Texas. Oversight? Yeah, I guess! Just read all the excuses made by the team now. They were not prepared to face Texas. That was a coaching problem. This loss you can hang on Self. Maybe he wanted the loss. It has the potential for helping “season” this team in the future. If we really wanted to win in Texas we would have made a plan for how to do it and we would have psyched up the troops before stepping on to their court full of rabid Longhorn fans.

    How many humility-building losses is it going to take to teach this team? I’d say there isn’t a number that will work, because I don’t think humility is what this team is lacking. They have too much humility. This team could use some swagger. This team needs confidence. Home games don’t build confidence. Winning on the road builds confidence. We just lost a bunch of it in Austin.

    I don’t like the strategy of coaching where you throw your boys to the wolves as a test. I think it is disrespectful to them as human beings. Give them every tool to fight the war. Treat every game like it is the final game and you put everything into it. That is the only way you can build a team with a brand “competitive.” That is the Shocker way… and why they are able to fight back and cream a team that was shooting 80% from the field and up by 15 at half. They have done it at home and on the road. We can hate the Shockers as much as we want… but the Shockers represent the lesson we have not grasped. And they are doing it without a single McDonald’s AA!

    Tharpe is the perfect example of Jayhawk and why we will not win in March if something doesn’t change. Tharpe is motivated. He has plenty of motivation. He has worked his butt off since coming to Lawrence. That’s great and what we want. But he isn’t tapping into his competitive inner self. If he had, he wouldn’t have pulled off the gas in Austin on Saturday. He left all his talents and toolbox back in Lawrence. And the rest of the team followed. The exceptions were Selden, Embiid and Mason… three guys I had pegged before the game as some of our best competitors.

    Tharpe is so close to being one of the best PGs in the country. He is so close, but far off. He has to find the competitor inside himself. This is starting to look like a replay of EJ last year. I love EJ and he’ll always have a special place in my heart for giving up his natural position, reputation (and maybe future) for the good of the team. But EJ had the same issue with not being able to tap into his competitive self and use it consistently, every game. When he did bring it, he had games like what he did to ISU on their court in front of their insane crowd. That’s what competitors do. There is no mountain too high to stop them from getting to the top.

    Tharpe is extremely motivated… he just isn’t being competitive.

    In the old days, one way to push a kid to see if he “has it in him” was to kick his butt on the playground. I know it helped me because after taking a few punches I dedicated myself to never letting it happen again. I was motivated… and I was competitive. That later translated into everything where I was challenged by someone else… basketball, school, job…

    I’m not suggesting we take Tharpe outside and flog him. But maybe we can find another way to take him into an unknown space that challenges him inside… on a deep level… to find his competitive nature.

    The same goes for Ellis. How can we turn him from being a sheep to a tiger?

    These two players are the key to what happens moving forward. Embiid played okay on Saturday. But he had to do it alone in the post. Texas teamed up to smash Embiid because Embiid didn’t have Ellis with him to fight back. Ellis watched Embiid get his shots blocked. He should have been darting to an open spot in the post so Embiid could have made Texas pay for double-teams and overplaying him on his shot. Embiid was left on his own.

    Same on the perimeter. For so much of the game I thought Tharpe was on the bench, when in fact he was on the court, being busy hiding. He wasn’t fighting to create offense. He wasn’t going to carry his share of the load on his back. He left our perimeter freshmen on their own to fight it out with a hustling Texas team.

    It is easy to understand why we had 12 shots smoked by a shorter, less athletic team. All of our offense was one-on-one. No team offense.

    Selden deserves a lot of credit. That guy didn’t give up. That guy hates to lose. He fought to put points up on the board, even though he had to do it alone from the perimeter.

    Same goes for Mason. Sure… he got his shot smoked sometimes. That still didn’t stop him from trying. Mason knows only one direction… forward!

    We are sitting at that crucial junction in the road, just like where we were last year with EJ and Tharpe. Do we keep Tharpe running the show? Because if we change now, we may take an extra loss or two but Mason will have time to develop a rhythm before March.

    I don’t know. I see Mason having so much more of the natural competitiveness in him that we need in March. He can drive the ball, and right now we don’t have enough of that from the perimeter. He’s a guy who can have his shot smoked 10 times in a row, and he’ll still take it to the hole at full effort for number 11… the winning score!

    On the other side of the fence… Tharpe is in the right position to lead this team. He’s been barking leadership to his teammates all year. He may be a better outside shooter.

    Then think about defense. Tharpe has not been a quality defender. He got burned by the Texas freshmen who ate his lunch. Can we really be a threat in March without decent PG defense? No… we can not! Mason has the hustle and the attitude to defend well, but still needs to polish his defense. There may be just enough time left in the year for him to do that if he can get enough PT between now and March.

    The Texas game was not just a bad performance from our PG. It was an atrocious effort by our PG. He quit in the opening minutes and didn’t compete. Competitors don’t quit, especially at the beginning of games. There is no excuse. Motivation by itself will not rescue Tharpe this year. It will take more than motivation… it will take competitiveness!

    I’m mixed on changing Tharpe out for Mason. I just wish Tharpe could resolve his issues.

    Can Tharpe and Ellis find the natural competitiveness inside themselves and use it in our remaining games?

    The entire season rides on that question.

  • @drgnslayr Olwell said and no disagreement. Would only add the following:

    1. Players must be coached in the effective way not to back down; and

    2. As I posted elsewhere, switching wing duties between Selden and Wiggins might help our toughness at the three, which we vitally need down the stretch.

    Late in the Texas game, we began to see Wiggins playing the role of the two on offense, so that Selden could get down and concentrate on being the initiating scorer from the wing 3. I hope this continues and that Seldon takes over more of the defensive duties of helping the bigs in the paint. Selden seems more competitive.

    For what it’s worth, I advocated moving Wiggins to the two earlier this season, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what to do with sold. I wasn’t sure he could play the three. But now it appears that he can. It will be interesting to see if self continues the experiment. It would make Brannen a natural back up for the 2 role as played by Wiggins. And the way Selden would play the three, it would White quite a good back up at the three.

    Rock chalk!

  • @jaybate 1.0

    “Players must be coached in the effective way not to back down;”

    Right on!

    “switching wing duties between Selden and Wiggins might help our toughness at the three”

    Gosh… is there a difference with the 2 and 3 in our current offense?

    If there is, I do like the idea of a switch. Selden has the body, fortitude and finish ability to be an excellent base line player. He’s shown us already what he can do in that area, and he is unstoppable.

    Wiggins shot from trey will drop again. He was just starting to get it warmed up before this bad game. I just agree with Self on this one… that he settled too much. He didn’t need to drive it all the way to the rim… but he can so easily create scoring space in mid range. He was just starting to do that in his last several games. I hope he doesn’t flip back now and try to take every drive to the rack. He needs to pick those times…

    We just can’t win with 3 on 5 on offense. We need the participation of Tharpe and Ellis more. They should be our solid, consistent players and then we only need 1 or 2 of the 3 freshmen to play well to win each game. As it is now, we need all 3 freshmen to play extremely well to win if Tharpe and Ellis play soft, and that is hard because they start playing 3 on 5.

    The thing is… we don’t need Tharpe and Ellis to score a bunch of points every game. We just need them to play hard every game because if they do, teams won’t be able to play 5 on 3 like they did in Austin.

    I usually watch games several times before posting these comments, but I erased the Texas game out of shear disgust. I refuse to waste a couple more of my hours watching Jayhawks jogging on the court. I couldn’t believe the jogging…

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