Tharpe: Can We Get More?

  • I left my viewing of KU’s methodical win today wanting more – wanting more from our point guard, Naadir Tharpe. The question is whether Tharpe is bumping up against his talent ceiling? We’ve seen Tharpe be near spectacular shooting the ball. We’ve seen him drop 12 assists against zero turnovers. We’ve seen Tharpe be the best player on this team at times. But many times, we’ve seen him play at a pedestrian level as a whole, and subpar in some of the other parts of his game. Today, to me, was downright frustrating.

    Five areas I want more from Tharpe, with the likelihood that the area of concern could improve (scale 1 – 5, with 1 being lowest probability and 5 the highest probability of improvement):

    1. Penetration against a zone: WVU threw the dreaded 1-3-1 at us today. And not to be too harsh, but Tharpe was near impotent. He lacked either the ability or inclination to drive at the creases and to attack the zone off the dribble. When WVU pushed the pressure to half court, Tharpe just became passive. My point is here was that he fails to make defenses pay for the temerity of pressing. We are leaving much on the table when we permit the press and are simply satisfied with starting our offense. We saw a few bold passes today that did make WVU pay. But not nearly enough. And not from Tharpe. Chances of improvement: 2. Tharpe simply appears to be a passive point guard. Satisfied with not making an error or mistake. Perhaps scarred by Self’s quick hook or tongue lashings that we’ve witnessed over the years. But whatever the reason, he fails to take even the most obvious opportunities against zone defenses and half court traps to push the action inside.

    2. Defense: Tharpe’s defense today was simply horrific. No dressing that up. He plays defense distinctly without passion. He chases his offensive player like a whipped puppy. Is this harsh? Yes, but reality can be harsh. In November of 2012 (last season), Self nearly dropped Tharpe from the rotation in large part due to his lack of defensive intensity. Of course, we all really recognized from day one that Tharpe would never be a solid defender. We’ve seen him play adequate defense. But we’ve rarely seen a high level of defensive intensity. And we always see him take poor angles – chasing, not cutting off. Tharpe gets his standard fouls each game for putting his hands on his opponent. Cheap touch fouls. “Tharpes”, as they may soon become known as. The poor defense is one reason why Frank Mason is the better player (in literally all phases except shooting). Self yanked Tharpe because of the poor defense. I thought that was pretty significant. Chances of improvement: 1. He is what he is. His feet won’t get quicker. He won’t suddenly love to play defense. He won’t suddenly develop the passion that we see Selden and Mason developing. And he won’t suddenly understand angles. To me, this phase is hopeless when it comes to any chance of real improvement.

    3. Shooting: My complaint is not with his shooting ability. That has been terrific. Maybe the most pleasant surprise of the entire season (next to Embiid and Mason), and perhaps the most needed surprise. I just want him to shoot more often. Multiple times today he turned down open looks. Granted, after a few of his refusals of open looks, KU ended up getting a bucket inside. But Tharpe’s shooting has transformed the dynamic of this team. I’m not complaining any longer about our three point shooting. Tharpe’s emergence has changed the game. I do understand that perhaps Tharpe will pull out the three gun when needed. And maybe that’s the plan. But I want more shots. Chances of improvement: 4. Surely he does want to shoot more. I’m quite confident that when needed, he’ll take the looks that are given to him. But does he have any “alpha dog” in him that will make him at least feel like he’s the man and thus not shrink from the moment?

    4. Running the fastbreak: This is perhaps my biggest frustration with Tharpe. It’s not one that I’ve spent a lot of time commenting upon. But Tharpe seems to have very little innate ability to command the fast break. He regularly and, again, passively, moves the ball toward the wing as he enters the front court. He doesn’t attack the middle of the court off the dribble. Unless the numbers are perfect or there is a clear path, he against opts out of the aggressive move. Kind of the anti-Frank Mason. I find myself regularly yelling “GO” at the TV when Tharpe has the ball. But most of the time, he chooses to be safe. This point will hold this team back from reaching its potential. Mason is still kind of a bull(dog) in a china closet. He’s getting better, and more tempered. It’s a pretty stark contrast between the two. This may be one of those areas where Tharpe is again scarred by his prior interactions with Self. Playing not to make the error. But I think it’s his personality, as well. Chances of improvement: 3. I say 3 because I think a large part of this is his confidence in remaining on the court after an error or two. But otherwise, it would be a 2. Hard to change his stripes at this point in his junior season. I just see our wild athleticism and a big buy like Embiid that can run the court and just wonder, “what if we had a point guard that could actually run the break?” We can always wonder.

    5. Creating scoring for others: The game with 12 assists and 0 turnovers was terrific. But too often, we see Tharpe flounder in his ability to create scoring opportunities for others. It vexes me, as Commudus would say. It is clear that he has it in him. Today, we saw neither the creator, nor the shooter. Personally, I think the talk of Tharpe being better than Mason against the zone was simply a relative analysis. Mason was just bad. Now, Mason is not bad. He’s actually better than Tharpe against the zone. And actually acceptable. Mason’s upward curve overtook Tharpe in a matter of two months (since the Florida debacle). The “creating scoring” issue relates directly to Tharpe’s inability to attack creases and holes in the zone off the dribble. Against a man defense, he’s more effective, so long as he’s not overwhelmed by his defender. Really, for Tharpe to create, the circumstances must be favorable – really match-up related. Chances for improvement: 3. I do think “creating” can be learned to an extent, and improved upon. I do think Tharpe will get better simply by the passage of time. He does want to create. That is a big deal. Tyshawn never really wanted to create. He wanted to score. You can see Tharpe does want to create. He may not improve markedly against zones, but I do think that he will see some improvement.

    The best analogy I can make regarding Naadir Tharpe is Joe Flacco. Flacco is the prototypical “game manager” as a quarterback, except for one asset: The big arm. Tharpe has the three gun as his big asset.

    I was a major Tharpe proponent coming into the season, and I do believe that our two-headed monster at point guard is sufficient to win us a title. But I now believe that we’ve seen Tharpe’s ceiling. He can shoot the ball. If he will approach that aggressively, he can be a spectacular scorer in a phase of the game this team desperately needed improvement. Even if he’s not aggressive in that phase of the game, as a secondary scorer he is lethal. But in all other phases of the game, I believe the chances of improvement are nominal. Tharpe, as a point guard, isn’t going to improve much. We are at the final plateau. This team’s improvement will have to come from other sources.

  • Spot on analysis as usual. His defense today was driving me crazy. This was the main reason why last year I was really hoping Anrio Adams would have emerged as the backup PG. Adams had the physical tools to be a great defender. Not good, but great. I’m not saying that Self made the wrong choice, as we witnessed Adams imploding on Twitter and basically writing his own ticket out of town all season with his poor attitude, but Tharpe is now a junior and as you say he has basically no chance of improving his defense.

  • @HighEliteMajor-The greatest aspect of improvement should naturally come from the younger guys. But I still don’t know if we’ve just enough point guard or not. Black peaked for Memphis a couple of years ago, & IMO EJ banged his head his junior year also. The case against Tharpe is fairly obvious in that he refuses to hit the crease of a zone & he does not & never has played inspired defense. Also same for me & my biggest gripe with him is running a break, or I should say NOT running a break. I’ve mentioned this on prior posts. So many times I have seen him fully capable of getting to the middle of the floor to split the defense, and for some reason, time & time again he just will not do it. The most fundamental part of the fastbreak is making the defender commit & then the pass, & Tharpe appears, quite frankly, inefficient at it. I’ve been thinking Perry’s defense is underdeveloped also, but he seems to play in spurts while Tharpe is a half step slower all the time. Great points about the angles & I’m of the same school that teaches you play defense mostly with your feet, & when legs are tired bad things can happen. Plain & simple, when your man gets past your front foot, he’s got you beat & you foul him 75% of the time trying to catch back up. Great defenders, like rebounders, have the knack of anticipation which makes them appear faster-and in truth they really are. The PG, IMO, is the most important constant for a winning formula, & Id be much more comfortable about our chances in Mar & April if Frank could grow a few more whiskers before then. Hey, we got the W today so I’m not complaining-just responding to a rather timely & quite insightful post. Only one day off & it’s Big Monday in the little (road) apple. So surely you guys know what a road apple is without asking?

  • @globaljaybird I was gonna ask the meaning of road apple but decided to go on the google and find out for myself this wonderfully accurate way of describing the little apple!

  • Some days players get in what they call “the zone” and some others it is the opposite. The key to success is to overcome the days when you are just not feeling it.

    Today Tharpe was not feeling it and it was obvious, as he was passing wide open 3s that he normally would make. He played better towards the end of the game and he hit a very timely three, Hopefully he will be in "the zone: against KSU.

  • I don’t know if it just me or did it look like the refs called more charging fouls today than they did the entire season? I mentioned before that charging fouls were becoming and “endangered” call, but today they were the flavor of the day…go figure.

  • @JayHawkFanToo The announcers said KU has only drawn 5 charges all year, before this game. I realize the rules changes partly explain that low number, but it still surprised me. Even more surprising, Black had taken 4 of the 5 charges! That’s a big guy to run into. Does it take senior experience to learn how to take a charge?

    We got at least 2 yesterday, one taken by Black and one by Selden, so maybe they are coming back as you suggest.

  • @HighEliteMajor Tharpe will never be an elite defender but his D has improved a lot. He is what I call adequate. He has a size disadvantage but he is now able to hold against opponents fairly well.

    He had a tough game yesterday but keep in mind that he was going against one of the best/quickest guards in the Big 12. Not many guards have been able to stop WV guards. They are really good, Self complimented as best in Big 12.

    I do agree that he needs to attack more against Zone D and I am hopeful that with greater coaching emphasis and practice he will be able to get it done.

  • @tundrahok

    I know that KU was called for at least a couple or more charges, so all together the game had an innordinate number of charging fouls called. I guess this refereeing crew did no get the NCAA memo 🙂

  • @HighEliteMajor, a problem with not having as much talent, length, motor as others, is that one has to play (forgive the metaphor stacking) at the edge of one’s envelope in order to look good. Any fall off from the emotional edge needed to be at one’s best leaves a player with lesser talent looking indifferent, or bad.

    We see this with Perry. We see this with Frank. We see this with Jamari. It is not new either. We saw this with Brady. And so on back.

    The envelope limitation also manifests with injury. Joel can play on the knee, but he cannot dominate. He can get up sometimes, but not most times. And when the opponent exploits his weaknesses, he is slow to adjust, or cannot adjust. And when he gets fouled up, he cannot really play very well with the fouls. And he never really looks very good until a stretch of the game, like the end of yesterday’s gam where the defense practically began to ignore him in pursuit of pressuring the ball in back court. The list of injury limited envelopes is now long at KU. EJ had to everything perfect for him to have a good game by the time he had “healed” late in his senior season. Travs Releford had to give up his high flying ways and adopt “an old man’s game.” Kaun went from a guy that could run the floor and rebound to a guy finally that never cleared the floor, muscled, guarded the post and never looked for a rebound, or a shot that he had to jump for.

    Your break down is thorough, accurate and informative. Not much to add to it. But I do want to explore the origins of what you describe.

    The origins are: leg length, newness at starting, and teammates.

    “1. Leg Length:”

    Clearly, Naa started out with one of the most visible limitations a Self player can have: short legs. Short legs on a short body with an average or long neck guaranty an acutely short drop step. Against a good point guard that can read footwork like cruise missile reads terrain, a short drop step always requires one of two compensations:

    a) sag way off until you don’t get blown by but you can’t guard the trey, get over the top of the screens, or disrupt passing lanes; or

    b) crowd the baseline hand, guard the trey and wave at your defender as he drives by and you hope help arrives (this works only if you have a great rim protector like Joel when healthy, or a fabulous wing defender willing to forego his offense to guard his man AND your man).

    These two bad outcomes of short legs are why there is in effect a natural selection process in basketball that by Division 1 level tends to produce a bunch of long-legged, short-trunked athletic freaks. This selection toward the long-legs with monster drops steps and slides then creates a basketball ecology that is especially lethal to a player like Tharpe, no matter how much he Hudy-izes his legs and footwork.

    I must digress here for compare and contrast with Tyrel Reed. Tyrel was 6-3 to 6-4 and gangly and a bit slow footed his first two seasons at KU. He was a much better trifectate than Naa, but he had every bit as much trouble guarding guys, because though he had a long slide and a long drop step, he lacked the leg strength and upper body strength that enables one to make that first drop step/slide with lightening quickness and completely eliminates the second drop step and makes turn and burn an abstract concept never to be witnessed.

    But give Tyrel three years with Hudy and countless hours of monomaniacal training and, voila, Tyrel, though he did not pass the eye test, could guard almost anyone at the trey stripe and guard the driver WITHOUT a great rim protector behind him all the time, and without much help. Why? Because once properly muscled, he had the leg length to be a sound perimeter defender on a 2 and in a pinch on a point guard, plus he had the mental tenacity of a defender, plus, luckily for Tyrel, a 40" vertical that allowed him go up with those he turned and burned to catch and so harass from behind near the rim. All sound perimeter defenders have these basic abilities in D1.

    Naa lacks a long drop step. Naa needs a rim protector AND wing help in order to stay on the floor. Naa also has to be emotionally on edge to get the most out of what he does have. If he isn’t the fall off is nonlinear.

    Self as the kind of long wing defenders and rim protector that can compensate for Naa. But Naa needs to be on an emotional edge, or the compensation will merely leave him undistinguished on both ends. And if rim protections wains, or one, or both of the wings has their hands full guarding their own man and so can offer little help, while Naa is off “the edge”, then Naa look horrible.

    Obviously, no player can be on “the edge” every game. And some players are more up and down than others in terms of intensity and focus. Naa appears to be a bit more up and down than some, but hardly most. Still, when Naa is down, and Joel is injured, and Selden, or Wiggins, have their hands full, a bad game for Naa is almost inevitable. The only thing that can avoid it is him getting up on an emotional edge and playing an opponent that does not surprise him with new defensive looks he has not gotten comfortable with yet.

    “2. Newness at Starting”

    All fans need to constantly remind themselves that even if Naa were not dealing from a short leg deck, he would still be in his first season as a starting point guard and he would still be seeing new defenses almost every game, especially against teams with exceptional coaches.

    To wit: it is probably no coincidence that Naa has played poorly in his first meeting with Rick Barnes and Texas, and Bob Huggins and WVU, while he played exceptionally well in his second meeting with Scott Drew and Baylor. Naa is not physically gifted enough to compensate for “new stuff” run at him offensively, or “new stuff” run to defensively. Few except the most talented athletes are. This is not really a knock on Naa at all. Quite the contrary, the small N tendency so far this season is that if Naa gets a second look at a team, he does well against it. (same with Perry Ellis, too).

    Naa has a head coach and staff that don’t like to make adjustments during a first half. They like to make them at half time. Thus, if Naa confronts something he has not seen before, and he lacks MUA (as he usually does), he is going to have very rough sledding for that first half at the very least. Help does not come from the bench till half time, along with a heavy weight chewing out. Thus he comes out the second half and sometimes looks much better, because Self has figured out a counter. But while Self is remarkable strategist and tactician at half time, he is not the greatest at adjusting during the second half to what “new stuff” an exceptional coach throws at him the second half. Thus, if Self guesses wrong at half time about counter measures, and if the opposing coach is exceptionally skillful at his own counter measures, Naa is in deep trouble the second half too.

    There is no substitute for great talent at any position. Just as tactics can save bad strategy, great talent can save bad tactics and bad strategy. This is why all coaches want all the great players they can get, and work endlessly at trying to figure out schemes that mask their less talented players.

    Self is in the peculiar position of having to mask a point guard with a sharp defensive weakness in order to get his relative maturity, ball handling and trey shooting in the game, something his team of L&As needs desperately against LSAs like SDSU, Texas, and so on. But I digress.

    Naa is going to get much much better as the season goes on each time he gets the next new scheme thrown at him behind him. Bob Huggins, a future hall of fame coach, threw a 2-1-2 stretch (or what some might call a trapping 1-3-1 half court press against KU that Naa had not seen and that largely flummoxed Self, too. Self never did think to put trey shooters in the baseline corners, which is one of the most egregious tactical errors I have seen him make in ten years at KU. Naa could hardly be blamed for his usually clever coach doing the equivalent of sending his team over the top in trench warfare into hopeless odds time after time down the floor in what turned out to be Huggins and Self having a little mano a mano test of which coach’s team could gut out a win without trey shooters, and without any maneuver at all. It was bizarre to watch these two great coaches default into this philosophical grudge match. The only thing I can figure is that Self was trying to prove a point to future coaches that would try to exploit Naa and KU the way Huggins was doing. Go ahead, Self seemed to be saying, we are going to nip this strategy in the bud here and now. We will not change a lick and we will beat this strategy the hard way, so future opponents are tempted into using it. Only time will tell if Self were right or wrong, but one thing is for certain: Self probably got caught off guard and probably could not think of a good counter tactic in the moment, or he probably would have used it when the game got to nearly tied with 5 to go.

    “3. Naa’s Teammates”

    Naa is not the captain of a bunch of throat slitting brigands that erupt in rages at the thought of being laughed at. This team has no high gear of rage at all. These players hardly show any emotion at all. And they have had their butts kicked around so much that they don’t show much swagger any more either. They are increasingly work man like and neutral in their approach to games. They really don’t like contact, or violence. They frankly run from it, even though they can dish some muscle out from time to time. It is a team that claims to have great chemistry, but that chemistry appears to be the kind that is rooted in parallel play of digital age children that don’t make a lot of eye contact, or shuck and jive even a lick. We are in short in unchartered team psychology here. It is not just that they are new together. It is that they have a superstar that is a reserved Canadian; a budding superstar center from Cameroon who having tasted the kind of violence he attracts in D1 would now rather fight a lion, a couple easterners in Selden and Naa that have not a shred of prairie populist fire in their gizzards; a Chi guy not that far removed from living in abandoned cars, a hick from French Lick Kansas, a great man mountain of an intellectual in Tarik, a dashing southerner with a wild hair in Brannen; and perhaps the most internal, stoic human being from Wichita ever to play the game of basketball. This group of Jayhawks are each “characters” in the traditional Self mode, but they are characters that Self has no clue about how to meld into a band of fire breathing defensive fanatics. It is like Self finds himself in charge of a team full of furiously committed trappist monks each zealously committed to individual prayer, when not mashing the grapes, rather than a loud, coarse bunch of reformed hooligans committed to kicking ass and taking names later in order to get some respect in this world. But Self’s monks are fantastically talented in their own ways, just not at all precedented among great teams in college basketball. Self is confronted with trying to get the Anime generation on the same page of Henry Iba Ball 10.0 and is doing it pretty much on dead reckoning. If Self were ever getting bored with the challenge of college coaching, this team most certainly has put an end to his boredom. Self frankly has little clue about this team’s buttons. He pushes them and gets more or the video game stare that he already had. Self rants in Okie, Norm rants in Bed Stuy, Jerrance rants in Chi, and Andrew Wiggins says, “Well, yes, you do sound a lot like my father, but not the least like the Canadian English I grew up speaking and, really, is all of this necessary. I jump the same height with or without this ranting. I make the same percentage with or without the ranting. We don’t act this way in Ontario.” And Joel is kind of the opposite. He is trying to respond to everything the coaches say, because his father is a military type in a continent where starvation, genocide, ebola, and some wild game really do exist, even if you grow up on the right side of the power struggles to control Africa and play a mean game of volleyball and soccer. But Joel is saying, “What exactly does it mean to be named Snacks? What exactly does it mean to say Hide Yo Kidz! Why exactly if they smash me on the floor and nearly crack my skull wide open am I not able to blatantly do the same thing back again, and what is it with my teammates lack of fire and reserved speech?” And Perry is walking around saying " I do to like to talk" after which he returns to not conversing.

    Naa has a very difficult team to orchestrate. It is like being the general of a multinational force of computer game freaks that consider diversion from computer games to be surfing YouTube. This is a team of parallel players being forced into a harsh athletic world of 7-8 prison bodies out to escape poverty. Naa has the difficult job of trying to strike the right balance of exhortation and calm that will stimulate them out of their parallel play, but not overstimulate them into Turn Over machines.

    Frankly, Naa deserves a flipping medal for how far he has brought this team, because Self sure as hell hasn’t got much of a clue either about how to make a team out of a bunch of parallel players. It is not that any of them are not committed to team. They do love each other. It is that they are from a remotely connected, Blue Toothed generation that is going to change the way the world works more profoundly than any other generation before it. Naa is a part of it and yet being asked to bridge the old world with the new.

    God, this is what makes basketball so great. It is the bridge of cultures. It is the bridge of generations. It is the bridge of greater talent and lesser talent. It is the bridge of life itself.

    Ad astra per aspera!!!

    The epigram that never loses relevance.


  • @AsadZ He may be “adequate” defensively against most guards, but has problems against the elite-level athletic guard. That is PRECISELY our concern over his defense: What happens when we are on our 6 game run in the Tournament and we face 2 or 3 elite-level guards? Exact same discussion about Brady Morningstar–> he could “lock down” 95% of opposing wings, but in the Madness, facing pro-caliber wings/athletes, Brady would suffer, exactly when we needed it the most.

    By contrast, look at what FROSH Selden and Wiggins are doing defensively. Again, as frosh! We havent seen such frosh defensively ability since Brandon Rush. Mason is guarding better than JUNIOR Tharpe as well. This is where the concern is. Tharpe is a junior. And he doesnt seem to be injured.

  • @ralster: frankly, Selden and Wiggins defenses are a big part of Tharpe’s problems. Because Selden and Wiggins are so young and relatively unfanatical in their defense, i.e., because they rely so heavily on talent to compensate for skill and consistent intensity, they cannot provide the steady help that a Rush, or a Chalmers, or an RR could provide late in their careers. They play a kind of defense like their teams played in their early years, when they were good enough to win conference titles on talent, but then get bounced early by distinctly inferior, but highly motivated “teams”.

    Notice that everyone of Naa’s bad games coincides with Selden and Wiggins having their hands full guarding their men and not being able to help Naa, or Selden and Wiggins simply not showing up at all. And Selden and Wiggins have not showed up frequently so far this season. The team would have lost another 3-5 games had not Embiid developed as a rim protector to cover up the games that Selden and Wiggins phoned it in with talent and no intensity, or skill.

    As the season progresses, Selden and Wiggins are starting to get the hang of the mind set, preparation and intensity required, but remember what happened to Rush’s and Chalmer’s teams their freshman seasons in the Madness. They were beaten by a team of stunningly inferior talent, but better skill, teamwork and intensity.

    The key thing to remember about the Baylor game preceding the WVU game is that it was in fact Naadir Tharpe and NOT Selden, or Wiggins, that picked the team up and put it on his back, when its young super talents’ confidences had been devastated by Texas.

    I am not trying to be argumentative with you here.

    I am trying to defend Naa here in the same way that I sought to defend Brady.

    It is true in a very limited sense that when a solid player runs up against a great player the way, Travis Releford did playing against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the national finals, they often are in serious trouble and their team often cannot compensate for them at the highest levels of competition.

    But in my memory there has never been a team without a player in its rotation that did not eventually run into a mismatch. What separates the great teams from the not so great teams is can their great players compensate for that mismatch. This is why it was always wrong to site Brady as the problem with those teams. And that is why it wrong to site Naa as the problem with this team. If Frank Mason really were decisively net better than Naa in making the team reach its potential, Frank would already be playing most of the PT. The same was true of Brady. Self had to have understood and judged that Brady’s limitations were easier to compensate for than Travis’s or EJ’s in their early stages of development.

    The key to this team is NOT Naadir Tharpe’s limitations. They are a given. The key is Selden, and Wiggins and Embiid’s (an now perhaps Tarik’s) abilities to compensate for Naa’s shortcomings. And clearly, so far, Selden and Wiggins are struggling mightily in compensating for Naa once the competition at their own positions begins to tax them even a little.

    Always the fault of losing, just as the virtue of winning, comes down to your best players. The best players have to be able to do what needs to be done, when the lesser players can’t do it. And this is why great players are not just great talents. Great talents are ante to the game of building “winning teams”, but the great talents must possess competitive greatness sufficient to compensate for their less talented teammates, or their is no “great team.”

    Embiid, Selden, and Wiggins are the only guys on this team with every game MUA and so they are the ones that have to compensate for Naa, and for Perry, who is playing out of position at the 4, if this team is to achieve greatness.

    Embiid, Selden and Wiggins have to make up for the nights when the bench can’t bring it, not the other way around.

    By definition lesser players are glue that hold the team together.

    By definition, the most talented players have to make great plays and make great compensations.

    Naa should not be held responsible for the short comings of these three great players.

    They have to step up, when Naa, and Perry, cannot, or else they are not great players.

    I am always quick to point out that Michael Jordan is not the greatest player to ever play the game. Bill Russell was by every team statistic. Wilt was by every individual statistic. But Michael Jordan was the greatest 2-3 player that ever lived, because when he put his mind to compensating for his perimeter teammates, there was no one else that ever came close to being able to tip the balance always to his team down the stretch of any game. That is why he is the gold standard in what perimeter players need to aim for.

    Selden and Wiggins need to watch some tapes of Michael.

    Embiid needs to watch some tapes of Russell.

    Then they need to go out and save Naa and Perry every time they need saving.

    Rock Chalk!!!

  • @jaybate 1.0 Excellent summation of less talented players.

    one has to play (forgive the metaphor stacking) at the edge of one’s envelope in order to look good. Any fall off from the emotional edge needed to be at one’s best leaves a player with lesser talent looking indifferent, or bad.

    The talented players may have off games, but they consistently out perform the others even when they appear to be cruising. Tharpe may be smart in recognizing his limitations and plays safe. And the team has multiple talented players who can carry the load, so he only need to be the facilitator. On the other hand, Coach Self probably recognize what you and HEM noticed and so he plays Mason along side of Tharpe or even Mason alone at length to push the speed.

    Great analysis from both of you.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Had to give you a fav on that post!

    You’ve, once again, brought a solid basketball knowledge prospective in your post!

    Basically, I agree with all your points. I do give credit to Staten, however, for being THE best driving PG in college basketball today. That doesn’t mean I totally excuse any of our perimeter guys for not being able to shut him down.

    This game illustrates just how important it is to be able to stop penetration from the perimeter. Look at the foul trouble we faced yesterday! How many of those fouls came about because of their guard penetration?

    I don’t know… but I think I have to go back to RRob when thinking back to the last time we had a PG who could defend the drive.

    I’m really starting to believe that our coaching staff doesn’t know how to teach defense on stopping the drive.

    I never see our guards hedge the drive… NEVER! It seems like we don’t even scout other teams’ perimeter players. Yesterday was a perfect example. Staten has one of the fastest first steps in college basketball, but even better, he has the absolute best lateral change of direction I’ve seen in many years, maybe ever! Okay… we know that. So why didn’t we do more to stop it? Especially since we know that Staten isn’t a good 3pt shooter! He also doesn’t have one of the best crossover dribbles either. Knowing this information should help us decide how to play him… but it didn’t! We didn’t play him right!

    The way our guards played him yesterday it wouldn’t matter if we have TRele or any of the premiere NBA guards yesterday… all of those guys would have been burned by Staten if they didn’t hedge him right.

    Playing good defense to stop the drive starts with hedging. And you learn how to hedge a player by first studying the scouting report. A big reason why Travis Releford was so good at lock down was because of the work he put in before every game. He would always study his obvious assignment and then study the other team’s most-prolific scorer because he knew he may be required to switch up on him at some point. Travis would then plan his hedge and all aspects of defending that particular player.

    We have none of that going on today. Half of Staten’s game could have been prevented by proper hedging. Force him into a dribble crossover… force him to use the weaker aspects of his game.

    Tharpe never hedges a drive. He hands the driving lane right over to the ball handler. What a shame, because Tharpe is fast, and he’ll never be known as a quality defender until he learns the hedge.

    It appears that no one on this coaching staff understands this or surely they would be teaching it.

  • @drgnslayr I agree with you slayr about how Tharpe should be planning on how to defend an elite point guard like Staten, and the coaching staff should be giving him suggestions as well. If they are, you really cant tell.

    I know that a lot of you talk about Tharpe’s shortcomings and what he doesn’t do well. But I think that an equal amount of attention should be paid to the things that he does well - he might be our best shooter and is capable of getting 12 assists in a game. Could he push more in transition? Yes. But I will blame Self on that one for not instructing him to do so. Now, is his defense suspect? Yes. Is it correctable? Yes. It is not something that we should worry about too much. There are very few point guards out there that are equal to Staten and we probably would not face one until the Final Four, if they do make it that far.

    There have been games where Tharpe has shown the ability to play above average defense. If he can somehow do that with more consistency, the team becomes better.

    The only criticism that I will ever provide for Tharpe is that he doesn’t move the ball enough, and it was very apparent yesterday. The best way to beat a zone is by ball movement. There have also been times where Perry will catch the ball in the corner and holds it and waits. When he catches it there, he has to pass it out fairly quickly.

    I have noticed that this team not only needs more ball movement, but also lacks guys that attack the lane and then pass out. They need to put pressure on the defense and collapse it, thereby providing open outside shots. I feel like not much improvement has been made in this area, but I am hoping that Self can figure this out before the tournament.

  • Best pass yesterday…Selden is double teamed and with two WVU players all over him manages to thread a pass to a wide open Perry Ellis under the basket for an uncontested dunk. NICE.

  • @DinarHawk

    “The best way to beat a zone is by ball movement.”

    Good point. We still freak out when teams use a perimeter pinch. We don’t attack those situations.

    That’s a practice issue. We should be exposing a 1-3-1 with backdoor slam lobs and other easy picking attacks. Instead, our guards often play defensive. The first mistake they often make is to turn their body away from the basket on those pinches. Instead, They need to go in attack mode. That means a combination of some strong pivots to establish some spacing, and then step through the pinch gaps to pass (or sometimes dribble). With today’s abundance of foul calls there is no way we should be getting beat in these pinches with the quality of athletes we have. They should be in attack mode and know how to draw fouls if teams are pressing in too tight. Just stay away from the sidelines and then our other players need to be hustling with movement to create opportunities.

    WVU is not a good defensive team. There were huge gaps and holes in their 1-3-1. And we never tested it enough to know if they knew how to bring responsive weak side help.

    We just don’t understand (as a team) that perimeter pinches and defenses like a 1-3-1 are OPPORTUNITIES TO ATTACK!

    We need to get this team to break out of this “laid back” team concept.


  • @drgnslayr-I also respectively would add that we do not have the same assistant coaches we had when Joe D, Curtis & Danny were making their pre game scouting analyses & reports either.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    “4. Running the fastbreak: This is perhaps my biggest frustration with Tharpe.”

    Me, too! I can’t believe it when we finally push the ball in the open court and Tharpe brings it all the way to the paint then stops… then maybe pivots and throws the pass out to the wing. Every time he does that he is letting the defense off the hook.

    Tharpe has the talent and athleticism to take it right to the defender in the paint. If he hasn’t learned to create scoring space then he needs a crash course in doing so. In most of those cases where he takes the ball right into the paint he should be taking it to the rim. Then, at the last second force the body contact (90% of the time it will draw the foul) and then score because you know exactly what scoring space you need.

    Maybe he should watch tape of vanVleet for WSU. That guy is short and less athletic than Tharpe but he makes the most of his drives.

    Another thing Tharpe could improve on (and the entire team… especially our quickest players, like Wiggins). The second we secure the defensive rebound our quick guys needs to sprint down the court. At least half the time they will create a scoring opportunity in the open court if they do it. In the least, Wiggins should be out on the break because he is deadly in the open court! Maybe Tharpe stays back to help secure the ball. Selden is a capable finisher, too.

    Just imagine what this team could do in March if the lightbulb would go off in their heads?

    So far, we haven’t even reached half our potential.

    I know, I know… I expect a lot… especially out of kids. I was a kid once and I didn’t reach half of my potential then either!

    It is what it is… and we’ll get what we get in March. I’m just trying to enjoy the ride… regardless of our final destination!

  • Jaybate: No issues with your defending Tharpe or Brady. I personally loved how Brady proved people wrong…but I’d still rather have B.Rush or Chalmers or Wiggins, as those guys provided on the other end. BStar was a spot up shooter, good at kick-out 3 att. My issue with Tharpe is he doesnt seem to have fast-feet, or defensive instincts to the level of past defensive standouts at KU. Ive seen Connor Frankamp have better defensive instincts (steals) than Tharpe does, in just the miniscule mpg Frankamp has gotten. This is my only beef with Tharpe’s game–I really like Naa overall. Overall he is a net positive. Just like Tyshawn had BAD A:T % for his career, but he was a huge net-positive.

    Some guys can play defense, others just cant.

    Cant be too critical of Wiggins and Selden, either, as they are becoming defensive stoppers right in front of us, as FROSH (!!), which is ultra-rare for Self frosh. Man, its been 9yrs (2005) since we saw frosh Rush. 2004 since RussRob was a frosh! Here is why Selden+Wiggins is better than Brady + Reed (or Tharpe): They have length and freak athleticism…and especially as frosh have used that to MASK less-than-perfect defensive technique. Its the results. And their offensive contributions that trump BStar. Selden and Mason were the only “men” vs. TX… BStar was a no-sho for VCU, right when we needed him/someone the most, but that wasnt his role to be the goto guy, eventhough he dropped 25pts on Richmond 2 nights before.

    Wiggins personally switched onto Jabari Parker in the Duke game on the biggest stage (MadisonSqGarden), and essentially shut him down, and actually is the one who fouled him out. Wiggins is a STAR on both ends of the court.

    Selden is the highest ranked glue we’ve had (not named Wiggins, of course, because Wiggs is busy doing all sorts of glue-like things). Selden already is equalling Junior-level Travis Releford, the best wing KU had since Rush. But to be fair to Releford, he really didnt get much of a chance til his jr. season.

    Let me summarize in a way I never have before: I want what Self strives so hard for–> Get the highest ranked athletes you can find with all-around skill, and make them do all the little things on both ends of the court. That is SelfBall in a nutshell. Brady played because EJ was not capable of beating Brady’s all-around net-positive…But if Self had a Selden or Wiggins back then in 2009, Brady wouldnt have played. Same reason AW3 cannot see mpg: better guys in front of him, including Greene, just slightly (because quicker, more accurate shooter).

  • I guess another way to state this defensive thing is 2 key needed prerequisites: Instinct. Footspeed.

    Simplest way I can put it is in competetive terms: Since I still play fullcourt pickup ball, often times against guys aged 16-25…and even with youth, they either have the instincts or they dont. And you almost cant teach fast-twitch feet. I know which ones I can crossover-dribble out of their shoes, and which ones I cannot. You size up a player, ya know? I saw some raw tools in Anrio Adams (physically) defensively (& offensively). I see alot of swagger from Tharpe offensively, but he has some missing ingredients defensively. He stripped Angel Rodriguez 1 time last year…and he stole it back from Smart 1 time this year. Cant say as I remember other steals (they are that few…). I dont know how to build something in someone when they lack some of the key bldg blocks?

  • @HighEliteMajor I have to say one of my highlights today was reading your alter ego obliterate a certain hysterical lefty on the kusports boards. I know it’s not hard to do considering the toaster level of IQ you were dealing with. I thought about hopping on and getting in a few shots myself, but reasoned that your words were more than adequate to vanquish the mental midget. I enjoyed every word.

  • I read all of the discussion here today and all of it was a great read. I am impressed with Tharpe’s progress, but my point on this is just whether he’s bumped against a ceiling. @jaybate pointed out his belief that the key to this team is not Tharpe’s limitations. I guess I’d agree. But I do think it is a major limiting factor. Areas of the game, like the fastbreak, that @drgnslayr and @globaljaybird expanded up … would be tailor made for this team’s skill set.

    @Wishawk may have nailed it – perhaps Tharpe is just a master now of playing within his limitations. Not trying to be something he is not.

    It is kind of funny about the short leg thing. I completely forgot that. Literally one of @jaybate’s first posts after seeing Tharpe was related to his short legs. That was probably one of my favorite observations – you won’t see that in the LJW or KC Star.

    As @AsadZ said, Tharpe can hold up fairly well on D. It’s the higher level guys that expose him as slayr said. High level guys expose a lot of folks. But Tharpe is just way out of his league in that situation. And freaking Staten is one of those guys. It’s a different level.

    What I find really interesting is @icthawkfan316’s Anrio Adams mention – what if Self had handed the backup PG keys to Adams last December and committed to him? He had the tools to be an elite defender. But Self does seem to have made the right call there.

    @KUSTEVE - Thanks. I feel like Michael in Godfather III over there … just when I’m out, they pull me back in. A couple guys over there just lack any sense and civility. But some are really trying. It’s just not the same. It’s one level of discussion there, and a much higher level here.

  • @ralster: I would rather have 5star, or OAD point guard than either near Towson PG Frank Mason, or Deandre-bait Naadir Tharpe. My preferred PG would MSU’s PG, or boeheim’s guy, if I have to settle short. I would rather have had Marcus Teague than Tyshawn, after I saw them head to head. And I surely would have preferred DRose to RR, Sherron and Chalmers. But since most teams cannot fill all five slots with the best guys at every position the deciding factor almost always is: can your great players meet, or beat their great players, AND AT THE SAME TIME compensate for your weak links. When you have an incomparable defender like Rush he can compensate even when Chalmers and Julian run into guys they cannot handle, which both ran into. Another example was the Florida team with at slow footed trey gunner that Taurean, Horford and Noah triangulated to cover for all the way to two straight rings…

    My point remains: in basketball, you are not as strong as your weakest link, rather, you are as strong as your strong links’ abilities to compensate for your weak links. The better your weak links are the less there is to compensate for. Tharpe may be the toughest compensation problem Self has faced, because he is a weak link at PG, but the guys last year compensated for EJ with one knee most of the season; so Embiid, Selden and Wiggins should have the talent, if not the skill this season to compensate for Tharpe AND Mason. Tough job , but great players can do it.

  • You know what’s great is that @Jaybate doesn’t have to break the expositions into parts on this site! There seems to be no character limit for a submission. So we get the writing the way it was intended by the author.

    Another round of applause for @approxinfinity ! (…and to @HEM, @Jaybate, @drgnslayr and others for the deep posts)

  • @jaybate 1.0 I have been reading all year, but have not registered until today. The phrase “furiously committed Trappist monks” made me do it. That describes the team in a nutshell, with the possible exception of Tarik Black, who is rapidly becoming my favorite player.

  • @lincase: Great to hear from you and glad you weighed in. We are making this up as we go and I am no longer first string here. I am glue back up to ralster, HEM, slayr, global, konkey, ict, bskeet, approx, JayhawkFanToo, et al. I am just trying to leave what little I have left on the threads. slayr and HEM carried the board on their backs for several months and global and lulu glued. I finally threw off my medically-induced rouge smoking jacket a couple months ago and started limping around in the paint here with my keyboard in a mind-boot, while the rest of them kept rim ramming over my head. I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for helping me through my difficult stretch. As did you, I kept reading while I was not posting. But bottom line, without Approx and Bskeet stringing this instrument, slayr and HEM would not have been able to tune it for the rest of us to play on and you and I would not have gotten the chance to come late to the ongoing scrimmage. Hope you keep reading and writing as the spirit of the living myth moves you. Rock Chalk!

    P.S.: Jesse Newell moved to the and does does his live blog of games there as a duo with Ben Ward and Kevin Haskins occasionally, plus Jesse writes a lot of column inches of high quality pre-game and post-game QA that you really can’t get elsewhere. A number of board rats here, but by no means most, go there to chat most games. There are also a bunch of other familiar names from Newell’s old live blog. Newell reached out to the board members here, which I respected. He gets interactivity. He gets the quantitative aspect of the game better than almost anyone outside of those running stat web sites full time, plus he has frequent access to the greatest coach in the game today, which is something even the full time quants running the stat web sites lack. So: JNew is in a unique position to blend QA of the pro quants with access to the games greatest coach today, to gain insights into KU basketball that cannot be got elsewhere. He valves what he gets in both stories and in games on the blog. Ask him a question, and while savvy enough not to shoot himself in the foot, he is apt to tell you what he can and apt to say “I don’t know” if he doesn’t." This makes his work data rich, insightful, and as close to REAL TIME news as the sports internet is currently capable of delivering for KU hoops lovers. Really, others do live blogs, and others do stats, and others have access to coaches, but he is the only one stop shopping willing to reach out to sports fans and connect doing all of the above. His work is really the only thing new under the sun in sports reporting and broadcasting in the internet age that I have found. And like all new things in mosh pit of internet sports journalism, it needs calling attention to, or it will be missed and not supported. I try to beat the drum for what Newell does, because: a) I like the insight QA enables into the human accomplishments and sacrifices coaches and players make; b) I like there him being a triple threat (Self access, Q&A/strategy, humanity); and c) I was young once and surrounded by a status quo that resisted the obvious innovations young men are put on this earth to make. I can’t do much for him at my age given my amateur status, but I can at least call attention to it here and there. Every pro jour no has to eat and JNew cannot keep providing the QA and strategy and straight shooting unless people click and read him. So: click on his stories every day, if you can. Every click helps. And, no, I am no relation to him, nor have I ever met him. I am not knocking other pro journos either. Everyone covering the Jayhawks seems to be doing a good job. But JNew is trying something new that needs some love. If we don’t give it to him, he will have to fall in line with the others doing meat and potatoes of status quo sports journalism: game summary, PR stories, HumInt, man bites dog click stimulators, etc. All the pro journos want to write more substantial stuff, but their media strategists and their market research tells them that least common denominator sells. And it does. But in the internet age, there are market niches, too. And these market niches can be grown, just as sports journalism was once a market inch of mainstream journalism that was grown into it own large thing over time. Most things are sensitively dependent on initial conditions. Support JNew now, and you will support the concept of his triple threat reporting and the bough will be bent the right way. In the long run, it will make sports journalism grow richer and more interactive for the owners of media, for the pro journos, for the mass readership (what little of it remains during the great disaggregation of reader markets we are witnessing), and for the online communities of sports fans. As always, I am for everyone winning when it comes to economics. Rock Chalk!

  • @bskeet–copy and paste. And thanks for collecting the headlines and for what your write, too.

  • @jaybate 1.0-We all thank you for the kindest of compliments… But the consensus remains-you have always been & will always be FIRST string! A short stint on the DL only reinforced our need for your superior athleticism on the boards. Is true, with the initiative, skills, & perseverance of approx, bskeet, dslayr, HEM, Julian, JAyhawkfanToo, we have been able to regroup our squad as the fan community we began as, only with greater vision & insights from the vast lands that KUBB captures. We’ve literally clever & insightful contributors around the globe, Canada & Asia, and the entire US., and we are also receiving the “meat & potatoes” from the inside the flock via a savvy JNew & his effective & experienced journalism prowess from cjonline. But in reference to your analogy with respect to him, I would add that we’ve once again received the glaze for the spuds from the kitchen of KUBB, and we’re ever grateful for it. Again, thank you jb, from all of us.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    “We are making this up as we go and I am no longer first string here.”

    You are right… there is no string. You’re just first!

  • @icthawkfan316 A lot of fans are complaining about Tharpe’s shortcomings. I ask them one question? What would be our record without Tharpe?

    I saw below from Jesse Newell Blog today that summarizes Tharpe’s contribution to this team:

    Stat of the Day

    “Win share” is an advanced statistic on that attempts to measure how many wins a player contributes to his team through his offensive and defensive contributions. In KU’s 10 Big 12 games, the team leader in win share is not Wiggins (1.3), Embiid (0.9) or Perry Ellis (1.2) … instead it’s Naadir Tharpe at 1.5. In conference play, Tharpe has made 63 percent of his 2s (19 of 30), 51 percent of his 3s (18 of 35) and 88 percent of his free throws (21 of 24).

    Let us enjoy the ride with what we have in our point guard.

  • @AsadZ In short, I can’t definitively answer that question. I would need to know the circumstances, and even then it would be speculative at best. Would it be worse if suddenly Tharpe would have transferred at the beginning of the season? Almost certainly, as we’d have had to go with frosh Mason full-time, backed up presumably by frosh Frankamp. The other scenario there is Self uses Selden as his back-up PG, which is actually something I wouldn’t mind seeing. Regardless, our record would probably be worse. If we were without Tharpe because, in the situation I referenced, Anrio Adams beat him out for back-up PG duties last year and thus Adams was here this year…impossible to say. Adams was a wild card. If given those minutes, would his attitude have improved? Would he have been driven to improve certain aspects of his game? Would he mesh with this year’s team? As I said in my post, I’m inclined to believe the right decision was made, but the reality is we’ll never know how things would have played out differently.

    But to your point, I would agree that he has been excellent in Big 12 play…on the offensive end. Consider those percentages that you posted. Naadir has been THAT good shooting the ball, and is only .2 better than Wiggins. Granted, I don’t know the formula this win share uses so maybe that .2 means he has been leaps and bounds better than everyone else, or maybe it doesn’t really capture just how much better a guy like Wiggins has been on the defensive end so the stat is crap. I don’t know. My only point was agreeing with HEM that defensively, we’re probably not going to see much improvement. And I stand by that. Doesn’t mean I’m not impressed with his shooting or think he’s done a poor job. If I was going to grade him, I’d give him a B.

  • @AsadZ

    I don’t think most people in here are trying to bag on Tharpe. The criticism is meant to be constructive. I’ve put up lots of advice for Tharpe… but I wouldn’t want to be without him!

    I do, however, think we need to have a better balance in here of compliments-to-criticisms. That very reason is why I started the FLOOR BURN AWARD. To create a tool on here for complimenting players. The idea is that I get the ball rolling and others help out with their own player compliments below in the thread.

    There is a good chance Tharpe will play an important part of a victory tonight! If so… why not come on the FLOOR BURN page and post some UPs for Tharpe?

    We should all look for ways to lift the confidence of this team and players.

  • @AsadZ - My point was not to bag on Tharpe, more to just analyze what we have and hit on some areas that Tharpe is perhaps lacking. A discussion point. I appreciate your point of view on Tharpe. I do believe that Mason is a better point guard than Tharpe if shooting were removed from the equation. But his shooting a huge deal for this team, and that “if” is like saying that Kansas would be just another basketball program if it didn’t have all that history. The shooting is maybe the most important add that this team has experienced since it’s Nov/Dec travails. I am perfectly content with our two headed monster. And really, every player south of Lebron has his flaws.

    But then you had to go and say “enjoy the ride” …

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