A One and a Two and a Three and a Four...

  • I’m an old guy. I remember so many great dance duos… Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a ballroom pair that brought romance alive through their graceful steps and subtle gestures. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lisa Rinehart, partners on the stage of ballet and in real life, masters of the pirouette.

    And now the new pair of high steppers, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid!

    Andrew and Joel have received plenty of attention this year. Their potential on the basketball court has brought on crowds of onlookers. Just about everyone has decided they will become top lottery picks in the next NBA draft.

    Until the last few games, they seemed to be unrelated high-flying stars whose flight patterns rarely crossed. Then, suddenly, the pair seem to find each other in the sky, amongst all the shining stars. A new dance combination has formed.

    A one and a two and a three and a four…

    A one… Andrew has the ball out on the wing and passes into Joel… and a two… Joel draws in the double-team into the post… and a three… Joel passes back to Andrew at the 3-pt line… and a four… Andrew takes the wide open 3-pt shot for an easy score!

    The new dance pair performed this easy choreography in front of a packed house in Lawrence yesterday, and their easy steps, spinning moves and high-flying acrobatics led to a masterful 3-pt play! The simplicity, ease, execution and final result showed us all that this dance pair needs to stay dancing together. There needs to be an encore performance on a regular basis from now on until April.

    Our classic questions have been answered.

    Q. How will we win another National Championship in April?

    A. We’ll succeed by winning all our games in March.

    Q. How will we win all our games in March?

    A. We’ll win all our games by outscoring all our opponents.

    Q. How will we outscore all our opponents?

    A. By bringing the two best players in college basketball closer together to form a successful dance duo.

    Let’s face it. We can score from all 5 positions on the court. But sometimes, we don’t score enough points to win the game. Playing good defense helps… a lot. But regardless of what we do on defense, we can always win by playing more efficiently on offense, too. This dance duo is about becoming more efficient on offense.

    By choreographing the play of Andrew and Joel, we create a constant easy scoring opportunity on offense. When Joel has the ball in the post, he becomes a deadly scorer. Joel makes 62.5% of his shots! With that proficiency, it becomes difficult for the Jayhawks to lose if Joel gets many shot attempts in the paint. Our opposition knows that, so they do what they can to limit Joel’s shot numbers in the paint. How do they do that? By double-teaming Joel in the post. And when Joel is doubled in the post, that means someone else is open. What if we do what we can to make sure Andrew is the guy that is open? What if we make sure it is Andrew’s man that must help out on the squeeze of Embiid? Or… what if we make sure Andrew is standing in the area where the zone defender has to go pinch Joel?

    And when Andrew gets in the paint with the ball, he gets doubled. Often it is Joel’s man who has to help out. Then who is guarding Joel?

    We can study any defense… it doesn’t matter what kind of defense comes at us, as long as we identify what it is and where the defenders are. Our dance combo can perform a cha-cha for easy baskets!

    These two players are our most-prolific scorers. It would be a crime if we don’t promote them feeding off of each other. In the Texas game, when Andrew fed Joel in the post, Joel was doubled and threw back to Andrew for the wide open 3, it was beauty, it was perfection. And it was the start of the next Fred and Ginger!

  • Makes me slobber all over myself thinking what next year could be if Wiggy and Joel stayed and Alexander the Great joining them. Excuse me while I go get a towel to wipe up the drool and return to reality.

  • @drgnslayr

    Which begs the question, which one is Fred and which one is Ginger? Keep ion mind that Fred was great but Ginger did everything he did backwards…and in high heels.

  • I think the key to Kansas making a deep run in March is their defense. Since HCBS arrived in Lawrence, KU has regularly been top 10 in opponent field goal percentage. This season, opponents are shooting about 41% against Kansas which ranks 61st nationally and scoring 69.1 points per game which ranks 132nd. I’m not sure that Ellis will ever be a great defender, but a healthy Embiid can mask some of Perry’s defensive shortcomings. Tharpe, Selden, and Wiggins are all capable of being elite defenders and can get better. This team can and should get better defensively.

    Offensively, Kansas is the most efficient team in the country in terms of field goal %. They shoot the ball at 50.3% per game, which ranks 1st nationally. Only one other team in the country is shooting over 50% from the field and that would be American, who is facing some less than stout defenses in the Patriot League. Kansas is also scoring 79.7 points per game which ranks 20th nationally. I’m not sure Kansas can improve a ton offensively, except in terms of taking care of the ball. They still turn the ball over 13.1 times per game, which is down from earlier in the season, but still ranks 249th nationally.

    I don’t think I’m old enough to understand these references by the way. Who are Fred and Ginger?

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Joel is Ginger… Imagine a 7’ 250 lb Ginger!


    I agree… but it doesn’t mean we don’t exploit obvious opportunities on offense. Traditionally, Selfball is about defense… but we don’t know if this team will ever match some of the teams he has had. Even though we always stress defense, it could be offense’s turn to win a NC. I don’t want to emphasize that… but it could be!

    Fred and Ginger were stars of the silver screen through song and dance. Movies like “Top Hat” and “Swing Time” (in the '30s). I’m not that old, but their films are timeless!

  • @drgnslayr

    I think behind the metaphor, this is an especially penetrating insight and next step; at least on a par with your tempo insight prior to UT.

    Many people forget that the real point of playing the hi-lo beyond its relative simplicity and capacity for being used as the same offense for m2m and zone defenses, is that it enables a variety of two, or 3 man interplays, depending on what match ups make optimal.

    There has been a tendency, especially on my part, but I also think on Self’s part, too, to sit around and wring hands and try to hold on for Embiid and Perry to form a two man offensive tandem of the kind we have seen with Cole and Marcus, Marcus and Kieff, and to lesser extent with TRob and Jeff and Jeff and Kevin. But looking to replicate past patterns, while it can point one to successful formulas, can often blind one to what is currently feasible.

    For whatever reason, Perry and Joel are not a good offensive interplay. This is not unusual either with a particularly talented footer. Jabbar often paired best with a 3, or 2, in college. I am recalling Lefty Lynn Shackleford corner long ball game and the marvelous Lucious Allen’s ability to do almost anything at the 2. People mistakenly think that Jabbar and Mike Warren were the down the middle strengths of that team. But in fact, the offensive interplay was really about the triangle of Jabbar, Shackleford in the corner and Allen on that same wing, and Warren distributing to that interplay. The 4 on Jabbar’s college teams was often not a scorer. He was a garbage man 4 rather like what Marcus Morris played his freshman season for Cole.

    Bill Walton had a similar dynamic. It was Silk Wilkes that Bill played off of, not the 4, even though they had some good 4s during Walton’s years.

    To go back not quite so far, Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler interplayed quite a bit.

    This 2 man and 3 man interplay–what slayr rightly calls a dance duet–is at the heart of offensive basketball. It is what drove the old USC coach, Sam something or other, to develop the triple post, and that lead Tex Winter to perfect it and change the name to the triangle. It is at the heart of all offenses, but some offenses can get so focused on ball movement and others on screening that they forget that basketball is really a game of a man with the ball and one or two guys configured one pass away moving to get free for a bucket. It is this way out on the driveway with kids. It is this way on the play ground with pals from your hood vs. guys from other hoods, and it is this way all the way to the NBA Finals.

    Two, or 3 offensive players in close proximity create a gravitational force on a court that tips the floor in their direction and forces the entire defense to hedge against it. This invariably stresses a defense, when you put 2, or 3, great players in immediate scoring position. When one of your great players is two passes away, any defense has a chance to react to ball reversal. But putting your biggest threats within one pass spells relentless “DANGER” to a defense. No resting in that part of the court. It is like DEFCON1 at Cheyenne Mountain.

    A further benefit of tilting play to your best threats is that it really does open it up for your lesser players that may still be dead eyes from certain spots when open.

    KU’s 2008 team was actually kind of a freak this way. They really did spread the scoring around. They really were all threats to score and keeping the ball sticking really did bring all five guys into being threats.

    But most NCAA champions are not like that 2008 team. Most of them play through 2 or 3 guys most of the time and let the gravitation of doing so open up two others for just occasional daggers.

    It is okay if Perry and Joel are not the high steppers.

    It is okay if Joel and Wigs start playing some two man sets.

    It is better than okay. It is yet another offensive dimension and maybe the best one to add to this team now.

    Self is usually ahead of us on these moves, or thinking of about the same thing at the same time.

    I think Self got a little too hooked on how much fire power he had and got too focused on keeping the forces all spread out to let the athleticism blossom in the open spaces, seams, or what geometers call the interstices.

    Maybe what we need here for a few games is a bit of Bill Walton and Keith Wilkes being moderated by whomever Wooden had at point; i.e., a bit of Joel and Andrew moderated by Tharpe, with Perry and Selden being these two monster talents experiencing the joys of wide open looks.

    I like it, slayr. Sign me up.

  • @drgnslayr I agree, and maybe this team’s identity is their offense. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t improve on the defensive side of the ball too. I’ve seen less athletic and smaller Self teams play much better defense than what this team is playing.

    I haven’t seen those movies. I’ll have to watch them some time, lol.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    Excellent reply.

    I don’t see Perry connecting with anyone. He’s a bit of an enigma. It is his own doing. His history of working so hard on his game… alone… I’d bet he has spent more time practicing his game than probably any two players we have. That has helped him build one of the best toolboxes in college basketball, but perhaps at the cost of developing synergies. At tmes he has been a great scorer inside, but he’ll never become one of our best hi/lo players because he doesn’t build synergy with other players. Perry has long been one of my favorite players, going back to HS… but as we see more of his game he exposes more weak areas. I hope he is able to overcome these areas so he can one day become a big time NBA player!

    Andrew is such a force because he can bomb the 3, he can nail the mid-range shot, he can drive the paint, and he can score from underneath the basket. He can do it all… and he draws fouls like rotting flesh draws flies. And finally, he can nail FTs!

    So he can score from anywhere on the floor and on any player. That is beyond rare! He needs to become a leech on the back of Embiid and feast on all those easy scoring opportunities.

    This is the easiest way to create a whole bunch of shots for Andrew. And it is an easy way to start releasing some of the doubling pressure on Joel in the post.

    It is something we need to establish, and something that is so unique that teams can’t really scout and prepare for well enough because they don’t have that kind of talent to mimic our game.

    And since we can score from all 5 positions… if we establish the connection of this duo we help the other 3 scorers out by relieving pressure off of them. Perry then goes completely off the radar and should open for back doors, etc. Wayne remains a 3-pt threat and an option… same for Naa.

    And the better teams guard against the Andrew/Joel combo, the more Naa, Wayne and Perry are open to score!

    This is called a “mid-season tweak” and so often these tweaks play a key role in determining the next national champion! It’s the hottest team at the end that wins it all, and the hot teams always have key tweaks that give them the edge in March.

  • Interesting post Dragon.

    I asked this question last night on Jesse’s live blog (Jaybate, where you been?) but no one really bit.

    How does Joel rank among our best passing big men? I go back to the mid '80s so I’m not qualified to discuss anyone before then.

    I would rank Danny as our best ever. Although we liked his scoring, he could pass and that was a reason why many compared him to Magic Johnson when he was playing in college.

    I would rank Joel as next. His acumen for passing is unreal for someone as inexperienced as he is.

    After him, I really don’t know who to add to the list. Any ideas?

  • @wissoxfan83

    Had to go on the road for awhile and scheduling put me in the air during the last two games. Hopefully, no more of that! But as Vail said elsewhere, KU’s defense seemed to improve with out me. 😃

  • @brooksmd

    People said Noah and Horford would never come back to win a second ring for Florida.

    Nothing is written.

    Improbable yes.

    Written no.

  • @KirkIsMyHinrich

    Keep in mind that the new contact rules have increased scoring all around; however, the better conferences have better scorers so the scoring has probably gone up more in the stronger conferences. Maybe a better indicator would be the point differential between points scored and point allowed???

    As I mentioned before, some of this season’s records should and will likely have asterisks next to them.

  • @drgnslayr

    I am not sure I am ready to see Joel in a ballroom gown…in high heels. 🙂

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