"Fool's Gold vs Bill Self"

  • Thousands of words have been written in here about Bill Self’s relationship with the 3-point shot. There has always been something about the trey that has turned off Self. We’ve heard him complain that our guys go soft on defense because they are focusing too much on living (and dying) by the trey.

    Jesse Newell posted a fascinating article that exposes how fortunate Kansas has been in Big 12 play because our opponents are not hitting wide open treys at the same rate they do against other Big 12 opponents. Some like to call this “luck” and therefore Kansas has been “lucky.”

    Jesse mentions that we shouldn’t take our opponent’s “trey coldness” for granted moving forward. The warning flags are out. But I’m not sure this trend will change during Big 12 play, though I easily see us losing another game or two by facing a “hot team” in conference play.

    I believe, what is carrying Kansas through another challenging Big 12 season on top is our reputation. Go back and watch the early part of our victory at the “Sherronagon.” We got out fast and the Wildcats seemed to get called out by Fran Fraschilla. He commented that KSU actually “wanted it too badly.” Fran called this one right. And WHY would KSU want it too badly? Is it just because we are rivals? I don’t think so. I think our record-breaking conference streak not only impacts the way Kansas plays, but also the way our opponents play. Let’s face it… Bruce Weber has a bit of an inferiority complex against Kansas and Bill Self. He has followed in Bill’s shadows for a big part of his career and his results against Bill is not good. When seeing it throughout the history of KU vs KSU during the Self-era it appears that our reputation precedes us. Not only do the Wildcats feel like they are going to lose to us in every game, they bring an added stress to their games, especially their home games, because they fear defeat and looking bad, especially in Manhattan.

    When I think of the Big 12 in this light, I feel like certain teams seem to help us stretch our conference streak to the point where they should be recognized for all the help they give us. Top of this list are two teams; KSU and Baylor… while other teams are close behind… ISU and Texas. We do pretty well against other Texas teams, but I just don’t see our relationship being as tight with these other schools. Oklahoma has Lon Kruger. He’s stomached many losses to us, going back to his days as a player at KSU, but he’s crossed over this hurdle. OSU seems to get a bump from it being Bill’s old alma mater.

    Even though Jesse has the warning flags out, I’m not sure we will see a big difference moving forward in Big 12 play. What worries me is March. In March, we play teams that simply don’t know us. Some may get caught up in the “Kansas is so great” history of our program, while other teams have a mindset focused on playing the kind of basketball that got them into the tournament in the first place. These teams pose the biggest threat of sending us home too early by an upset loss.

    Kenpom writes about trey efficiency… and his conclusion is that most of the time, defense is not the driving factor on “trey hotness” as much as the offense just executing a high percentage. There are a few teams that seem to have an impact on their opponent’s trey results. Teams like Kentucky, Arizona and Baylor.

    I see college basketball as being driven almost entirely by the “trey hotness” of each team. Look at the Shockers last overtime loss at Temple. The Shocks missed 14 of their last 15 trey shots. Look at how we pulled away from KSU on Monday. We pulled away with our trey heat in the beginning and created enough buffer that KSU couldn’t put long enough streaks together to really come back. And we did this while turning the ball over at a high percentage.

    So moving forward, most of our development is based around the idea of making us execute better on defense and offense. Both help our overall chances of winning games. But this developmental strategy doesn’t address possible games where we face a hot trey team and are fighting to keep up with them on the scoreboard. Shouldn’t we put some focus strictly on how we can better prevent that from happening?

    Even though Kenpom implies that defenses don’t impact trey hotness like we think they do, I’m not buying into the idea that we can’t develop strategies to deal with teams that get hot behind the line against us.

    All of this better helps me understand Self’s frustration with the trey shot (in general). The trey puts a factor in games which is hard to control, regardless how good our team is and how we are playing.



  • @drgnslayr I read the article. It doesn’t bode well for my Final Four dream.

  • @drgnslayr Jesse often writes about the real 3pt defense is more about limiting opportunities. I think he got this from Kenpom but I can’t remember. Thinking about it that way, the way to win in those “trey hotness” games is to simply limit the attempts. 7-10 is better for a defense than 12-20 even with the percentage drop on more attempts. I would argue there is also some merit in the defense being able to control WHO takes the treys and WHERE they take them from. Teams show this against KU all the time, daring Garrett to shoot the long ball, trying (and usually failing) to keep Svi from his favorite corner. This could also lead into some of KU’s Big 12 success v. March results. Self and co. know the rest of the league so well, both the sets and the personnel, we end up getting better results than average in league.

  • March is a different animal because there’s no real home court advantage. Even if the crowd is 70% for one team or another, that’s much different than coming into AFH on a night in February. The crowd is usually 95% one way or another - you’re at home or on the road for most of the season. In March, the arena could be 50% one team, but the rest of the building is either for the other team, or completely disinterested in the current game (or empty seats). This happens a lot in the Round of 32 because fans of teams that were upset in the first round may attend just because they have tickets (or may attend only as college fans in that town while their favorite team was sent to another location).

    It’s a weird atmosphere because the “buzz” that usually surrounds a game isn’t always there, particularly if the game before or after is a better matchup (two rivals, or two strong programs) or the previous game was a real thriller (went into OT or ended on a buzzer beater).

    It’s a hard atmosphere to prepare for because it is different than even the early season games. For instance, the Champions Classic is a neutral site, but the fans are UK, Duke, KU and Michigan State exclusively. Maybe a few people from the city that the game is hosted in attend, but mostly its fans of the teams participating. Same with the other pre-season tournaments, because everyone knows who is playing months in advance.

    Add to that the fact that underdogs get to play loose in March. If you’re a double digit seed, you have nothing to lose. There’s zero pressure because if you get blown out, nobody will remember, but if you stay in the game, even if you lose, people will talk about the “scare” you gave Hoops Blueblood U for the rest of the day. In conference play that doesn’t exist because while KSU isn’t as good as KU, there’s a lot at stake for KSU. They badly need a good win for their own tournament resume.

    For a lot of lower seeded teams, making the tournament is in itself a success for the program. That’s why you see the smaller conference tournaments often result in these wild, spontaneous celebrations. Getting to the tournament is its own success for those programs, regardless of whether or not they win a game. Beating a team like KU is just icing on the cake.

    For even the midlevel seeds, winning more than one game is usually a huge accomplishment. For KU though, losing in the Round of 32 or even the Sweet 16 is a disappointment. The pressure shifts to the higher seed until the Elite Eight, unless a double digit seed makes it that far. Otherwise, the thought of adding a win over Kansas to an already successful season (NCAA tournament birth, tourney win are already in the bag by then) is just a bonus. There’s no pressure. You can play free and take risks.

  • @justanotherfan

    March games are played in big venues… often HUGE venues.

    I’ve always thought it is harder to get hot from trey in these bigger venues. Sure… it happens. But it seems to be harder. The goal seems further away and smaller.

    I bet there is stats out there on this. If you know of a good link, please post it.

    I’m trying to think… are we better off or worse off… playing in huge venues?

    What do you think?

  • @drgnslayr Tyshawn was horrible shooting in big arenas until his Sr. Year. I don’t know of anyone on this current team that had such huge splits.

  • dylans said:

    @drgnslayr Tyshawn was horrible shooting in big arenas until his Sr. Year. I don’t know of anyone on this current team that had such huge splits.

    Nobody on the current team has played a game in a dome. The NCAA quit using domes prior to the Final Four a few years back. Lucas Oil in Indy in 2020 is the only domed stadium prior to Final Four in the next 4 years.

  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”–Sun Tzu

    “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”–Sun Tzu

    “Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.”–Sun Tzu

    “Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.”–Sun Tzu

    “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.” --Sun Tzu

    “The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”–Sun Tzu ( Phog Allen’s philosophy)

    Quickness is the essence of the war."–Sun Tzu (John Wooden’s philosophy)

    “He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”–Sun Tzu

    “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” --Sun Tzu

    “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” --Sun Tzu (Believe.)

    “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” --Sun Tzu (this is Bill Self’s philosophy)

    “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” --Sun Tzu (the single most under-appreciated maxim of Sun Tzu and what Marine Corp officers mastered during WWII)

    “You have to believe in yourself. ” --Sun Tzu (Swagger)

    “Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him.”–Sun Tzu (the key to Self Defense)

    “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.” --Sun Tzu (how Self Defense moves enemies)

    Show me another coach that seems to grasp and walk the talk of Sun Tzu as much as Bill Self and I will show you another Hall of Fame Coach.

    I wrote some about us lucking out and running into a series of cold teams back when the streak was only three.

    But…it is not all luck.

    Here are the factors I count that enable this to be more than just luck:

    1.) Mystique–I agree with you that KU’s Self Era Legend is potent. We are old enough to recall UCLA’s Mystique. The UCLA mystique beat most teams the last five years of Wooden’s national title binge before the game started. There is a similar effect in the Big 12. Teams in the Big 12 understand that if its close at the end, you are likely to lose. Thus, if Self can keep his team under 10 the last ten, KU wins. New coaches fare better against Self for a couple years, because they are not trapped by the mystique yet. They make their players believe they can win and the newcomer coaches usually do win once early before Self figures them out and the mystique does the rest. The mystique means little in the March Carny, where apparent seeding and whistle biases never let the mystique develop. Nevertheless enemies beaten before taking the field shoot less well once they take the field. KEN POM does not measure this at all.

    2.) Self Defense–KU plays defense at a different level than most other teams with athletes selected for their ability to play the team defense Self uses. It ALWAYS plays team defense first. It contests EVERY shot. It forces everyone center. Its starts offense from defense. No one plays that is not willing to play team defense for stops from which to start the offense. No one. Self recruits players with character and swagger precisely because they do not lose confidence playing from behind with team defense. These players tend to guard as well from behind, as with leads. They tend to shoot as well from behind, as with leads. Then Self combines these players with these characteristics and physical abilities into a rigorous team defensive philosophy to degrees most other coaches do not do. None of the above shows up in KENPOM’s efforts to isolate defensive variables and so KENPOM is not measuring what KU does to lower opponent’s 3pts shooting percentages. Teams can and do have good shooting nights against KU from trey, but everything has to go just right for them to transcend the KU team defense. What I notice about KU opponents is that KU sees the same hot trey games from opponents, but Self defense seems to cut back on the middling trey ball nights. Opponents seem to have a lot of their really sub par nights against KU. Why? I can’t say for sure. But Self’s team defense schemes simply strangle off teams on anything but their run away hot nights. Most teams don’t see this kind of defense very often, same as most teams don’t see WVU’s press. Over a long season, both forms of defense yield great advantages to KU and WVU respectively. They always win more close games than they lose. They tend to win the games they are supposed to win. They even steal some they shot poorly. They still lose the ones when the opponent is firey hot and KU is cold. Team defense is very hard on outside shooting over 40 minutes. Outside shooting efficiency tanks with uncertainty, fatigue, frustration, and too much thinking–all the things KENPOM does not measure–all the things great team defense routinely triggers in an opponent.

    3.) Defensive Steering–As noted in the quotes above, Sun Tzu said great defense is about steering an opponent where you want him, rather than reacting and stopping him from trying to do what he wants. To do this effectively, one must mask ones intentions. Self is a master at this. I have played a game over the years of anticipating how Self will defend a particular opponent. I am almost always wrong, except in the broadest of terms. I notice that almost everyone else is too. Steering is VERY hard on all shooting efficiency including 3 point efficiency. It is just a statistical reality that persons shoot lower and higher percentages from different locations on the floor. Wooden measured and quantified this early on. Self apparently decided that shooting in congested areas compounded the problem. Both Wooden’s and Self’s defenses, different thought they were, were steering defenses intended to funnelI defenders into low percentage shooting areas. Its also hard to shoot well when you are unsure where and when the shot will come. Its just a fact that Self’s defensive strategies and tactics are hard to read and recognize and almost impossible to anticipate with specificity for longer than brief periods of games. This seems to impair efficiency shooting by opponents. KenPom does not track defensive steering that I know of.

    4.) Adjustment–Even harder to guess than what steering he will start with is how he will “adjust” steering at half time. This shows up game after game, when we see opposing coaches guess completely wrong about the adjustments he will a make. He is sick when it comes to being unpredictable about second half defensive adjustments. And in recent years he has become just as sick in his offensive adjustments at the start of the second half.

    Statistics are only when they are measuring the decisive drivers of a phenomenon.

    I have not studied KENPOM closely for a few years, but last I checked 4 years back, these factors would not have been being explicitly, and confidently accounted for, or else I flat missed them.

  • I honestly think stats mean less nowadays than they ever have before. Shooting is such a huge part of the game and has been for the last several years. Until a someone can actuately predict when players will be hot or cold I don’t bye into it. How many times has KU played against a team that had player hit 2 or 3 three point shots that hasn’t all year. Hell Rico Gathers hit a fade away 3, first of career on us a couple of years ago. If a team is even athleticly they have a shot to win IMO.

  • @drgnslayr I didn’t properly answer the question you posed. I think KU feeds off of the crowd more than most teams. KU is used to playing in front of large crowds home and away all year long. The away crowds are loud trying to energize the home team, but it gets KU going too. The Allen Fieldhouse crowd is fantastic and really knows how to get Kansas going! But you start to see it in the Sprint Center when the crowd is further away and the students aren’t there to pump youthful energy into the crowd. This lack of energy and a split crowd (some March fans don’t even have a horse in the race) really shows up in the tournament. And I think our guys suffer for it. Many if not most teams including all midmajors have played in front of a 1/2 full house at some time with little to no crowd noise, not KU. This dead crowd leads to a lack of energy and urgency. KU gains the advantage the louder the crowd as the other team usually gets stars in their eyes while Kansas executes.

    Not an excuse just an observation.

  • I think Bill is waiting to go zone until the 2nd weekend in March or perhaps if we struggle our second game. I think he’s done showing it the rest of this season if he can help it. It’s his ace up his sleeve right now.

    The zone is the only thing that I’ve seen this team do well defensively.

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