Adjustments I'd like to see Self make for OSU and going forward without Embiid

  • Adjustments I’d like to see Self make for OSU and going forward without Embiid:

    The question that’s on everyone’s mind, or at least should be, will be answered around 4pm this afternoon. Was the WVU game last Saturday an aberration, or was it the true KU-sans-Embiid exposed? My take is neither, but that doesn’t mean changes won’t have to be made. As @HighEliteMajor and others have pointed out, Self, as talented as he is, is about as flexible as a 2-ton i-beam. But if Holly Rowe’s tweet is true, and this team is breaking huddles with a shout of ‘National Champs’, then Coach Self no longer has the luxury of intransigence. The only thing really keeping this team from being the best offensive force in the country is turnovers (we’re ranked #5 by despite giving up the ball on 19.1% of our possessions), but on the defensive end of things, we’re considerably less strong. Embiid’s role in this, and this should be no surprise given his Big 12 DPOY status, has been bailing out KU’s porous perimeter defense with his mere presence, not to mention high block rate (11.5%, which ranks 26th nationally). Without JoJo, however, we’re considerably more vulnerable in the paint, as Juwan Staten made painfully clear to us. It’s not that we don’t have a good post defender alternative. Tarik Black is actually very good defensively. He’s got great length and strength so as not to be pushed around by post players of any size. Unfortunately, he can’t be relied upon to stay out of foul trouble, even if, often times, those fouls are unwarranted. Jamari Traylor and Justin Wesley are too foul prone too, but for real. They both tend to either set illegal screens on the offensive end, or play with their hands too much on D. Perry Ellis usually gets criticized for being too slow defensively. I don’t think that’s really the case either, he just isn’t a good help defender most of the time. He has a tendency to rotate too late, meaning a lack of recognition, not quickness. Lucas, for his part, is an odd kind of tweener. He’s neither strong enough for his size to hold his ground in the post against big bigs, nor is he quick and agile enough to use his length to simply bother shots. I think he could be either of these things, but he needs to make a decision on what kind of player he wants to be and work with Hudy to adjust his size accordingly during the off season. In the meantime, the best we can hope for out of him as that he does a good job of maintaining verticality and just not being a net negative. Okay. So that’s what we’re up against. How do we thread the needle? We’ve got lots of options, but here are the ones I think will work both specifically for this game, and for NCAA tournament games as well:

    1. Naadir is off-point: If there’s one glaringly obvious adjustment that needs to be made based on Saturday’s performance by Naa, it’s that he shouldn’t be trusted to be the primary defender on most point guards. This includes Marcus Smart, as well as anyone else he’ll face for the remainder of the year. When he’s locked in, he can do a decent job of containing smaller pgs off the bounce, but savvier and quicker guards will simply blow by him too often, and muscle ballers, like Smart, will simply bully him and post him up, especially without JoJo’s no-nos. For all of the grief we give Tharpe, though, he can be a good defender when used properly. In last year’s Big12 tournament, Tharpe was assigned to guard KSU star Rodney McGruder and did a really good job of it. McGruder, of course, was a catch and shoot guy that liked to come off multiple screens. Isn’t that Phil Forte minus 5”? Tharpe’s assignment vs WVU should have been Eron Harris (who only takes 24% of his shots at the rim, and 50% of his shots from beyond the arc), not Staten. Harris gets assisted on 75% of his made 3 pointers, which is the definition of a catch and shoot guy. Tharpe can be called upon to chase guys into the paint, and for a non-driver like Harris or Forte, that’s a net positive, versus a net negative against the Statens and Smarts of the world.

    2. Small ball: I don’t think we should be a small ball team all of the time, but for certain matchups it’s warranted. OSU is one of those matchups. They’re already playing pseudo-small ball, as Le’bryan Nash is an undersized, face-up 4, or a 3 without a J, depending on how you look at it. Point is, he likes to drive to the rim to score his points, thus, he should be defended more like a slasher than like a big. We have the right kind of guards to defend an undersized 4, and given how hard it’s been to come by, I’m sure Braennen Greene and Andrew White, especially, would appreciate the playing time. Both of these guys is solid enough to contain Nash on the drive, and each is a good enough shooter to help punish OSU for double teaming Black or Ellis in the post. Like I said, I wouldn’t make small ball the default like Good Ol’ Roy did last year, but there are going to be games ahead where that look will be the best (KSU and ISU, if we get past OSU).

    3. The Kansas Break: Although I’d never wish that we return Roy Williams over Coach Self, I actually think this year, both coaches would probably be happier with the other’s team. When UNC has been impressive, it’s been because of impressive defense. Offensively, they aren’t even a top 50 team, but defensively, they’re considerably ahead of KU and have played a strong schedule too. Offensively, KU is top 5, and Andrew Wiggins is probably the best transition finisher in the country. It’s probably too late to teach the Kansas Break proper to this group, but Self still needs to find more ways to get his team into transition more often. We aren’t a great half court team, so we should be attacking the rim within the first 10 seconds or so of the shot clock. We’re also not a great passing team, and while I have hope for this group moving forward, especially if Wayne Selden returns (as he should), part of the reason we have so many TOs is because we have a weak passing team playing Selfball (ie, passing around the perimeter in the half court). Are there principals of the secondary break that can be worked in for this group?

    4. Zone: Okay, everybody and their mother has brought up zone defense as a way to keep Black out of foul trouble and keep guards out of the paint, and everyone has an opinion about which zone. Self has tried 3-2 and it’s been pretty horrendous. I’ve seen 2-3 proposed (I wanna say this was Jesse Newell), as well as 1-3-1 by our own HEM. I favor triangle-and-2, and here’s why: The 3-2 has been awful for a few reasons: 1) Tharpe/Mason/Frankamp is too small to be in the front cornder of this zone. I get the temptation to try Wigs out at the top with his quickness and gaudy wingspan, but we don’t have a third guard long enough to complete the sort of front you need to run a 3-2 zone unless you have Selden play point on the other end. So far, that hasn’t happened. 2) The Perry Ellis problem. Just as he tends to be slow to react as a help defender he doesn’t anticipate well on the perimeter and the 3-2 requires him to work from the perimeter and short corners more. 3) The 3-2 doesn’t protect Black, as the 2 are the primary defenders of drivers at the short corners. 1-3-1 could work with Black in the middle, but that one makes me feel especially queasy about rebounding, plus that makes Perry a big liability as, being slow to help, he’s also liable to be slow to trap and rotate as the sole baseline defender. I suppose you could put Wigs down there… I’m just not sure. @HighEliteMajor , I’m hoping you can scheme this one up for me, cause I really can’t wrap my mind around it with our current personnel. That brings us to the triangle-and-2. My reasons for favoring this are that we can still protect Black by having him as the man in the middle, but we can also maximize Wiggins’ on ball prowess, while being able to hide Tharpe, or at least, to mitigate the blow by factor. Tharpe can either be part of the man-to-man team and work on containing a shooter, or he can be put on the wing if we’re facing a poor shooter there, allowing Selden to be a man-to-man defender. But having said all of that, don’t try to zone OSU, or any other small ball team with 2 shooters. They have Forte, so there’s a natural role for Tharpe to play, and each of Ellis, Black, and Traylor can take turns guarding Kamari Murphy. We don’t need a true second big for Nash, so just man them up and go to work.

    That’s what I’ve got for now. Whatever happens, I believe in the team that we have even without Embiid. We’ll find out what they’re made of this afternoon. RCJHGOKU!

  • Excellent content in your post!

    What about a 1-2-2? With Wiggins out on point? Then we always keep 2 bigs in the game, and Wiggins sinks in when they make a pass to the interior around the FT line. Also… this is one of the better defensive rebounding sets, and once in a while we could send Wiggins down court for a breakaway. If we can get a few of those, suddenly our opponents guards have a harder time focusing on hitting 3s when they know they have to be ready for a Wiggins breakaway. One more thing… when working right, this defense gives decent coverage against the long ball.

    I like the 1-3-1, but it is easy to attack on the baseline. It may be the best way to protect Black from fouls, however.

    I like the triangle-and-two but it seems vulnerable to the long ball, and we often get beat by the long ball in March. It would be a nice D to throw at teams here and there, just to keep them guessing.

  • We used to run a junk zone D out of a 2-3, when playing a taller post player. When the ball went into the corner the man on the block would run out to cover him while the guard up top slid down to front the post player and have the center back him.

    We forced a lot of TOs that way, cause guys would see the post as open and make a week pass and our guards would come down to front quickly to get the steal. That or once the post player had it he was already doubled.

    We were a man 2 man team that liked to press a lot but we threw some junk D’s in there from time to time to mess with people.

  • @drgnslayr I don’t love the 1-2-2 for the same reasons I don’t like 3-2, chiefly that it exposes Black. That said, Black acquitted himself quite well today, so who knows.

    More generally rating the game, I think Self adjusted well. He played Tharpe off point defensively (which was no surprise cause he did the same thing in Stillwater, but I hope he keeps it up against ISU) and, although he didn’t go small ball per se, we did get a lot of the same effect with the mobility of Traylor and Ellis on the floor at the same time. Zoning ISU is probably both out of the question and unnecessary. They’ve got shooters all over the floor and they play small, so let’s just embrace, or at least, that’s what I say. If we get past ISU, any of Texas, Baylor or WVU would give us a chance to work on zoning most of a game or throwing it in. The Way Baylor’s playing at the moment, they might just be the ones to emerge, and they’re probably the hardest remaining matchup. Can’t wait to watch this play out.

  • @konkeyDong

    Baylor played well for while but almost got caught at the end. Their biggest weakness is Scott Drew; he is our ace in the hole.

  • @konkeyDong Just go this thread this morning. Great analysis.

    You are correct. The 1-3-1 is tricky with our personnel precisely because of Ellis. Traylor would really be the perfect baseline big with our personnel. With our entirely healthy crew, Ellis on the baseline is not as difficult because Embiid is in the middle.

    Tharpe up top, Wiggins/Selden on wings, Black in the middle, and Ellis on the baseline. You could flop Black and Ellis I suppose. But that would be conventional.

    But I like the idea of putting Wiggins on the baseline and Ellis on a wing. Ellis is the weak link in any defense no matter how we set it up. Wiggins is long and active, and would always get help from the doubling post man in the middle.

    With our personnel, I may favor @drgnslayr 's idea of the 1-2-2 but that defense has the most vulnerability in the middle from a top set, on penetration, and on quick reversal (my opinion).

    Here’s an example on ball reversal – ball on left wing, quick rotation to the top of key, then to right wing, and post flasher from left block to the middle. With the 1-2-2, there isn’t a guy that is “normally” in that spot. With a 1-3-1, there is. It just seems easier to get inside a 1-2-2 than other zone defenses in my opinion.

    In every zone defense, there is exposure though. The 1-3-1 is of course exposed on the baseline more when the ball is up top as @drgnslayr pointed out. Once the ball goes to a wing, the 1-3-1 flattens and looks a lot like a 2-3, thus why that is a preferred method of attacking the 1-3-1 if you don’t have time to prepare. Most teams prep against 2-3 looks. So if you move the ball to the wing initially, you start your set that way as you flatten the 1-3-1 and get the same look as you prepped against. The key there is trapping to try to take that option away.

    Against a 1-3-1, the baseline risk is more exposed because the second line of three defenders tend to creep up. That’s where practice come in.

    On zones, if it’s not practiced well it will be porous. And I doubt we practice it very much at all.

  • The greatest challenge for this KU team is whether or not they can get stops when they need them, regardless of what defense they are in.

    They have not demonstrated that they can consistently force missed shots and get rebounds without Embiid patrolling the middle. There will come a moment in the NCAA tournament where they absolutely have to have a stop, and I am not sure they can get it right now. That’s what scares me most.

    So the adjustment needed. Our three best defenders are Wiggins, Black and Selden. Wiggins goes on the best guy the other team has, unless its a post player. Selden goes on the next best perimeter guy. Black has the duty in the post. Traylor plays when Black sits, unless the team has a lot of size, in which case we are depending on Landen Lucas since we really aren’t that big without Embiid.

    The rotation has to avoid having both Wiggins and Selden on the bench together. We just aren’t good enough defensively without one of them on the floor. Thankfully, the NCAA tournament offers lots of long TV timeouts, so Wiggins, Selden and others can go 35+ minutes if necessary.

    Really, we are at the point where I don’t want the rotation to go much past 7 guys - Tharpe, Selden, Wiggins, Ellis, Black, Mason, Traylor - with maybe Brannen Greene playing some spot minutes here and there. Just too weak on the defensive end the further down the bench we go, and without Embiid to hide that, we just can’t afford those lapses from guys like Greene and White.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t see a place in the rotation for Frankamp during the tournament. Now, maybe he has one half like Spike Albrecht did in the national title game last year. That would be incredible. But I just don’t see him playing regularly the rest of this season.

    As for zone, I fear that ship has sailed. As @HighEliteMajor said, we just don’t practice it enough to break it out right now. I wouldn’t want to run it for more than a few minutes in a game - 5 at most - and would really want to only use it for a couple of possessions as a gimmick more than anything.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    “In every zone defense, there is exposure though. The 1-3-1 is of course exposed on the baseline more when the ball is up top as @drgnslayr pointed out. Once the ball goes to a wing, the 1-3-1 flattens and looks a lot like a 2-3, thus why that is a preferred method of attacking the 1-3-1 if you don’t have time to prepare. Most teams prep against 2-3 looks. So if you move the ball to the wing initially, you start your set that way as you flatten the 1-3-1 and get the same look as you prepped against. The key there is trapping to try to take that option away.”

    That deserves repeating… very solid information!

    I agree… the weakness in that 1-2-2 is in the middle. That is where I am hoping Andrew (and his athleticism) can stretch cover that area a bit. At least make it impossible for someone with their back to the rim to be effective… The key is to make it hard to feed… and with Andrew on top and two up high on the perimeter, we should make it tough.

    Running any kind of zone requires defenders to not only guard space, but making passing difficult. Our guys need to have their arms extended and swinging… and know how to hedge passing lanes. We need more of that happening, regardless of what defense we are playing. We don’t challenge passing lanes enough to play good, disruptive defense.

    Our biggest challenge on defense is learning how to hedge. Everything on d should involve hedging, as our defenders try to force action away from certain areas of attack, whether it be driving or passing lanes. We just don’t understand and use hedging properly. Hedging is one of the main tools you use after scouting a team (and players) properly.

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