Our Best Chance To Win Six Games

  • How do we best attack the NCAA tournament? What is our best chance to win 6 games?

    1. Coach Self relies upon strong man to man defense as his philosophical center point. This season, the team’s defensive inadequacies threaten that philosophy.

    2. This team is now ranked 189th in points per game allowed. That has gone up since we lost Embiid, but even with Embiid, our points per game allowed ranking was significantly more than normal – 51, 35, 69, 62, 106, and 21 in past years, with the #21 being the title season.

    3. Coach Self made the decision to continue to try to make this team a good man to man team, even when all signs early on pointed to personnel issues impeding that progress.

    4. As a few pointed out after Atlantis – this team would have been better off shifting to zone as its base defense, given personnel attributes and limitations. That was my position.

    5. Self commented on Hawk talk that he considered that, but felt focusing on getting better at man to man was the best choice.

    6. We now have a pretty horrific defensive team by comparison, magnified by the loss of Embiid. This team is not going to magically become good defensively. Tharpe and Ellis are too big of liabilities, and Traylor just can’t guard skilled post men. That’s ½ of the six players that usually play big minutes.

    7. The comments about a “hot shooting team” in ISU are a bogus diversion. There are hot shooting teams in the NCAA tourney. We have lost 9 games now. We got beat vs. WVU. ISU just beat us. At some point, we have to stop making tailored excuses for each loss. This is a macro issue. We can’t guard.

    8. With this team now, there is probably no way that we can competently shift to zone defense. It’s too late. Late November, sure. Now, only as a change up.

    9. As I mentioned before the tournament, we have to find a different way to win, and focus on a potent offensive lineup; caring less about how we match up defensively. It’s not that you don’t care at all about defense. Rather, defensive issues are not the focus.

    10. We need only look to UNC and our beloved coach Roy for guidance. He has won with poor defensive teams. In Roy’s 2005 title season, UNC ranked 203rd at 70.3 ppg. In his 2009 title season, UNC ranked 272nd in ppg, 72.0. He won be focusing on the type of approach I’m suggesting. We are quite familiar with coach Roy windmilling his arm to get his teams to move down the court quickly.

    11. There is a specific method to playing this way – play urgently, push the ball, shoot early in the shot clock, don’t worry as much about turnovers, increase possessions (which make each turnover mean less), take some risks on defense, use pressing and pressure regularly, constantly attack, and structure your personnel for scoring. On a made basket, have the closest guy to the ball immediately inbound the ball and then go.

    12. A staple of Self’s system is working to get a good shot. You see three point shooters, except really for Wiggins, turn down three point looks early in the shot clock (or face a quick benching). If the shot clock gets below 10 and you haven’t shot, the approach I’m suggesting might send someone to the bench.

    13. As part of this approach, we should focus highly on Wiggins with the ball in his hands. If he scores 50, so be it. We don’t need to share the ball. Set up situations to isolate both Wiggins and Ellis. Self really doesn’t do this, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

    14. Another part of this approach would be to implement Mason’s attacking style more often, and when Greene is in, give him the green light to just shoot the three. Permit Selden and Tharpe to gun away, away as well. But when you do this, guys down low are not necessarily only looking for the ball. They are looking to gain position to rebound. It’s a subtle but important item.

    15. Playing small is a of course an option, but not a necessity. It’s match up by match up in how we can simply outscore the opponent. Part of that is actively spreading out the defense and posting up our non-post players as match ups dictate.

    16. Most of this runs directly counter to coach Self’s guiding philosophies. But we are likely unable to switch to an effective zone defense at this point.

    17. Do we want to win, or do we want to follow a specific philosophy? Most of the time, coach Self’s philosophy equals winning. But this season, our defense isn’t up to par. To win the NCAA tournament, the status quo isn’t going to do it.

    18. Many folks want to give coach Self a complete pass and blame the players. For example, a lot of disdain for Tharpe’s and Ellis’ defense. But as a coach, you have to adjust to what you have. They aren’t changing now. Do you continue to beat your head against the wall, or do you put your team in the best position to win in spite of their deficiencies.

    19. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and coaches many times are resistant to change. They got where they are by doing it their way. They win their way. They are arrogant. But it is that arrogance that many times limits their ability to recognize when they do need to adapt and change. It is a common flaw in leadership in all walks of life.

    20. The question is then, what are the chances that this team will win the national championship doing things the same way we have been doing them this season? If your answer is “remote” then we have to change. There is no doubt. Change is risky. But risk is how greatness is achieved. My humble opinion is that the above method is our best opportunity. And if Embiid returns, so do options for coach Self.

    Rock Chalk!

  • @HighEliteMajor it depends so much on match ups. I for one, pray for Shocker mania to meet Rock Chalk chants in elite eight. Epic.

  • @HighEliteMajor - May I please insert a new #1?

    I’d say it should be


  • @HighEliteMajor The only problem with your argument is that they are capable of playing top notch defense as evidenced by the OSU game on Thursday. They have also improved to 28th nationally in defensive efficiency.

    I don’t like the talk about winning a championship with offense. You have to have intensity on both sides of the court. I believe they have the ability to do this.

  • @DinarHawk respectfully, I’m not sure if we’re watching the same games. This is a horrible defensive team. Not just horrible – horrific. You suggest that they are capable of playing well on defense and you cite the OSU game Thursday.

    Have they played good defensive games for 6 games in a row? 5? 4? or even 2 in a row? More importantly have they demonstrated solid defense for any stretch against tournament quality teams? It’s like saying that Tharpe has been terrific at the point guard spot because he scored 22 against Baylor on Feb. 4 or 19 points against OU on Feb. 24. We can select certain bits and pieces to support any case probably – but the weight of the evidence is strongly to the contrary.

    I offer to you Exhibit A – a 189 rank in points allowed. We have to outscore opponents to win. That’s a pretty basic requirement. And we’re giving up a lot of points.

    My point is that if you want to rely on this defense to win a national championship – 6 games in a row, you will be sadly disappointed.

    Who seriously believes that this team, playing this way, can do that? Since March 1, we lost at OSU, lost at WVU, barely beat OSU (in overtime), and lost to ISU. Right, we beat non-tourney team Texas Tech at home.

    I understand that you may not want to talk about winning a championship with offense, but if we don’t focus our efforts on more scoring, there will be no championship to focus on.

    More evidence, in the past 10 years, here are the points per game ranks of national champions:

    -Louisville: #15

    -Kentucky: #23

    -UConn: #90

    -Duke: #22

    -UNC: #272

    -KU: #21

    -Florida: #38

    -Florida: #49

    -UNC: #203

    -UConn: #51

    See what stands out? The only team to win a national championship in the last 10 years with a defensive PPG ranking worse than 100 was UNC – twice.

    It would thus make sense with our #189 rank to play like UNC did.

  • Let’s hope for favorable match ups. If they put us as the 2 in Wichita State’s bracket, as Lunardi has projected (and I don’t like Lunardi), with something similar to the teams he’s penciled in there, I’d feel pretty good about our chances to survive past the round of 16, and not totally hopeless about a Final 4 run with something less than a healthy Embiid.


  • @HighEliteMajor

    Number can be use in many ways and perhaps we need to add some context to yours.

    The new contact rules have increased scoring has been more pronounced in the big conferences with better players that take advantage of the new rule. The overall increase is about 6 points overall, and likely larger in the top conferences

    KU is playing in the strongest conference and the competition is better day in and day out andit is expected that score would go higher.

    KU has played the toughest non-conference schedule in 20 years, it is only natural that the stronger opposition would score more points.

    If you look at the overall conference defensive scoring ranking, KU is #6 and when you look at the conference only games KU goes to #5. The scoring defense has gone up for conference play for all conference when compared to the non-conference schedule; KU’s has stayed about the same Please note that the #1 team is Texas Tech, whose slow tempo game obviously results in lower scoring games and it is only just over 2 point better than KU. Now, the difference between #5 KU and #2 KSU is 0.8 points or a total of about 14 points over the 18 game conference schedule.

    If you look at the defense shooting percentage ranking, KU is #3 in the conference; however if you compare the shooting percent defense against last year’s numbers you will see that the percentage has gone up for every team in the conference, no doubt a result of the rules and playing a strong conference.

    KU is #1 in scoring and scoring differential and it is almost 6 points better than second place Oklahoma. The scoring differential for KU is better this year than last year.

    As I indicated at the beginning of the season, the statistics for this year should have an asterisk next to them as it would not be fair to compare them against previous years.

    Teams like KU that played tough man to man defense were penalized more so than other teams, as they had to learn to play a softer, less “lock down” defense. As I mentioned before, lock down defenders like Releford, rush, RussRob and Mario, playing with same intensity would have fouled out in the first half under the current rules; charging fouls are hardy ever called.

    No question that the defense is not as good as what we expect from Self Coached teams, but when you look in context and compare it to other conference teams, it is not that bad either; perhaps inconsistent is the best way to describe this year’s edition.

    I am not saying that your conclusions are wrong and mine are right or the other way around; they are just different opinions viewed from different perspectives that presents facts in different lights and the concussions are not wildly different but somewhat different.

    I can see your points, maybe you can see mine as well.

  • @JayHawkFanToo great points! The new interpretation of rules has certainly changed the game this year, and I don’t like it!

  • As per latest bracketology, teams that KU played are ranked as follows

    No. 1 seed -1 Florida

    No.2 seed - 2 Duke, Villanova

    No.3 Seed - 1 ISU (3 games)

    No.4 Seed - 1 SDSU

    No.6 Seed - 2 New Mexico, Okllahoma (2 games)

    No.7 Seed - 2 Baylor (2 games), Texas (2 games)

    No.8 Seed- 1 OSU (2 games)

    No.9 Seed - 1 KSU (2 games)

    No.10 Seed - 1 Colorado

    This adds to 19 games against teams going to the NCAA Tournament

    Compare to the Wichita Sate Schedule

    No.7 Seed - 1 St. Louis.

    No.11 Seed - 2 BYU (Last four in group), Tennessee (last four byes group)

    This adds to 3 games against teams going to the NCAA Tournament, 2 of them borderline teams that might yet be bounced.

    Huge difference, wouldn’t you agree?

  • @JayHawkFanToo Important to note that Colorado’s season would likely have been much better (resulting in a higher seed) had Spencer Dinwiddie not gone down mid-way through their season.

    And yeah, after hanging their hat all year on that St. Louis win, it sure doesn’t look so great now!

  • @JayHawkFanToo love it, soon we will find out.

  • @icthawkfan316

    Like I often say, when you put thing in context, the image changes big time. You are absolutely right, St. Louis has the wheel coming off at the worst possible time; the computer ranking will likely drop WSU even more.

  • @JayHawkFanToo do we 3 despise shockers? Or Marshall, I should say!!!

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    I will be rooting for WSU all the way until they play KU. Marshall has gone out of his way to alienate KU fans. I am not saying he should defer to KU, but purposely antagonizing its fans is not a good idea.

  • @JayHawkFanToo Gregg Marshall processes and preserves Anger in pint jars. Spreads it on his toast early mornings.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I, too, will root for the Shockers. If we can’t pull together and grind our way into the Elite 8 I hope to see WSU plow once again to the Final 4. That said, I would love to watch the Jayhawks derail them in that Elite 8 contest. What an event for the Wiggins family…and for Perry and Conner, each with his Wichita heritage and former fan base.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Just a super effort at thinking through restringing the fiddle. I was thinking along these lines when I posted before OSU that we needed to go to an attack and transition game with lots of emphasis on secondary breaks, but you broke it down much better and gave it a comprehensible frame with Roy Ball that I fell far short of doing.

    After OSU, it seemed Self found a way to keep on with his strategy by asking players to play better and by finding tactics to play better within his strategy. Versus ISU, coming off asking them to play better and them responding, there seemed no more emotional " play better" reservoir to ask again for. With no off day, there was no off day to scheme special tactics.

    My heart and head are with your approach, and I believe he is stretching your direction by turning Wigs and Ellis loose to take and make as often as possible. Andrew shot 21 times and Ellis 12. He also seems to be stretching the offensive spacing to let all the players try to impact 1 on 1 more; this seems why assists by most individual players have fallen. Self seems to be reducing TOs by stopping asking them to run complicated set plays (except lobs) and saying go get a basket. More players are attacking the glass too, which keeps us net positive on rebounds, but leaves fewer breaks.

    What I am suggesting is: he is not restringing as you and I might prefer, but rather retuning. I suspect we will see more play and opponent specific scheming like we saw against OSU from here on and less let them labor as against WVU and ISU.

    The team has no trey shooting. See current stats. Wigs and Selden are terrible at it. Tharpe’s slump and finger dislocation mean he can’t hit. This makes big man scoring very tough. Jamari was even being doubled opponents have to guard our trey bAllers so little.

    The team cannot handle much offensive complexity or they bake pop tarts.

    Their scorers don’t like contact. Their contact players don’t score much.

    The defense can be very good, or very bad.

    The team shows flashes of greatness for one game then can’t guard the next.

    The team seems not quite baked.

    But Wiggins and Ellis are coming alive. Get Selden untracked and add Embiid and they are world beaters again.

    If no Embiid, add a pinch more scheming.

    Bake three more days, then let rest two days.

    Win two in 3.

    Ice with Embiid.

    Serve piping hot.


    (Note: the soufflé could fall without Embiid and Self sounds less and less confident about his return.)

  • @HighEliteMajor You really have thought this through and in theory it sounds like it could work. But I can’t see Self doing anything like that. Call it belief in your system, stubbornness, or whatever. Of course none of us knows what he really thinks, but I believe he will try to continue to prod a better defensive effort / performance from this team, scrape by into the sweet 16 and hope for Embiid’s return. He knows that is the only way we win even 4 games…at least without doing something like you have suggested. I have been continually frustrated by Tharpe’s defense. Why can’t he stay in front of his man more? Is it effort? I don’t think he’s that slow, is he? Same for Ellis. I was also going to comment that I thought Traylor’s defense wasn’t as bad as you said. Then I saw a highlight of one of Niang’s baskets and Traylor just stood there in front of him…it was probably late when we had obviously “given up”,…but still it was bad.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Great contextualization of defense.


    Now more foreground.

    No 40% trey shootists in rotation.

    Limited rim protection sans Embiid.

    Add contextualization on following.

    Effect of rule changes and SOS on 3pt shooting?

    Effect of rule changes and SOS on importance of rim protection?

    Not trick questions, just lobs.


  • I am definitely glass half empty on this team right now. I just don’t see how we can scratch together even 4 wins, let alone 6. I know, we can be inspired by our 11 loss champs in 1988, but they were rolling coming into the tourney (despite a conference tourney loss).

    I just wrote this over on another thread. Our SOS is only beneficial to a point if we win those games. Otherwise losses to tough teams causes negative vibes.

    As for Wichita, I’d assume their SOS was similar a year ago, and well a quick fact check shows they were beating the National Champs in the final four by 11 in the 2nd half, so maybe, as tough as it is for some you to admit it, they might just be really good.

  • I am not a pessimist, not am I an optimist of this team, what I am is a realist.

    I don’t see it as half empty or half full, I see it for what it is. Sometimes it’s terrible and others its great. Makes for a helluva roller coaster ride, but I see this team has what it takes to win 6. It has what it takes to dominate. And yet it could still implode in the second game.

    Frustrating? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes. All in all this team is fun to watch for about 90% of the time, the other 10% has a mixed bag of feelings attached.

  • @wissoxfan83 Only 34 games into the season and I still can’t figure out if they are really good, or if they ARE good, but got that way from playing weak teams, honing their skills and convincing themselves that they are good.

    I don’t care about SOS’s, OAD’s or any other acronyms, once you get that swagger you can beat anyone, because you will be convinced that you are better than them and play like it.

    I’m so frustrated this year, and I wish I had your optimism that we can win 4 games. Right now it’s hard for me to picture winning more than one. Time will tell.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I would first say that I used defensive ranking, as opposed to comparing points allowed over the years, because each year is different. So our ranking is relative – everyone is dealing with the same officiating, generally.

    Second, stating that teams with lock down defenders – hard nosed man to man – would have fouled out, is a good point. You say that “tough” man to man teams get penalize more with the new officiating approach. I think that supports the fact that with a bad defensive team (even more), we can’t depend on our defense.

    Third, look at points allowed this season among the top 15 teams; SOS is in parenthesis ( ):

    1. Florida 57.9 (23)
    2. WSU 59.6 (104)
    3. Villanova 66.6 (42)
    4. Arizona 58.1 (4)
    5. Louisville 60.9 (89)
    6. Virginia 55.1 (32)
    7. Duke 66.9 (9)
    8. SDSU 56.6 (99)
    9. Michigan 65.2 (8)
    10. KU 70.5 (1)
    11. Syracuse 59.5 (68)
    12. Wisconsin 64.6 (2)
    13. Cincinnati 58.3 (79)
    14. Creighton 67.4 (22)
    15. North Carolina 69.1 (14)

    Your point about stronger opposition leading to giving up more points is an excellent one. But look at Arizona – 4th in ppg defense ( nearly 12 points less than KU per game), and 4th in strength of schedule. Or Michigan, a full 5 ppg less, but 8th in SOS. Florida is no slouch with a 23 SOS, but only gives up 57.9 ppg. That’s a huge difference. Roy’s UNC has a 14 SOS, and still, with his less than defense focused philosophy, gives up less ppg than our squad.

    Again, I think that point is a good one. But I would humbly suggest that when you compare apples to apples (best we can), it still points to a KU team that has a very remote shot at a national title doing what they are doing now. Thus my suggestion.

    Next, you point to defensive shooting percentages. That, to me, is a nice supportive stat. But games come down to points. In our last 10 games, even with two games against Texas Tech and one against TCU, our ppg defense is more than 2 points higher than our season average. This is a concerning trend. And it squares with the eye test, doesn’t it? Our defense looks bad.

    Finally, comparing to conference teams, I would suggest, is irrelevant. We won the conference title. We’re playing for the national title. I just don’t see how comparing our conference rankings adds up right now. Your point though might be that there can be a very small difference between rankings and the actual points allowed. But if you compare nationally, that doesn’t seem to be the case. To move from 178 to top 50, we’d have to give up a full 6 points less per game. That’s a huge difference.

    How do we win 6 games? What is the best opportunity to do that? That’s my only real point.

    I appreciate your analysis in response.

  • @jaybate 1.0 Isn’t it interesting how the lack of three point shooting has hamstrung this team as well?

    I did a post earlier in the season about our deficient three point shooting and comparing it to NCAA tourney winners, noting how our three point rates by volume were too low.

    Our three point shooting percentage is on the bottom end vs. NCAA tourney winners (34.5%), but our volume (only 5.57 per game) is lower than any team in the last ten seasons that won a national title.

    Syracuse in 2002-03 only had 5.31 per game, which is lower than our is currently.

    It just isn’t a good mountain to be facing. But hey, if Wiggins is our Carmelo, maybe we overcome the low volume of threes?

    And guess what? Syracuse was ranked 152 in ppg defense in 2002-03?

    And no regular on that team shot over 40% from three range.

    I’m beginning to like the Syracuse 2002-03 comparison more and more.

  • @Hawk8086 On Tharpe you asked, “Why can’t he stay in front of his man more? Is it effort? I don’t think he’s that slow, is he?”

    Short legs … ask @jaybate , he can explain. Prophetic.

  • @HighEliteMajor it’s heart, just needs to dig down! Greene is fast and he can’t stay w/his man. Want to!

  • @HighEliteMajor I’ve read and contemplated your excellent rationale, given the deficiencies of this particular 'HawkSquad. I think it could work, but Self may not allow it. After all, his eyes may see a team that played lackluster in Stillwater, but same personnel put the clamps on OSU in KC–so he may surmise it is a motivational issue (cant say matchups as we did the same jekyll-hyde with TX as we did with OSU, and ISU…all the same personnel). BigBiid is a factor, but that didnt help OSU in KC.

    Maybe Self having Selden, Wiggybaby, and Perry (& Naa + Mason) simply attack, is him reverting to a simpler form of ball, ala Calipari. Not sure if I like that. Not sure if I like Roy ball, either.

    Obviously its not about what I like or not, but what’s best for KU…and I dont think Royball is what KU is. We are simply seeing a convergence of factors: Core seniors departed last year + all new starting 5 with 3frosh/1transfer (all of whom need the Self-learning curve) + 2 of this year’s returnees seem to have innate defensive inability. What an unfortunate convergence. If anything, goodTyshawn “taught” Self to go quicker to dribble-drive, so now, when in trouble, he is quicker to go to it.

    But, I fear, pushing the pace after a made bucket is simply countergrain to Self’s thinking. You cant set up the high-low if you race down and put up a quick shot att. It would make sense to do it, since we have some depth…but coaches are who they are…and that’s the BIGGEST reason we wont throw all our set plays and ‘system’ out the window, especially before the most critical games of the season.

    As a corollary to Roy ball, and I’ve always maintained this: they literally can get beat by anybody. Even this season, they have had several head-scratcher losses. Even in the Roy-ku era, our nation-leading 90+ppg average team’s would have a couple of blowout 20+pt losses (to just about anybody).

    So, to summarize: I think Self’s brain is HARD-wired around the fact that “if you score 80+ on somebody, chances are you’ll win” (assumption is you hold the opponent under 80). And after 10yrs of data, Self has proved his Sutton/Brown theory. One can argue that Roy has proved his theory also, winning a NC with Doherty’s recruits, then winning another with his own recruits (although Self served that same UNC team a major facial in the 08Final4). Self’s system > Roy’s. But this isnt the team to judge that, is it? Its defensive stats do not support its chances in the BigDance. Our chances do go higher if BigBiid returns. Like you said: We dont win a NC without him. Short of his return, I dont see Self changing much.

  • Look what departed: Withey (defensive force, took 2yrs of development to grow some swagger), Elijah (didnt play x 2yrs as he couldnt defend, but had breakout year as junior, and say what you will about his PGperformance his senior year, he still could defend), Releford (lockdown defender, took pride in it), KYoung (180lb tuff-guy, nose for rebounds). See the experience, see the defensive stats, see the developmental time with each player.

    Look what we had in 2012champgame team: Withey (see above), TRob (aggressive, strong, much improved), Releford (theDefender), EJ (in his perfect assassin role, and defended with 6’4 length, spent 2yrs developing his D), TT (above average defender, relentless attacker). These 5 persevered all the way to the Championship Game. See the experience. See the defensive stats. See the developmental time with each player.

    Now consider the 2013 Hawks: Tharpe (exposed D story of the season), Selden (admirably is trying, came to KU talking about “ready to play D” and is really trying…highest ranked “glue” we’ve ever had), Wiggins (out-of-the-box A-rated defender, ask Jabari Parker), Ellis (exposed D story of the season, some exposed lack of hops, although not as bad a landlubber as G.Niang, but ironic we let Niang beat us), Embiid (who knew he’d be such a force, praise god and Thomas+Christine Embiid for what they gave him, but we’ve had to watch him battle injury).

    Notice the glaring lack of developmental time for it seems a beyond-critical mass number of players on this whole team, bench included. Mason has some D ability/instincts, as does Frankamp…but they are both short. They cannot cheat off so far on help D, no way they get a hand in a 3shooter’s face without staying “home”.

    Summary: What we are seeing statistically, and with the rollercoaster play, is a team VERY short on the usual-built-by-Self developmental timeline. Starters and bench guys. Cant count on anything, other than these youngsters “can score”, which is what Calipari usually counts on. And just like a Roy team, the varying defensive abilities VARY by player, and what they arrived with…(Hinrich & Miles & Lee could defend from Day 1. Langford couldnt, and infamously, didnt want to for Self). We’ve always talked about it takes a couple of years to master Self’s system. HEM and I have agreed that for the most part, recruits ranked 10-60? are the best for Bill Self, as they are still elite athletes, but also know they need 2-3yrs before bolting for the NBA. Wiggins is the lone exception, on both ends of the court, but he cannot cover or produce for everybody, all the time.

  • More thoughts: Dont like short PG experiment…Mason may develop into big net positive. Uncertain about Frankamp. Tharpe’s D really hampers overall opinion of him.

    Recruit MORE 6’2 --> 6’5 COMBO GUARDS that have the length and athleticism to defend, and above the rim hops on the other end. Dont forget the lesson of 2012: 2 combo guards + competent-D wing (TT, EJ, Relef) got us back to the champ game after a 4yr absence. And EJ + TT stuck daggers in the hearts of Purdue, UNC, OhioState along the way.

    Somebody go shake Perry Ellis, make sure he is listening (& not drifted off making complex calculations about something else)…that he is the “successor” to Thomas Robinson. He is manning the Thomas Robinson position. Ask him to repeat that fact, then ask him “what does that mean to you?”. He is an intelligent kid, god I hope he figures it out. A very similar msg to him would be the obvious ‘you play in the post for Bill Self’, you should know what that requires. At least by now, one would think…

  • Maybe Hudy’s focused-on-D, trying to “create reactive basketball players” needs to spend additional time on Ellis and Naa. Or maybe it isnt anything physical, as they defended better in Game2 vs TX, and Game3 vs OSU…so maybe its all motivational: EJsyndrome. What’s the cure for that? Seems tasting an L, and/or tasting Self’s salty language isnt enough? Seems watching freshmen YOUNGER than you, playing better D (Wiggins+Selden) isnt enough either?

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Thanks for the SyrXcuse recall. I dislike them so much I repress them from time to time. 🙂

    Syrxcuse makes clear there are exceptions to rules and anomalies among tendencies. Outliers in scatter plots.

    The key for analysis is to grasp the dynamics of the outlier and see if the dynamics that triggered the outlier can trigger our situation, or if our situation drives us to the tendency.

    If I understand you correctly, you reason that our situation (talent set and scheme) drives us to the tendency (not a serious contender), rather than the outlier (SyrXcuse champion), unless we modify our scheme (if it is not too late), since it is too late to change our talent, beyond getting Embiid back, if we survive round one.

    To reset, I agree with your desire to try new strings, but think that Self’s way of retuning the strings has worked in the only recent non Embiid game that mattered (OSU)–frankly quite to my surprise.

    One thing all of us that try to out-think Self occasionally run into is: we tend to underestimate just how much room there is for retuning the hi-low instrument Self plays. Self’s approach is as global an approach, as Boeheim’s, or Roy’s, or Consonant’s, or Brown’s, or Knight’s, or Dean’s, or Wooden’s.

    Global approaches are like using themes to write with. If one is a globalist, and a gifted writer, the theme determines every narrative choice one makes in every aspect of story telling. Good writers tailor diction, sentence form, paragraph content, order of information, tone, metaphors, and so on to the theme. What goes in and what is left out is driven by the theme. Done correctly, the theme disappears to the reader in the moment of experience of the artifact. And only after the fact does the reader begin to appreciate the thematically informed architecture.

    Self crafts basketball much as great writers craft novels. Each season, like a novel, eventually has its own thematically informed architecture. Over a period of seasons, recurring themes occur with variations that explore/exploit different aspects of the game as then instituted and evolved according to the institutions, as well as what the coach/author has then to work with in terms of players.

    Great coaches are master craftsmen for the most part. Winning is the litmus test of how well their thematically informed architecture (team) holds up in competition and what else it may need to hold up better. Elegance and beauty in addition to mechanical execution enter into thematically driven choices.

    Time and again Self has found ways to retune in ways that never occurred to me before hand, when I have been advocating an outside the box suggestion. It is, I believe, partly that he knows his his hi-low instrument much more deeply than I do, and so knows where several tweaks can be inserted that have a cumulative effect that is nonlinear in benefit.

    Another part of it is that Self just can some times, through the level of trust he builds up in his players over a season, and his charisma, just tell players that if they just play a little harder and a little smarter, then they can beat the other team. His is, like so many great coaches, so overwhelmingly observant and able to spot large and small mistakes in real time among many players simultaneously, that it has to be a huge inspiration, when he comes to them cheerfully and positively and says more less, this is the moment we’ve been building you toward and I just want to tell you that I am pleased with you are ready to go out and do it.

    I believe that if he gave into the temptation to restring he, at least, would become too lost to then coach it well.

    Very few architects give up the form language they were trained in no matter how much they appear to change and grow.

    Self is an Okie Baller that has evolved his own form language we call Self Ball. It is an evolving body of work, but it has a continuity and a legacy that it must stay connected to in his mind. “That’s not who we are” speaks volumes.

    The great coach can find incredible numbers of “adjustments” within “who we are” in order to achieve an effect you and I might soundly seek to achieve by moving outside the box, or outside “who we are.”

    Sometimes a great coach can briefly jump out side the box for a brief tactical victory. Boeheim played m2m against Self and KU for an entire second half one game and beat KU. Self has played his 3-2 hybrid zone at times to gain a tactical advantage, but both Boeheim and Self quickly abandon such afterwards, because it is “not who we are.”

    Where does “that’s not who we are” come from? It comes from an ancient Greek saying often attributed to Socrates: “know thy self.”

    Nothing is perfect. Socrates wound up a victim of hemlock, even though he knew himself. But knowing thyself tends to work better than not.

    Self may go down to basketball hemlock this season, because he does not break with his tradition as you have suggested, and as I have suggested.

    But in his mind likely he has a much better chance of surviving by making tweaks that he has deep insight into and a strong feel for how to implement, than in venturing into another man’s legacy at this point in his career and at this point in his season.

    My concern is that Self’s ability to tweak his system with deep insight and skillful net benefit has been sharply diluted by the loss of QA geek Joe Dooley. We see game after game now how powerfully revealing the QA of KENPOM and other sites are to aid mere fans to get in the ball park of the tendencies of opposing teams. Self can probably access this level of insight without stats and without Joe Dooley. But there is a situational level of analysis of opponents that takes a subtle combination of basketball IQ and QA skill that is pretty rare in all fields, and probably exceedingly rare among basketball coaches. This level of analysis not only explores Selfs powerful thinking about an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, to support or refute him, but also discovers other often counter intuitive insights about the teams studied, and about its tendencies. These two things would feed back robustly into Self’s thinking and cause him to come up with still more tweaks creatively he had not even considered the first time. This is the real power and advantage that results from good QA. It is not that the QA finds the solutions. It is that the QA frees one up to see relationships that were previously unseen and so lets human ingenuity (creativity, intuition, reason, daring) have a second cut at operating in a way that an opponent is unlikely to be able to anticipate unless the repeat the same research methodology.

    Ah, but I am getting off on a tangent and telling you too much of what you already know. Apologies.

    Succinctly, my point is: Self may be suffering a bit from losing Dooley in a way that he did not suffer losing Danny. A lot of what Danny knew and did could probably learned through observation over the time he worked for Self. QA is different. Some get it. Some don’t.

    These next two games, if we are lucky enough to win the first one, are going to pack within them some of the most fascinating insights into how Self does what he does, if only we can unpack them afterwards.

    As always, thanks, HEM, for making my brain work the piddling amount that it still can.

    Thinking anything at all fresh about the game remains one of the great joys of my life.

  • @ralster That’s why I have been saying that we need to not think that Tharpe is not fast enough or its his short legs. I’ve seen him push the ball and get fastbreak layups, so I know he can do it. I’ve also seen him play intense defense on the perimeter, so I know he can do it.

    I prefer to say that he “doesn’t” play fast rather than he “can’t”. because we have seen him do it.

  • @jaybate 1.0 Good post, 'Bate. Pretty much what I think, is that Self wont change “who we are” right prior to March Madness. Funny, “know thy self”…literally is something KU fans should be ingrained with by now…We “know” our Self.

    The “range” of versatility and adaptability within Self’s own thoughts will be a partial deciding factor in how this team does, how can he mask weaknesses, etc…BUT, the major deciding factor will be the execution of (whatever scheme) by his players.

    (for Jaybate: Ask the Japanese about Midway, all the elaborate planning or scheming can be felled by improper execution of said plan.)

    Really, in our losses, we simply havent executed SelfBall as its supposed to be executed, and as his past teams have done (over 80% of the time).

  • @DinarHawk Agreed! Ive posted a few times in the last 2yrs, that I felt that Tharpe “took notes” from goodTyshawn, in slashing and getting to the rim…but just havent seen enough of that this year. I dont know if it is “role” confusion (am I supposed to feed bigs or Wiggs)…but you’d think that is lessened as we keep hearing Self saying he wants Naa to attack and “stay aggressive”. Seems like he has a green light if he wants it?

    But this doesnt touch on his recurrent defensive issues…

  • @ralster

    So good to have you back in the offense. Not much to add to your usual illuminating insights, except to add one thing about Releford.

    Travis shot 40% plus from trey in addition to being a very mentally tough player hardened by 5 years of D1 ball (two largely watching, one redshirt, one learning an old man’s game, and one finally being do do it all). Travis Releford was one helluva basketball player the last season. To be blunt, we have no one on this team that can bring what Travis brought. You could assign him someone, no matter how good, and know that Travis would be +4 to +10 on him in points scored and have two fewer TOs and probably 3 assists. And he was strong enough to finish at the iron. Often too tentative? Yes. But he could do all that while helping and inspite of his tentativeness. And despite his wonky form, he could trey ding at 43%!!! The truth is: players like Releford are few and teams need one. Imagine how good this team could be with Rellie at the 3 and Wiggins at the 4, or 2. Rellie was an every game MUA, or wash. Wiggins, great as he is, cannot yet do very often what Travis did every game. If Wigs stayed 5 years, he could blow Rellies numbers away, maybe just two, but Wigs shoots 35% from trey, struggles with assist, once he starts shooting, and though he is a defensive octopus, he only lately is coming into his own. None of this is to knock Wigs. It is saying that fully matured, well rounded players like Releford are damned hard to replace by even a great one like Wiggins. Selden also cannot fill BenMac’s shoes yet. BenMac poured in the points AND the crucial buckets, while guarding everyone just as well as Selden does. Again, no knock on Selden. Next year, if there were a next year for him, he could be the same kind of monster that BenMac was. But even if Wigs weren’t here and Wayne were taking his FGAs, I just don’t see a 34% trey shooter this season filling BenMac’s shoes this season. Next season, Wayne might get his trey gun sited, and sorted, and we could be talking about who was better. But now? Not even close. Ben had a year to practice D1 and mature for a great second season. Wayne got the sink or swim treatment that Wigs has gotten, and it has been hard on him. Know Wayne could do more, if needed, but until he works on that trey, they’re just going to sag and shove when he goes by.

    Life is tough for freshmen. Even the great ones.

  • @ralster I also think that the KU community is too hard on Tharpe in general. They complain about his playing even when in the Big 12 tournament he has 16 assists to just 4 turnovers. Then they complain about his shooting. I think his poor shooting is due to his dislocated finger, as he normally tries to get involved more in the offense than he did the last few games.

    Lastly, they complain about how he’s not being leader, ignoring the fact that in high school he led his team to a national championship. They also ignore the man who is getting paid a couple million a year to coach the team.

    Case in point, the point guard cant make the other players play good defense. Yes, he can lead by example. But cant Embiid, or Wiggins, or Selden also lead by example with their good defense?

    I personally am still not convinced that he is not leading the team, as others have said. I think that his finger is slowing him down.

    I predict that Tharpe will come back better and more aggressive next week for the tournament and his good shooting returns as well.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Once again, you support the reason why I like to call you “coach.” I’m right there with you on your thoughts. You don’t candy coat junk that should be exposed and dealt with. You have an understanding of the game… from the mechanics to match-ups to just knowing the reality of the situation. I feel most people have the hardest time with the latter one… knowing the reality we are in.

    Our defense just plain stinks. Of course it doesn’t match what we are used to from Self… but in this case, it doesn’t even match the bar of average D1 defense.

    You called it right… it is too late to overhaul our defense and do a 180 on our philosophy. But we can make changes that can make a huge impact on our outcomes.

    I totally agree with increasing the tempo, for no other reason than making our guys play with more energy. I can’t believe Self used the excuse that playing in consecutive days zapped this team’s energy. That was a cop out.

    Let’s look at our perceived limitations:

    1. We are young

    2. We are inexperienced

    3. We lack confidence

    4. We lack energy

    5. We have execution issues

    When you look hard at all 5 of these, it becomes clear that our youth is the spearhead of all our problems. We can’t overcome age. We can’t make these guys 23 by taking a pill. But we can treat these other issues. It is a big spoonful of medicine. Boys become men.

    This is a tough mountain to climb. If there was a sure-fire way to fix all of these issues in a short time, the problem-solver could probably take over the entire world! So… let’s break it down to real tweaks that may improve our situation. The best tweak would have been a zone months ago… but as you stated… it is too late to become effective at a zone, though throwing it in the mix sometimes can be effective because our opponents may not adjust immediately.

    Our biggest tweak will be to get JoJo back. And in order to do that, we must reach the 3rd round of the tourney. So our first goal is to survive our first tourney weekend. Later today we will know the match ups we will face.

    Goal 1# - Making it through the first weekend of the tourney.

    In order to make it through, we first have to work harder than we ever have this year scouting our potential opponents. Our assistant coaches will have to step up and take assignments for helping our players know who they are playing, and more important, HOW to play them. We have to inject the right hedges in the defense to try to limit teams (players) from attacking us with their strongest methods.

    Most teams have one big strength. ISU is not the typical team we should be faced with on our first weekend. They had great 3-pt shooting and deadly post scoring and everyone on that team can drive the ball successfully. They (easily) may have the most lethal offense in the tourney coming up (when running well). Other teams have a specific strength… maybe it is 3s, maybe it is post scoring, maybe it is mid range scoring… drives? Ball movements? We need proper scouting and have to play them against their strength. If it is perimeter shooting, we have to give up on much of our weak side help because (to be quite frankly) it sucks anyways. All it does is put our weak side defenders in lala land, positioned between the ball handler and their man, which is now wide open from 3. If we can’t play good weak side help and pinch drivers and passers off, forget helping! This is how our defense is breaking down half of the time.

    If an opposing player drives into the paint, we need a post player there to help, not a perimeter player. Most teams don’t have post players who are dead eyes from the 3 line.

    In the coming week off, our coaches need to take these kiddies into the film room and show them how bad they got schooled by ISU. Pick and pops, pick and rolls, off the dribble, ball screens… every single thing ISU ran worked against these kids. It’s time they went to school. It is pathetic that they have been playing D1 ball for several months now and can’t stop a single gimmick.

    We need to have something we can threaten opposition with. Something to make them think and take them out of their game. An occasional fast break opportunity might help.

    We haven’t had a good fast break team in years… We’ve had the personnel but we haven’t been running open court basketball because it breaks all of Self’s rules. He will have to realize that we need a tool that will become a diversion, and in being one will help create chaos for our opposition. Anything to challenge our oppositions’ offensive flow, because right now, we haven’t proven we can stop anyone.

    We are a team with more weapons than any other team in the country… but few weapons have we executed properly. Something needs to be drawn up to pop open more weapons and then use and execute them during games.

    Currently, we look extremely predictable. For a team with so many possible weapons, it is amazing how predictable we are. And right now, we aren’t even running our predictable stuff well. Self’s hi/lo has always been a predictable set, but we ran it so well that teams couldn’t stop it. Now we don’t seem to execute it well. We get stumped the second our opposition figures out how to double-team the ball when fed into the post. When they do that, it should trigger off several scoring options to run, but instead we have 4 guys mostly standing there observing our post player getting pressured by two defenders.

    Are these guys capable of running plays? I think so…

    I believe @HighEliteMajor is exactly spot on in his post… and the weakness may not be our players and their youth. It may be our coaching staff and their inability to take what we have and make the most of it.

    Just look at Greene… in the past month I think he has regressed. For one… we don’t run anything to open up his 3 and with the right kind of pass for a flowing catch-and-shoot. The same for Conner. We don’t utilize these weapons… we run them as afterthoughts, and it shows. Both of these guys have gone through an entire season now and had some PT… they should be more comfortable to nail the 3s. Conner is shooting 1/3 of his HS effective %. That says something is wrong.

    For one thing… take Greene and Frankamp into the video room and show them tape of Heslip. Heslip is not some kind of athletic freak… he is average in athleticism. But Heslip knows how to fight through crowds and get himself open for catch-and-shoots.

    Here is a novel idea… spend an entire day teaching every player on our team how to use a head/shoulder fake! How about a ball fake, while we are at it! How about showing them how to start masking their passes with a look-away! This is HS stuff… but it is stuff we don’t use and it is stuff we get burned with on defense every single time! How about an entire day on how to maximize use of the pivot!

    These kids needed John Wooden’s approach… start the year by showing them how to put on their socks and shoes. And if our coaching staff doesn’t have the patience or understanding of how important the basics are, then stop loading up a team full of freshmen. Recruit more juco transfer players!

  • @HighEliteMajor

    While I appreciate that KU is ranked pretty low based on “points allowed” only, this statistic is very misleading as it covers all Division I teams, including super weak “low majors” conferences that routinely score in the 50s or 60s and compares it to teams in conferences with highs scoring team, such as the Big 12 with several high scoring teams, and where scoring is typically in the 70s or 80s.

    You can take a look at stats such as AdjO (Opponents’ average adjusted offensive efficiency) by Ken Pomeroy, KU’s opponents offense is ranked #6 with only Duke and Creighton in the top ten having better numbers. What this means is that KU has played against very good offenses and it is logical that defense stats would suffer.

    Again, I am at all not saying that KU’s defense is good or what we have grown accustomed and taken for granted year in and year out; what I am saying is that there are mitigating circumstances that have contributed to the drop, including, but not limited to, 3 starting freshmen and 3 other freshmen that have played a fair amount of minutes.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Solid point… but let’s hide your post or otherwise it is used as a cop out. None of us are forgetting how tough of a SOS we played… but none of that matters now. We’ve been beat 9 times this year and we are one loss away from ending the season.

    If we are thinking we are a Final Four team then the path to get there (and path after arriving there) will include some of these top teams. We’ve shown how capable we are of losing to any of those teams… that is what we have to focus on.

  • @drgnslayr

    Point taken Slayer. I tend to be a glass half–full type of person so I tend to emphasize the positives; however, it is nice to have this discussion where many points of view can be presents and we are all free to draw our own conclusions. It’s all for fun anyway as they really don’t amount to heap of beans.

    By the way KU would have to advance to the “fourth” not the “third” round to get Embiid. The NCAA now calls the play-in round the “first” round so KU will start already in the “second” round. Winning the first games moves us to the “third” round and a win there gets us to the second weekend (when Embiid is hopefully back) and the sweet sixteen…or “fourth” round.

    I know it is silly, the play-in round should be called just that, and what is really the first round should be called “first” round, not “second” round…a pet peeve of mine. Sometimes I wonder if the change was made so teams like Missouri can hang a “second round NCAA” banner, even if they lose their first game. 🙂

  • @drgnslayr - thanks for the kind comments. You comments on Greene are interesting, referring to regression. And Conner’s shooting. I think it is hard for guys that are used to playing, to adapt to new roles, new pressure, new demands. And regarding execution, like you, I continue to wonder why I’m complaining mid-game, still, about our inability to handle the post double team and pressing.

    And we do look predictable. Why? Because Self runs what he always runs. Does what he always does. It’s his system, and players must adapt. His are more retuning than restringing as @jaybate mentioned.

    @JayHawkFanToo - don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that ppg allowed is the know all, say all stat. But the disparity is so significant I think that overcomes all of the distinctions or supportive/contrary secondary stats. Sure, the offenses we may be playing against are good generally. But it’s not like our defensive ppg is ranked 70th. It’s 189th. And I kind of like the last 10 game stat – which includes three games vs. two horrible offensive teams, TCU and TT. Our defensive ppg was two points per game higher in that stretch than our average. That’s a negative trend.

    I guess I don’t understand what you mean by mitigating circumstances as running contrary to the conclusion. I grant you there are circumstances that have led to poor defense. A lot of them. I am more of the position that granted all of that, what do we do to be in the best position to win the title? You have explained perhaps “why” we are so bad – what would you do then to adjust to this acknowledged deficiency?

  • @HighEliteMajor

    “And we do look predictable. Why? Because Self runs what he always runs. Does what he always does. It’s his system, and players must adapt.”

    Thing is… as games go by it seems like we run less plays. The only thing sticking in my head is the alley oop… which I think we could run variations of the same play every game probably 10 times. And recently, we’ve been running the weave. I’m not a huge fan of the weave, with the exception of Mario’s shot heard around the world came off a broken weave.

    I think we could look at ISU’s offense and pick up lots of ideas… like effective high ball screens and pulling out 4 guys around the perimeter to isolate an inside scorer.

    But none of it works without confidence and execution.

    We should be scoring out of those low post double-teams. Instead… we just try to survive them by safely getting the ball out of the post. We have to attack what people are throwing at us or they just keep doing it and limiting what we do.

  • For whatever reasons, Frankamp and Greene are not yet accomplishing what they were projected to do: Shoot lots of 3s at a 40%+ rate of success. By now, I should think that their confidence levels are hurting…to the extent that it just ain’t gonna happen this season. Bill Self’s system appears not to be designed for the potentially explosive 3 pt. contributor, esp. at the expense of defensive stops. We might yet see it happen in this tournament, but only as a very rare anomaly resulting from desperation insertion of one of these subs who just happens to get hot at the right moment, opportunity in conjunction with necessity and potential prowess. If our Rim Protector does eventually return to action, there exists that rare possibility of Greene, Tharpe, Wiggins (or Frankamp, Tharpe, Wiggins) absolutely lighting up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. I am still optimistic enough to hope for that to happen. My viewing season will not be complete unless I watch it happen.

  • “We should be scoring out of those low post double-teams. Instead… we just try to survive them by safely getting the ball out of the post. We have to attack what people are throwing at us or they just keep doing it and limiting what we do.”

    @drgnslayr - Exactly. Couldn’t have said it any better.

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