Self Loss To ISU Smart?

  • What would Bill Self have gained for KU’s seeding by pulling out all the stops to beat ISU?

    Before we even try to answer, let’s consider what Self might have done differently against ISU in terms of pulling out all the stops?

    He might have zone pressed intermittently during the first and second halves.

    He might have routed more of the offense through Perry Ellis, who was 11-12 from the field instead of continuing to route offense through Andrew Wiggins who was 7-21. He might have played Frank Mason a lot more for a sputtering Naa Tharpe. He might have not wasted all those minutes on Brannen Greene. He might have played through Black a lot more offensively. He might have used the identical low-block, double teaming scheme he used on OSU the day before on ISU the day after, especially the last 10 minutes when ISU quit shooting treys and went almost entirely inside. He might have spent the last ten minutes in his preferred hybrid 3 player m2m and 2 man zone to control the rebounds and deny Niang’s preferred back to the basket game down the stretch. Those are some no brainers that Self might have done. 🙂

    And I bet Bill Self could have thought of a whole bunch more, because it the best coach of his generation and amazingly able to find wrinkles that give his team an edge…when he wants to win the game. 🙂

    Now, let’s come back to the question: how would beating ISU have helped KU get better than a 2 seed in the South Region starting at St. Louis, leading to Tar’s home town, Memphis, leading to Big 12 country in Arlington, TX? Sweet, no?

    Which 1-seed would KU have shouldered aside by beating ISU?

    Hmmm.Virginia in the East? A midwest team as the 1 seed in the East? Not gonna happen.

    Florida in the South? A team that beat KU? Not gonna happen.

    Arizona in the West? The number one team in the country and a western team to boot? Not gonna happen.

    Wichta State in the Midwest? The only undefeated team in the country and a midwestern team that was in the Final Four the year before? Not gonna happen.

    Ooookay, so would beating ISU have gotten KU a better 2 seed in another region?

    First, as I said, a 2 seed in the South with stops at St. Louis, and Memphis is just about ideal for KU locationally. And, well, there are as many tough outs in the east and West as in the South, so those would not have been a step up, regardless.

    Which brings us to the Midwest. It might have been better to be a two seed in the Midwest because it means getting to play Wichita State which hasn’t beaten anyone worth a damn and so has never really been pushed by a series of tough opponents, which is what the Madness is all about starting second and third rounds.


    There are just two little problems with the Midwest. The committee put the most tough teams there. And Michigan is the number two seed there. Michigan is 25-8, and KU would have been 25-8 had it beaten ISU. But then KU would have had another game to play. And so KU would either have been 26-8, or 25-9. So let’s think about this for a minute. At 26-8 there was a good chance KU would have gotten the two seed in the Midwest, and then played Texas, Duke and one of Wichita State, UK, or Louisville. Compare that with playing UNM, Syracuse, and Florida? My hunch is that winning all three in the B12 and landing in the Midwest would have been an easier row to hoe. But to get that easier row, KU would have had to play 3 games, have to play on only 4 full days of rest on 3/20/14, because Michigan, the current 2 seed in the Midwest has to play on 3/20.

    Next, had KU beat ISU but lost in the B12 final, then KU’s record would be 25-9. 25-9 would not have pushed Michigan aside and so KU would likely have wound up back where it already is, without having to play an extra game.

    Self got the best of all possible worlds from the standpoint of what his team needed most. It got the maximum time to rest and scheme, because it plays first on 3/21/14 not 3/20.

    KU gets a pair of teams in Eastern Kentucky and UNM (which it beat previously with Embiid) that it can reasonably beat by playing well with Black, instead of Embiid. This buys KU the chance to get Embiid back. If it gets Embiid back, then it gets Syracuse and Florida. If Embiid can play at or near his best, and with Black and Traylor providing much more bench, KU could handle Syracuse, by funneling its PG to Embiid inside, and by collapsing the zone with Embiid and Black to create scoring opps for Wiggins and Selden. I know Florida is good and beat us early, but with Embiid, we are so much better now than then that even Florida is in our grasp.

    If Embiid cannot come back, then I think we might still upset Syracuse with a great effort, because it will just have had a knock down drag out with Ohio State, but then the the future would stop with Florida.

    Could Bill foresee any of this with specificity? Probably not.

    But could he see that it would probably take winning the B12 conference tourney to make things better than what KU got losing to ISU? Probably.

    So: Self played the ISU game conservatively, knowing ISU would too. Self was trying win the ISU game, but only without over extending his team. The only way an ISU win would have been worth it was if enough gas could be left in the team’s tank to win the next game, too.

    Short of that, the best gamble was to lose to ISU, maximize your days to rest and prepare, and leave it all on the floor the first round in hopes of getting Joel back.

    Well played, Bill.

  • Although it can not be proved, I think you are correct. Bill had to have thought about how his team would be affected by the extra game on Saturday, and how that would correlate to the tournament.

    BTW, what do you think the strategy is for beating UNM without Embiid, assuming they both win?

  • Pound UNM. They have that dynamic Australian surfer-look guard, and that 7footer that Embiid pulled out the Dream shake on perfectly. But they are a 2 or 3man team at best. Scrappy. But Self-D should disrupt them.

    Notice I say Self-D. It IS BigDance time, either play D like your life depends on it…or go home and watch the rest of the Tourney on TV.

  • @DinarHawk

    Defense and run the stuff.

    I think Tarik Black 2.0, or 3.0, or what ever version he is in, is now a solid enough presence in the center that if the team will just run the stuff with him getting to touch it on the low block, 2 out of 3 possessions for five minutes at a time, that the team will settle into a nice tempo revolving around Tar and the team will be able to defend and score and win against UNM.

    If Tar gets double figures scoring an rebounding, this team is very tough to beat, same as when Joel does it. It does not mean the centers are dominating the offense. It means that the offense is expanding and contracting and expanding and that, coupled with some rapid ball movement around the perimeter, is what makes this team tough to beat.

    Plus, we ought to be shooting the ball better the next two games.

    But if Tar gets fouled up, look out, because things default to Wigs and Selden, or Wigs and Perry, and though it looks exciting, the team loses efficiency.

    But as usual, ralster cuts to the chase to the most critical thing:


  • @ralster

    “Notice I say Self-D. It IS BigDance time, either play D like your life depends on it…or go home and watch the rest of the Tourney on TV.”

    Yes sirreee!

    It is time to walk the walk. We can’t hide performances behind the talk about playing the toughest SOS now. We either win or go home.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    I don’t think Self likes playing through the B12 tourney to the championship game. By losing to ISU we got to save some miles on these guys and reserve it for the big tourney. It reduces risk of a big injury on someone or several bad nicks.

    Plus… with the late loss it gets the attention of the players to step up.

    That is what I’m hoping is going on…

  • The one thing that I am excited about is finally getting to watch them play as a desperate team again.

    They beat DUKE as a young desperate team trying to gain respect.
    They were desperate at the end of the Villanova and CU games and would have won both games if not for tough/miraculous shots. We were desperate against West Virginia and Florida and made good runs, but in both games it was too little too late.

    In league play we had a 3 game lead in what, like 6 games into Big 12 play?And that’s after a brutal opening stretch. We haven’t had to start a game playing desperate since mid January.

    The teams we have lost to lately have been playing for their lives.: We lose at Okla St - without that win on their resume they may be in the NIT.
    We lose at the “Triangle of Gloom” (I give them one side for each time I can actually remember losing to them) - Let’s face it, that is their National Championship. We lose at WVU - a team desperate to get on the bubble Iowa St and The mayor were desperate to finally beat us in general when as Jaybate said -we are desperate for rest

    Now we get to watch this young team desperate again - and the rest of the South should be worried…

  • @jaybate and @drgnslayr I think you guys got it exactly right. As I remember it, Coach Self wasn’t too excited with the conference tourney concept, saying (in effect) that it was more money for the conference without much benefit to the basketball programs themselves. So why knock yourself out to win it? Instead, cool your jets and save your energy for the Big Dance.

  • @FieldHouseWest

    Me, too! Now I hope they realize this tourney is a one shot deal.

    And for these B12 teams we lost to… just more fodder for next year! We’ll be hungry to avenge some of these losses.

    But the teams we face going forward are strangers in the dark. We might not get another crack at them for years, decades… never!

    That’s why I’m psyched to play Syracuse! Self has to show these guys our loss in 2003… in case some of you were not around to capture the orange vomitis event:


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