Let's Play a Half! Or Mozart Leading the Boston Pops

  • Chicago Cub legend Ernie Banks used to say, “let’s play two.”

    KU’s response is: “Let’s play a half.”

    First things second: I really liked EKU. I liked everything about their offense and defense and trifectation. I liked how their coach spoke at half time, like Norman Dale. I liked how clean and hard their guys played. I liked how even though each of our guys was twice as good as each of their guys was, their “team” beat our “individual talents” for 30 minutes. I found myself rooting for them at times, because they had actually learned to play together long enough to become more than the sum of their parts. They ran the weave better than we did. They shot the three better. They passed better. They dribbled way better. They were better at every aspect of the game that one can teach.

    It was like watching my beloved '11-12 KU team vs. UK. They had learned to be the best they could be with what lesser talent they had and then they were worn down and beaten finally by a bunch of talent that had learned the most minimal aspects of team play.

    And then I realized just how grotesquely perverted the game had become by the OAD rule, even at Kansas, the last hold out in the last basketball monastery in the last basketball Tibet.

    And how much I wished it had not come to this; our exceptionally talented and wonderful KU PLAYERS and COACH thrown together like the finest food ingredients in the world to make a fast food meal in a one season microwave.

    Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!!

    Let the best become the best they can be again. Let the great talents like Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid play at the levels of their talent on teams trying to become teams instead of talented simulations of teams. Let them skip college and play for pay so they don’t have to stand around stumbling and bumbling for a half trying to play like a real team, only to have throw away the pretense the second half and resort to raw talent to get enough baskets to beat a real team.

    All of which brings me back to KU PLAYING A HALF.

    The second half they played “talent ball,” not basketball and it was quite a spectacle at times. Andrew, Jamari, Perry and Tar all had their magnificent moments, after Self had curbed their talents the first half to keep them rested for game two this weekend.

    They began doing the most awesomely talented things and inexorably won.

    Yet it was a pitiful magnificence.

    It was an admission that after 8 months together they still had little clue how to play as a team. They could still not run the stuff against a team of guys no one in the B12 would give scholars to.

    No wonder Self, the fastidious genius, the basketball Mozart of the Midlands, is getting so paunchy. He cannot get this group to play as a team anymore than john Calipari can get his talent ballers to, and he knows it now–has probably known it for a month or more. The only way to win is Crimson and Blue AAU. So he bites his tongue and eats. And Snacks is there to keep the Bon Bons and the OADs coming.

    The phenomenon is not unusual. A great leader masters a field at such a high level that his success takes him and his field into a transformation he never intended and that he finally finds so repugnant that he cannot follow to reap the long term rewards of. It is the King David myth played out before our eyes. Self has almost miraculously lead the kingdom of KU Basketball from the already considerable heights of Roy before him to some kind of pinnacle that finally is become a rich microcosm of what his brilliant resourcefulness is not necessary for any longer.

    Bill’s sustained brilliance has delivered KU to a level of talent so exceptional that it will be here such a short time that Bill’s genius no longer can work its great alchemical wonders of team.

    Now all that matters is reloading the OADs and developing the 4 and 5 stars to play good AAU ball with them for a half.

    It is like watching Mozart reduced to leading the Boston Pops in an evening of Gershwin.

    Oh, well, life goes on.

    Who knows?

    Maybe basketball Mozart will find a way through this looking glass, too.


  • @jaybate 1.0 Sooo… you’re recommending we replace 5 starters with what, exactly? EKU’ers?


    Not at all. Under the rules, we apparently now have the best one could hope for, or will once we sign an OAD guard that can handle mid major and major defensive pressure, or start and play Conner both halves against mid majors and then wait for him to get smoked by an OAD.

    And as Cal says in unapologetic defense of talent ball, hey, when you start freshmen, no matter how good they are, sometimes they are going to play like freshman even to the end of their single season.

    In talent ball, the goal is no longer becoming an excellent team at all. The goal is becoming a just good enough team, so you can win with vastly superior talent.

    There is no need for Boot Camp at all in talent ball. All you need is the illusion of Boot Camp. There is no need for a 1,000 page play book, because no impact players will be around long enough to learn to execute more than 20 pages. You don’t need characters you can keep things interesting with because you aren’t going to be together long enough to get bored. There is no more need to struggle to get better beyond December, because you can never achieve more than a minimum standard. You spend all your time coaching a few weak links to minimum standard, and mask the OADs’ weaknesses. It used to be the reverse.

    This is all the basketball equivalent of short-term management in corporations. If this were allowed to continue, and it appears that it will be, then 20 to 30 years downstream, American basketball will be as mediocre and only marginally competitive in international basketball, as so many American corporations are today Vis a Vis foreign corporations.

    The rules make the game.

    The rules drove American corporations into short-term management.

    The rules have driven Consonants, Self and Calipari into short-term team building. Their teams develop and play increasingly similarly.

    So long as the rules stay as they are, self would be crazy to do it any other way.

    It’s talent ball, baby!

    It’s talent-tastic.

  • Ernie Banks said “let’s play TWO” not three JB! Which is exactly what KU needed to do against their horrible interior D, play the two point shot, the point blank shot, the bunny game, whatever you want to call it. Can you imagine having Joel patrolling the paint last night? As good as we were inside, we might not have scored a point from outside the lane had he been playing!

  • @jaybate 1.0 Just FYI, you do know the Ernie Banks quote was “let’s play two” right?

  • @wissoxfan83 beat me to it!

  • @jaybate 1.0 The worst play I saw out there came from a junior guard who is the polar opposite of one and done. He’s a company man. The Peter principle.

  • I am so sorry about incorrectly recalling Ernie’s quote, for by doing so I apparently gave board rats the excuse not to think seriously about the issue. I will correct it immediately, so it will not distract board rats further.


    Good point. And ironically were it not for what OAD RULES have done to recruiting, a guy like Naa would be a sub, or more likely, never even have been offered, so thanks for helping me make my case.

  • @wissoxfan83

    Wigs and Selden really are mediocre as three point shooters, aren’t they, as I have been pointing out? And put in a dome the first time they tanked just like mediocre freshmen trifectates would be expected to tank, right? EKU had good, experienced trey ballers that even struggled some, BUT NOT NEARLY AS MUCH!!!

    Embiid masked how weak Wigs and Selden were at trifectation.

    If Embiid were playing, the defense would have had to sag. The only reason Wigs and Selden have even been at 35% and 34%, respectively, was that most teams had to let them shoot at the stripe, not 2-4 feet farther out as that bunch of mid majors were able to do. EKU could pressure outside and Wigs and Selden are such weak dribblers that they could not reliably dribble around the pressure despite their vastly superior athleticism.

    Interestingly Embiid playing likely would have only forced EKU TO SHOOT EVEN MORE TREYS, which might well have sunk us!

  • @jaybate 1.0 The OAD rules didn’t cause us to graduate 4 seniors last year, and have 1 available point guard who wasn’t a freshman. If you’re speaking in broad generalities, then, yes, the OAD system sucks. It’s a horrible system that creates bad, sloppy basketball, but it’s a moot point when you lose every starter, imo. if we had a team starting no OADS, we would still have sloppy, crappy play at times because we had no experience with the loss of 5 starters. I’m not sure how the OAD made us select Naa"dir in the headlights", but I’m certainly willing to listen. I know you are normally playing 5th dimensional chess, and I am a checker player who agrees with 99% of what you say, so i’d like to see further comment.


    I am glad you shared your thinking in more detail. My POV is precisely that the OAD RULES do trigger greater inefficiencies and asymmetries in high end talent distribution and so simultaneously more reliance on OAD grade clumping at some schools and more non OAD grade clumping at schools doing without OADs. And when you are confronted with clumped departures of OADs you have to replace them with OADs and when you have clumped departures of non OADs you have even more pressure to replace with OADs. So yes we see it quite differently. You see the OAD RULES as sucking in some general sense, and I see the OAD rules sucking down at the actual level of recruiting at the individual year and school level. Self could not realistically consider rebuilding without OADs. He had to use them, because the best players are definitionally OADs and if he took a lesser player he would start out farther in the hole.

    Rules largely determine outcomes. It did not matter how smart an African American was, if he could not get in an IVY league school , he was not going to become an Ivy League professor 99.9% of the time, so long as race prejudice catalyzed with the bias against less prestigious schools, too.

    The OAD rules are wagging the entire dog of college basketball. They are putting “right way” coaches like Self in the position of having to move more and more toward OADs. They are the gift that keeps on giving. To accommodate the one year wonders the game has to be dumbed down. To keep winning with freshman, they have to be used. Our top coaches are now coaching remedial basketball to get the athleticism for one year. The EKU coach is coaching a much sophisticated game. I like the athleticism. I want to see it dominant and developed. Because it cannot be developed, potentially great players like Wiggins and Jabari Parker play on 24-9 teams and don’t get significantly better over a season. It’s stupid and retards talent.



    One more thought about how OADs brought us Naa. Self used not to guaranty OADs a spot unless he had a hole and he would not showcase them. He made X split time and played Josh out of position. OADS stayed away in droves. This put extra pressure on signing non OAD 4-5 stars to fill gaps created by unexpected departures. This made Self offer 3-star friends of such players to land the 4-5 star player. Naa was such a player. His 4-5 star friend never came.

    The OAD rules have all sorts of deleterious ripple effects.

    You are damned if you use them, and damned if you don’t. But once you start using them, it is a slippery slope to needing more and more of them.

  • @jaybate 1.0 Apologies for not making an initial post beyond recognizing the inaccuracy in the Bank’s quote. But trust that it was not a case of me seeing the quote, recognizing the error, and ceasing to read the rest of your post. In large part, I didn’t respond futher because I didn’t feel I had anything meaningful to contribute. I read the post, thought “well yeah, Jaybate hates OADs”, nodded my head and moved on. However, upon re-reading I decided I’d offer up my thoughts, which may or may not be a meaningful contribution, but at the very least might offer a nice complement to your post (that one’s for you @Parishawk!).

    Let me say that I am a lot like you, in that I hate the OAD rule. I am on record as saying that ideally college basketball should adopt the college baseball rule, in that kids can go pro straight out of high school, but should they bypass that route they must stay in college a minimum of 3 seasons. I would love nothing more than to get to know all of our players for at least 3 seasons, and to see the resulting increased quality in the brand of basketball.

    I wonder if Bill hates it too. My first thought is that he surely has to, as it means he has to work harder & more often on the recruiting trail as the roster turnover increases. However, it got me to thinking about how I have viewed Calipari & Kentucky, and to a large extent college football. In college football recruiting is almost a sport unto itself, particularly in SEC country. Kentucky, being in the SEC yet a non-football powerhouse, seemed to be a perfect fit for Cal when he came along as they could translate that level of gamesmanship to recruiting in the college basketball world. And all this got me to wondering if perhaps Bill, being the fiery competitor that he is, having lost to Calipari’s OADs in '12, might be on some level engaging in such a “secondary sport” if you will, trying to win the recruiting battles just for winning’s sake.

    Anyway, that is moderately off-point. To get back to what I might have been trying to get at, let me recall a quote from your post in which you say “And then I realized just how grotesquely perverted the game had become by the OAD rule, even at Kansas.” This quote was in response to seeing what you perceived as a KU playing not as a team but rather as a collection of their individual talents, and how apparently that is the fault of the OAD rule.

    Here is where I will agree with you: this KU squad does play a whole less like a cohesive team than many teams of years past.

    Where I disagree with you is that it is the fault of the OAD rule. We were faced with replacing all 5 starters this year, only one of which was lost because of the OAD rule (McLemore). The other 4 spots were vacated by seniors running out of eligibility. Even if BMac was forced to stay, how cohesive was this team going to get? If you replace an OAD Wiggins with a non-OAD Greene, would this look more like a team? Maybe I’m missing the point, but how would abandoning the OAD rule have helped this year’s squad look & play more like a team, more like EKU did apparently?

    You say that there was no team play, no stuff being run, and what was done was simply us out-talent-ing EKU. While that may be true to some extent, maybe even a large extent, there were two plays that I recall that were as classic Bill Self as it gets. Both back door plays, the first was a lob from Mason to Wiggins, the second of such which came in the half-court (the first came on a fast break, which isn’t necessarily running “stuff” ). The second was also a dunk by Wiggins, in which he got his man going the wrong way, cut baseline and received a beautiful pass from Frankamp. Both of those plays illustrated to me at least a quasi-competence in their ability to run Self’s offense.

    In both the examples I provided, we see something that I think speaks more to this team’s inability to look like a fully functioning team on the offensive end than does the OAD rule. We see that both the plays were started by our back-up point guards. The biggest problem our offense has in so much that it resembles “the finest food ingredients thrown together to make a fast food meal” is our junior point guard’s inability to make it run smooth. Against EKU, he could barely maintain a dribble while approaching the three point line. And I know at this point it must seem like I am blaming Tharpe for all of this team’s ills, but honestly I saw this problem coming a year ago and voiced my concerns over him being our starter for the next two seasons. To me, the problem was that glaring.

    Now, having started my post after reading your comments about the Banks’ quote distracting us, I have scrolled further down to see that much of my argument was made by @KUSTEVE, and that you have countered that with some explanation on the ripple effects of the OAD system. I don’t think that you are correct in your recollection of us bringing in Naa. I know we brought in Traylor after going down to Florida to watch Deandre Daniels, and it was widely speculated that Traylor’s signing was meant to entice Daniels to come, but I don’t recall the same situation for Naa. I know we had recruited TRob from the Brewster academy, and that is probably how Naa got on the radar, but really I think it was more a case of Self missing on other players from other schools - Josiah Turner being the main one that springs to mind.

    I guess all that is left to say is that I sincerely hope the new NBA commissioner changes the eligibility rules soon and we can get away from the OADs and a return to a higher brand of basketball.

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