We Can Guard The Three Point Line - Period

  • Had a good conversation with @Crimsonorblue22 regarding three point defense and personnel. Clearly, our best lineup will be a 3/2 with Doke and SDS manning the post.

    So what happens when we face a 4/1 team with excellent three point shooting – even one that has all five guys that are threats from the arc?

    Do we adjust to them? Do we relent? Do we now play Garrett at the 4 spot and substantially compromise how WE play?

    No. That’s a clear way NOT to win a national championship.

    This requires coach Self to adjust and change. He has to get away from the standard defensive principles that he has relied upon for years. Those principles compromise the ability to guard the line.

    Self’s defensive principles are inside out. That is, the most threatening spot is nearest the basket and that progressively works out. His entire defensive scheme is premised upon this outdated philosophy. He has attempted to make adjustments, but we have seen, we constantly give up open three point shots.

    We’ve seen it in action. The most clear and obvious example was the absolute thrashing we received from Villanova in the 2018 Final Four. The question we all asked, “How were their shooters so wide open?”

    It’s easy. We were playing inside out defense. Self is a master of that philosophy. But it is suicide in certain games.

    Let’s start with the first, most easy way to guard the three point line. You would play zone, position five defenders on the line and cover every shot like a blanket. Of course, then, you’d give up easy buckets at the rim. That’s the starting point.

    I’ve long since believed the best way to guard the line is a 3-2 zone with the perimeter guys and a one post defender (depending on the side of the ball) attacking those shots. But Self won’t play zone. Heck, when only a three point shot could TIE us at the end of a game, Self was still guarding guys inside the three point line (see Michigan 2013). He’ll never go zone.

    So what do we do? The fact is, you can play man and guard the line. But you have to be willing to give up uncontested two point jumpers, and you have to understand, that at times, we’ll give up an easy bucket at the rim. You sacrifice. This assessment has to be game by game, situation by situation.

    To beat the best 4/1 teams, you have to limit three point attempts AND contest those attempts.

    But here’s how you do it.

    1. You have to scrap double teaming in the post, and collapsing in the post except in certain circumstances.

    2. You can’t hedge out top or double the pick and roll. Good three point teams make you pay for that.

    3. You have to create conditions that invite the two point jumper. That means attacking the three point shooter (selling out) and giving up the two point jumper, and also slacking off off guys in that two point range in favor of shutting off the drive. But you can’t regularly help with the perimeter defender on drives. Leave open areas on the court for jumpers if necessary.

    4. You have to incorporate zone principles off the ball. So when the ball is on one wing, you’d have a defender focused on the near corner, one out from the near corner at the top of the key, one at the far corner top of the key, and another near the far wing. If there is a post man, that defender has that responsibility, but you don’t shade to help there. You shade to help the perimeter.

    5. You can’t help from a shooter that is one pass away. Huge. As an example, and we see this happen, screen high, hedge, defender from the wing slides up, and his man slides down a bit and is open for three in the deep wing or corner. Heck, Svi did that for us all the time when teams made that error.

    6. Very importantly, we can’t help from the weak side on drives from the strong side. Right, there is an open three point shooter.

    7. And as a basic principle, you have to switch every screen on the perimeter. Period. You then work to re-switch into your favored match-up. Getting over screens is just too slow much of the time.

    How much of that seems counter to what Self does? Pretty much all of it. That’s my point. Think about that. Think about Self’s defense.

    I’m not suggesting perfection. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t exceptions. And there are varying degrees, of course, on how you approach each item. You can gameplan and scheme to permit certain guys to shoot threes. All of this is macro in nature.

    But if you want to really guard the three point line and still actively guard the rim, this is how you do it.

    The counter position is to permit teams to make us play their way. To remove our core players. No way. We can passively just take it, and accept that we are weak. Or we can actively dictate and be strong. Easy choice in my book.

    But it requires Self to adapt his defense to permit us to play OUR game. It also requires Self to CHANGE. How often to we double the pick and roll, help from the weak side on a drive, work over a screen, slack back in the lane, etc.? How often is a three point shooter left open because his defender is helping inside the arc?

    This requires Self to change.

    Sound familiar? We know the man can change because he has changed in other aspects. Remember when the three point shot was fool’s gold? It never was fool’s gold. It’s a staple of modern basketball. Our coach took time to adapt.

    Also, as an aside, I’ve always liked alternating defenses and scheme mid-game, and for certain possessions. This approach could be used even against inferior teams, or non 4/1 teams as a change-up.

    I strongly think we should play a lot of 3-2 zone with this team. But that’s another topic.

    Regarding our man to man, the philosophical change mentioned above, for certain opponents, may determine our fate. Hot shooting does not just happen much of the time – it can be created by a defense that permits volume and open looks from the spots the shooters are comfortable.

  • @HighEliteMajor how far things have come on this in a few years. I remember KenPom articles showing the scatterplots and averages on teams 3pt %s against “good” and “bad” defensive teams attempting to prove that defensive impact against good 3pt shooting was statistically insignificant. It felt like fact at the time.

    I agree with you. It HAS to be possible to defend good 3 pt shooting teams better. But are there in depth statistical analyses like the aformentioned that prove this point?

  • @HighEliteMajor Good stuff. Nice post. My ears perked up when I heard you say 3/2 zone. I would think a perimeter man to man with Silvio and Big Dave playing zone in the paint would be highly effective. When I say man to man on the perimeter, I’m talking belly button man to man. All over them. Never leave your man. No help…no hedge. I would think Big Dave’s mobility would be better than Dokes, and him and Silvio would be dynamic in that defense.

  • Nice analysis. I could see Self throwing a zone out there now and then as he’s done in the past but agree, “real” change would almost definitely be tweaks to his beloved man to man D.

  • Here’s the article to which I was referring btw: https://kenpom.com/blog/3point-defense-should-not-be-defined-by-opponents-3p/

    Rereading it, I really like the point that kenpom makes in his very last sentence…

    Teams have much more control over how many three’s their opponents shoot than how many they make.

    This also may be telling of the critical flaw in any statistical analysis he did. How can anyone quantify how many times a shooter touches the ball and wants to shoot but doesnt feel like he is open, so does not?

  • I think our 3 point defense will be better. One thing to consider is the line moving back, last time they moved it back the average percentage dropped about 3%. The hedging was pointless the past few years while we played 4 guard line ups. It should be a simple switch with everyone but the 5 and that wasnt the case for us.

  • I agree there should be a schematic change. @kjayhawks had a good point about the line moving back. That’s going to have a significant impact you would think, especially this year. It’s going to minimize how many effective 4 out teams there are. Will it be a temporary impact though?

    This whole thread which was very good by the way @HighEliteMajor brought me to the most important point of this discussion. Self’s defensive scheme is losing NCAA tournament games. There has to be a remedy to that

  • @BeddieKU23 Coaching and the scheme is a big part of it. You don’t get down by 25 in the right scheme. The other part is personnel. Our guards had damn well better defend the perimeter with a front line like that behind them. I want to see us turning teams over, and getting runouts. Our defense has become so weak…so passive. I want to see pressure on the perimeter, jumping out in those passing lanes, and taking it back at them.

  • @BeddieKU23 It’s going to minimize how many effective 4 out teams there are.

    It will also make any defense trying to double in the post work much harder to get back to 3 pt defense. If an offense has players capable of making the longer shot, I think 4-out teams continue to run defenses ragged if they try, like us, to continually switch from post to outside.

    I just don’t ever again want to see our bigs 10 ft from both the post and the shooter, sitting in No Man’s Land watching shots arc over their heads, and not being in rebounding position because they were lunging outside, either!

  • Self is an amazing defensive coach. But Germans attacked through the Ardennes forest, they did it fast, they had high mobile troops and tanks. It was a new age. New weaponry and new schemes. Self has to be aggressive and recognize that defending the three against some teams IS the priority.

    @KUSTEVE I don’t know why it’s become passive. But I’m all in on the 3-2. You can always have one big near the bucket.

    @kjayhawks @BeddieKU23 I hope Self isn’t banking on the line moving back, being a big change.

    @mayjay To defend the three and play man, our bigs will be away from the basket. Rebounding has to be a team venture. But your mention of our bigs being 10 ft. from the bucket is correct … they either need to be defending the line, or near the bucket. If they are on-ball from mid range, then give some space and get a hand up. We want that shot.

    @approxinfinity To me, there is no doubt that by contesting the line, you decrease the quality of looks, and you can decrease the numbers. Again, imagine if you played a five man zone at the line and work back from there. Sure, you’ll run into guys that are so hot they be hitting hook shots if they took them, but give me the stout D at the line and I’ll take my chances against some of the better 4/1 teams.

    @ajvan I just wish he’d try the 3-2 … like @KUSTEVE said, how perfect would it be with this roster?

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Solid post! Ultimately… someone is going to have to step up and guard someone. We start relying too much on help defense, which to some degree enables players to not stick in someone’s grill, there will eventually be a breakdown somewhere because players are playing away from their man in order to help.

    In the least, players have to get out and contest some shots. Then we can talk about other ways they can help.

  • @HighEliteMajor I’m not in love with zoning the perimeter. However, i am willing to try anything, including a 3/2 zone at times, to defend the 3 ball better.

  • If 4 out then pressure, don’t help, and feed towards Doke who will rim protect so hopefully we give up a long 2. If 5 out then Big Dave and possibly Mitch plays the 5. - This, however, affects the offensive end.

  • KUSTEVE said:

    @BeddieKU23 Coaching and the scheme is a big part of it. You don’t get down by 25 in the right scheme. The other part is personnel. Our guards had damn well better defend the perimeter with a front line like that behind them. I want to see us turning teams over, and getting runouts. Our defense has become so weak…so passive. I want to see pressure on the perimeter, jumping out in those passing lanes, and taking it back at them.

    I Agree. - -with the back line we have this year there is no reason these guards can’t be a lot more aggressive - gamble - we have the guys to back them up if they get beat get up in them - -constant hard pressure - -make it hard for them pressure everything

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I can see it getting in the way of any significant changes though which is a big concern. If he didn’t change something after watching Nova run laps on us in the Final 4 what’s going to be the final straw?

  • @mayjay @KUSTEVE

    I’m hopeful and optimistic this years roster is just what the doctor ordered defensively. Dotson, Agbaji, Garrett all proved to be above average to very good defenders last year. Mitch takes charges and protects the rim. A healthy Doke and an eligible Silvio are two of the most imposing and athletic bigs in the country with varying skill. Moss comes into the team with a reputation for being a good defender. McCormack showed flashes last year. We lost a bunch of poor defenders and when you don’t have continuity through the rotation the cracks end up being bigger then they should be. The effort of certain players defensively was not what we expect and none of those guys returned. I do not think Self will have a problem maximizing effort from this group and getting them to buy in

  • @BeddieKU23 This team is going to make some big noise. Give Bill a team that has size, experience, and defends, and he’ll get every last smidgeon out of them.

  • BeddieKU23 said:


    I can see it getting in the way of any significant changes though which is a big concern. If he didn’t change something after watching Nova run laps on us in the Final 4 what’s going to be the final straw?

    @BeddieKU23 Remember old @JayHawkFanToo. Miss the old chap. It was always, “It’s all the players’ fault.” I have no idea after the Nova disaster why that was not an extreme wake up call.

    But I have faith. Complete faith. The best coach in KU’s history will get this figured out.

  • @KUSTEVE A perimeter man to man while playing a switching zone in the paint - interesting, and I like the idea.

    @HighEliteMajor Great post!

    I have been lamenting our defense for about 4 or 5 years now, something definitely needs to be done. What used to be a strength (we were always ranked as a top 10 defense nationally) has become a weakness. Maybe some of it is due to our just not having enough of and or the right horses? But I don’t think that even while saying it.

    We have grown FAR too passive, somehow becoming a reactionary team that likes to play an Oh No, There’s A Three Point Shooter! defense, belatedly trying to jump over and get a half-assed (from about five feet away!) hand up just before the shot goes up. That is one of the things that I remember about Roy’s KU coached teams that I absolutely despised, our constantly getting torched from the 3. I hope that this year is different, i.e. we applying constant pressure on the perimeter.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I have faith as well. I just thought after the Nova loss there would have been a sense of urgency to change the scheme defensively. Maybe that realization comes now, this year, with a roster made for possibly changing things up. There’s a good chance 7-8 guys return next season as well which gives him the time to implement a change not only for this current season but sets it up for future years.

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