Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Defense polarizes programs

Tyshawn Taylor (10) puts up a floater under the goal in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the Baylor Bears. Taylor scored 19 points in the win.

Tyshawn Taylor (10) puts up a floater under the goal in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the Baylor Bears. Taylor scored 19 points in the win.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 68-54 victory over Baylor on Feb. 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Baylor coach Scott Drew

Baylor coach Scott Drew talks to reporters following the Bears' 68-54 loss to Kansas on Feb. 8, 2012.

Download podcast

KU vs. Baylor

Box score

— As I watched both teams on the same court for the second time this season Wednesday night, a light flickered in a normally very dark place — my brain — and it became plain to see why Kansas keeps beating Baylor, even though the Bears win so many recruiting battles.

The Jayhawks make it no fun to play against them. They plant themselves in your face and stay there. The Bears have so many good basketball players, but nothing about them makes Kansas dread playing them.

Kansas defends against Baylor with the urgency of a make-it, take-it team playing from behind. The Bears defend in a way that calls to mind All-Star teams, as they settle into a passive zone that once solved tends to stay solved.

Kansas is a boot-camp basketball program, Baylor a summer-camp team, replete with a no-cussing policy implemented by coach Scott Drew, a magnificent recruiter and likable face for the once-disgraced program.

Kansas brings a football (ultimate team sport) mentality into the Baylor games, whereas the Bears look more like a track and field team (individual sport), showcasing most-impressive high jumpers and sprinters.

A shaky Kansas start and an oh-so-sloppy finish resulted in a deceiving score, a 68-54 victory that lifted the Jayhawks back into a first-place tie with Missouri and shoved Baylor into third place, one game behind the leaders.

That score doesn’t speak to the dominance Kansas displayed once it stopped tripping all over itself and started striking fear into Baylor. In a span of 11 minutes and 14 seconds, starting with a few minutes left in the first half, the Jayhawks outscored Baylor, 32-4. Those merciless meanies, bullying the poor Bears like that.

That stretch defined as well as any why teams that play aggressive man-to-man defense have higher ceilings than those that play a passive zone.

Why, the question was put to Kansas coach Bill Self, are his teams so good defensively, year in and year out?

“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve guarded for three weeks,” Self said. “I don’t think we have.”

He’s never satisfied, which is why his players don’t relax and in turn get better. But every year the numbers define Kansas as one of the nation’s strongest defensive teams.

“It’s what we believe in,” Self said. “It’s got to be the staple of who we are, and we take pride in that. We’ve recruited some good players, and those good players have all sacrificed to become that, so that’s more of a compliment to them than it is anything else. But it’s who we are.”

Tyshawn Taylor was asked the same question.

“I think that’s just his emphasis,” Taylor said of Self. “He always emphasizes defense, defense, defense, and he wants us to play high on the floor. He wants us to pressure as much as possible, and I think we try to do that the best we can. We play high on the floor, not letting them get easy passes, pressuring the ball when people are bouncing it.

“Our big guys do a good job of trapping the post when we set that up, and our guards do a good job of rotating and just helping each other out. We’re a good defensive team because we help each other out.”

Guard Elijah Johnson (five assists, one turnover) didn’t score a point, and neither did the man he guarded, three-point shooter, Brady Heslip.

“I didn’t see any reason to let him catch the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s not a threat if he can’t catch the ball. So I planned on not letting him be a threat.”

Defense always comes first at Kansas.

“That’s our team,” Johnson said. “That’s our program. Anybody can score. That’s why you’re in college basketball. But we can defend.”

It can be difficult for players to accept that because scoring is more naturally enjoyable than preventing someone else from doing it.

“I bought into it since the summer I got here,” Johnson said. “I definitely did because he knows something I don’t know, and I take his word for it.”

Baylor needed just 1:53 to score seven points at the game’s start, five of them scored by McDonald’s All-Americans Perry Jones III (dunk off a lob) and Quincy Miller (three-pointer). For the remaining 38:07, neither player scored a field goal.

It should be noted, though, that Miller played just 14 minutes. After Miller threw a vicious elbow into Jeff Withey’s chest, Drew benched him for the remainder of the game for playing too hard. Check that, for playing too roughly, not too hard.

“Obviously, Quincy should never have done it,” Drew said.

True, but Miller and teammates need to learn to play a more physical brand of basketball. On paper, they look like championship material, on the court, at least against Kansas, more like an All-Star squad.


REHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Hey, if you wish to coast on your high school talent and attend a college where the coach guarantees a starting position,from the getgo, go to Baylor. If you seek the challenge of optimal development, watch a Kansas practice, and stop off for a visit in Andrea Hudy's training facility. Depending on your personal make-up, pick the program which best suits your disposition. Kansas coaches will be searching for the brightest, most industrious, focused, determined and flexible 4 or 5 star recruit.


JayHawkFanToo 2 years, 2 months ago

As soft as Baylor plays, looks like they could use this player already enrolled at Baylor...


Eric Bernauer 2 years, 2 months ago

I hope he paid particular attention to the development of PJ3 and TRob. TRob was not a McDonald's All American nor by any stretch of the imagination a refined player. TRob was a one trick pony who rebounded well by playing hard. PJ3 on the other hand was cream of the crop of the then high school players. Many thought he was a one and done. Now you should ask yourself Mr. Randle, who has developed more. PJ3 came in as a player at a very high level, but has he improved at all? TRob, the previous one trick pony, is now many peoples favorite for POY. How about Jeff Withey? Jeff came in as a top 50 player, but anybody who watched his initial forays onto the court could see he wasn't ready for much more than keeping the pine warm. Now he is a player. It is hard for me to believe that I actually catch myself looking forward to seeing him play next year because if he improves as much again as he already has, the NBA is in his future.

Playing close to home is nice. Setting your career on track is priceless.


Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

Coach of the Year:

1] Who in Division 1 has lost more talent [ 3 NBA players, 3 seniors, 3 2012 recruits] 2] Whose bench is ranked 293 out of 340+/- ? 3] Who is threatening to secure a #1 seed in the NCAA? 4] Who is in the drivers seat for an 8th straight Big 12 conference title? 5] Who has got, after the first five, just walk-ons and projects filling out the rotation? 6] Who will have played Top 25 teams 10 times this season?

You tell me!!!!!!!!!


bennybob 2 years, 2 months ago

I really thought the Big 12 was Baylor's conference to lose this year, the talent on that team is head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

My Mistake!

I will never again underestimate Scott Drew's ability to take talented teams and cut them off at the knees with poor coaching.


HawkKlaw 2 years, 2 months ago

I notice this year in and year out. At the start of the season, KU tends to look awful on offense and pretty decent on defense. Then, about mid-season, KU tends to start looking pretty impressive on both ends of the court. You can tell that Self's strategy is to always start by teaching tough team defense. I would argue that it is the key ingredient to Self's gaudy winning percentage.


gerseph 2 years, 2 months ago

2013 5 star recruit Julius Randle attended the game last night. In addition to KU's dominance he also witnessed a large portion of Baylor fans leaving with about 12 minutes left in the game. I wonder what his thoughts coming away were. KU has offered him a scholarship as well.


Ben Kliewer 2 years, 2 months ago

I didn't read all the comments, so if I'm repeating something, forgive me. I talked to some people who were talking about how, after we had that huge run in the middle of the game, we got lazy in the last few minutes.

I don't think that's lazy, I think that's exhaustion. Our bench is so thin that our guys, especially TT, are playing the better part of the 40 minutes. I think we just ran out of gas at the end, and since Baylor had played so much "summer league" ball during the game, they still had energy to put together a little run. It's not conditioning either, I think these guys are pretty well conditioned. Just lot's of game-time. Must've given Baylor some good rest letting KU go on a 35-7 run like that.

Speaking of TT, we have all seen his mistakes under a microscope because all we see is Kansas Basketball. We simply judge him against himself and what he "should" be doing. We pay enough attention that we can make note of all his mistakes, and all we see of other guards in the country are the highlights on sportscenter. But I'll tell you, I'm really beginning to buy into this whole "one of the best guards in the country" hooplah. I mean, Tyshawn has really been impressing me a lot lately. And I think he's working hard and taking it a lot more seriously at this point. I'm excited for Madness.


mnhawk13 2 years, 2 months ago

Found interesting after the game listening to college basketball live, and the question was posed do you credit Kansas or blame Baylor. The answer is, you have to blame Baylor. We played well, but they were terrible on defense again and wouldn't come out of the zone. Take T-Rob away at the post and all you do is run short corner and feed the low post. Basketball 101...taught my 3-4 grade girls that play last week.


KGphoto 2 years, 2 months ago

Good one Keeg party. Really good.

"The Jayhawks make it no fun to play against them. They plant themselves in your face and stay there." Love it!

"Make it take it" "Boot camp, Summer camp"

All great analogies.


DallasJay14 2 years, 2 months ago

Scott Drew is an awful x and o's coach and HCBS makes him look stupid everytime they play. Thats all that needs to be said.

Go Hawks!


Tony Bandle 2 years, 2 months ago

Tom, this may be the best article of the season written by need to visit that very dark place in your brain more often, my friend.

Let me try to explain Baylor's recruiting success:

1] Playing a soft zone is easy...playing a tough man-to-man is hard. 2] If basketball was a dinner, offense is your meat, potatoes, gravy and dessert......defense is your vegetables. 3] No one plays defense in the NBA so why does anyone think elite high school players want to play defense in college. 4] Bill Self is Marine Drill Sergeant R. Lee Emery [Full Metal Jacket] 5] Scott Drew is Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko


WilburNether 2 years, 2 months ago

Keegan wrote: "...teams that play aggressive man-to-man defense have higher ceilings than those that play a passive zone.

Yeah, like when KU beat Syracuse in the NCAA Championship game in the 2003 Final Four.

Oops, wait.....


Jeremy Paul 2 years, 2 months ago

I went to a University of Iowa wrestling camp about 20 years ago, and Dan Gable told a story about his team that was going for its 10th consecutive national championship (I believe it was 1987). Anyway, they had been completely dominant for 9 years and ego got the best of them and that year they decided to put a roman numeral "X" on their singlets. They ended up finishing 6th at the national tournament. And Gable said that it was because since they had become so good, their success was basically recruiting itself and all the best wrestlers in the nation wanted to go there. He said that all the 3-time and 4-time state champions out there--the ultra talented kids who basically didn't have to work too hard to be state champs--all came to Iowa. And they got complacent and didn't have good work ethic because they were, in their minds, already good. And so Gable vowed from then on he didn't care how many state titles a kid won, or how slick and talented he was on the mat; he was going to recruit guys who worked their asses off. That was all he wanted--guys who wanted to be the best and were willing to put in the work to make that happen.

I guess that's sort of a strange anecdote to have on a Kansas basketball message board, but I've always remembered that and it has always made sense to me. And I think Bill Self has the same philosophy. Baylor can have all the McD's all-american's they want--those dudes usually think they're great already and generally don't always have the best work ethic. Self would rather have a guy with desire to work hard every day and buy into his system of teamwork and attitude.

By the way, how do ya'll like the new pic of my daughter on here? We call her Cee-Lo.


oldalum 2 years, 2 months ago

You wonder if some of those great recruits Drew brings in have never watched Baylor play. Maybe his big selling point is to convince the recruit that all the team is missing is them, and once they're signed up everything will be okay. Drew is still coasting on that zone defense he pulled out of his bag of tricks at the Big12 tournament several years ago--completely surprised everyone, including us, and won the tournament because none of the other teams had prepared for it. He needs to realize that everyone has now figured it out. Poor Perry Jones. He should have left last year.


KU_Phogified 2 years, 2 months ago

Tremendous, spot-on article, Mr. Keegan. What you essentially did, was define the difference between a program that is legit (KU), and one that is superficial (Baylor). I don't care how many All-Worlders Baylor signs, they still don't play a demanding defensive style; which is never going to take them anywhere significant.

Guys like Self, who can get high-level and even marginal talent to play defense and share the ball, are the premier coaches. Perhaps the perception is that country-clubs like Baylor are more suitable for the easier, softer way into the NBA, but KU and Self cut no corners, and this scares off some of these high school prima-donas. Isn't it ironic, that our "weakest" team can hammer Baylor's best team ever!?!

Great job last night fellas. Keep up the good work.


Clarence Haynes 2 years, 2 months ago

For all of you recruits considering Baylor versus Kansas, the record of 7 (contending for an eighth) Big XII Titles and Coach Self's record versus Baylor speak for themselves!


stm62 2 years, 2 months ago

If you can absorb Baylors initial onslaught, as KU did. They'll quit.


Benjamin Jones 2 years, 2 months ago

“I think that’s just his emphasis,” Taylor said of Self. “He always emphasizes defense, defense, defense, and he wants us to play high on the floor. He wants us to pressure as much as possible, and I think we try to do that the best we can. We play high on the floor, not letting them get easy passes, pressuring the ball when people are bouncing it."

Yeah, Tyshawn plays TOO high on the floor; pressures his man TOO closely. That's why Jackson was driving around him at will last night.


yates33333 2 years, 2 months ago

Great column. I think Keegan is getting with the program.


Eybea Opiner 2 years, 2 months ago

“I bought into it since the summer I got here,” Johnson said. “I definitely did because he knows something I don’t know, and I take his word for it.”

You just have to love a player with an attitude like that.


Mike Barnhart 2 years, 2 months ago

Sure, Baylor is loaded with 5-star athletes but as Kansas has discovered with a few of it's recent 5-star signings not all hamburger all-americans are alike!

When it comes to 5-star recruits, only a few combine their immense talent with a strong work ethic. Coach Self now knows better. Let Baylor have the lazy 5-stars, we'll take the 4-stars that try harder them the "Avis All-Americans"!


jhox 2 years, 2 months ago

Every coach I've ever been around has talked about the importance of playing good defense. The best coaches demand it. The best coaches are willing to sit their best player on the bench if they're not playing defense. That's what separates the great coaches from the average ones. It is amazing to me how few coaches out there truly demand great defense. If you don't expect it, you're probably not going to get it.

If you look at, year in, year out, the most successful coaches, the very best demand great defense. Zone defenses are not all bad, but you better have long, fast athletes if you're going to play zone, and they better be able to cover a lot of ground and work their butts off (like Syracuse teams, or the Cheney teams at Temple.) Drew has the athletes to do that, but he's obviously not demanding enough of them. That's probably why so many elite players flock to him (that, and probably a little green thrown in as well) because he doesn't make them work hard. Players love to play for "players coaches", but player's coaches rarely win anything significant.


jaybate 2 years, 2 months ago

Elijah has solved his shooting slump in an unorthodox way. He has stopped others from scoring, too.


KU_Alumn_2000 2 years, 2 months ago

Ralster - your feelings toward Baylor are similar to how I feel about Mizzcrap.

KU basketball team - don't celebrate this victory. Move on, stay focused, and let that Missouri game feed your drive for the rest of the season.

Let's win this conference outright...and send Missouri packing for the SEC in style.


hawksfan08 2 years, 2 months ago

Can't say I disagree with one thing written here. Touche. This is the difference between John Calipari and Scott Drew. Seniors + great coach > talented freshman + great coach (calipari, like it or not his teams are well coached and defend) > talented freshmen + ok coach (drew, whose teams don't defend and try to get theirs on the other end).


Ralster Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

KU "polaroids" Baylor...thanks for the memories!


Ralster Jayhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Wierd, strange coaching by Scott Drew-a-blank. Your teams are "soft!", boy. You got no prayer with your Failor-baylor team against any tough-ass Self team. Self's teams personify him--and he recruits players that have that tough swagger, from RussRob, Chalmers, Sherron, to Tyshawn, Twins, and TRob... Your player's pretend-toughness got him benched, the ultimate self-check. Pun intended. Why dont you recruit some more MickeyD's? And go watch some game tape of the 08Champs on how Self figured out years ago how to kill zones. Or just watch 2 Baylor/ku games from this season? See if daddy got any ideas for ya...stupid pretender forgot that conference play = big boy ball. You opened a can of "Zero", and Self keeps poppin cans of "Jolt" on u. Whatcha got for next year? Cuz, see this was just a "down" year for us...


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