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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Self: Jayhawks’ defense not on point

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson comes away with the ball from Chattanooga guard Casey Jones during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson comes away with the ball from Chattanooga guard Casey Jones during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Elijah Johnson hit four important three-pointers and Naadir Tharpe one in helping Kansas University’s basketball team shake upset-minded Chattanooga on Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

The two point guards, who accounted for 16 second-half points in KU’s 69-55 come-from-behind victory over the Mocs, also combined for nine assists against four turnovers. Tharpe led the way with five assists to no turnovers the first half; Johnson had four assists, one turnover the final half after a zero-assist, three-bobble effort the first 20 minutes.

Their offensive performance — which included 7-of-10 shooting from Johnson — helped awaken the Jayhawks, who trailed by 12 points early in the second half.

Their work on defense, however was not up to coach Bill Self’s standards.

“Elijah and Naadir have got to guard,” Self said. “We are decent defensively at the 2 (shooting guard), 3 (small forward) and 5 (center). We’ve got to get our 1 (point guard) and 4 (power forward) to be able to guard as well.”

Self, whose Jayhawks were burned by the 18-point, first-half performance of 6-foot point guard Farad Cobb, thinks he’s found a solution regarding on-the-ball point guard defense. He’ll let 6-foot-6 Travis Releford take over following his shutdown effort on Cobb during the second half.

“We’re better off with Travis on the ball,” Self said.

Overall he was pleased with the defense the final 20 minutes — ‘D’ that held the Mocs to 19 points off 6-of-25 shooting (24 percent).

“We fouled three times the first half (and trailed, 36-28 at break). How many teams are energetic and into it if you foul (just) three times?” Self asked. “Our (past) teams were in the bonus by the 10-minute mark because we foul stupid but we are also getting after it. We fouled 13 times the second half and were great defensively. The first half we had three fouls and no pressure at all. You’ve got to get in people’s comfort zone. The first half we didn’t do it at all.”

KU’s offense was miserable the first half as the Jayhawks hit 11 of 29 shots (37.9 percent), including three of 12 from three. KU hit 44.1 percent overall, including seven of 23 from three. Johnson went 5-of-5 the second half, 3-of-3 from three, scoring 13 points with four assists against one turnover.

“The thing about Elijah, he’ll bring it up the floor and pitch ahead to Ben instead of attacking himself,” Self said. “We don’t have a secondary handler. We’re negating numbers or our chance to get in the paint and make a play because Ben (McLemore) and Travis (Releford) aren’t great at that yet. With Naadir in there it can take some of the pressure off him. Naadir did OK (despite 1-of-6 shooting). He made a big shot in our run, may have given us our first lead (actually stretched it to 49-43).”

KU will next meet Washington State at 9 p.m., Monday, in Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Comments

Kye Clark 1 year, 11 months ago

I was actually disappointed that Adams didn't see more extended minutes. I thought he came in and did a nice job, drove the paint and made a nice scoop shot at the rim (in the first half when we were desperate for something to work), and defended with his usual tenacity. Tharpe on the other hand struggled shooting, defending, and routinely picked up his dribble once he crossed half-court and allowed himself to get trapped. At this point it seems like a lost cause, sad that after only 3 games and limited auditions in exhibition games Self has seemingly locked into his rotation.

(note: no I am not in practice and don't see everything Self sees. Yes I know that at least in part players who perform in practice are the ones who see minutes in games. No I don't know more than Coach Self. There, all you "how dare you question/have-an-opinion-different-than Coach Self!" crowd can just save it)

KULA 1 year, 11 months ago

Agree. Never been a fan of Bill's quick hook and set rotation, which relegates promising players to a season on the bench.

Kye Clark 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm not opposed to the quick hook, provided it's for coaching opportunities and then the player is reinserted to show he can apply the instruction given. And I'm not opposed to set rotations, just think with this young of a team it got set too soon.

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm right alongside you on this Rio Adams thing. By the 19 minute mark of that first half I was grinding metal from my molars, exasperated with our guard play. I really like EJ, and hope that he yet will fit into the mold of one of the top dozen point guards in the country. But right now, without his mercurial success at shooting beyond the arc, he isn't holding a candle to the play of Pierre Jackson or Flip Pressey or his predecessor last semester. I am a Missouri resident, still and forever hostile to the turncoat league leaping of this state university. But I did tune in to watch a few minutes of the televised Tiger game last night. The dynamics of Phil Pressey soars completely off the charts. On both ends of the court he generates as much excitement as any collegiate player I have ever watched. It is sad right now that our Jayhawk point guards are not making much happen. (Okay, I am braced up for the Tigerbashers! Actually, I am one of you. But talent and energy on a basketball court rises like cream in a cup of water.)

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

"And I'm not opposed to set rotations, just think with this young of a team it got set too soon."

Which assumes that it is set.

KULA 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah,but the players are never get back into the game. Think of all the one(minute) and done appearances by EJ and Naadir in the past seasons. One mistake and its the bench for the rest of the game.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

ict: Tharpe just seems so limited to me, but I'm with you .. the competition of it might be a lost cause. The only glimmer of hope for Adams is that Tharpe can't defend. Adams is a way superior defender. My only question on Adams is can he handle the ball? He sure looks good when he has it, though -- but the difference between the open floor and primary ballhandler is huge. And Tharpe did choke big time against the pressure out top. If I'm an opposing team, I'd attack Tharpe the way Chattanooga did -- it's not brain surgery.

Nice disclaimer, by the way. Maybe we should add an acknowledgment of "SIG" at the end of our posts ... Self is God ... that should be sufficient.

melrank 1 year, 11 months ago

Apparently, we are still finishing up our conversation from Thursday. Funny. Have a great weekend.

melrank 1 year, 11 months ago

To some degree, your disclaimer at the end is me :) During the running chat the other night, HEM and I had a similar discussion about this exact topic. Since I think of both of you as thoughtful, level headed posters, I've given this subject additional consideration. Without Bill's input on this, though, we will never know for sure, but here's my thoughts.

Coach has a rigid philosophy regarding rotations and minutes that makes his machine run the most efficiently. Most of his starters are going to get 30 mins + or - per game. Two guys will get 15-20 minutes and 1-2 guys will pick up the remaining 10 minutes depending on situation and typically in the first half. Go back and look over every season and that's what you will find. This minutes breakdown isn't different than most other coaches, but he seems to practice this like religion and his roster will be adjusted to fit this allocation of minutes. Another coach might expand his rotation to 8 or 9 guys if he has the depth. Maybe that coach will run more up-tempo or play defense more aggressively. Self (at KU so far) has not changed his rotational philosophies or game strategies much based on roster depth.

So, could it be his "quick hook" is in part because that's his rotational philosophy? He wants to give the starters a short blow and the play of the sub isn't relevant. Now if they go out and light it up, could they get extended minutes? Perhaps, but this would run against his rotational philosophy and let's face it - it rarely happens that player #9 in the rotation comes off the bench like Vinny Johnson and blows it up. So, regardless of who lands in the 8-9 position, they are only going to get used for a few minutes and then get pulled back out. That's the philosophy.

Could the quick hook of his rotational philosophy also serve an additional purpose as the "teaching moment" for young, not quite ready players during the course of a game? Again, the 8-9 guys get a few minutes typically in the first half only. Maybe Coach is willing to risk a breakdown in the less pivotal first half for an opportunity to let them get out there and make a mistake so that he can coach 'em up on the bench and in the film room. Good or bad, they are only going to get a few minutes of time.

There might be more to it, might be less. I might be in left field :)

melrank 1 year, 11 months ago

What I do know is that most every year we have this same conversation. There's a highly regarded young kid on the bench not getting time while an upperclassmen is struggling to learn how to be a quality starter. Is it the back-up QB syndrome we have as fans? It used to be EJ, the freak athlete, should be playing and not Tyshawn - that one was intense BTW. Or there was the Releford over Morningstar/Reed debate. There have been other less heated pleas for the backup player from the fans. I'm inclined to believe that Coach played the best player at that time that gave us the best chance to win. Young kids who are ready to contribute as a part of the main rotation get the chance - Tyshawn as a Frosh, X as a Frosh, Selby would have barring injury, BMAC now. Those guys played thru mistakes because even with the mistakes they gave us the best chance to win. Ellis? Has the chance but isn't doing it in the games right now. Will he bounce back this year? Stay tuned.

At the end of the day, I believe (maybe Coach believes too?) playing time is earned in practice. If you play well in practice, you get slotted for the big minutes and you get the longer leash. If you don't, you get slotted for the "quick hook" minutes. If you don't like it, either play better in practice or be ready to "light it up" during your limited opportunity during the game. As fans, we need to accept that a couple of guys are going to get the "quick hook" minutes.

In closing - everyone was crushing Travis during the game for his offense. Get him out! Never play him again! Give someone else a chance! Yet, who did Coach single out as the key to the game? Yep, Releford. Most often, fans only see a small fraction of what it takes to win and Coach sees more.

Fun debate.

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

melrank, yours is one of the best posts I have ever read on this site, at least involving rotation philosophy of Bill Self.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

Mel -- dead on with coach Self's approach. Great post. The best, most convincing argument for coach Self's approach is that he wins. It's the ultimate trump card. The one that counts. It's why he's the best coach in college basketball.

My view is that the only real ammo for a counter approach is when the last loss of the year comes a bit prematurely -- particularly UNI, VCU. Speaking just for me, that has been my only perspective .. what might make us better in March. To avoid a premature exit. To be the best team we can be in March. Sure, there are a few game to game items. But for me, it all focuses on March (a product of us being a bit spoiled by assuming from the start that we are actually playing in March each season).

There were prior premature exits, but the UNI and VCU exits were the ones related, perhaps, to personnel and in season philosophy. In hindsight, I don't necessarily agree with all of my arguments during those seasons. But I am dead firm, 100% convinced, take it to my grave, that both losses (UNI/VCU) were easily avoidable. Easily avoidable. And that Self made crucial errors that contributed to those losses that started with regular season decisions. Some of the contributing factors for the losses were predicted right here ahead of time, particularly VCU. On the other hand, a lot of stuff is said (by me included) that ends up being incorrect in hindsight. We have the benefit of selecting only those items that didn't work out, and saying -- "see, should have done that." Some, though, is said ahead of time. But we generally praise the success (worship it more like) as much as we critique the failures.

The beauty of this is that coach Self is right most all of the time. But there are times when he makes mistakes. And we can be right a few times. But the discussions about coach Self's decisions are on the margins, if you know what I mean there. Generally, we're dealing with a coach that is the best there is and we nit-pick a bit. That's really it.

You say -- "At the end of the day, I believe (maybe Coach believes too?) playing time is earned in practice." I understand that philosophy and agree .. but it's the matter of degree. Yes, at a base level you have to earn your playing time in practice. But to get better, one approach is that situational experience will permit more rapid growth -- game experience. Coaches value experience. Why? What experience? Experience under fire. That's the disconnect. Self's "quick hook" is just a bit different philosophically than many coaches. I just think that a bit more in-game patience would pay better dividends down the line, let guys settle down, and perform without fear of getting yanked. It's not a unique thought.

Also, yes, Releford turned the game around vs. Chattanooga with his defense in the second half. That was the first thing I posted right after the game. It was a thing of beauty. But like "Two-Face" (in Batman), you only want to see one side of the coin.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

Everybody plays in March. 25% of the teams are playing the last 2 weeks of March, but really it is playing in April that you seem to be talking about - even if they do call it "March Madness".

RJ King 1 year, 11 months ago

Generally, we're dealing with a poster that is one of the best and you nit-pick a bit. That's really it.

KansasComet 1 year, 11 months ago

HEM,

VCU

Game was all about minutes in my opinion. Robinson 6 minutes, EJ 6 minutes, Mario Little 5 minutes, and Josh Selby 15 minutes.

Brady Morningstar 32 minutes 1-7 from the field (no free throw attempts) 2 points, 4 fouls,

Tyrel Reed 34 minutes 1-9 from the field (6-8 on free throws, that's good!) no assist, no fouls.

Markieff Morris 8 turnovers (team had 14)

No way in the world did Reed and Morningstar belong on the court for a combined 66 minutes putting up numbers like that. Not when you have Robinson, Johnson, Releford, and Withey sitting on the bench. These guys by the way, helped us reach the final game the following year. All players came to KU as 4 Star and above recruits, yet two kids whom obviously the moment was too big for were left on the court. Not saying they weren't good players at KU...they were, but just not for that type of game. We were attacked at our weakest link and we lost. I am over it, but just my opinion.

UNI

Had no business being on the same court with Kansas. Any other round of the tournament, we put them away by 20. Just one of those things. One of those close tournament games, that if we survive, we probably win the whole thing. Tyshawn and Sherron had rough shooting days. Can't say the moment was too big for them, they were just had an off day. They won too many big/close games for Kansas to ever say that.

melrank 1 year, 11 months ago

HEM - I'm curious as to what you think Self should have done during the 2010-2011 season to prevent the loss to VCU. Selby should have been a bigger factor but wasn't due to injury and suspension - not a rotational decision. Given the way the season played out, only playing EJ more instead of Reed and Morningstar could be argued. Personally, I thought those two had incredible (although never spectacular) seasons and I would ride that train 10 straight times against VCU given the same opportunity.

Good stuff, HEM.

KULA 1 year, 11 months ago

See KansasComet's post above. Reed/Morningstar had no business being on the court those kind of minutes. Those minutes should've been garnered by players who gave us hugely more upside. Players like EJ, Travis, Little and Selby. Yeah, I know--Selby was injured. But Selby at 75% brought so much more than Brady at 100%. Bill gambled that year. He gambled that he had enough talent on the floor to get away with playing his golf buddy's kid. Bill lost that gamble. We all did.

KULA 1 year, 11 months ago

Agree 100% and thanks for saying it again. The UNI/VCU losses were mainly on Bill.

Kye Clark 1 year, 11 months ago

melrank - that is a very good reply. Real quick, the disclaimer is not in reference to you (at least not in so much as I can tell reading your response to my post). It is to people who immediately dismiss any opinion that is wanting something contrary to what Self is giving us, without any opinion of their own. If people agree with what Self is doing on a particular issue, great. Just tell me why you believe it. Not just having blind faith. I mean, I don't think I could do a better job coaching the Chiefs than Romeo Crennel, but that doesn't mean I am incapable of thinking he's not doing a good job. And without a doubt, I think Self is an exceptional coach.

Anyway, to the meat of your reply: I actually agree with Self's philosophy on how he delegates his minutes for the most part. Yes there has been the occasional squad that I might have wished he'd have played more guys more often so we could play a more up-tempo game on offense and a more pressure-intensive game on defense, but more or less I have liked his rotation set-up. The difference this year is two-fold: first of all, and as I pointed out to KULA, with this many young players I feel it is too soon to have the rotation set in stone. Now maybe it's not that rigid yet, but the clay is definitely drying.

The second difference is that in the two other debates you mentioned (Brady/Tyrel-Releford, EJ-Tyshawn), the argument was over replacing a starter, not a second year sub who didn't see the court that much his freshman year. I don't think there's much debate here about who should be starting (other than if Self starts Traylor over Ellis). My frustration is primarily with the Adams-Tharpe situation. What are two things we know Self covets? Defense and driving the lane. It's why he tolerated Tyshawn's turnovers. What areas do we see Adams having clear advantages over Tharpe? Defense and driving the lane. So I'm all set to be in lock-step with Self, and he throws me a change-up.

White III is the enigma to me. He was our top scorer in Europe. Since then we haven't seen his outside shooting touch clicking yet. Perhaps because he's not someone who can come in off the bench and shoot the lights out; maybe he needs to be more in the flow of the game, have the adrenaline flowing before he gets on his game. Or maybe its nerves over the looming quick hook. He's also likely defensively deficient at this point (admittedly, I haven't always paid great attention to him, mostly I think because he's in and out of the game so quickly I barely notice him). However, if he ever gets that figured out you have the potential for a 6'6" defender who possesses the ability to shoot.

Anyway, with every passing game that Adams & White III are used sparingly, the less likely they are to crack the rotation and see significant minutes this season.

BainDread 1 year, 11 months ago

I apologize for being totally off subject, but I just spent the last two evenings in USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion (a.k.a. the Slim Gym) watching the Tulsa Golden Hurricane play Northern Kentucky and USD. For all SoCal Manning fans, Tulsa has one more game in the Pavilion Saturday evening vs.CSUN. I was impressed with the way Head Coach Danny Manning has his team playing with a lot of energy and discipline. It was fun to see him in action as a head coach. He's pretty low-key on the sideline, but did get Tee'd up once Thursday night.

Michael Auchard 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't ever apologize for giving Manning updates. That man is a saint.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 11 months ago

T'd up already after just 3 (?) games! He has jumped in the game.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

• Travis guarding point works against low majors, but how are EJ and Naadir going to guard a 6-6 225 lb. 3 from a major? EJ might hang in, but it's out of the question for Naadir.

• Rio, keep doing what u r doing. U will get a shot, because of your defense.

• AW3, with Roberson and Gordon no longer possibilities needing rides, might come out of limbo, if he guards and stays healthy. Why? Because AW3 could guard a 6-6 225 lb 3 for short stints as a backup.

• So now we know Perry's deficiency is defense, from Self's POV. Should have guessed that. Aggressiveness refers to not getting after it on defense. Recall Thomas and the Twins delivering forearm smashes and cheap shot lites. Perry's done none of that yet. Could be we are seeing a war of wills playing out on the level of ethics. REHawk once suggested Self might find Perry a very strong willed person maybe not responsive to the toughening box.

• Jamari has proven a pleasant surprise. He is much more effective than Thomas was his first season, but he should be because he had a practice year Thomas did not get. But Jamari is a solid 10-20 minute backup this season, not a starter. Next season he could be very tough to beat out, if he adds some offense and boarding. I see why Self is playing him. He is a strong personality, active physically, and makes some impact plays, but he is not a scorer yet, has lapses on defenses in part due to being too short for a 4. He could be a really interesting muscle 3 like the guy on MSU that swang 3 and 4. But Self seems to prefer combo guards at 3, rather than 3/4 swings.

• Self needs a fifth perimeter guy and rebounding out of the perimeter. If Anrio and AW3 are not up to the challenge, it may be time to consider a 3/4 swing at the 3. Perry, Kevin, or Jamari might be given a shot. Even Justin, because he is athletic and not being used much otherwise. The less scoring expected out of the three (and presently Self seems to be expecting little from Trav, the more the team could afford to go big at the 3 and give some fouls in exchange for shot blocking and teens for 5-10 minutes each game. And use a big 3 to set some ball screens for EJ and Ben, forget the weave, and leave the 4 and 5 inside to board. The The first four perimeter players need a fifth one way or another.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Erratum: make "teens" into reebs. Spell checker strikes again.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

Hitting on some of your points -

-If Travis guards the 1, EJ/Tharpe guard the 2, and McLemore takes the 3. Only when there is a stud 1, hot shooter, etc., will we need that though. But Tharpe just doesn't cut it on D, and EJ doesn't look as good as last season on D.

-Adams/White -- I almost am dreading this season now if Releford can't turn it around -- because the other options will most likely just sit. You made the point before the Chattanooga game that if Releford won't take it to the rim in that game, he never will .. I suggested an answer that day .. and you got your answer that evening. He just won't be assertive. He's comfortable being a second-fiddle, a follower. If ever the team needed him offensively to just do something, is was in the first half of that game. And he wimped out. Jesse did an analyis earlier that showed Releford was our best midrange guy last season -- and how many midrange shots has he taken? Right. A good midrange guy that can slash to the hoop, and he does neither, and continues to shoot 3s.

-If you go back and watch the MSU game, Perry did not play poor defense. I did, and I just watch Ellis. He got a quick hook. He just needs time to work through it.

-Traylor is a suprise, I guess. He's competent. But he is not an offensive player as you mentioned, and his rebounding appears to be wildly weak for his size, bounce, and position on the floor (4). Personally, he seems no better .. ever .. than the 4th post player (but for lack of skill in front of him). But that's a role. There seems to be an apparent ceiling with Mr. Traylor.

-On the 5th perimeter guy, you are right. You lost me with Wesley. Ugh. His role vs. Chattanooga was perfect. Self nailed that one. While I really like Adams, his opportunity is to maybe unseat Tharpe. But White role is more obvious. He can come in at 6'6", perhaps guard a taller guy (as you mentioned), but be the 3 point sniper we desperately need. Emphasis on "desperately." With our lack of post scoring, we need to step up the scoring on the perimeter. That's the best answer we have. Self either has to simply say "Perry, you get 30 minutes" .. and hope for more scoring down low .. or turn to another perimeter option. There seems no other path to more scoring (given what we have in Releford).

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

All good responses. Wesley was a reach, but if Self needs four bigs with this crew, and he would seem to, it might be an outside the box possibility, that's all. Better would be to let Perry play some 3 and use Justin 5 minutes more when needed in the paint.

Regarding Perry's defensive problems, I think my War and Peace post below explains what Perry's defensive problems track to. if you can't bear to read a long one today, distill it to this: Perry is guarding his own position okay, but he is not exploding beyond his position to make additional impact defensive plays. Self requires guarding a position, and then guarding beyond a position, too. Its fair to say that Perry is guarding his position very well. But he is not exploding beyond it to make impact plays.

KEITHMILES05 1 year, 11 months ago

Our post scoring is horrendous and Ellis is the one who must step up. Nobody else can create. We've played easy teams other than MSU and it only gets more difficult. This needs to occur quickly or this team is going to loose a number of games. Our outside shooting will not work all that often. Just look at the sorry numbers.

Woody Cragg 1 year, 11 months ago

Personally I would really like to see what White & Rio are capable of vs these mid majors, that's the time do do it. However HCBS is not a game experrimentour (dig that JB} per say, but rewards the practice hounds we cannot see. I do believe we have the pieces at the 2, 3' & 5' but the 1 & 4 we are thin to say the least. If I've a gripe at all about recruiting, it's mainly about the PG spot. When Tharpe picked up the dribble at mid court & on the sideline & used the 4th TO, I though Self w & Norm both were coming off their hinges. That's a move you see grade school kids make-just brain dead. If not for his lack of judgement, he could be a great facilitator with EJ at the 2 spot where he is more comfortable. But all these what if's & try that's boil down to, why can't we just get more elite point guards to Kansas? More Russ Robs to go with the Ellis's & OAD Bmacs. Are we friggin spoiled or what?! Great rap guys, keep up the good work.

Woody Cragg 1 year, 11 months ago

And yes Keithmile, I agree a number of losses could be in this squad's future.

akgjenkintown 1 year, 11 months ago

Self teams traditionally win by playing great defense and scoring inside as their first option. This team appears to be in love with the jump shoot and the 3 and don't look that accurate. Until Withey and Ellis/Taylor/Peters (hopefully), figure out how to play the high-low efficiently the team will be struggle and lose games everyone has come to expect to win. Jump shooting teams will have more games when the shooting goes south as compared to teams that constantly attack the rim. This could be one of the worst teams for Self if they don't do a better job of penetrating, drawing fouls, and getting the easy shot.

Dale Kroening 1 year, 11 months ago

Look for Peters to redshirt this year. We wont see him this season due to the injury, and Self has said several times how behind he is so I'd be shocked if he sees the floor until next season unless theres an injury to one of the bigs in the rotation, and he might choose Landen before Zach.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

"On Rotations, Exploding Beyond Your Position, and Preventative Help Defense"

Ict and HEM are probably right about most of the rotation being locked in, but I suspect the rotation may still be subject to at least some amending, as remaining recruiting possibilities marginalize (you don't invest minutes in guys you expect to run), recoveries from injury continue, or plateau (Self is now admitting that EJ is too limited defensively to guard PGs), player development falls short of expectations, other players develop farther, and future injuries occur.

Self is restringing this bow subtlely, almost without anyone noticing. Game by game he is shifting where the points are supposed to come from, not in large increments, but in significant ones nonetheless. And the redistribution is not occruing just because of the opponent, but because of emerging recognition of unexpected player limitations.

He is trying to find some way to stick with the original vision:

1 EJ 2 Ben 3 Travis 4 Perry 5 Jeff

These are his best players and so he has to find a way keep them on the floor for lots of minutes, while also becoming greater than the sum of their parts, i.e., playing in an optimal scheme.

Since EJ has not recovered well enough to guard the PG regularly, or to touch the paint as often as they need (at least so far), Self has really been coaching behind the eight ball.

Going with four outside, requires the first three to be fully functioning defenders in order that there are always two great defenders on the floor while the fourth, Naadir, rotates in and needs lots of help on D.

He now has Naadir comfortable enough to give him 10-15 in back up at the 1. Though he didn't say it, I actually though Naadir played adequately on defense against MSU, not great, but good enough to mask with help.

Naadir was vital to develop first, so that if Rio and AW3 either didn't develop into 5-10 minute guys by January, or had to be marginalized, as part of accepting other commitments, Naadir could be used not only for 5 minute bench blows each half for EJ, but also for on court rest for EJ by sliding EJ to the 2 to and so also getting Ben, or Travis a 5 minute bench blow. This way, you only have to ask one of your three starters to play 38 minutes once every three games, or so. Two out of three games they get to play 30; that's doable against most competition. Not too many teams will be able to bring 6-7 perimeter players the way MSU did, but there will be some, and those will be games when he may have to sand bag, as he did against MSU.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Part 2

Self wants desperately to go with 4 outside for reasons neither you nor I fully grasp, or agree with. We both think he needs 5 guys outside to keep from burning his first three out and to mask Naadir, when Naadir's defensive limitations make him an unwise choice even for short stints.

I said after the loss to Shaka's XTReme conditioned VCU two seasons ago that Self was going to pursue XTReme Conditioning as part of his manly man ethos. Last year, he pursued it by playing 7 guys huge minutes all season. And it turned that team into a very hard boiled, tough, bunch that learned to sand bag and play smart almost every minute of every game. Self seems to want to do that again, but have just a bit more depth to fall back on, if players aren't giving him the intensity he wants.

Self labels the 1 and 4 as his problem defensive positions.

This leads us to Perry. I keep watching Perry and thinking Perry plays pretty well for a freshman, better than say Marcus Morris looked this early as a freshman. But I suspect I am confusing looking smooth and scoring effectively with being able to do what Marcus did, regardless of how unsmoothly. Marcus got rebounds, and he guarded hell out of his position, almost from the beginning. He couldn't score much, but that was probably because Self didn't ask him to. Marcus by 2/3s of the season had become an accomplished garbage man 4, who trash talked, shoved well, and seemed to grasp how to make Cole better.

Perry appears to be playing the position still a bit too much according to his historical way of playing very controlled ball, kind of too much in his inner world. I think this is what Self is struggling to alter in the way he plays. Self needs to find a way for Perry to both be the polished, controlled fundamentally sound player that he is, but also teach him how to explode beyond his position, especially defensively.

The guys Self ultimately plays a lot are guys that don't just fill the spot well, but also project out of that spot in major ways. Some of these ways are spectacular, like Thomas, or now Jamari, exploding out of their basic roles into thundering dunks and glass rattling blocks on fast breaks or drives to the glass. These are not show off plays, though they make highlight feeds. They are come out of no where to make a play kind of plays. But not all exploding out of one's position is spectacular. Some of these kinds of explosive plays go unnoticed to the ordinary fan, but are very spectacular to those that really understand basketball players impact powers, and how those impact powers are measured not only by how well they fill the basic space of their position (i.e., their protection, passing and open look shooting on offense, plus their defensive positioning on and off ball), but also on their ability to explode beyond those roles and do something that steals a possession, or stops a rally, or remedies a break down with an impact play on either end.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Part 3

Tyshawn Taylor could do things with the ball and off the lob that Brady could never do. But Brady and Tyshawn shared defensive abilities that made them explosive impact players in Self's eyes. Both players guard guarded their positions like nobody's business, but that's just ante to Self. What distinguished them in his eyes was IMHO that they could and regularly did explode out of their positions to cover breakdowns sometimes half a court away. Brady had an uncanny ability to anticipate when his teammates were going to crack and be their to stop the cost of the break down. At first Tyshawn simulated that ability with raw speed. Tyshawn was way faster on turn and burn defense on a blow by than Brady, as anyone with eyes could see. Ty was stronger, too. But Brady had the 6th sense of anticipation to cut off the break down almost before it occurred. Tyshawn became a great defender, not just a fast defender, his junior season when he finally learned to do what Brady came out of the womb with the instinct to do. Anticipate the breakdown AS IT HAPPENED, sometimes even BEFORE it happened, not after.

Travis is another guy who guards his position like nobody's business, but increasingly excels at preventative help. And he is bigger and stronger than either Tyshawn, or Brady. If Self makes Travis the point defender, and EJ still has enough of his awesome athletic ability left to compensate for his knee as a wing defender, this team could soon become incredibly tough defensively. Ben Mac will be a solid wing defender by January, early February at the latest.

There is no stat for preventative help, but there should be. Self sees it. He senses it like a bomb dog sniffing for explosives in luggage. If a player's got it, Self immediately starts fitting it into the puzzle. And because Self is a defense first coach, guys that can do this preventative help get the nod, unless the team cannot get points out of other positions and so have to go with a scorer first at the position that Brady, or Travis play.

Remember Josh Selby? Frankly, he was just an adequate on ball defender, but the guy was just so physically explosive, and had great anticipation, that Self understood immediately, that not only could Selby give him great offense, but also Selby could explode beyond his position on defense (were he healthy).

Rush was probably the ultimate preventative help defender. Rush could almost play outside his own defensive space continually. Rush could prevent breakdowns outside and inside. No one has been able to do that since. No one. We've found guys that can shoot the rock as well as Chalmers and we've found guys that can on ball defend as well as Chalmers (though probably not both). But no one has been able guard on ball the 1, 2, 3, and 4 positions, plus give preventative help at 1, 2, 4, and even 5 anywhere close to what Rush did routinely. This is why Rush's jersey should be the next up in the field house IMHO.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Part 4

Exceptional preventative defense is probably worth 10-15 points a game on the defensive end alone, when you add up the number of breakdowns there are a game, and probably those 10, which if not stopped, would probably result in 5 made baskets for the opponent, with some being 3 point plays that would also get your bigs fouled up, which would ripple through your offensive and defensive performances.

This is why a preventative help defender doesn't need to score a flipping point beyond an open look, or an occassional lob. He's already outscoring most of the "scorers" simply by what he prevents from happening on the defensive end. Add in then that each score he stops, turns into a scoring opportunity, and you've literally got a gold mine on your roster that the stats don't even mention.

Preventative help defense is what makes Self's defensive teams so different from other "good" defensive teams. Most good defensive teams are just good on ball defenders that keep their spacing off ball right so that they will be in position to be on ball when the ball rotates around.

Coach K and Bill Self, and a few others, are savants about preventative help defense. This is why on both their teams there are guys that start that don't always pass the eye test and don't always score a lot. Knight's teams also always were exceptional at this.

Against teams with great preventative help defense that anticipates breakdowns, rather than just reacting late to them, an impact offender is always guarded not only by his defender, and the bigs backing up his defender, but by a guy who shows up out of no-where to create just enough help to turn him back into his own defender. Often the great preventative help defenders come a third, or half way, cross court to do it. Other times they do it by mucking up the opposing teams attempts to screen by creating space for the team mate to get past the screen. The subtleties are endless and uncounted by statisticians. But I can guaran-damn-ty that Self loves it as much open look three, because it stops scoring and gets him another open look three.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Part 5

Why could the team play with Conner Teahan on one wing last season for 20mpg, even shooting only 36-38% as the trey gun. First, Conner worked his butt off to become an adequate on-ball defender, who could help some. But the real reason was that Tyshawn turned into the greatest preventative help defender I have ever seen in college basketball. Tyshawn, from the point, could and literally often did, pre-empt defensive break downs a third to half the court on both wings. Really, the greatness of what Tyshawn did last season defensively was over shadowed by the spectacle of what Thomas did, and by Tyshawn's own paint touching virtuosity. Tyshawn was pretty much like having a 6th defender on the floor, because he could cover so many teammates mistakes on defense.

Track forward to the present.

EJ was slated to be this same kind of awesome preventative help defender at point guard this season. But the knee has prevented it. So: Self, after waiting and hoping for the knee to heel, has decided that Travis has to take over Tyshawn's role of guarding the PG, so that he also cover the breakdowns on both wings.

And this year's team, so long as EJ is defensively challenged, HAS to have that super man on point defense, because EJ needs some help due to the knee, and Ben needs help because of mistakes as a first year player. And when Naadir comes in, well, Naadir, has improved a lot, but his short legs haven't gotten any longer, and so he's got to have someone watching out for him constantly.

Exploding outside one's space is also a big part of being an effective big man in Self's eyes, also.

A big has to guard his position. Its ante. You can't play if you can't guard and rebound your position.

But the guys who begin to steal more minutes, even if their line scores don't necessarily sparkle, are the guys that can explode out of their positions, and use athleticism to stop breakdowns.

Darnell Jackson couldn't figure out how to do it for the longest time and still guard his position. But when he did, he became a rotation player. Recall how often he chest thumped that last season. The chest thumping created some energy, but that's not why he became a major rotation player. It was that he exploded beyond of his position and did something worth chest thumping about.

Thomas Robinson seemingly exploded out of his position almost at will during certain stretches of games last season.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Part 6

Jeff Withey often has a rather modest point and rebound total. He often struggles to stay on a spot. His rebounding is just adequate. He guards the post pretty well. But every time he alters/blocks the shot of a teammate's offender that has broken through, he is exploding out of his position and exhibiting preventative help defense. Stats can track his blocks, so we are giddy about them. But they don't show the alterations. And they don't show the times that Jeff, skinny though he may be, adjusts his positioning just enough to dissuade a teammate's offender from thinking he sees an open alley to the basket.

Think about Jeff. If he gets 6 blocks, 6 alterations, and dissuades may be ten perimeter drives, and dissuades the opposing 4's man from spinning to the basket 3 times, all while guarding the post, his contribution to KU's defense and in turn its offense is just HUGE! And almost all of that is coming from being a force beyond his position.

Distilled, Self isn't satisfied with Perry's contribution beyond his position. I wonder sometimes, if it might be a more positive and constructive way for Self to talk about Perry's (and other players' limitations this way) than to harp on this vague notion of aggressiveness. Its a spatial concept more than an emotional one. Your position is "here." You're degree of explosiveness refers to how far beyond "here," and how often beyond "here," you make an impact.

Perry seems to have plenty of intensity and emotion. Plenty of want to. Plenty of focus, too. He seems to be underestimating his potential range of impact. Telling him to be more aggressive is non-spatial and non-directional in denotation. Jamari isn't really guarding "here" any better than Perry right now, maybe even not quite as good. But Perry is exploding beyond "here" on a frequent basis.

Likewise, Kevin Young only guards "here" adequately, sometimes inadequately. But danged if he doesn't frequently explode beyond "here."

Perry Ellis, you are The Designer. You are a powerful mind in an athletic body. You have done a great job designing "here." Now design "there." It doesn't necessarily take more emotion and aggressiveness. It takes a vision and some design. This is something you are good at. Do it.

Rock Chalk!

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

War and Peace? That's under-selling yourself. The "here" and "there" suggestion is really an excellent observation/suggestion. Perry will get there, soon I think. Some -- at least Oak and I -- thought KY would start until December at the 4, then Perry. Perry got his first start quicker. But if Ellis is "there" by mid-December, or at least start of conference season, we're fine. Enjoyed the read -- particularly the TT reflections.

But try this. I've mentioned it as aside before, but does this team cry out to play 2011-12 Missouri-ball? Look at our personnel. Look at our personnel next season (as it stands).

This season, we all generally agree we have one skilled post scorer -- Ellis. Next season, more of the same. Embiid is the only add as of now. And next season we have a large infusion of perimeter skill .. Selden, Greene, Frankamp.

Remember how hard it was to matchup vs. MU? We had to insert Teahan for Withey because TRob couldn't match up with English defensively. Traditional lineups struggled vs. MU's 4 guard, one post lineup. As much as I hated MU, it was impressive.

A possible lineup for stretches:

  1. EJ

  2. McLemore

  3. White/Adams

  4. Releford

  5. Withey

Releford could likely guard the 4. Adams some D, some slash; White some shooting. We still have the swatter in the middle. This could be a way to get Adams/White some time, too. Heck, you could even play Ellis at the 5 for a max-athletic, run the floor type team. You give up the big guy on D, but you can do that in short bursts. Kind of a change of pace, pressure, fast break deal.

Self would never do this as a primary lineup. But for 5-6 minute stretches (with Withey at the 5), I'm sure he would. He's played small before. This makes incredible sense - at least in my little world.

kennethst 1 year, 11 months ago

Jaybate gets it right again! And I see he is numbering his posts!!! Fancy! and appreciated!!

RJ King 1 year, 11 months ago

"Jamari isn't really guarding "here" any better than Perry right now, maybe even not quite as good. But Perry is exploding beyond "here" on a frequent basis."

Did you mean, "but Jamari is exploding beyond . . "?

Anyway - LOVE your visual / spatial thinking. Players have different learning styles. I could not get many 6 and 7-year-olds to understand the concept of a "level" swing in baseball. When I said, "swing like a merry-go-round, not like a ferris wheel," they literally connected.

The "here" and "there" concept is spot on.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Bay,

Make sure you keep to the visuals in working with the kids. There are some visual persons and some mechanistic ones, at all ages. I love your merry go round vs. ferris wheel. I probably would have been a good hitter with those metaphors.

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Excellent insights, jb. One of your best posts ever. Thnx for the time and effort.

mikehawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Naadir seems to be a continuous liaibility on defense. If he can close that gap some in his D-game, he can fend Rio Adams off. But right now, I think it is a matter of time before Rio gets past him. I think his shooting ability is getting him the minutes right now. Perry seems a bit confused at this point. He spent four years in a high school comfort zone and he is having to learn a lot of new stuff against much, much tougher competition, and he appears to be thinking a lot. Not unusual for any freshman. B-Mac appeared like the light suddenly started to flicker on and you could see the confidence begin to flow. Right now, and into the forseeble future, this team needs all of HCBS's honorary doctorate of psychology degree skills focused not only on the team, but lasered on quite a few individual players. Some key egos (Perry Ellis for one) appear somewhat fragile right now.

Michael Auchard 1 year, 11 months ago

No offense, but I completely disagree. Withey looks lost out there. The reason we can't pass into the interior is because we have young players and a 7-footer who only shows up after his coach yells at him for 20 minutes at half time. Our guard play is lacking, but T-Rob is, far and away by light years, the biggest loss from last year.

diegohawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Selden will be the 6'5" POINT/FWD that will be able to play in spurts to reduce perimeter pressure. Don't think Mclemore has the same skill set. He may in another year or so but not this year it seems. Elijah must do this. He is 6'4". He has a phenomenal handle and can be strong with the ball when he wants. He just seems like a perimeter floater right now. I think the key to him having an NBA opportunity lies in him realizing attack with the bounce is the way to get there. He can knock down shots but I have a feeling his % goes up if he thinks attack first. Rio needs more minutes next game. His brief appearance vs UTC warrants a share of some of Tharpes minutes.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Slayr,

You're onto the nub of the problem right now IMHO.

Unless the PG collapses the defense himself with penetration, as Tyshawn and Sherron were so good at doing, then there are no open looks on the wings, and no dishes to and stick backs by the big men.

The idea of PG penetration in the high low offense, is to create a collapse that gets:

a) a finish by the PG at the rim (plus frequently a FT); or

b) a dish to a big who finishes at the rim (plus frequently gets a FT); or

c) a kick out to a shake and bake trey shooting wing that either gets an open look trey, or a slash with a finish at the rim (plus a frequent FT).

Note that these three options each yield a probability of a three point play, plus getting the opposing bigs fouled up.

This is why Self does not want a mid range jump shooting offense, Mid Range Js are a formula for 2 point plays.

Point guard penetration is a formula for three straight options for three points.

Over the course of a game, if a team can play point guard penetration most of the way, eventually the combination of 3 point scoring, plus the fouling up of the opposing bigs, creates a bonus situation down the stretch wherein attack switches to feeding post and letting the post shoot close in and shoot free throws too.

The statistical advantage over other scoring approaches is so decisive that playing any other way, if your point guard is good enough to play this way, is illogical.

kennethst 1 year, 11 months ago

I ain't too worried about them......Lets see how they look in Feb/March with a lot more experience.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

Good video of Self -- highlights:

  1. Wants to play faster. Only guy that is playing as fast as needed is McLemore.

  2. Doesn't know who he will start at 4; says needs more scoring there; Traylor better as a guy off the bench. Withey is never going to be a guy you throw the ball into to get scoring.

  3. Tharpe is not giving effort on defense; his guy scored 9 straight points on him; in a pretty serious tone says that if it does not change soon, they "will have to go in a different direction."

  4. Says he thinks it's a "great class because there are two guys at their position that are about as good as anyone in the country" -- Mason and Embiid. Says that everyone talks about the other three.

  5. Does not believe the recruiting class is done. Says it is "incomplete", that they want to get "another guy or two." A big and a wing.

http://theshiver.com/

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

Thanks for the link.

It does provide clarity on HCBS thought process.

Two points that struck most to me:

  1. Seniors must become tougher and lead by example

  2. Tharpe is on a short leash

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

HEM,

Now those are some brutal points Self is laying down there, according to your paraphrase, which I trust.

  1. More and more he's hitching the team's future to Ben.

  2. Looks like its going to be a dog fight between Kevin and Perry to start at the 4 with Jamari first sub for Jeff.

  3. Guess I'm getting old. I saw Tharpe's performance against MSU as very positive, at least relatively speaking. But it looks like Self let Tharpe take care of a guy defensively on his own vs. UTC (a game only saw the last 6 minutes of) and Tharpe wasn't up to the challenge. Tharpe better pick it up, or he's going to get run end of the season. The different direction could be Rio.

  4. Frank Mason is as good as anyone at the point in this recruiting class? Maybe Self is cracking from the pressure? Embiid maybe the physical ability to be as good as anyone in the class in the country 2-3 years down the road, at least. But Mason? Now? That is a strange statement.

  5. Wanting two more recruits is what I have been anticipating hearing, but kind of hoping I wouldn't. Self wants another big and another wing. He already has to take someone's scholie without getting two more. We assume that will be Justin's. If Self starts giving Rio Naadir's minutes, that makes me think Naadir, AW3 and Justin could lose their rides. Brutal. Just flipping brutal.

These comments of Self's make me worry about Self a little.

On the one hand, he may have watched the movie Patton a few too many times and glommed onto the speech, where Patton say attack and keep attacking, or let know man alive. And afterwards, his adjutant says, "General, some times the men don't know when you are serious and when you are just trying to inspire them." and Patton answers: "Its not important for them to know. Its only important for me to know." That's war. This is basketball. There's a difference.

On the other hand, I have always said that Self is a hard man, and a survive at any cost type, and I cannot help but wonder if he is having concerns about this season going south, and going into survival mode. I had hoped he would not have to be this way once he got the contract extension, but it looks like he plays to win...in everything. Some young men may be about to find out just how hard he can be. Ugh!

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

One more thing. I would not leave Zach off the "at risk to be run" list. A rotator cuff injury is something many never recover from. The world is full of junior high and high school pitching phenoms that tear their cuff and that's the end of their sporting careers. A big man is supposed to go up and fight for rebounds with arms extended. He's got to clamp down and yank like hell. That could be tough indefinitely with a torn cuff. Same with trying to shoot with an arm attached to a torn rotator cuff. And one handed out let passes seem gone for ever for Zach. Self could well be thinking that Zach's career, not just his season is over, and so needs another big.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

One more thought: maybe give Jamari some minutes at the three. He's really only 6-7 210-215 anyway. Physically, he is a 3. He might be able to guard a three for 5 minutes a half, muscle him, and get on the glass some. Got to get a 5th perimeter guy somehow.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

You can just say "Patton" and I'll like it .. not the facebook/thumbs up "like" .. just the regular one.

I don't get the Mason comments either. If he says it enough, should we believe it? Or should we believe that the Mason visit wasn't set up until after Barber, Jones, and Jackson all committed elsewhere (and literally less than a week after Jackson chose ND)? Depends on if I'm drinkin' the Kool-Aid. And I'm not.

Physically, Traylor might be a 3. He looks the part of a 4. But doesn't have the skill needed at the 3. I would suggest that he is not the answer at the 3, not even as the 5th perimeter guy. If Traylor plays the 3 over White, I'll have to check the Mayan calendar again.

Running Peters -- tough pill to swallow there. I would not be concerned, though, career-wise. The torque necessary to throw a baseball is much different and I think the rotator cuff (generally) can be repaired routinely. But "at risk" -- sure. Definitely. The entire world south of McLemore and Ellis is at risk I think.

A couple lower guys that might be on the radar:

Luke Cothron .. konkeyDong had pointed him out -- a JUCO player - http://rivals.yahoo.com/bwi/basketball/recruiting/player-Luke-Cothron-133327

Cothron may have some eligibility issues

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/blog/eye-on-college-basketball/20996818/six-minutes-luke-cothron-never-shouldve-played-now-has-his-college-career-on-hold

Junior Etou -- unranked http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/recruiting/player-Junior-Etou-126262

To that I ask .. why?

Kye Clark 1 year, 11 months ago

Good stuff on that link. Like Jaybate, the comments about recruiting are concerning to me as well. Two? That's harsh, especially if BMac decides to stick around for another year. I don't want to speculate too much on who it might be, other than to say I would be disappointed to lose Adams and/or AW3 without giving them a serious look. I hope those guys stick around, because I think both have great upside.

My thinking/hope here is that it is Self's way of telling Randle, Johnson, & Parker "hey, we'll make room for any of you." Which I think the chances of getting any of those guys is slim (Randle probably the highest probability, maybe 10-15%), but why give up on those guys if you're still in the running? Anybody else I don't see the point.

Or...Self is seeing something from a player or two in practice that simply won't cut it. Lack of effort perhaps. And he is throwing it out there that "it's my way or the highway. You don't want to sell out in practice because you're not getting the minutes you think you deserve? I have no problem pulling your scholarship and sending you on your way."

Or...the speculation on Peters brought up by Jaybate is accurate, and the rotator cuff injury is a career killer.

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

Bate, This was a very well written piece on Preventive Defense. I enjoyed it a lot. Good stuff.

HawkKlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

Self is not really saying anything new here. We all know that Naadir and Elijah need work on defense. We all know that we looked better with Travis guarding the point last game.

The fact that Self hasn't yet gone with Rio or AW3 over Naadir speaks volumes about their development so far. In Bill Self's eyes they clearly are not ready yet. Both will eventually play big minutes and contribute a lot at KU, but right now they're just unproven freshmen.

I think this is bad news for Naadir going forward though. Even though he's getting the lion's share of the backup PG minutes this year, if he gets benched this season due to his lack of defensive effectiveness, he might be looking to play ball elsewhere next year. Look at it this way: Next season the competition at PG is going to be even more fierce than it is this year with Rio, Selden, Frankamp and Mason all coming in and looking to get minutes at the PG spot. Rio is already a better defender than Naadir and next year Rio will be even more developed as an offensive player (and he's already a legitimate scoring threat). I think Rio could hurdle Naadir and become the starter next season, with Selden and Mason eating up a lot of the backup PG minutes.

Don't get me wrong: I want Naadir to stay at KU and I hate to speculate on him transferring, but I think he needs to really up the defensive integrity if he expects to see the court after this season. Our rotation next year could very well be:

1 - Rio (or Selden or Mason)

2 - AW3 (or Frankamp or Selden)

3 - Selden (or Greene)

That makes a 6 guard rotation right there. The only downside to that rotation is that we wouldn't have a lot of experience, but as we saw last year with UK, sometimes young talent trumps old experience. We shall see.

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