Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Opinion: Bill Self not happy with team’s guard play

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his players to get it together after a near turnover against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his players to get it together after a near turnover against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after 70-57 win over SJSU

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 70-57 victory over San Jose State on Nov. 26, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford

Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 70-57 victory over San Jose State on Nov. 26, 2012.

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Box score


Sometimes hearing bad news is good news. One such time occurred as Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self delivered a thumbs-down review of his basketball team’s offensive performance Monday night in a 70-57 victory against San Jose State in Allen Fieldhouse.

Self mentioned in passing that senior point guard Elijah Johnson was not at full strength.

“Elijah’s knee is nicked up,” Self said. “He has no juice, can’t get his shoulder past anybody.”

That bad news qualified as good news because it stands to reason that when Johnson’s knee gets better, so will his performance. When it does, no way Kansas goes 10-plus minutes without a field goal as it did during a second-half drought that turned a blowout into a game.

Not that all the offensive woes could be traced to Johnson not having his fastball, but he’s the guy charged with making Kansas play at a fast pace at both ends, making the offense operate far from the hoop and keeping the defense a step behind.

Generally, the worse Self’s team plays, the more colorful the coach’s post-game remarks. Monday was no exception, and that’s no surprise considering San Jose State went on a 16-0, second-half run.

“I’ve seen bad offense before — third-and-fourth-grade YMCA basketball with no good ball reversal and bad ball-handling,” Self said. “Our offense surpassed that tonight the last 12 minutes of the game.”

Jeff Withey’s far-reaching defensive dominance made Kansas look good defensively in the box score. The Spartans (2-3) shot just .292 from the field. Self, accustomed to having quick defenders on the perimeter, didn’t like what he saw beyond the numbers.

“They were so much faster than us,” Self said. “I don’t know, maybe we should play zone because our guards can’t keep anybody in front of them.”

Sophomore Naadir Tharpe, the first guard off the bench, continues to struggle defensively and with his shot and in making the right pass at the right time. Rio Adams is longer, stronger and more explosive than Tharpe, but so far hasn’t harnessed his physical gifts to the extent Self trusts him to join the rotation. Maybe Adams will make huge strides during the Christmas break, when practice time limitations are suspended. If so, he can add a needed dimension. If not, perimeter bench play could remain an issue for the remainder of the season.

“I’m just concerned about our athleticism, to be real honest with you,” Self said. “I just don’t see our perimeter guys doing anything athletically to create pace or force havoc on the other team.”

Increasing the pace starts on the defensive end, and for much of the night, the Kansas guards looked like the Kansas football team’s defensive backs, playing too far off the guys they’re assigned to guard to create discomfort.

“If we haven’t figured it out, we’ve got a pretty good guy behind blocking shots, so why wouldn’t we get out and pressure our guy? That’s the thing that’s discouraging to me,” Self said. “We’re just not athletic enough to get out and do some things I’d like to do.”

Self has resorted to having the ultra-quick, 6-foot-5 freshman Ben McLemore or 6-6 senior Travis Releford on the primary ballhandler because he has grown tired of seeing point guards whiz past Johnson and Tharpe.

That could change if and when Johnson’s knee improves. At that point, Johnson also will do a better job of penetrating and forcing help, which should lead to better shots for teammates.

Even with the point guard not at his best, the odds of a Kansas team going 10:26 between field goals are astronomical.

Withey’s bucket with 11:42 left gave Kansas a 60-36 lead. Johnson’s pull-up jumper with 1:16 left made it 66-57.

“In our building we can’t make a field goal for 10 minutes?” Self groused. “It was brutal, but we did hang on and win, which was the good thing.”

Kansas played lousy and won. Having a senior center who totals 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots can compensate for so many shortcomings, but as the schedule gets tougher, so too must the guys playing in front of Withey.


Ferd Magellan 8 years, 10 months ago

Adams may be the future, but he's not the answer this year. There's so much he needs to learn. All I see happening is Johnson, McLemore and Releford playing more minutes while Tharpe plays less. There isn't a solution on the bench.

archercc 8 years, 10 months ago

Its sad to see Tharpe regress a bit in this game. His defense still needs a lot of work but it was nice to see us be positive when he was running the point for some decent stretches in the past couple of games.

The second half of this game though he was nothing but a liability. Awful defense, awful shot selection and a turnover machine. The defense will take time but hopefully he can get rid of the last two. Both were just a matter of decisions, not pressure.

David Brown 8 years, 10 months ago

Exactly right. After the two positive games at the Sprint Center, hopes were high for Tharpe back in the Fieldhouse. Does Self keep giving him minutes to season him and hopefully improve before conference play, or keep Naadir on a short leash? It's his mental game, the poor decisions and positions he puts himself into. He is fast, can score, but lousy defense compounded by poor decisions may mean less time on the court.

RJ King 8 years, 10 months ago

Adams was set to check in at one point. Then we let a comfortable lead vanish and Self was forced to go back to the starters. We needed to put this game away so especially White, Adams, and Traylor could log some significant minutes.

Michael Luby 8 years, 10 months ago

Tharpe is too small to play Xtreme muscle ball. He's like Tyrel Reed when he was hurt but he isnt. Its that whole white men cant jump thing. Look, I dont know what Im talking about, we just need a second option at the PG who can run and gun and play solid D.

kgreg01 8 years, 10 months ago

Where is extra PG help? Look at recent recruiting:

2012 class Marcus Paige - UNC J Mychal Reese - Texas A&M

2011 Austin Rivers - Dook / NBA Josiah Turner - AZ / Pro Quinn Cook - Dook

Prospects we recruited that were top 50 Rivals. Two turned pro and wouldn't be here likely.

jhox 8 years, 10 months ago

We need to do a better job of finding second tier guys in the event we lose out on our top targets, as we did with the guys above.

I've mentioned this kid before, but I see that Tyrone Taylor out of Grandview high made the all tournament team at the State Farm Tournament of Champions over the weekend, in Illinois. In fact, they listed him on the tournament website as being recruited by KU so I assume he's now on our radar. He's a 2014 guy, and a perfect target for us. We can continue to try to land the first tier guys, but I'd like to see us try to sign 2 PG's every year, and have at least one fall back guy who is likely to end up signing. The position is just too important to end up signing third tier guys at the last second.

Stan Unruh 8 years, 10 months ago

The cross court pass by Tharpe that was stolen and dunked is typical of his play. The team really needs Adams to grow up in a hurry.

Mick Allen 8 years, 10 months ago

I totally agree. Adams is the closest thing we have to Ty as far as the ability to get into the paint off the bounce and create shots for himself and others. Like Ty we will need to be patient with Adams, as like Ty he will make a play one time up the court and then force a play the next time and turn it over. Naadir will never get to the paint off the dribble. He plays not to make a play, but instead he plays to not turn it over and hit an open catch and shoot jump shot,something he has not done well. Athletically he is closer to being a Washburn or Emporia State player than a KU player, playing significant minutes. Defensively he can't keep his man in front of him and quickness should not be an issue with a 5' 11" point guard but it is with Naadir. Adams has not let very limited game time minutes affect his practice efforts. As Keegan has repeatedly pointed out Anrio has not gained HCBS's trust Physically he is a little sturdier than Ty, but has the same long arms and quick feet and he can get his shoulder past his defender off his dribble to get in the paint. I sincerely believe that for us to be the best we can be in March and April Anrio will need to take Naadir's minutes

ljmhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

and you know why tharpe plays not to turn it over? because he knows one little mistake he makes his ass is on the bench. self wants these guys to play fast but the moment tharpe or Ellis make a mistake they get pulled. YOU HAVE TO LET THEM PLAY THROUGH THEIR MISTAKES.

Joe Joseph 8 years, 10 months ago

Naadir played through several mistakes last night...

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Eh, for a guy playing "not to turn it over" he sure seems to be turning it over a lot. So much for that silly theory.

Mick Allen 8 years, 10 months ago

I have been to practice and have seen him do it. How can you or anybody know if he can put it in the hoop or make a simple pass when he plays at most 4 minutes a game or not at all. I'm sure you said the same thing about TY his freshman year. He doesn't need to be Ty his freshman year to be more of an asset than Naadir. Naadir is getting significant time this year. Even you can see in the limited time he has been on the floor he is much more athletic than Naadir. If you read the article, HCBS said we are not athletic enough at guard. If you know anything about athletics, specifically basketball, Adams' ceiling is much higher. If he is not in the rotation by Big 12 play, we will not be as strong as we could be. Have you ever watched him play for more than 4 minutes? Your opinion is based on little if any evidence.

Brandon Pope 8 years, 10 months ago

Fact: Bill Self not happy with team’s guard play

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Um, the problem with that is recruits want to play for a coach/school that plays man to man so they develop skills for the NBA. It's a huge part of their decision in choosing a college. If Syracuse played man to man, it's scary to think about the talent they would recruit year in and year out. But Boeheim will never get rid of his beloved zone. Trust me, you don't want to be a zone only defense despite how effective it can be.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Good grief. Bill Self teams are almost ALWAYS in the Top 10 nationally in team defense and you're telling the guy he needs to consider changing his defensive theories? What a clown.

Here's an idea, maybe the players should PLAY BETTER.

Bville Hawk 8 years, 10 months ago

There is nothing magical about the triangle + 2 defense. It's a gimmick defense that will only work on occasion against certain lineups. If it was an everyday defense opponents would hand your head to you on a golden platter every time you used it.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 10 months ago

exactly, the advantage of the Triangle and 2 is that you can apply constant ball pressure AND constantly deny the ball to the other teams primary off-ball scorer, but the T and 2 only works when the defense doesn't know that you're in the T and 2.

As long as they think that you're still playing man then you can use it to your advantage. But if everyone knows that you're going to play T and 2 then they can easily game plan for it as it leaves three very big holes on the floor, one of which is right smack in the center of the paint!

RJ King 8 years, 10 months ago

exactly. Roy Williams wouldn't have been scratching his head if he'd seen it all year.

REHawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Did EJ nick the knee which underwent surgery? I would assume so. Whichever, the knee appears to have been "nicked up" for the entire month of November.

Gene Jackson 8 years, 10 months ago

“They were so much faster than us,” Self said. CU is playing KU a week from Saturday and I saw CU play Sunday night. CU is fast. We better pick up more speed or install a zone soon or we will find ourselves in a hole in Allen Fieldhouse.

yates33333 8 years, 10 months ago

I doubt this was the first time Self realized his guards are comparatively speaking slow. This is the Achilles heel of the team so far. I also don't know how you correct this other than relying on Withey if they drive past the defender. Increasing the gap between the shooter and defender doesn't work if you catch a hot hand like last night.

Chris1955 8 years, 10 months ago

While the season is still young, I'm seeing some disturbing signs in this year's edition of the Jayhawks. Bad guard play, particularly, the Naadir-in-the-headlights mode of play by Tharpe. I'm also looking, but can't seem to find, an on the court leader out there ala Tyshawn Taylor or T-Rob. They are mentally weak.

Releford needs to take on the leadership role of this team.

My prediction at this point is that we finish 1st or 2nd in the Big 12, and don't make it past the 1st weekend of March Madness.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

"My prediction at this point is that we finish 1st or 2nd in the Big 12, and don't make it past the 1st weekend of March Madness."

Most people made the same prediction after Kentucky whipped our butts at the beginning of last year. Quit being such drama queens, people. Self-led teams ALWAYS make huge strides over Xmas break with the added practice. KU has too many good players for them to not show significant improvement over the season. It's five games into the year for crying out loud.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 10 months ago

"Bill not happy with team's guard play"......gee, Keegs..that's a big DUH!!

I am afraid what we see is what we're going to get. As I stated yesterday, this set of guards is not going to give Bill his cake [fast pace] and allow him to eat it too[low turnovers].

We may have to become a pound the ball inside type offense, similar to a ground attack football offense.

Cody Riedy 8 years, 10 months ago

I doubt it's going to happen, but I'd really like to have more detail about Elijah's knee. Is this just a normal part of recovery? Is this a different problem? What's the prognosis? Does he need additional surgery, recovery, rehabilitation? Is this a problem that will last all year or is this like conditioning, it will just take a few weeks? Many questions I have. We need Elijah to be 100% for us to have a chance at another title run.

VaJay 8 years, 10 months ago

I really wish they would put 'Rio out there instead of Tharpe for a good span of minutes, just to see what he could do. I'm getting tired of the careless passing & poor shot selection. I can't see how it could be worse right now.

And why weren't they getting the ball to Withey more in the first half? He would post up 5 feet from the hoop & they wouldn't feed him. He would've had 20+ if they noticed him. Thank goodness he showed up the whole game, or we might've lost this one. His energy on defense sparked the others into a block party.

KEITHMILES05 8 years, 10 months ago

Withey had numerous missed close shots. I don't know what game you were looking at but they did in fact get it to him.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 10 months ago

In the game I was looking at, Withey went 7 for 11 from the field. Does four missed shots in the entire game count as "numerous?"

Dustin Engelken 8 years, 10 months ago

I was just going to post the same thing. Judging by his comments here and on the Peterson article, it looks like somebody is having a bad day.

VaJay 8 years, 10 months ago

If you don't believe me, go look at the tape. The color commentator mentioned it several times as well.

texashawk10 8 years, 10 months ago

If Adams was a better option than Tharpe right now, Self would play him in a heartbeat. Even in the garbage time minutes Adams has played, he has looked awful on both ends of the floor. Unless something just suddenly clicks for Adams or KU's backcourt gets into serious foul issues, he won't see meaningful minutes this year.

Mick Allen 8 years, 10 months ago

I am in total agreement with you wanting Rio to take some of Naadir's court time. He will struggle at times and occasionally force some things. But the kid is not afraid to try to make a play and I believe in due time he will create shots for himself and his teammates through his ability and inclination to get in the lane off his dribble.

Beate Williams 8 years, 10 months ago

What would you expect the coach to say after such a miserable second half. If you remember, the first third of the second half you could not have asked for a faster team, doing the things needed to get a lead that would be insurmountable, going on a 15-0 run, shutting the offense of SJ down; then they got complacent and figured they had it all wrapped up and they could now take it easy. I don't think you will see BMac miss as many shots as he missed during the final 12 minutes of the 2nd half; don't believe you will see the half-hearted, lackadaisical passing we witnessed during the last half of the 2nd half again this season. Rather than going inside when they missed a couple of treys to regrouped, everyone kept firing them up, BMac, EJ. Nadir it was contagious and all of them were misses. That will be corrected. Again, Self is coaching through the media and I guarantee you the film and the coaches remarks, along with all the running they will do today and tomorrow will get his message through. I have no explanation as to what happened to Nadir, someone needs to shake him, do to him what they had to do to JW last year, which I am so glad he does not need this year and I see him improving throughout the year. By the end of the year JW will be lottery pick.

Curtis Stutz 8 years, 10 months ago

I feel like Tharpe has improved dramatically on the defensive end. Self was all over him for a 3 they made against him and AW3, but unless we were in a 3-2 zone at the time (and even if we were), I don't understand why Tharpe had to guard both guys on that side of the court.

By the numbers this was not that bad of a game, by the viewing it was an atrocious 10 minute stretch in the 2nd half with a fair amount of sloppy play in the first half. Sky is the limit guys, you shouldn't need EJ to penetrate to open up a look, especially if he's not 100%. Make smart passes, seal your man on the block, shots will open up.

For anyone who doesn't think we could have used a healthy Zach Peters take a look at our defensive rebounding %'s. SJSU got around what, 38% of their misses? Awful. BMac has hit the D-glass pretty hard, I think Releford needs to do the same. AW3 is rebounding it twice as well as our 5th year senior when he's out there, not a good sign Travis.

Steve Corder 8 years, 10 months ago

Ellis looked lost.

I counted only one agressive drive to the basket in the last 12 minutes, and that ended up with a turnover.

What's with the basket weave. Looked like a drill with no offensive purpose in last 12 minutes.

Most guys played "stupid/mindless" ball.

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 10 months ago

I thought the disaster started when Self took all the starters out after that run that gave us a 24-point lead. The replacements were losing the lead, so he put the starters back in. It was like they just couldn't get it going again. They looked worse than the subs. Sloppy, silly mistakes.

Michael Sillman 8 years, 10 months ago

To me the only guard with the ball handling skills and quickness to break guys down on the dribble is Tharpe. Clearly he has to step up his defense although he did a good job at times in the first half. His second half was weak. Johnson has devolved into a perimeter jump shooter over the past two years with Taylor at the point. I'm not sure if he can go back to slasher mode.

Mick Allen 8 years, 10 months ago

Are you serious? Tharpe has neither the ball handling skills or quickness to break anyone down, other than himself, off the dribble. Additionally he has shown no inclination to be the player to create shots for himself or others off the bounce. If we have the player who can physically do that on this team it is Anrio Adams who has the potential to be Ty like if he matures and gains HCBS's trust. The ceiling for this team is higher if Adams is getting Tharpe's minutes when the conference schedule starts.

milehighhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Love how Self accuses the team of not being athletic enough.

A lot of coaches would kill for our athletes, but Self knows he can get more out of 'em by challenging what really is their best asset.

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Well, you might be right to some extent..but Tharpe really is slow for a short guard and short wingspan. He is going to struggle defensively.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

There is a difference between BEING athletic and PLAYING athletic. Our guys aren't playing to their level of athleticism right now. The world's best athlete isn't athletic when he is standing still watching guys go by him a la Tharpe and EJ.

HawkKlaw 8 years, 10 months ago

Same old story with Naadir. He needs to improve a lot defensively. When I watch him play, it's clear to me that he needs to learn how to move his feet. Naadir is quick. He's as fast as anybody on the court. There's no excuse for him getting blown by.

And I agree with phogphan2000 that it's unfair to blame Kinney's big three-pointer on Naadir. But it's also true that while Travis was guarding him, he didn't do nearly as much as when anyone else was on him. Our perimeter defense is weak.

It's really unfortunate about EJ's knees. KU needs him to get healthy quick.

machinegun 8 years, 10 months ago

Did you happen to notice how quickly Elijah drove to the basket? He was at the rim before anyone knew what was happening. Elijah is our leader, healthy or otherwise.

Page Butler 8 years, 10 months ago

I think everyone needs to calm down a little bit. The only reason why San Jose State went on a run like that was because the starters came out of the game. If we had ended the game up 24 nobody would even be talking about how bad the guards were. They probably came out of the game expecting to see the subs play better and then they had to come in to save the day when the run happened. This is a great team and you all need to just accept that there will be ups and downs with a young team.

Ben Berglund 8 years, 10 months ago

I love this team. Don't you guys remember the frustrations of our 06 team and their growing pains? I'd say that worked out ok. I'm with a lot of other posters here who think that 'Rio beating out Naadir for the backup pg is our team's best hope. I like what I've seen out of Adams on the court (on defense, anyway, he needs work offensively), but I think Bill tends to credit guys for seniority. Anyway, I'm intrigued by that battle, and would be equally happy with Naadir coming around and becoming a solid rotation guy. I'm really bummed out about Zach Peters and I wish him good health and a speedy recovery. Jeff had a great game - he's possibly leveled up (along with Travis Releford). I'm slightly concerned about Elijah's knee, but I think he looks to be getting better/faster. Finally, Jaybate has nailed it with his analysis of the 4 spot. Solid rotation out of the 3 guys there. Jamari played a little less last night, I think, but is a great 3rd option. Love his effort and intensity.

Jeremy Wilhelm 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm going to bookmark these comments and dust them off in February.

Robin Smith 8 years, 10 months ago

Excellent piece, Keegan!

It began fluidly, moved well between quotes and commentary without getting tangential or clunky, and, finally, came to a nice resting place in the end.

And look, all of the comments are about the subject rather than the author :D

I'm pleased to see that we are critical of this team -- it shows that, once again, a team that could be viewed as a rebuilding team is in fact on a greater trajectory.

Teams that Bill bashes in November are much better in March.

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