Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bill Self: Jayhawks’ defense needs work

Kansas center Jeff Withey looks for a block against Ohio State forward Sam Thompson during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Kansas center Jeff Withey looks for a block against Ohio State forward Sam Thompson during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.


Kansas University’s basketball defense, which received rave reviews for holding Ohio State to 30.8 percent shooting in a 74-66 road victory on Dec. 22, might be a tad overrated at this point, coach Bill Self says.

“I’ve watched us play (on film). People are saying too much about our defense. It’s not that good. It’s not,” Self said Wednesday on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “Of all the possessions we have defensively in a game, I guarantee you, 50 percent are bad possessions compared to 50 percent good possessions. The result may end up good because they may miss a shot or they may fumble the ball or make a bad pass or something that doesn’t have much to do with us. I think the biggest area of improvement for us would have to be the defensive end.”

KU, which takes an 11-1 record into Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. home game against Temple (10-2), has allowed 59.0 points a game, which ranks 40th nationally. KU’s field-goal-percentage defense (34.7 percent) ranks No. 5 overall. KU ranks second in blocks per game (8.1), 94th in three-point field-goal-percentage defense (30.9 percent) and 151st in steals per game (7.3).

“We make a lot of mistakes (on defense),” Self said. “We have had some teams miss open looks. Sometimes we get a false sense that we are guarding people. That is one area and rebounding where our team can make the biggest jump.”

KU ranks 59th nationally in rebound margin (5.8).

Offensively, the Jayhawks rank 26th in scoring offense (78.4 ppg), 10th in field-goal percentage (50.4), 39th in three-point field-goal percentage (37.8) and 10th in assists per game (17.4).

“Offensively, we run quite a few sets,” Self said. “Last year, at the end of the season, our play card had 74 plays we could call that night. Right now we are up to about 42 that we may tweak or add to. We don’t run near as much stuff as we used to.

“A lot (of KU’s offense) is off freelance, a lot is off dribble penetration or feeding the post. I used to be a big ‘set play’ guy. I am not anymore. I’d rather guys learn how to score by ball-and-body movement within the confines of what we are trying to do. It may look bad sometimes, but believe it or not, there’s a strategy.”

Owls next on tap: KU’s next opponent, Temple, has lost to Duke, 90-67, in East Rutherford, N.J., and at home to Canisius, 72-62. Temple defeated Syracuse, 83-79, on Dec. 22, in Madison Square Garden. The Owls have also beaten Kent State (80-66), Rice (77-63), Delaware (80-75), Buffalo (54-39), Wagner (70-62), Villanova (76-61), Towson (62-61), Alcorn State (63-46) and Bowling Green (75-57).

Smith to Georgetown: Former UCLA center Josh Smith has decided to transfer to Georgetown, according to and other outlets.

Smith, who stands 6-foot-10, and is reportedly well over 300 pounds, also considered KU and Washington. The Kent, Wash., native will be eligible to play in games in December of 2013. He will have one semester of eligibility remaining.

Smith averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds while logging 13.5 minutes a game in limited duty this season.

This week’s slate: Self, who has been holding two practices a day since the return from Christmas break, today will have the players look at film, but not hit the court.

“Bodies are tired. We’ll try to get their legs back under them then practice Friday and Saturday and get ready to play Sunday,” Self said. “We’ll give them tomorrow (today) off from a fatigue standpoint, get bodies rested. Then we play four games in eight days. We need to be fresh going into the Temple game.”


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Miss the TRob shirt rip. He did that maybe twice all season really, to be fair. Dont mind the eye-scope-3 sign, as many players, many teams do it. Even Brady Heslip from Baylor (whitekid guard, remember?) does the ok-3 sign. Last year, KU 3pt makes were few and far between, so really, I saw them as a cause for celebration. And I definitely miss Thomas Robinson's overall fire and swagger regarding that man's war-in-the-paint that is a key element in Div1 Mens bball. While I also miss Tyshawn's positive abilities, this year's team must find its own way, and Self has them off to an ever-improving start.


monkeehawkSL8 1 year, 3 months ago

The Jayhawks have been playing well. I hope they continue to improve.

1) No matter what happens on offense, GET BACK ON DEFENSE, ASAP!

2) Take care of each other. Talk to each other on and off the court.

3) Stay in the moment, "be here now".

4) Never compare themselves to anyone.

5) Be students.

6) No shirt ripping, 3pt OK sign, smack talk childish playground crap.

These "hopes" are in order but there is no order to them. This is simple.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

"On Self's Defensive Doubts"

KU's defensive prowess is cornerstoned on Jeff's tendency to hold Dow opponents FG percentage directly inside directly and indirectly outside. Self fears and is planning for the day KU has to play a team with an equivalent, or better, inside presence. He doubts KU's defense at 1,2 and 4 is good enough to prevail with out the Jeff advantage. He has a point.

EJ still seems a step slow from surgery.

Ben still seems not to sustain his guarding.

Kevin has slow feet, which he counters with anticipation and effort, as Conner Teahan did.

Self knows if these three don't pick it up a notch, they will one day be exploited.

A combination of getting these three better, and getting their subs better is the solution.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

John Wooden was the most thorough detail freak that ever coached the game. He planned everything from socks, to tying of shoelaces, to angles of cuts, to when to bank, etc., etc., etc. Anyone that thinks Wooden kept it simple never really tried to memorize, master and live his pyramid of success, which was only one tiny piece of the UCLA way.

Elegance, never simplicity, characterizes brilliance in pursuit of excellence.

Simplicity and complexity are simply poles on a spectrum elegance slides along in search of feasible fit. Building a pole to mount to mount a bird house on can achieve feasibility with elegant simplicity. A 100 story high rise finds elegant fit at a higher level of complexity.

Sports games as sets of rules can be quite simple relative to the messy vagaries of a tax code.

But all sets of rules of competition, no matter how seemingly simple, result in simple games that tend toward increasing complexity.

The US Constitution is just a few pages long, but behold the unforeseen complexity of the state and nation it has triggered.

Likewise Naismith's rules of basketball have yielded a game and a business and an economic activity of ever increasing complexity that some would like to reduce to their experiences in a gym.

Doing so is reductionistic.

The more money the game attracts the more brain power the game attracts and expends on achieving net benefits.

If the game were so simple, there would not be 50 sets, 1000 page playbooks, extensive staffs, weigh trainers, endless hours watching video, increasing reliance on QA, etc., etc., etc.

To explore the pursuit of elegance of fit in D1 basketball as I do is not necessary to enjoy D1 basketball. But it is to understand it, and so understand what it can tell us about sport, our society, and ourselves, as a nation.


Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 3 months ago

I love Self's use of media to motivate his team. The manner and subtlety with which he goes about it is the best in the country.


mikehawk 1 year, 3 months ago

I still say a hidden variable in our current defensive success, which includes opponents missing shots, is the fact our style of play is speeding them up. They are not squaring up, setting their feet, and not quite in rhythm on their shots. The problem is that when the tournament, and even in league, the game naturally slows down into many more half court sets which allows the above sited shooting woes to be addressed. Scores get lower and teams work the clock with skills honed during the year to bring down the number of turnovers and steals. Any God-fearing, KU basketball fan knows the The Great Equalizer (the 3 ball) can send you packing no matter what league you play in or no matter your seed. The fact is the numbers coach sites don't lie. Not only are the facts there to back up his claim of not so good defense, I think he is also using the approach to keep this team humble and working toward something out there we might some day refer to as the "best defensive team KU has ever had under Bill Self." That would be saying something.


nostradavid 1 year, 3 months ago

Has Bill ever said the Jayhawks defense didn't need work?


Jayhawk470 1 year, 3 months ago

KU has been looking great in the first 12 games. If Self thinks they can look better, God knows how much better they'll look in league play.


Michael Luby 1 year, 3 months ago

Mongo only pawn in game of life...err i mean basketball


Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 3 months ago

I guess Josh Smith wanted no part of Hudy. Too bad for him.


Chris Shaw 1 year, 3 months ago

I say, based on Oakville's response you take 42 plays down to 41 and get rid of the dribble weave set for the flare screen 3 pointer in the corner? Or, is that two plays because that missed flare screen turns into a ball screen pick and roll opportunity? Or is that three plays beause one of the guards turns the corner and gets to the rack? Or is it four plays............Gawd this so complex! Forget it! Love ya Oakville!


Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

I am always fascinated by well thought out, deep-end of the pool analysii by Jaybate, HEM, plasticJHawk, ralster and many others regarding Jayhawk basketball.

Having played full court basketball from sixth grade straight on thru into my mid 50s, I sometimes wonder if all the dimensional analysis, theoretical manipulations and forceful diatrabes regarding game philosophy, geometric court comparisions and three dimensional bball quantum physics, overshadow a really very simple game.

Shoot the ball and score and don't let the other guy shoot the ball and score. Everything else after that is simply a variation on a theme!!

I guess when you have a simple mind like mine, basketball remains a simple game. :)


FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Bill Self is right! KU's defense is not that good. If you watch the Ohio State game, the buckeyes could have easily have won had they made two or more three's. They missed at least six or seven wide open three attempts. A good shooting team would have scorched us.


dylans 1 year, 3 months ago

I heard all this on the radio last night. What about the second half of the show? I actually missed that portion.


REHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

HEM and jb, I added a Thursday morning post to the Evan M. article...for what it's worth.


Brian Leiker 1 year, 3 months ago

I think the switch in philosophies from set plays to creating within a system has alot to do with recruiting. He realizes to get the biggest fish, they have to have some freedom to create. This will pay off big-time for him and the Jayhawks.


STL_Jayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Love HCBS!

He is a perfectionist on defense and seems to motivate by never letting the players think that they don't have a lot more potential. I can't imagine HCBS ever saying something along the line of: "Our defense is right where it should be. We can now concentrate on our offense."


Jonathan Allison 1 year, 3 months ago

part 2

And props to Jaybate for calling out the ball-and-body movement offense. You call it the "slide-off-the-spots" offense and I just call it leveraging the low post with body position. It's the same thing we did last year with TRob and Withey, but Self has learned how to do it more effectively and how to work the ball into the best possible location to make the entry pass. By implementing much more backcourt strategy into the formula he has essentially eliminated the issue of haveing to use a single, best post feeder (ala, Brady, etc.) and now he can feed the post from any of the other 4 positions on the floor. This particular motion really suits Naadir in his ability to collapse a defense and find an open shooter or cutter. It also really suits Travis and BMac on the wings with their ability to find the open spots or sneak away from their man for an open drive to the lane.

Bill Self loves it because it's highly cerebral, highly strategic, and best suited for very smart and mature players. Hence why a team with 4 seniors has picked it up so incredibly well.


Jonathan Allison 1 year, 3 months ago

My first two part post. Part 1.

Bill Self implemented 74 set plays last season because he didn't believe that Tyshawn and TRob could play a two-man game every night. They ran plays because he thought he didn't want Tyshawn just bouncing around and dribbling off his shoe all game long. They ran sets to get open looks for Conner Teahan, because he was supposed to be our best shooter.

Bill Self was just as wrong about last year's team as he was about this years team. Last year he planned for a rebuilding year, lacking in skill players and experienced athletes and he got a miracle from Tyshawn and TRob.

This year he expected experienced athletes to pick up right where Tyshawn and TRob left off. Elijah knew the winning recipe, all he has to do is what Tyshawn did, right? Withey knew the recipe. And why not be optimistic? BMac and Perry were going to be the instant stars to make this team into last year's team on steroids.

He got it partly right. But EJ is not Tyshawn. Withey is niether TRob, nor the same Withey that played opposite TRob. Perry is no TRob, nor is he TRob's Withey. So it took most of November to get Self and his team aligned. Luckily in the mean time BMac has been stellar, Naadir has learned to supplement EJ quite nicely, Withey hasn't needed his coach and 'mates to slap him every five minutes, and Releford and Young have done everything else.

Last year's team was different and better than Self expected. This year's team was supposed to be like last year's team only better, but instead it's actually like what last year's team was supposed to be, only better. Much better. Bizarre, but Self figured it out.

Now that Self has this team where he wants them, there is a new game. It's the game behind the game. Self has to teach this team everything they need to know. And he has to teach it to them now because they will have two games a week from here out. But he can't show it all.

He has to hold his cards close because A.) he has to maintain the strategic advantage and not give future opponents more insight than he has to, lest they game plan us out, and B.) he has a long season of mind games left to play with his team to keep them from peaking too early.

Sure he wants them to play their best in January, February, March, and April, but he really wants them to BE their best in March and April. The game behind the game becomes the real test of a team. This team has shown the potential to be really, really good. They've also shown the potential to be really, really mediocre. It's the coaches job to make sure that they grow incrementally between now and tourney time into a team that is really, really good.


Adam McEwen 1 year, 3 months ago

bottom line is that last year, Bill learned how to win ugly. When the shots weren't falling, things not going well, they fought hard and did all the little things to make it happen. He's learned to develop his younger players during the season. I think we are going to be a real contender come march.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

•Two practices a day for 4-5 days followed by a day off, then two practices, then 4 games in 8 days. This seems a recipe for burn out rather than getting better.

• Self doesn't leave much doubt that they had to junk the original offense a month into the season, re-string and learn to play the new offense, as I've been posting for a few weeks now. This is why they were behind in number of sets installed and in defensive progress. Basically, a decision was apparently made to stand pat on defense, where they were good enough to get by, while they learned the new offensive scheme. Then with the offense installed, the week of getting better turned into catch-up on defense and rebounding. With defenses installed, and rebounding schemes fine tuned, they did some XTReme Conditioning. Now the plan is to rest a day, learn game plans for the first two games in two light practices, and gamble they aren't too stale to execute. The gambler is gambling again. Gambling that the "slide-off-the-dots" offense is unconventional enough that it can get by with fewer set plays and more freelancing. And gambling the teams strength is finally going to be playing 4-5 skinny bigs with fouls to give in 4 in 8 clusters.

• Think about it; this team could be 15-1 and in the conference driver's seat in 8 days, or it could be 13-3 and and in a dog fight for a conference title. Self is driving them hard for 15-1.

• If Self's pre-game commentsr previously this season are indicators, if he says he is less of a "set play guy" and more of a "ball and body movement guy," then we can expect lots of set plays. :-)

• Self seems to be labeling his new offense the "Ball and Body Movement" offence within the sets they run. The BBM. I've been calling it the "slide off the spots" offence and the "portable post" among other things. But whatever you call it, we are into something new here.

• The interesting question is: what did he add to the defense? Likely last year's inside zone/outside man. Plus a zone press that causes recognition problems with the existing m2m press. But oh how I would try a 1-3-1 match-up half court and Wooden's old 2-2-1 full court for intermittent confusion.

• And so it goes.


SacJayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Out of the 74 different set plays last year, 33 of them were just different ways for TT to turn the ball over...


Michael Sillman 1 year, 3 months ago

I've also noticed this year that the team gets the ball back in bounds much more quickly after a made shot or free throw than last year. Self seems to want to push it up court harder with this year's group of athletes.

I always loved how William's teams would fast break after a made free throw.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

I seem to recall the 08Champs had 55 plays they could run, which then makes it surprising to hear last year's team had 74 plays to choose from...Also, one can see from the every-year-top-10 defensiveFG%, the top10 FG shooting %, and the top10 assists = YetAnotherBillSelfCreation. Also proof that Bill Self v.2012 is >> than Bill Self v.2007. I think his flexibility in playing to his roster's strengths is key here. Having been spoiled by Tyshawn's ability to get to the rim at will, against any college opponent, WildBill now embraces the dribble-drive. And yes, I could give credit to the fact Calipari beat Self twice last year, but I'd much rather give the credit to TyshawnHawk, who did that every KU game. This year Self has had Travis, EJ, KYo, Tharpe, Rio, BMac attack the paint off the dribble, all by repeated orders to do so. No stagnation of system or playstyle is a very good thing. RCJH!


Joel Thomas 1 year, 3 months ago

Surprised by the set play comment. Though I bet he still wants to up the amt of plays he can call.


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