Sunday, January 20, 2013


Opinion: Small comes up big for KU


It’s not who starts a basketball game that matters most, Kansas coach Bill Self is fond of saying, it’s who finishes it.

In Saturday’s come-from-behind, 64-59 victory against Texas in Austin, Texas, the Jayhawks who finished it did so in style.

After Kevin Young was guilty of a passive defensive challenge on a bucket and then tossed away a wild pass, Self had seen enough. With 6:08 left and trailing by four points, KU’s 10th-year coach signaled Naadir Tharpe off the bench and told him to replace Young.

The move made Kansas nine inches shorter and 10 times better for the stretch run.

Sheldon McClellan drove for a bucket to pump the Longhorns’ lead to six points with 5:36 left. From that point, Jeff Withey and guards Tharpe, Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore and Travis Releford teamed to play extraordinary defense, and the careless passing ceased. Kansas won the rest of the game, 17-6.

“We usually do it in late-game situations whenever we’re ahead to get our best free-throw shooters and ballhandlers in the game,” Self said of the lineup. “Nothing else was working. It was a muddy track all day. There was no rhythm, so I thought we might as well try it.”

It worked so well look for Self to try it earlier and more often, especially Tuesday night against Kansas State, which starts four guards.

UT’s small lineup at the time of the switch and Releford’s defensive versatility enabled Self to make the move without reservations. Self has been known to switch Releford onto the opposing point guard if Johnson and Tharpe can’t keep him from penetrating. When Kansas goes small, Releford guards the power forward. That makes the fifth-year senior from Bishop Miege High one valuable piece to the team likely to be ranked second in the nation when the Associated Press releases its college basketball poll today.

“They had (Ioannis Papapetrou) at the four, so it was a lineup that we actually could try it against and put Travis on him, and Travis was able to hold his own on him, when we did that,” Self said.

The coach didn’t substitute again until seven seconds remained. It made it tougher for Texas to handle the ball, as evidenced by three late turnovers, and to shoot (2-for-6). Meanwhile, Kansas made five of eight shots and didn’t turn it over in the final 5:55.

The strong finish can’t all be attributed to the lineup. Kansas consistently plays like the veteran team it is down the stretch, even on days such as Saturday when it lacks poise and pizazz earlier in the game. A young Texas team consistently self-destructs late.

But the success of the lineup for such a long stretch at the very least gives Kansas State coach Bruce Weber one more wrinkle for which to prepare going into the in-state rivalry between the Big 12’s only 4-0 teams.

It won’t come as a surprise to anybody if Self doesn’t wait until late in the game to use the four-guard lineup for significant stretches. It actually matches up better with K-State, which starts small guards Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling, wings Shane Southwell and Rodney McGruder and power forward Thomas Gipson.

The Wildcats responded to Weber’s move to a smaller lineup with the eight-game streak they take into Tuesday’s showdown.

Even excluding the five inches Withey has on Gipson, KU’s small lineup is bigger by an insignificant three-quarters of an inch per man than K-State’s. Discounting the 35 pounds Gipson has on Withey, Kansas State’s other four starters weigh an insignificant one pound per man more than the four guards in KU’s small lineup.

With Tharpe on Rodriguez, Johnson on Spradling, McLemore on Southwell and Releford on McGruder, there isn’t an obvious match-up for the Wildcats to single out as a vulnerable one.

If Kansas looks to exploit Withey’s height advantage against Gipson, Weber has the option of bringing 6-foot-11 shot-blocker Jordan Henriquez off the bench.

Whichever 10 players are on the floor, the student-heavy Bramlage Coliseum crowd, which produces one of the conference’s liveliest atmospheres, will shake the place.

Big game, so big that somebody has a red face for not putting it on national TV.


HawkKlaw 1 year, 3 months ago

Naadir's development has been crucial this season. He saved the day on Saturday and may just do so again tomorrow. If KU gets out of Manhattan with a "W", it will go a long way in assuring KU its 9th straight!


mikehawk 1 year, 3 months ago

To beat KSU, a really good team to be respected, is simple. However you slice, dice it, the key is stopping Rodney McGruder. So goes McG, so goes KSU. I anticipate, depending on the other matchups, is for Travis to have the lion share of that assignment. Travis, I think has the quickness, and he has the size. Next in line would probably be Elijah. Ben, depending on his ankle, will get some fresh legs duty, also. I think the guards of KSU lack quickness and it would appear we should be able to put a great deal of pressure on them and get some run outs. It would appear the newly installed offense there needs flow and rhythm, so the "muddy track" of recent, as coach refers to it, might be the elixir for tomorrow night's game.

The hidden story is this game and the KU/KSU games tomorrow night and extending over the rest of this season and next, is can Bruce Weber get a W against the Hawks? If he can get one either this year or next, and whether anyone says so or not, he drools over the chance to get one tomorrow night. He knows it will be much tougher to get one at the Fieldhouse. If he goes this season and next without a win over KU, the long shadow of Bill Self will get longer and colder. Then, the only funeral being planned is his own (figuratively, of course).


Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

REHawk made a great point earlier....can you all imagine what HCBS could do with the talent on the Baylor roster if it was a Kansas team!!

This game reaffirms Bill's every developing abilty to observe, act and adapt team strategy at full speed, mid-stream of a game!! We are so lucky to have him and his staff!!


Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

I kept looking for the little red haired girl on the sidelines by stopping the tape at every crowd luck....thank God for our friend HEM, however.


William Blake 1 year, 3 months ago

"The move made Kansas nine inches shorter and 10 times better for the stretch run."

Welcome to z-axis basketball and the value of z-paths.

College basketball is played on a court 94' x 50'... that's 4700 sq ft of horizontal opportunity.

Anyone in here ever hear about the "marble drill?"


Jack Wilson 1 year, 3 months ago

“They had (Ioannis Papapetrou) at the four, so it was a lineup that we actually could try it against and put Travis on him, and Travis was able to hold his own on him, when we did that,” Self said.

If Self would recall, we could not match up with Missouri when they played small. They had three guards plus English at the 4. We could not guard him with TRob or Withey.

Very importantly, it was not a matter of MU being able to run that lineup because of our 4 -- them adjusting to us (such Self's reference to Texas' Papapetrou might imply), but a matter of MU running their small lineup and us having to adjust. We had to take out Withey and play Teahan.

Self has done this before .. I mentioned over the weekend that we used an undersized 4 quite a bit with Mario Little.

Hope he considers this more and more. His decision to switch to the small lineup won the game Saturday. It could win us a few more.


REHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Kevin was not quite himself in that TX contest. Here's hoping that his life is on even keel, and the lapses were an anomaly. His replacements garnered good experience.


REHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Self does a whale of a great job utilizing the talent at hand. My only wish is for Rio to log more minutes, esp. to get tested experience in the first half of close contests. Maybe paranoia, but I sense that he will be much needed before April.


Jonathan Allison 1 year, 3 months ago

"Even excluding the five inches Withey has on Gipson, KU’s small lineup is bigger by an insignificant three-quarters of an inch per man than K-State’s. Discounting the 35 pounds Gipson has on Withey, Kansas State’s other four starters weigh an insignificant one pound per man more than the four guards in KU’s small lineup. "

Let me break this down for everyone. So, what Keegan is saying is that KU's small lineup is 8 inches taller but 39 lbs lighter than KSU's small lineup.

You're welcome.


yates33333 1 year, 3 months ago

Pure Jaybate. Great satire.

How about Keegan advising Self on coaching. Pure hubris. Great baloney.


Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 3 months ago

A little FYI for those of you trying to catch the Jayhawks on TV. For the Texas game, which was on CBS (Can't Broadcast Sports) I went to a sports bar, Buffalo Wild Wings, Salem, OR, and they put it up on one of their BIG screens, like 8'x15'.
It was a pretty nice clear picture, but one time it did stop suddenly and went blank. I had to corral the programmer to get it back on, but it only took a minute. The game was 11 am our time, so the place was pretty quiet at first. And all public places in Oregon are now smoke-free, so that wasn't an issue, either. It was not that much fun to watch the Hawks play, though, as they seemed pretty flat. Withey was just standing around some of the time, not a typical performance. Seemed like they thought Texas was going to just roll over. But they FINALLY pulled it out...

Rock Chalk, Octagon Hawks!!


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago


~Oh, my god, no wonder Jam Tray's been struggling. He's up to two knee straps.

~Still amazes me that Self went to Dir and a short line up for a win. Barnes wasn't expecting it. Surprise works.

~Self faces an interesting dilemma against 4-guard KSU. He can match up with them by going small with Dir at point and moving Travis to the 4, but...wouldn't it be more fun to stay big and hold KSU to about 20% from inside the stripe, while making 60% inside?

~If Self goes small, it means he's got to play 4 guys that went 30 minutes in Austin, and a guy who's never played more than 20 or so minutes in a game...and then have no backup at PG other than Rio. Rio, are you ready? And who backs up the 2? AW3, are you ready? And who backs up the 3? AW3, are you ready? And who backs up the 4? AW3, are you ready?

~Who will Self go with at the 4, if he goes long? Perry, who hasn't put together a rounded game yet? Or Jamari, who seems to have lost some explosiveness and is wearing two knee wraps? Or Kevin who had a bad game after a string of many good ones? KY, are you ready?

~IMHO, start the same starting five as usual. Sub as usual. Make them pay inside. Go small if you have problems.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

"Some Ridiculous Rumors about Interim Head Coach Bruce Weber That Probably Aren't True"

~Weber, who tried to walk on in basketball at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was not only cut by the coach, but then beaten senseless by a brat-wielding yell leader.

~Weber's first assistant coaching job was at Purdue, where he was assistant in charge of comb overs for Gene Keady.

~Shortly after Weber held a mock funeral for Bill Self, Illinois players held a mock cremation of Weber.

~At Purdue, Weber assisted Gene Keady, who learned his game playing for Tex Winter at KSU, then assisted Eddie Sutton at Arkansas, then became HC at Western Kentucky and Purdue, then retired, then unretired and assisted first the Toronto Raptors, and now Steve Lavin at St. Johns. Gene Keady never staged a mock burial of any coach he replaced.

~Bruce Weber has been nominated 12 years in a row for the Peter Principle Award but never won.

~Bruce Weber reputedly brings a fiery brand of mediocrity to the KSU Wildcats.

~Bruce Weber has been so frustrated by the shadow of Frank Martin that Bruce has staged a mock hit on Frankie.

~Bruce Weber has written several basketball coaching books including: "Building Down in the Big Ten" as told to Dr. Phil, and "Mastering the Ordinary On and Off the Hardwood," as told to Bill Rafftery's Bartender, and "March and April Are For Fishing: Dealing with Not Making the Madness" as told to Will Ferrell.

~Weber's dog is named "Failure."

~Weber once held his breath after a 20 point loss to try to get his team to play harder.

~Gene Keady once said, "Recruiting is like shaving, if you don't do it every day, you look like Bruce Weber."

~Bruce Weber was once considered for the head job at Purdue, but the AD reportedly said, "Hire that guy and we may as well change our name to Purdoomed."

~Bruce Weber's KSU contract has an incentive clause where if Bruce win's 20 game in a season he gets to stop shoveling manure in the experimental barns.

~KSU fans are being treated to Bruce Weber's new "Whine and Shoot" offense.

~When Bruce Weber was hired, Bill Snyder reputedly broke out laughing.

(Note: All fiction. No malice. Just getting ready for the big game in Kraplage Mausoleum.)


741hawk 1 year, 3 months ago

National TV execs were enamored with KU vs Miasery. I don't think this game was on national tv last year either. Too bad. Just glad to have figured out that I can get the game on Altitude Sports / Dish 442.


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