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.


741hawk 5 years, 5 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.

tdscpa 5 years, 5 months ago

I hope so. However, I often get a "Program not available in your area" message there. I have it available here on Dish 36, but it is std def. I will try 442, but won't rely on it.

jaybate 5 years, 5 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.)

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 5 months ago

I envision a Frank Martin strawman in the locker room with glass saucers for kneecaps and Weber shattering them with a manure shovel.

dylans 5 years, 5 months ago

Classic ~Bruce Weber reputedly brings a fiery brand of mediocrity to the KSU Wildcats. Thanks for that line Jaybate.

jaybate 5 years, 5 months ago

U R welcome. Just trying to do my duty. :-)

jaybate 5 years, 5 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.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 5 months ago

You're correct with the starting 5. Self will almost certainly start his normal starting 5. If he modifies the starting 5 at all this season it is either due to injury or due to Perry Ellis outplaying Kevin Young. Unfortunately for Kevin, he hasn't been able to make teams pay for not guarding him, which takes away his primary offensive value which is drawing the defense off of Withey for the easy post-to-post pass.

And Self can't really commit to four guards because of the depth issue that you brought up with Rio and AWIII.

jaybate 5 years, 5 months ago

You're signing to the choir.

Good to hear. :-)

Scott MacWilliams 5 years, 5 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!!

yates33333 5 years, 5 months ago

You are right on about CBS. They need a new sports director, especially for basketball.

TxJyHwk 5 years, 5 months ago

My favorite was when they kept adding points to the Texas score after we made a basket ---- I think it was up to 6 points before the removed the score temporarily from the screen :)

Ron Prichard 5 years, 5 months ago

You are absolutely correct. By the time they were done adding points, UT was up 14. When they corrected it, I think it was a 6 point game.

yates33333 5 years, 5 months ago

Pure Jaybate. Great satire.

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

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 5 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.

REHawk 5 years, 5 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.

Andy Godwin 5 years, 5 months ago

Self never put's in players just for game experience unless there is a significant lead. You earn minutes in practice and if you do not perform when given the opportunity in a game you sit, maybe for the entire conference season and beyond. Example Tharpe last year and why Self went with Taylor even when he was struggling. Teahan got minutes (Johnson played the point) when he couldn't make a shot because Self trusted his defense over the wild ball handing and poor defense by Tharpe. A year later and many practices, Self has confidence in Tharpe and it is paying dividends. Self will never risk a win just to give someone game experience. One bad position in a game could be the difference (e.g., the MSU, Temple, ISU, and Texas games) and Adams does not have Self's full confidence not to make mistakes (first and foremost on defense). I see him becoming a Tharpe next year regarding minutes and valuable contributions and he will have the upper hand for playing time compared to the incoming freshman who will struggle early with Self's defensive schemes. Adams will be an very important player on the court next year. This year he needs to continue to be a great teammate while waiting his turn which will come because he has raw talent and one year of valuable experience in Self's program.

REHawk 5 years, 5 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.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 5 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.

KJD 5 years, 5 months ago

While thinking about Stewart, Little and Releford in relation to the 4 guard line up, it also has me thinking of White III and the pick and pop role they worked with earlier in the season. White III is a big time talent, they have already put him into their offense in this way, built some confidence in his ability to shine in one explosive offensive game, so they could go to it some in a pinch for some offense where he has shown his ability. White III helps add depth with the 4 spot in the small line up and is just another option as we keep cultivating an identity at the four spot for this years team.

Just like Stewart on the 2008 team, it could be a small role, though an important one to keep White III's head in the game. He IS being called on in conference play to cover for a few minutes and those 4 minutes a Texas are valuable minutes of contribution. Just like Self said quite early in the year, we just need White III to come in, give us what he can while we maintain a scoring margin with solid, fundamental play. If he can keep doing that he also has the upside to drop a series of 3 bombs to impact a game.

There has been a few times recently where I have seen Ellis go real high, as in beyond the arc, and his size stature with his quickness in movement offers even more towards this style of play. For me it comes back to the ability to change up on any possession on how you play screens. For Self, he likes to switch on the perimeter when he can. Withey will still be able to flash to the top of the arc, create that hard perpendicular hedge to the screen which forces the ball handlers shoulders/hips completely away from the rim.

KJD 5 years, 5 months ago

The 2008 National Championship team used Rodrick Stewart in the same capacity that Little and now Releford contributes in the 4 guard line up. Stewart was strong in the low blocks, excellent rebounder for his size, a former starting point guard in the Pac-12 so he could take a D board then go on the attack towards the offensive sid of the court without a delay. He got such little recognition for his role on that team. One of my outspoken friends in my KU basketball crew didn't know who he was when I said his name during the tournament.

Stewart played few minutes, though they were always solid in 2008 which allowed KU to maintain their rhythm. He helped keep the main rotation of the main 7 fresh, cover a few minutes when needed when there was foul trouble in the front court,exploit a matchup the a time of the game right when Self needed it. That's depth. That's chemistry because he never seemed to pout on the bench he just came in, was ready, hardly made a bad play to bring attention to himself. For such an unsung and consistent piece for that squad it was a shame that he blew his knee out right when he had the opportunity to play in the Final Four. He still got his ring.

KJD 5 years, 5 months ago

As for you comment on a team making US adjust, I think that line of thinking is just as true over the course of a season as the ability to add a wrinkle to make the other team adjust. Your line of thinking was very true in the Iowa State game because that small line up, from my perspective, allowed us to steal one at home when Iowa State had us beat.

Right now, at this stage of the season, I think it has to do with the development of confidence we can have in a variety of units. If we need to go small to match up when we can't dictate our style of play, we now have confidence that this roster can go small, play some switches with the ability to change up on how we switch in our D, add a dynamic to the offense where we can score from all 5 positions on the court. There is real confidence building here with the small unit and we still can play 2 bigs so effectively too. There will be times when we discover on the court that our style won't match up effectively against another good teams style of play. That's the way it is and your Mizzou comment is a real good example of two strong teams going at it and the coach making change ups to search for a win.

A tea, can think about it before hand, plan, look at numbers and scouting reports, though some match ups with certain teams are just tough and you need a variety of talent on your bench and combination of units to come up with answers. Teams develop that each year over the course of the season and it's one of the reasons I love following this KU program. This ability to do it year in and year out is the proof that our coaching staff provides each year that tells us that they are an extremely talented bunch. Guy's like Clark Kellogg could give this program a lot more credit for that.

For in game adjustments Self is a real master of late game adjustments, along with developing a great attitude in his players on how to finish a game. The NC State coach glowed about Self's in game switch ups during the last 5 minutes as a big difference in that game last year in the tournament. Mark Gottfried in his presser said the way Self had his guys change up the way we switched screens was a real big adjustment that the Wolfpack had trouble dealing with when they needed to score late.

Sometimes your best unit and best style are not in gear so a switch up of personel might shake up the mind set of your own players and the gear shift might create some rhythm.

Or, you are playing well against another good team, they are playing well too, so when game point is on the Coach can reach into the bag and stick a change up on the other team where KU is confident and talented.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 5 months ago

Is that a real thin tiny drill to put holes in marbles??

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 5 months ago

So, but relating this marble drill to the quote about playing shorter players, I assume you are indicating that playing players who are shorter can help a team in certain situation that require diving after or picking up loose balls (playing in the X-Y Plane), etc. and the Marble drill is designed to help all players with playing in that X-Y Plane by training them to have soft-quick feet while getting their bodies low to the ground as possible.

So the marble drill could help Young, Withey, Ellis, Traylor in games that have lots of loose balls, which could give Self the option of not having to play small in situations that normally would require going small.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 5 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.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 5 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!!

mikehawk 5 years, 5 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).

HawkKlaw 5 years, 5 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!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.