Saturday, January 30, 2016


Tom Keegan: Bill Self busts out junk defense to top Kentucky

Kansas head coach Bill Self claps as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 90-84 win, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self claps as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 90-84 win, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.


In the area of coaching defense, Bill Self takes pride in the shiny staples in his toolbox. Motivational tools, instructive tools, video tools, all employed to tweak his helping man-to-man defense in just the right way for that night's opponent.

And then there is that roll of duct tape hidden under a pile in the corner of the toolbox. He doesn't even like to look at it very often for fear he might surrender and use it when the tried-and-true methods fail. It's known as the triangle-and-two, one of the more common "junk" defenses employed by coaches looking to change the flavor of a game.

Self used it with great success late in games vs. Purdue and North Carolina on the way to the 2012 Final Four.

The stubborn, successful coach turned to it again early in the second half of Saturday's 90-84 overtime victory against Kentucky. It worked again, but it's not as if Self was walking around bragging about it afterward. He would have been just as happy if nobody had noticed.

"You know, to me, it's, it's ... not embarrassing by any stretch, but if you have to go to a junk defense in order to be good defensively, then you're not going to last too long," Self said. "So we have to tighten things up. But it is a good change of pace, or change of momentum type thing. And then if you can get a couple of stops, sometimes they get hesitant, and that's kind of what happened a little bit tonight."

The defense calls for two quick defenders to play man-to-man and the other three to play a three-man zone in the shape of a triangle. Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham played man-to-man against Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray and received help from the three defenders in the triangle.

Self used it because Kentucky's 5-foot-9 Ulis had been shredding KU's defense in an even louder way that even Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans and Iowa State's Monté Morris had in victories against Kansas. Less than two minutes into the second half, Ulis had scored 18 points, made 8 of 10 field goals and had five assists, no turnovers and three steals. Then Kansas switched its defense and Kentucky turned it over on its first possession against it and went on a three-minute scoring drought.

Ulis played all 45 minutes and finished with 26 points, eight assists and three turnovers. Whereas the junk defense slowed Ulis, nothing could stop KU's Wayne Selden Jr. (33 points) from having the best game of his career.

"Yeah, I didn't have many openings," Ulis said of playing against the triangle-and-two. "I forced a few things late, should have given the ball up."

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self: Jayhawks labored at times, but got job done vs. UK

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self rehashes the Jayhawks' overtime victory against fellow blue blood Kentucky, and says while KU labored offensively much of the night, the players got KU the needed result.

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Graham said that he and Mason communicated on each possession, discussing which player would check Ulis that time down the floor, doing so in order to prevent each other from growing too exhausted to be effective.

The defense made Kentucky slam on its brakes for the first time all night.

"They were chasing Tyler and Jamal and it made it difficult to get into our sets, so we had to change it on the fly," said Kentucky's Alex Poythress, who had a big night with 13 points, eight rebounds, a block and two steals.

Mason said the team practiced the triangle-and-two for a few days leading up to the Kentucky game.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Selden, Mason and Graham on how KU beat Kentucky in OT

Kansas guards Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham describe how the Jayhawks battled back to defeat Kentucky in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse.

Download podcast

"We did a good job with it tonight," Mason said. "It helped us a lot."

Said Self: "It basically bailed us out because we had such a hard time guarding the ball. Still, we didn't do it right, but we did it well enough to disrupt their offense."

A temporary, timely fix. For one night, Self was like that fisherman who takes such great pride in attracting fish with his home-made lures, yet when on the verge of getting skunked resorts to turning over a rock, grabbing an earthworm and baiting his hook with it. The next day, he returns to polishing his lures, adjusting the look of them here and there and more convinced than ever that the shiniest items in the tackle box will bring home the most meals.

— See what people were saying about Kansas vs. Kentucky during’s live coverage.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kentucky


Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Coach Self threw a few curve balls at Cal. Cal whiffed.

Coach Self was the clear winner in this coaching matchup.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 9 months ago

Because of the score 90-84? Usually when you score more points you win.

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Did Mason out play Ulis "Because of the score 90-84"

The comment was that Self outcoached Calipari. The fact that he won is the result. Had the players missed a few shots, the result could have been different.

You're trying so hard to pick a fight that you make yourself, and the Chicken Little hate you have for Self, look stupid, again.

Dustin Peterson 5 years, 9 months ago

He used it against Derrick Rose and CDR in 2008 also, if I recall correctly. It's just a thing he knows may confuse any offense run by Cal. It's why Bill Self is good at his job.

Eric J. Baker 5 years, 9 months ago

If I remember correctly, it wasn't a triangle-and-two Bill used against Memphis, it was a box-and-one. CDR had been lighting us up in the first half, and even though we were leading Bill wanted to contain him. Derrick Rose hadn't been doing anything before halftime, so I think he felt okay letting up on him a little. But then Rose absolutely demolished the zone and scored most of his points in the second half.

Tom Jones 5 years, 8 months ago


He tried a junk defense against Memphis, but it completely backfired and would have cost KU the title if Memphis could have hit free throws.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 9 months ago

The Triangle and 2 worked efficiently against Purdue and North Carolina. Against Memphis? Not so much. Derrick Rose scored 12 of his 18 points during that time at the Midway point in the second half and that was where Memphis went on their run. If KU had lost that game, you could have pointed to the "Junk" defense as the reason why.

Never did understand why Self went to the Triangle and 2 against Memphis. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. It's worked more times than it hasn't, but it certainly did not work against Memphis in that 2008 title game.

Eric J. Baker 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm fairly certain it was a box-and-one that Bill used against Memphis, with the most likely reason being to contain Chris Douglas-Roberts, who had a fantastic first half.

Joe Joseph 5 years, 9 months ago

Triangle -and-2 was definitely used, but not particularly well, as Chris points out.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 9 months ago

Glad it worked. Glad we won.

Now, what's the long-term solution? And what's the solution for next year, because we have the same guards returning? Can Vick improve enough to start challenging for minutes? His length might help on the defensive side.

So, here's a crazy idea; is there a JUCO guard out there that would come to KU? Unlikely, I know (I think that Little was our last JUCO guy?), but there is clearly room for someone to win one of the two jobs. If that someone can't win it, agree to a redshirt and have him step in when Frank graduates.

Blast away......

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Brett. Why do you hate Graham so much? Read his stats. He's a soph. He's played about 1/3 of his college eligibility. He has a nearly 4-1 assist to turnover ratio this season. He shoots 43% from three. He's improving.

Mason was a preseason Big12 second team selection. Every single team in America would grab him in a second and give him big minutes.

There is only "clearly room for someone to win one of the two jobs" in the mind of a true Chicken Little, Stop. Think.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 9 months ago

Hate Graham? I'd ask you if you are crazy, but we all know the answer to that question.

Don't put words in my mouth just so you can have another fight with an imaginary foe. He's a Jayhawk and I want him to do well. Per the article, I'd like to see his defense improve.

Say hello to your friends for me when you log back into the EMAW board.

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Wow. You just can't help yourself. Continue to make yourself look stupid on your own if you must.

Allin Herring 5 years, 9 months ago

Mary Poppins Jay Graham and Mason did such a great job in the 1st half guarding the Kentucky guards that Coach Self finally saw enough and put in the triangle and two defense into the game and saved the day. After seeing Ulis move past Mason into the paint time and time again in the first half I am not sure he would be on many conference All Defensive teams. If Self would not be so stubborn and used this defense in the Oklahoma State and Iowa State games we might have won both of these games. But far be it that anyone says any thing against your Mary Poppins view point Jay as we all know you are always right!

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Red, It's impossible to say what your point was, or what it had to do with the discussion but...You ended your rant with "as we all know you are always right".

Those are the first sensible words you've posted.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm fine with Graham and Mason. Sure, I wish Mason was a better distributor and made better decisions. Sure, I wish Graham could take the concrete blocks off his feet so he could move laterally on defense, but I wouldn't trade them. They are typical Kansas players IMO.

With that said, Kansas needs a third ball handling guard (Not Wayne Selden) or someone to disrupt things offensively. That guy may be Vick, but he's not ready. I would love to see a third ball handing guard on this squad.

That's why I love watching OU play. Hield, Woodard, and Cousins can all get to any spot on the floor with their dribble anytime they want. It's a huge advantage for them and takes pressure of their mediocre "Big's".

That's why I want to put Selden in on the half post and utilize him in a manner where he doesn't have to use his dribble to create (Melo, Kobe, Paul Pierce moves).

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Three guards, PLUS Selden? What does that rotation look like?

Chris Shaw 5 years, 9 months ago

It just gives yourself options. You can play them together like those 3 or you could go standard like Chalmers, Russ-Rob, and Collins did. Either way, having a third ball handling guard gives you options by playing together or bringing somebody off the bench. Be nice to give Graham and Mason a break and not drop off in the ball handling department when either exits the game.

Opportunities Jay! Like I said, the point is it would be nice to have a third ball handling guard on this roster.

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

No arguing that. Good thoughts! I guess that's what Svi was supposed to be. He was talked about as a PG in the NBA. He's sure an enigma.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 9 months ago

Let's be honest, Jay, Svi was never gonna be that. The "Talk" is what destroys these kids.

Selden was talked about in a similar manner and he's no 2 guard. Hell, they talked PG with Selden and he's never been close to that either. He's a 3 and we're finally seeing him get comfortable in that role. The scouts get things wrong too.

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

Selden isn't a 2? Chris. Don't say silly stuff like that.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 9 months ago

Jay, is Svi hurt? I really liked the way, a few games back anyway, that he would put the ball on the floor and take it to the hoop. I get it that his 3's have been spotty, but with his height and when he takes it inside, he's been legit.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 9 months ago

Well, I hope he gets in some more minutes. I still believe in him. It's hard to get minutes with Mason, Graham and Wayne ahead. I think is defense is better than Greene, but when Greene gets in his zone you know Coach is going to go that route. Well, another great OT win which should help our guys in future OT's

Robert Brock 5 years, 9 months ago

Trae Young was at Allen Fieldhouse on an unofficial visit. Hope he enjoyed the game.

PG, class of 2017. Outstanding ball-handler. Would be great in the perimeter with Devonte Graham.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 9 months ago

It was nice to hear the comments from Coach Cal before the game and Bilas all saying Allen is the greatest place to play in all of sports, any sport.

Chris Bailey 5 years, 9 months ago

Where is Hunter? Why is he not playing??? I don't get it!!!!!! He is much better than Lucas. Hunter can play D and is a shot blocker. Did Hunter get in trouble? Is he injured? What???

Bill Woodard 5 years, 9 months ago

Hunter has a high-ankle sprain and is out at least a week.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 9 months ago

Wow! I guess that Bill Self can really coach after all. From what some have been saying, I was beginning to think that all of those conference championships and two National Championship games were all a mirage.

David Ferneau 5 years, 9 months ago

"Bill Self busts out junk..."

Careful there, Tom!

Bryce Landon 5 years, 9 months ago

Glad Self finally decided to change the defense. Since man-to-man doesn't seem to work with this team, triangle-and-two should be a permanent change. Nothing "junky" about a defense that actually works. Frustrating thing is, why didn't he do that during the three conference games we lost?

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 9 months ago

That Triangle and 2 put the brakes on old Roy's UNC team in the Regional Finals a few years ago. He had his star point guard out with an injury and was having to use a freshman. The kid played pretty well against Elijah and Tyshawn until the T and 2 rolled out. After that, he looked like a dear caught in the headlights. As I remember, KU went to it late and UNC barely scored the rest of the way.

Doug Clark 5 years, 8 months ago

I am glad he finally decided to do something different to try and change momentum. It's never going to be a long term solution, but I am thrilled he went to it because our guards were once again letting an opposing guard reach all American status, I only wish he would have tried it against in other games where our guards couldn't stop dribble penetration. As for the comment that Mason and Graham would be coveted so highly by other teams, I disagree, you think Huggins, prohm, Kruger, Ford would trade their guards for ours? I say no way in hell. I am glad we pulled it out, I always love beating Kentucky and Calipari, would we still have plenty to improve on. Mason is still struggling on both ends and he spends too much time out top dribbling between his legs trying to juke his guy instead of moving the ball, Coach needs to address this issue in my opinion.

Bernard Gregory 5 years, 8 months ago

Always praises to other teams guards but I haven't seen a guard stop Frank from getting where he wants to go, but the difference is other teams have rim protectors and Kansas don't and also do ya'll Frank haters see how when those guards penetrate they have cutters to the basket, but its always he needs to pass when he drives, to who, the guys standing by their man looking at him or on the outside waiting to shoot the three. He is going to get his stroke back and then what will be said.

Mick Allen 5 years, 8 months ago

Bernard I agree with your analysis of Frank's game. Doug, Ulis doesn't need our assistance in perhaps achieving All American status. He is that good. Cousins at OU, Morris at ISU, and Evans at OSU are having strong seasons. WVU has no point guard of note but Frank did play poorly against their press., I thought Mason outplayed Taylor, the fine point guard of Texas. Both Mason and Graham suffer from KU having no inside offensive presence. When point guards penetrate off the dribble and dish, they usually have 2 options in distributing the ball. One is of course draw defensive help from a help defender on the perimeter and kick out for the 3. The second is getting deep into the paint and dump off to an interior player whose interior defender has helped off on the drive. The big must move without the ball and establish a position and angle for the point to get him the ball. Since Perry is more effective facing up and not playing deep in the post and because Landon and Jamari pose no offensive threat and are often not even covered, their defenders help quickly to the dribble and consequently are guards only have 1of the 2 options available in distributing he ball. When he is dribbling between his legs out front he is waiting for ball screens to materialize or setting up a weak side cut. This conference is stocked with excellent guards. No one has stopped Ulis's dribble penetration. I like our guards. Mason was second team All Big 12 last year.

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