Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Breaking down KU’s four-guard attack in Tuesday’s exhibition opener

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a steal from Washburn guard Randall Smith (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4).

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a steal from Washburn guard Randall Smith (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4).


The four-guard era for the 2016-17 Kansas basketball team officially arrived with 12:40 to play in the first half of Tuesday’s 92-74 exhibition victory.

Prior to that, Kansas coach Bill Self, as he has been known to do, had played two forwards and three guards in a variety of forms during the opening seven minutes of Tuesday’s game.

However, with KU leading 16-6 with 12:40 to play in the first half, Self emerged from a 30-second timeout by Washburn by sending starting guards Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham back into the game in place of freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot and junior wing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

For the next 5:46 of game action, Self tried a lineup that featured four guards and one big man.

In all, the Jayhawks played five different lineups during that initial stretch, the first featuring Jackson, Graham, Frank Mason and Lagerald Vick playing next to Landen Lucas.

By game’s end, the number of different four-guard lineups that Self used had grown to 11, with the five perimeter players all rotating in and five different big men getting at least one crack at being the lone forward on the floor.

After the initial stretch of 5:46 with four guards on the floor in the first half, the Jayhawks twice played stints of the four-guard lineup in the second half. The first spanned 3:54 in the early portion and the other covered just over three minutes, from the 7:49 mark to 4:44 remaining, when Self began to clear his bench.

Neither Self nor the Jayhawks were overly thrilled with the production that came from the four-guard lineups on Tuesday, but that was part by design and part because the whole thing is still in the experimental stages.

“We’re gonna have some stuff that we run that we’ve worked on,” Self said hinting at more specific sets within the four-guard lineup. “But we didn’t show anything tonight and we won’t the next game (Sunday vs. Emporia State).”

The main reason for Self’s willingness — and desire — to go away from his more favored approach of three perimeter players and two bigs is the make-up of this year’s roster. With five guards possessing a varying blend of talent, experience and athleticism, the strength for this Kansas team appears to be in its backcourt.

Self has said going small should give Kansas a variety of advantages on the offensive end and in transition, but it did not exactly play out that way Tuesday night.

“Our passing and ball handling was pretty brutal,” Self said. “And they took advantage of our carelessness and our softness.”

One of the biggest keys to the whole concept is the 6-foot-8 Jackson’s ability to play and hold his own in the 4 spot. He scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting — nearly all of it in the second half — but finished with just four rebounds despite picking up three in the game’s first eight minutes.

“Playing the four felt pretty good,” Jackson said after the victory. “We’ve worked on it before, we go over it in practice all the time. Sometimes it can be a really good thing and sometimes it can be a little tough for me guarding bigger guys. But I felt pretty comfortable out there. I think I did well.”

Because no one expected the lineup to be in mid-season form on Tuesday night, the Jayhawks came away optimistic that the new look still will create advantages for Kansas as the season moves along.

“I think it could be good for us,” Mason said. “I just don’t think we executed as well as we could have. We’ll just keep practicing and get better at it. Hopefully, it will work better for us moving forward.”

KU’s four-guard lineup stints vs. Washburn

1st Half, 12:40-6:54

  1. Mason, Graham, Vick, Jackson, Lucas
  2. Mason, Graham, Vick, Jackson, Coleby
  3. Mason, Graham, Svi, Jackson, Coleby
  4. Mason, Graham, Vick, Svi, Bragg
  5. Mason, Graham, Vick, Svi, Lucas

2nd Half, 15:39-11:45

  1. Mason, Graham, Vick, Svi, Azubuike
  2. Graham, Vick, Svi, Jackson, Lucas
  3. Mason, Vick, Svi, Jackson, Lucas
  4. Mason, Vick, Svi, Jackson, Bragg

2nd Half, 7:49-4:44

  1. Mason, Graham, Vick, Jackson, Lucas
  2. Mason, Graham, Vick, Jackson, Azubuike
  3. Mason, Graham, Vick, Jackson, Lightfoot


Jay Scott 2 years, 11 months ago

Zero minutes with the most likely real game combo of Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Bragg.

Noah Oone 2 years, 11 months ago

Maybe that is part of what coach is saving for later?

John Fitzgerald 2 years, 11 months ago

I know it's our first game, and an exhibition game at that, but I don't see any chance this team goes undefeated. I'll actually be surprised if we escape Indiana and Duke with a win. Having said that I still think we're going to be pretty good. But the undefeated claim isn't realistic as I see them losing at least 5 games.

Dale Rogers 2 years, 11 months ago

Since the last undefeated Division 1 team was Indiana in 1976 it's probably a pretty safe bet that no Div 1 team will go undefeated this system.

Tyler Capone 2 years, 11 months ago

Lol obviously, John. But, we will handle IU, Duke will be tough but w/o Giles I think we win.

Edward Daub 2 years, 11 months ago

I can't wait to see KU's five-guard lineup!

Robert Brock 2 years, 11 months ago

Self used several we-ain't-gonna-rebound lineups. Exciting!

Noah Oone 2 years, 11 months ago

Its all about positioning and aggressiveness. Hard to get rebounds when your big guys run under the hoop for rebounds and the guards stand around watching.

Joseph Bullock 2 years, 11 months ago

We really have some optimists, here! LOL It was our first game, and Washburn is actually a really good team, who would give a lot fin D1 teams, trouble, with their guards, who are very quick, and really fast! I'm not saying we will go undefeated, but when we gel, we will be really, really, good!

Tony Bandle 2 years, 11 months ago

Come on, guys, this is classic Bill Self. KU could win both exhibition games 100 to 2 and Bill would be downright aggravated that each opponent scored a basket!

This team has the look of another 30+ victory season, high NCAA seed and, finally, another Final Four but undefeated? I would never bet against Kansas, but I'd sure take the field on that one.

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