Tuesday, December 12, 2017

KU assistant pinpoints ways Jayhawks can improve defensively

Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) puts a three over Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) puts a three over Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Monday afternoon, a little more than 24 hours after watching the Jayhawks get torched by Arizona State at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas basketball assistant Norm Roberts grabbed a couple of KU's younger players and had a conversation about defense.

The 13th-ranked Jayhawks did not practice on Monday so this was not a discussion about fundamentals, footwork and scouting reports. Instead, it was a simple look at KU's philosophy on how to defend.

“We kind of have it reversed in our players' minds,” Roberts shared during Monday's Hawk Talk radio broadcast. “When the other team scores, or they catch us in a game, we think we have to score more, score more, score more. In reality, we should be thinking we have to get stops and then the scoring will happen.”

For spurts of most games, particularly in the early going, the Jayhawks seem to get this. But their inability to sustain their strong defensive starts has cost them dearly in the past two outings. And Roberts said the key to better defensive performances in the days ahead included everything from technique and communication to confidence and desire.

“The one thing that we talk about is, 'Start right, you'll be right,'” Roberts said. “So we have to start off right and in a lot of situations (against Arizona State) we didn't start right. Make them catch it a step or two farther out and you'll control what they're going to be. They're going to be drivers rather than shooters. I think we just have to get better at that. That'll make our feet quicker. That'll make us get to rotations faster.”

One audience question on Monday asked Roberts flat out if he still thought this Kansas team could be good defensively. To be fair, the Jayhawks, despite their recent struggles, still do rank 8th nationally in's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, so, losses or not, it's not as if the analysts and numbers paint Kansas as a team that cannot stop anybody.

Roberts' answer to that point-blank question offered proper perspective.

“It can be,” he said. “But we've got to lock down. …Last year when we played Nebraska, pretty much at this time, we were 8-1 and now we're 7-2. So let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Just understand that we let a couple get away from us, we could've won those games and now we have to make up for those mistakes. Until we get better on the defensive end and we change our mindset, it won't get better.”

That mindset part is key, both in the eyes of Roberts and in the eyes of Self. Self began talking about KU's need for better mental toughness even before the loss to Arizona State and he addressed it plenty after the game.

Roberts said there were plenty of ways to change a player's mindset and he pinpointed a couple of them.

“Right now we've got guys out there that kind of score, score, score, score. And no one's doing the intangibles,” Roberts said. “We've got to do more of the intangible things so (we) may have to get guys out of their comfort zone.”

He continued: “The other thing that was key with (our past) guys is they were talkers. You couldn't shut Josh Jackson up. And Frank (Mason III) became a talker. Devonte's always been a talker. Landen (Lucas) was a talker. They would always talk on the court. And now we've got some guys in those positions that, when it comes time to talk, we get quiet. And you can't do that and be a defensive team.

“There are going to be days that you don't shoot the ball well and your mainstay is always going to be defense. No matter what, we have to defend.”


Bradley Sitz 10 months, 1 week ago

Five things that they are not doing: 1: Contesting passing lanes and getting steals. Very passive.
2. Getting in position to take charges. (Only two all year - both by Lightfoot).
3. Driving the ball to the hole. We have attempted only 115 FTs in 9 games. In a normal 36 game season, KU averages about 860 FT attempts. So, we are about 100 short of an average year at the quarter season mark. For once we have a team capable of making better than 75% at the line. They lack the necessary aggressiveness to get there. They just stand out side chucking three pointers. 4. Basketball IQ. There passing is just really spastic. One minute they are making pin point lobs. The next, they are throwing full court passes to no one. KU shot just as poorly against UK. But, we committed only 8 turnovers to their 20.

Matthew Coleman 10 months, 1 week ago

We dont defend the three very well either. We defend the college line, but basically say, "if you'll set up at the NBA line, we wont guard you at all, so go ahead and get comfortable."

Kit Duncan 10 months, 1 week ago

One thing I've noticed that is quite evident is rebounding by KU big men. Too often they are out of position to make the rebound off a missed shot, particularly threes. Both Udoka and Mitch need to watch Landen Lucas's play from last season, particularly his positioning.

Example: Three point shots from the corner tend to carom off the opposite side of the rim. Landen would slide under the basket to the other side to catch a missed corner three and either put it back up or pass it to another shooter. Missed threes from the center of the arc tend to carom back to the free throw line. Unless the shot misses the rim entirely, a big standing under the basket has little chance for a rebound. In those cases the guards need to move inside the arc to go after the rebound.

Too often KU's 4 guards stand outside the arc just watching the flight of the ball instead of setting up for a potential rebound. That was a big part of Josh's game last year, recognizing when his shot was not going in and moving in to make the rebound and put-back.

Pius Waldman 10 months, 1 week ago

Would a zone defense help stop teams from scoring. To simply ignore zone is not using something that might be effective. I find it difficult to understand why they haven't practiced and use the zone. Duke played an entire game playing zone against Michigan State and won the game. Not to say play zone all the time but see what happens.

David McNickle 10 months, 1 week ago

My guess is you will see some form of a zone on Saturday. Might be a matchup zone and might only be played 5-10 minutes, but if nothing else, it's a change of pace for the opposing team.

Marius Rowlanski 10 months, 1 week ago

1 through 5. A low post presence with more than one true big.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.