Sunday, January 29, 2017


Tom Keegan: Kansas zone exploited Kentucky inexperience

Kentucky head coach John Calipari pumps his fist in frustration during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari pumps his fist in frustration during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.


— Kansas basketball coach Bill Self’s decision to change defenses did more than help Landen Lucas deal with foul trouble, slow down speedy Kentucky and make Bam Adebayo work in a crowded place.

It gave the talented, young Kentucky guards something to process and sometimes the harder the mind has to work the slower the body moves.

“It worked great,” Kansas front-court reserve Dwight Coleby said of the 2-3 zone and triangle-and-two defenses the Jayhawks employed at times in Saturday night’s 79-73 victory. “We won the game because of it.”

Self said nobody will be studying tapes of the game as models of how to play zone. So what? The strategy worked because it made the Wildcats hesitate.

“They didn’t know what to do with it and it worked out,” Coleby said. “They were kind of confused on what to do and they kept looking at their coach for what to run. We kept changing it up and it confused them.”

Experienced guards know how to dismantle zone defenses, which will benefit Kansas because of the savvy of its Towson/Appalachian State backcourt tandem, one that knows how to use freshman Josh Jackson's to ability pick holes in zones with passes from the high post. Kentucky’s lottery picks in waiting, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, can blow by man-to-man defenses all the way to the NBA and might not ever grow as comfortable against zones in their short time in college.

It takes time to learn the nuances of attacking zones and even with a skilled teacher, one year might not be long enough.

Nobody does a better job of recruiting one-and-done talents and getting them to play unselfishly quickly than Kentucky coach John Calipari. But because he does so well at acquiring top talent, he can’t rely on as many veterans to model and mentor newcomers and it becomes more difficult for them to unpack their bags and plant both feet in college basketball, blocking out the impending NBA career.

There is a downside to winning so many recruiting battles for the best of the best.

“Look, this is always a process here when you’re talking young players,” Calipari said. “I can remember in 2014, we were dying and then they got it at one point and all of a sudden we took off. This team came together a little bit faster, yet you find out all the execution stuff that I’ve been talking about will come back and haunt you, all those little things.”

It’s nothing Calipari doesn’t go through every year.

“It’s all doable,” he said. “And as a coach you look at this and say, ‘OK, where do we go and what do we zero in on?’ And I think it’s toughness and defense,” Calipari said, mentioning two facets at which the more experienced Jayhawks excelled in running Self’s record to 5-3 vs. Kentucky.

Few freshmen, no matter how gifted, arrive in college ready to play great defense and equipped with the knowledge of what toughness means on a basketball court.

Turning players over at such high rate almost turns Calipari into a tutor perpetually helping basketball students cram for final exams.

The job pays extremely well in both cash and psychological income from winning big, but it’s not an easy one.

“Look, I hate losing,” Calipari said after his second consecutive loss. “But I think there are a lot of people that wish they had my problems.”

True enough. Calipari, who coached UMass and Memphis to the Final Four, will try to take Kentucky there for the fifth time in his seven seasons at the school that he coached to the national championship in 2012.


Jim Woodward 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm beginning to like some things about John Calipari,. He is a pretty classy guy in some ways. I thought he was gracious in this defeat. The only thing he didn't own up to was that he just flat out got out coached, by Bill Self.

Brianna Zaleski 3 years, 6 months ago


Take a look at the picture above and then try repeating your first sentence w a straight face... Impossible.

Mike Greer 3 years, 6 months ago

Well I think you can get a picture of just about any coach with that expression on any given day. Heck, even Coach Williams threw a chair last week, and I thought that was reserved for Bobby Knight.

I'm glad we have Coach Self, he's the best, but he still knows how to get his players attention on the court.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 6 months ago

Difference between Williams and Knight: Knight threw a chair across the court because he was angry about the officiating. Williams slammed his to the ground because of his team's effort. Williams' slam was more like one given by Iowa coach Fran McCaffery some time ago for the same reason. I don't remember Williams being so given to fits of anger like that when he was here at Kansas; maybe he's become grumpier as he's gotten older...?

Bryce Landon 3 years, 6 months ago

What's funny about the HD photo is you can see beads of sweat flying off his face! Or at least I think that's sweat; it might be tears of defeat! :D

Edward Daub 3 years, 6 months ago

Aristotle once said "Nature abhors a Vacuum"!

Bill Self abhors a Zone , but with our current lack of depth , it is certainly an option.

I agree with other posters that Coleby should be Landen's Backup at the 5!

Mitch is better suited for the 4 position, and he is a competitor!

I stand corrected on Bob Huggins, several "rabid" WVU fans informed me that he donates the $25,000 bonus (when he defeats Kansas) to Cancer Research.

Gary McCullough 3 years, 6 months ago

Calipari does college basketball a great service. He removes all the debutants that don't want to be in college but have to attend as part of the road to the NBA. In the meantime, institutions like KU pick up one or two 1ers that want to learn from their year of college and become better players both for the team and themselves. I get the Twitter feed from former KU 1ers like Wiggins and Embiid and see how emotionally attached these NBA stars still are to the University. Self does a masterful job of blending 1ers with veterans to put a team on the floor to represent the institution. And, by the way, the academic record of the basketball team is superb!

RJ King 3 years, 6 months ago

Kind of . . . but you have evidence that UK OAD's do not want to become better players both for the team and themselves? And are you also looking at the Twitter feeds from the former UK 1ers to see if they are also emotionally attached to their University?

In the quantifiable info (APR scores), yes KU/UK average 993.5 / 963.3 over past 10 years, with the overall average around 940-950. Rock Chalk.

Brian Wilson 3 years, 6 months ago

I' not sure bout the academics and for what majors but I think we should withhold judgment until after we hear more about the legal problems surrounding this team. I hope that this para-stuff is the end of it. I am still wondering about timing of Evan Maxwell's departure!

Bryce Landon 3 years, 6 months ago

Bill Self should never abhor a zone. If it works and helps produce wins, it should become a permanent part of our defensive arsenal. Refer to the triangle-and-two that got us a Final Four and a national title game appearance in 2012.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 6 months ago

I tuned into the post game talk show for the UK fans and they are really getting fed up with Cal's act. He puts getting his players to the NBA ahead of doing what's best for Kentucky. The constant turnover produces a lot of wins but no consistency or experience to fall back on.

They were shocked that UK not only lost but lost at home to their main rival who was depleted to the point of mid major ability [their words not mine].

I thought the Michael Buffer intro was hilarious and kind of summed up Calipari. God help us if KU ever has such foolishness although many of our opponents fan bases complain that the KU opening video is a totally unfair home court advantage [wah, wah :) ]

Mike Greer 3 years, 6 months ago

I think for fans of other programs, this KU team is an enigma and for UK fans it must be really puzzling how they could loose to such a team at home. The team starts out with an undersized guard that had more or less been overlooked by major programs and was slated for Towson. Then it has a center that also wasn't heavily recruited and took a back seat to a plethora of spectacular bigs over his time at Kansas. Follow with a slightly smallish guard that was also overlooked and was headed to Appalachian State before KU found him. Fill out the veterans with a very young but experienced European player, who may not have yet fully met his potential. And if you're a Kentucky fan, how could this band, with the help of just one player that they would actually covet, beat the stars of a team with 4 freshmen and a sophomore. With all that 5 star talent how could you not view the Kansas roster as "mid major"?

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, it's still a basketball TEAM and a team learns how to work together and the parts make a whole that is greater than the parts. Could KU have won without Josh Jackson, no. Could they have won without Frank Mason III, no way. Could they have won with another McDonalds all American on the court instead of Landen Lucas, probably not. Was there anyone on that Kentucky roster with the talent and experience of Devonté Graham, I don't think so. It's the pieces and how they work together that allowed a "depleted to the point of mid major ability" win that game. Great job guys, RCJH

John Pritchett 3 years, 6 months ago

When they figure out how this "mid-major caliber team" managed to beat UK at home, maybe then they can explain how Self has won 12 going on 13 consecutive conference titles, because a lot of the same reasons apply. It's a miracle how Coach Self has been able to win consistently over time with the inevitable ebbs and flows of recruiting and talent. The only constant? Coaching.

RJ King 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes, the Michael Buffer hilarity left me scratching my head. I was waiting for it to be either funny, classy, clever, powerful . . . something. I was just left with, "huh?" No ties to the school, just paid help.

And, yeah, I always feel bad for the florists in Lexington on Senior Day.

Mike Greer 3 years, 6 months ago

Damn, RJ, I had to read that last line three times, then almost fell out of my chair.

Dale Rogers 3 years, 6 months ago

Let's see. Calipari. UMass. Final Four. Vacated. Memphis. Final Four. Vacated. Kentucky. To be determined at a later date.

Carolyn Hunzicker 3 years, 6 months ago

Hey, what do think about this ? Bill Self talks to his team and discuss all the options available,

                                             Then allow the TEAM to decide on Braggs future

RJ King 3 years, 6 months ago

Pretty sure the team rules are already clearly outlined. Self has likely already taken the only option available.

Mike Greer 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't think this one is going to be decided by the team the way they picked who would be the 5th starter last year.

Team rules are THE rules and I doubt an act of contrition or penance is going to do much to change the situation.

Brian Wilson 3 years, 6 months ago

I could be wrong but team rules may not only be the deciding factor when a player is in trouble with the law. After all these are students so my guess is the Athletic Director, the Chancellor’s office, and the Dean of the school that a student is majoring in all have something to say about the situation. The worse the event is and the bigger the embarrassment is to the University the harder it will be on the student. So this might not be completely in BS hands.

Carolyn Hunzicker 3 years, 6 months ago

The NCAA needs to place a SALARY CAP on Kentucky

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