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Posts tagged with Bill Self

How Malik Newman rebounded from a bad outing by, well, rebounding

Kansas head coach Bill Self brings in the Jayhawks during a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self brings in the Jayhawks during a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It isn’t often a player can score 27 points — a career-high at that — yet the most impressive part of his performance comes elsewhere.

Malik Newman’s outburst against Iowa State, an 83-78 Kansas win, was a welcome sign for KU fans. It was the same way for the redshirt sophomore, who knocked down 10 of his 21 field goal attempts in the win.

“It was a good one,” Newman said of his game. “Yeah, I can say (it was a breakout performance). Maybe.”

Some of Newman's struggles had been overstated. For instance, he had shot a respectable 17-for-35 in the four games leading up to the previous contest, against TCU, far from the numbers you'd expect going off some of the reactions on social media.

Other criticisms, however, were completely valid.

Newman shot 50 percent from 3 in his first six games, but saw his numbers tail off shortly after. In fact, after sustaining a head injury against Arizona State, Newman shot 4-for-19 from 3 over his next six contests. He was held without a made basket twice in that span.

The one thing he did consistently, though? Rebound.

Aside from the TCU game, arguably the worst of Newman’s collegiate career, the 6-foot-3 guard had snagged at least three rebounds in all but one of the Jayhawks' previous outings.

He grabbed four or more rebounds 11 times in KU's first 14 games and five or more rebounds seven times.

For reference, Udoka Azubuike, who is nine inches taller than Newman and outweighs him by nearly 100 pounds, has had the same number of games this year with two or fewer rebounds (two). In 16 games this season, Newman has actually grabbed more defensive rebounds than Azubuike four times, the same number of defensive rebounds twice and one or two fewer than Azubuike an additional five times.

“The reality of it is, Dok and Mitch (Lightfoot have) got to rebound better,” KU coach Bill Self said in a press conference leading up to the TCU game. “Dok gets four rebounds when there are 38 missed shots. That’s not good enough. He’s got to rebound the ball better.”

Said another way, KU has played 16 games this season. In five of them, Newman has posted an even or better defensive rebound rate than Azubuike — meaning he’s grabbed at least the same percentage of available defensive rebounds when he’s been on the court in about one-third of KU's games.

“The thing about it is, with Dok, there are so many more ways to impact the game (than scoring),” Self said after the win over Iowa State. “He’s got to rebound the ball. There were some possessions there in the first half where he never jumped. That doesn’t bode very well when you’re small and your team doesn’t rebound the ball very well.”

Still, if those numbers seem a little fishy to you, the last game provided plenty of visuals as to why they shape out that way.

No rebound illustrated KU’s woes in that area more than Azubuike’s board with 5:12 to play in the first half.

As a shot went up from the right wing, Newman put his body into Iowa State’s Hans Brase, who had a six-inch, 40-pound advantage.

Azubuike, with a decisive size advantage on his man — the 6-9, 225-pound Carmeron Lard — simply held his ground, reached up and grabbed the easy board.

via GIPHY

Such a sequence was the polar opposite of the strategy employed by the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, when the team's big men would go out of their way to shield off defenders so that Russell Westbrook, the eventual NBA MVP, could snag easy boards and bring the ball up the court in transition.

None by SB Nation

But what happened on the KU play wasn’t some kind of a strategy. It was more representative of Azubuike's struggles.

Earlier in the season, Self called Azubuike out for his rebounding, adding that KU doesn’t have enough players rebounding the ball above the rim, which should be a strength of the 7-footer.

If there’s one player who can — and does — rebound above the rim, though, it’s definitely Newman.

One of Newman’s more emphatic rebounds on Tuesday came with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.

After an Iowa State 3-point attempt, Azubuike was too far out of position to get a body on Solomon Young. Devonte’ Graham came off his man to knock Young back just a touch, but it would’ve been an easy Iowa State offensive rebound if not for Newman swooping in and collecting the ball over two big men.

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“I just wanted to try to get in there and rebound,” said Newman. “I notice that we’ve been struggling this season with rebounding, so I wanted to get in there and help the big fella’.”

Newman continued to fight for boards into the second half, even as he started to light up the scoresheet.

With just over 16 minutes to play, Lindell Wigginton took a shot from the right side of the key. Azubuike got back toward the hoop, but again just stood around rather than trying to put a body on his man, who ran back into the paint.

Newman, the only KU player to box out on the play, was shoved in the back, but still came up with the rebound.

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“He played great,” Graham said. “He was just active. That’s what coach has been asking of him.”

The final highlight rebound of Newman’s day was far more in the Oklahoma City-style.

Five minutes after Newman’s leaping snag, he stood at the top of the key while Lard took a jumper late in the shot clock. Newman ran back toward the hoop and grabbed an athletic, albeit easy, rebound, since Marcus Garrett did his job boxing out Brase.

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This time, things came together perfectly.

Newman sprinted down the court to the right wing. He took a step-back 3, perhaps an ill-advised shot given his shooting woes entering the game, but he shot it with plenty of confidence and it fell through the net.

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All in all, Newman snagged eight defensive boards, five of which came in the second half. Of those five, the Jayhawks scored on four of the following offensive possessions.

Newman's eight rebounds tied for the team lead against Iowa State and came up one short of a career-best total he notched in a win over Kentucky earlier this season. Yet he was hesitant to declare himself fully back based off just one performance.

“At the end of the day, you just have to keep grinding,” Newman said, “get yourself out of that hole.”

Reply 3 comments from Dirk Medema Kevin Whelan Faustusku

How ‘bad offense’ earned Devonte’ Graham a compliment and a fan

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) goes to the bucket and is fouled hard by TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) goes to the bucket and is fouled hard by TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena. by Nick Krug

FORT WORTH, Texas — Before leaving Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth-native Clayton Orlie, 14, needed to pass along his message.

Waiting in lower bowl of the cozy venue, Orlie and his friend and fellow area-native Connor Hadley were able to get the attention of Devonte’ Graham and pose for a picture with the KU guard despite the TCU attire Hadley sported.

As Graham walked away, heading back into the tunnel after the Jayhawks’ 88-84 road win over the Horned Frogs, Orlie shouted out to him.

“Say hi to Frank Mason for me,” yelled Orlie, before dropping his voice to a whisper. “I love Frank Mason.”

The message didn't come from nowhere.

Last season, Orlie was able to make the trip out to Allen Fieldhouse for his birthday. He said his father, who attended college near KU, told him he just had to take in the experience.

Orlie, who says his favorite teams are KU and TCU, was paying attention, not only the season before, but to the current one as well.

“Lately, he’s been playing a lot more like Frank Mason,” Orlie said of Graham. “Frank did that his senior year.”

What Orlie and his friend saw in Graham is exactly what the senior has been trying to work on.

While Graham has shown the ability to play with the ball in his hands in the past, too often he’s only been a threat to score from the perimeter.

Graham, a 44-percent 3-point shooter two of the last three seasons, has had 11 career outings where all his field goal attempts have been 3-pointers. He’s played 20 career games where all his made field goals have been 3s, 10 of which came in his junior season.

While there’s nothing wrong with that model for a complementary piece, as a point guard logging heavy minutes, Graham has looked for a change.

“I’m trying to (drive more),” Graham said. “That’s really what I’ve been focusing on, just trying to get in the paint, get to the foul line, get easy baskets and make plays for others.”

The foul-line part of that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

In the seven games from Graham's sophomore season to now where all his field goal attempts were 3s, he shot a combined 13 free throws. In two of them, both coming last season, he got to the line 0 times.

Conversely, Mason had 0 games from his sophomore to junior seasons where he failed to log a 2-point attempt. As a senior, Mason averaged 6.6 free throw attempts per game, compared to 3.4 attempts by Graham going into the game against Texas Tech.

That was where the change began.

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Against the Red Raiders, Graham went 13 for 13 from the line. He was more aggressive driving the ball in the second half, and his coach wanted to see more, even if the way he described Graham's play wasn't the most appealing.

In the post-game press conference, Bill Self referred to the concept of "bad offense," speaking not to the quality of the results of each possession, but to the idea that those sequences involved only one player putting his head down and getting to the rim.

In that aspect, the "bad offense" was anything but that.

“He did great. He did great driving the ball,” Self said. “The thing that Devonte' did really good, and I think you cited the second half, are things he needs to do the entire game."

Message received.

Against TCU, Graham shot 15 free throws and made 13. He attempted five in the first half, more than he’d taken in nine of the Jayhawks 14 previous contests.

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(Now, three of those foul shots were the result of Graham being fouled on a jumper, but there were other instances, both in transition and in the half court, where Graham made an effort to get into the lane.)

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Ultimately, a pair of TCU intentional fouls helped inflate Graham’s game totals, but it wasn’t by chance he was the one holding the ball late.

“I feel like, if anything, the ball should be in my hands to make plays down the stretch,” Graham said. “And I was getting fouled and definitely wanted to be the one at the free throw line to try to ice the game.”

Other fouls, though, Graham earned — bruises and all.

With just over two minutes left, Graham poked the ball away from a TCU guard and sprinted the length of the court. He was crashed into as he attempted a layup and fell to the ground.

The thud of Graham hitting the court was audible all the way across the arena.

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“I just landed on my butt wrong,” Graham deadpanned.

After a beat, Graham got up and knocked down two free throws.

The toughness impressed his coach — “To me, Devonte’ just willed us to win,” Self said after the game, “he showed some (guts) tonight. Good God, he was good.” — and it even won over a new fan.

“I don’t watch a lot of Kansas, but I know about Kansas,” Hadley said. “Tell if I’m wrong on this, (but) since Frank Mason left, it looks like he’s stepped up as a leader — not only on the court, but as a person, making sure he got those dimes to all those people, crashing in with all those close free throws at the end to help secure the dub.”

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Dirk Medema

How Svi Mykhailiuk, Sam Cunliffe and Marcus Garrett did what KU’s big men couldn’t

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) gets a hand on a shot from Stanford forward Reid Travis (22) during the first half, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) gets a hand on a shot from Stanford forward Reid Travis (22) during the first half, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. by Nick Krug

KU’s biggest issue with Stanford wasn’t going to be "the" matchup so much as it was "a" matchup.

Most KU fans were at least familiar with big man Reid Travis before Thursday’s game, a 75-54 KU win. It wasn’t long ago — just over a calendar year, in fact — the big man posted a career-best 29 points for the Cardinal in a 15-point KU win in Allen Fieldhouse.

It wasn’t just that he scored 29 points, it was how he scored those 29.

“We didn’t do anything with him,” said KU coach Bill Self immediately following the 2016 matchup. “That was a total beat-down by him on our big guys.

"Whenever one guy can set the all-time record for most free throws ever shot against Kansas and the most free throws ever made against Kansas, in the history of the school, home or away, (it) means that we probably didn’t guard. He drew basically 17 fouls on four guys."

Reid tallied 22 free throw attempts in the loss, knocking down 19.

Those numbers were in Self’s mind following the Jayhawks’ last game before the Stanford matchup this season, as both Self and senior Svi Mykhailiuk referenced them following a blowout win over Omaha.

That set the stage for Thursday. This time, things were different.

Going small

Rather than defend Travis straight-up and risk foul trouble to Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, Self attacked the big man with smaller players.

Svi Mykhailiuk drew the matchup first, defending Travis from the start of the game on.

The senior guard — listed at 6-foot-8 on the roster, though he gave a smaller number when asked about it at KU media day — was giving up some size in the matchup, with Travis outweighing him by about 40 pounds. However, Mykhailiuk more than held his own.

On the first defensive possession, Mykhailiuk denied the ball all the way out to the perimeter. He boxed out on the eventual shot attempt and KU came up with the ball.

The next possession, Mykhailiuk worked back in transition and was forced to help on a different man. After a missed Stanford layup and offensive rebound, though, the offense reset.

Mykhailiuk, who was still out of position, was late recovering to an open Travis at the 3-point line. Travis, who had made three 3-pointers in his last two games, missed what was a fairly open shot. It was arguably his best look of the half.

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The only other candidate came when he had a big on him.

After a variety of action at the top of the key, Lightfoot found himself guarding Travis.

Lightfoot, KU’s most aggressive defender at the rim — arguably to a fault — had the same problem the KU bigs had last year.

Travis barely even up-faked, but Lightfoot left his feet and had to contort his body to avoid a foul. With Lightfoot out of the picture, Travis laid the ball up and in.

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Travis scored six points in the first half. All six came with Lightfoot guarding him.

All-in-all, the Jayhawks primarily used multiple smaller defenders to guard the Stanford big man, which changed the way he was able to play.

The smaller KU guards were able to slide and stay in front of Travis, like a few minutes into the game, when Mykhailiuk — not known for his lateral quickness — slid into the lane and kept Travis from getting to the rim on a drive.

On another possession, Sam Cunliffe kept his footing and forced a travel. When tasked with boxing out the big on the ensuing possession, Cunliffe used his vertical leap to tip the ball away.

Other defenders had their moments too.

Just about everyone got their shot guarding the big man in the first half. With KU switching out on the perimeter, even Malik Newman ended up briefly guarding Travis.

At a significant size disadvantage, Newman fronted Travis in the post and relied on Azubuike to help had a pass come over the top.

Azubuike’s man eventually floated out behind the arc and was able to get a 3-point look, but the shot missed. KU survived the mismatch.

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Late in the first half, with Newman again switched onto Travis, the big man was able to post up and the pass came in over the top.

With the KU coaches barking “help him” from the sidelines, Marcus Garrett got the message and slid into position, leaping up and knocking the ball away.

via GIPHY

The KU guards also did their part in keeping Stanford from getting the angles to work the ball into the post, which Devonte’ Graham said after the game was a key emphasis.

And when Travis did catch the ball with a smaller defender on him, KU trapped almost immediately.

It was all part of the first-half effort that saw KU take control of the game and never look back.

Defensive positioning

The biggest problem for the Jayhawks in guarding Travis last time around was fairly simple. KU couldn’t keep him off his spot and lacked the ability to recover and wall up in the post.

After that game, Self gave Azubuike a pass, since he was just a freshman, but said he expected more from then-sophomore Carlton Bragg, redshirt-junior Dwight Coleby and redshirt-senior Landen Lucas.

That was clearly a bigger emphasis this time around, even when the ball was outside the perimeter.

Early on, most of Travis’ touches were on the outside. He caught passes at the top of the key and swung the ball to get Stanford into its offense.

Mykhailiuk, in turn, somewhat overplayed when Travis was one pass away from the action. With just over two minutes gone and Stanford with the ball on the perimeter, Mykhailiuk turned and faced Travis, extending all the way out beyond the 3-point line to deny the pass.

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The plan wasn’t for Mykhailiuk to face-guard Travis for a full 40 minutes, but it did seem like denying the pass to Travis in the first place was a key focus for the KU wings.

At the very least, they showed more focus and awareness out on the perimeter than had typically been the case this season.

Just watch Marcus Garrett (No. 0) on this possession...

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And Sam Cunliffe (No. 3) on this one…

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As for post defense — seen a little bit in the clip above — the Jayhawks primarily kept a man in front of Travis in the post, relying on help to come from the back-side.

Part of Self’s criticism in the last Stanford game had come from a lack of attention to the scouting report.

“You’ve got to play your man before he catches it,” Self said. “Our guys just played butt-behind and let him go where he wanted to go."

Mykhailiuk did have some lapses in focus throughout the game, over-helping at points in the first half and allowing Travis to post up late, but the Stanford guards didn’t always find him.

Travis’ first 2-point shot attempt didn’t come until more than six minutes into the game. Once again, it was Mykhailiuk sliding his feet to get in front of Travis and forcing him into a mid-range attempt that fell off the mark.

That possession actually carried with it all of the principles described.

Mykhailiuk got in front of Travis in the post and denied the entry. He followed him out to the perimeter and forced the miss and then even came up with the rebound, although the play was blown dead due to a Stanford technical foul.

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Regardless, all of that played a role in the Jayhawks holding Travis to such a quiet outing.

The big man finished with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He got to the line for only three free throws, which marked his lowest since a February 22 matchup with Oregon State the year before.

And best of all, the effort earned a thumbs up from the coach.

“I thought,” Self said, “we did a great job defensively on him."

Reply 1 comment from Len Shaffer

One common thread in KU’s losses that has nothing to do with defense

Kansas head coach Bill Self shows his frustration during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self shows his frustration during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The KU defense — and its reputation — took a beating over the last week.

Some fans have gone as far as to long for the days of last season, lest we all forget that team was, at times, so poor on that end it prompted several rants from coach Bill Self.

After a game against TCU last season, Self proclaimed, “We don’t guard,” three times within the same answer. After a game against K-State, in which KU allowed 88 points and nearly gave up a game-winner on a blown switch, Self took it a step further.

“We’ve had stretches where we didn’t guard very well other times during our tenure here over 13 years, but we’ve never had a team this poor on that end,” Self said. “I mean this is without question probably — not probably — it is the poorest defensive team that we’ve ever had.

“It took us a while to get this poor. You just don’t get this bad overnight, defensively,”

So assuming KU’s defense right now is somewhere in between “the poorest defensive team” KU has had and actually fairly OK given it held its first eight opponents to 74 or fewer points and is only playing with seven scholarship players at the moment, it probably isn’t the worst idea to look all over the box score to find out why the last two games went the way they did.

One number jumps out in that regard.

Points off turnovers:

  • Dec. 6, 2017: Washington 16, KU 8
  • Dec. 10, 2017: Arizona State 25, KU 9

Compared with some of KU’s other wins, those margins are cause for concern.

In the gut-it-out win over Kentucky, 65-61, KU tabbed 17 points off 18 Kentucky turnovers. In the game against Syracuse, where Devonte’ Graham’s 35 points and seven 3-pointers led KU to a 16-point win, KU forced 17 turnovers and tabbed 16 points.

Doing some quick math, you can put KU down for about one point off each turnover per game. That makes sense, considering some turnovers result in easy runouts and others, like charges or passes that fall out-of-bounds, let the defense reset and are harder to score after.

In trying to separate those out, one category that helps is “fastbreak points.” I’d caution against gleaning too much from that statistic by itself, considering the definition of what is and isn’t a fastbreak is entirely arbitrary. But in context, it’s a pretty solid way to break things down.

Against Washington, KU forced 12 turnovers. Off those 12 turnovers, KU scored eight points. Only three of those were on fastbreaks. Let's dive a little deeper.

KU tabbed six steals against Washington, likely the best chances for easy fastbreak buckets. The first was with just a few seconds left in the first half when Marcus Garrett single handedly blew up the Huskies’ play.

That play shouldn’t have produced any KU points so we can remove it.

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The second-to-last steal was actually a jump ball and the last came in a 14-point game with less than a minute left, so those probably aren’t ones to dwell on. The remaining three, however, showcase a bit of a problem.

First, with 18:55 to play in the first half, Graham deflected a pass to start a fastbreak. Malik Newman came up with the ball and had Graham open for a split second, but instead held onto it and drove.

Graham, with nowhere to go, backtracked to the 3-point line. Newman put up a shot in traffic and was swatted at the rim.

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“I think if (Newman) would just worry about things that have an impact on us winning or not, I think he’d be better off,” Self said after that game. “Missed Devonte’ a couple times wide open in transition.”

The next instance was the opposite case of that, by all accounts.

With 12-and-a-half minutes left in the second half, Mykhailiuk knocked a ball away and Graham dove on the floor to get it. He bounced it back to Mykhailiuk, who pushed it up the floor.

Multiple Washington players stared at the ball on the play and made no attempt to get back on defense. That left Lagerald Vick running wide open to the hoop, but Mykhailiuk’s pass was off the mark and flew into the stands.

Vick took the blame for the play, patting his chest, but it wasn’t at all his fault.

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As for steal No. 3, it came with just over two minutes to play and the Jayhawks desperately trying to make the comeback.

Garrett poked the ball away into the hands of Vick, who tried to pitch it ahead to Newman.

Vick's pass traveled too far down the court. Garrett was actually credited for the turnover on the play, likely due to an error by the scorekeepers, but it was another opportunity KU couldn’t afford to waste.

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Now the Arizona State game was somewhat different. KU actually made the right play a few times early on.

The first instance was in fact so well executed that it’s worth watching the entire sequence.

KU’s defense — yes, that defense — first did an impeccable job swarming to the ball and helping and switching when necessary. Arizona State couldn't get anything going and the result was a turnover, as Graham easily intercepted a pass along the baseline.

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Graham started the break, taking three dribbles and firing the ball up the court to Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk dropped it backward for Newman, who drilled the 3-pointer in rhythm.

KU took a 10-2 lead. Arizona State called timeout.

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Every opportunity didn’t go that smoothly.

With 14-and-a-half minutes to play in the first and the Sun Devils on an 8-0 run, Newman poked a ball away and Graham recovered it to start a break. KU didn’t have numbers, so a basket was no guarantee, but Vick and Mykhailiuk essentially ended the opportunity by running to the exact same spot on the floor.

Graham passed the ball up the court, but Vick had to slow down to keep from colliding with Mykhailiuk. The KU offense had to reset.

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Instead of an easy bucket, KU settled for a Vick floater in traffic on the possession. The shot was swatted away, marking the fourth of six straight scoreless KU possessions.

That was a theme of the day.

The next steal came at the rim, so KU didn’t really have numbers. Even if they did, Graham was slow getting down the floor so KU couldn’t capitalize on a quick 5-on-4 break to create a mismatch somewhere.

That was less true on the next chance, as Newman poked a ball away and Mykhailiuk recovered it and dribbled into the frontcourt.

Udoka Azubuike put his hand up for the ball in the paint. Mykhailiuk didn’t pass and instead spun around at the top of the key.

On the wing, Arizona State’s Remy Martin saw Mykhailiuk dribbling and abandoned Graham, his original assignment. Mykhailiuk could’ve passed Graham the ball, only Martin was quick enough to poke it away.

KU should’ve ended up with an easy layup or 3-pointer. Instead it went down as a turnover.

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“They said every time Svi has the ball to crowd him, try to take his ball,” Self said. “His ball handling was very, very weak today.”

Perhaps the worst mishap of either game, though, wasn’t off a steal. It may have been a player trying to atone for a mistake the game before.

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With less than five minutes left, Newman grabbed a rebound off an Arizona State miss. He dribbled up the court and tried a 50-foot pass to Graham, but there was no real lane to do so.

After the game, Graham said the idea for the pass was OK, the execution was just lacking. Self’s description, coming in an unrelated answer, was a little less forgiving.

“(A) terrible, bone-head, full court pass that went out of bounds,” Self said.

By themselves, those opportunities weren’t what caused the two losses.

While KU only scored 65 against Washington, the offense was far more free flowing against a team that played exclusively man-to-man defense in Allen Fieldhouse

“You score 85 at home,” Self said. “You expect to win.”

And that’s certainly true. But KU can still do more a lot on that end.

Against Washington, the easiest way for KU to score against the adjusted zone would’ve been to avoid it all together — simply running down the floor before it could set up.

And against Arizona State, even if both teams wanted to run, the Jayhawks still could’ve done more of it on their own terms to break through dry spells and make things more difficult for the competition.

“It just unbelievable,” Self said. “Whenever you control tempo and control pace, the basket grows, and it shrinks on the other end.”

In the last two games, that’s one thing KU certainly hasn’t done. You can't forget about the other side of it, either.

The Jayhawks have allowed 41 points off 29 turnovers in the last two games, a rate (1.41 points per possession) far higher than the clip they've scored at. They've also been outscored in transition, 24-13, despite being a team that should be built to get out and run, even off misses and long rebounds.

Again it was Self, speaking to a different topic, who said it best.

"There's not that dog or competitive juice," Self said, "that guys need to have when the game's on the line."

Reply 7 comments from Koolkeithfreeze Surrealku Carsonc30 Vic Janeway Layne Pierce Michael Maris Dano__

20+1 KU basketball questions for 2017-18

Photo illustration by Scott Chasen

Photo illustration by Scott Chasen by Scott Chasen

The 2017-18 KU men's basketball season is right around the corner.

Before KU gets things started at home against Tennessee State on Friday, our staff came together to answer 21 fun questions about KU basketball. The topics range from things in pop culture to specifics about lineups and projected minute totals.

The entirety of the list was discussed on two recent episodes of our KU Sports Hour podcast. The links to those episodes are below.

Part 1: Questions 1-10

KU Sports Hour: Nov. 1, 2017

Part 2: Questions 11-21

KU Sports Hour: Nov. 8, 2017

Here is the list of questions. Feel free to comment your own answers below!

1. Pick the most important word for Billy Preston: Fouls, interior, rebounding or other (list).

Matt Tait (@mctait): Other (consistency)

Tom Keegan (@TomKeeganLJW): Other (versatility)

Benton Smith (@BentonASmith): Interior

Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr): Interior

Scott Chasen (@ChasenScott): Other (mentality)

2. Pick the most important word for Udoka Azubuike: Fouls, stamina, turnovers or other (list).

Matt Tait: Fouls

Tom Keegan: Other (underhanded)

Benton Smith: Stamina

Bobby Nightengale: Other (rebounding)

Scott Chasen: Fouls

3. Rank KU’s scoring leaders 1-5.

Matt Tait: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Udoka Azubuike, 4. Lagerald Vick, 5. Svi Mykhailiuk

Tom Keegan: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Billy Preston, 4. Lagerald Vick, 5. Udoka Azubuike

Benton Smith: 1. Devonte’ Graham, 2. Malik Newman, 3. Lagerald Vick, 4. Svi Mykhailiuk, 5. Udoka Azubuike

Bobby Nightengale: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Lagerald Vick, 3. Devonte’ Graham, 4. Udoka Azubuike, 5. Svi Mykhailiuk

Scott Chasen: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Lagerald Vick, 4. Svi Mykhailiuk, 5. Udoka Azubuike

4. Over/under 26.5 minutes per game for Marcus Garrett?

Matt Tait: Under

Tom Keegan: Under

Bobby Nightengale: Under

Benton Smith: Under

Scott Chasen: Under

5. Who will have the quickest foul out (player, minutes)?

Matt Tait: Billy Preston, 14 minutes

Tom Keegan: Mitch Lightfoot, 14 minutes

Benton Smith: Udoka Azubuike, 9 minutes

Bobby Nightengale: Mitch Lightfoot, 6 minutes

Scott Chasen: Billy Preston, 12 minutes

6. What movie title describes what KU needs out of Devonte’ Graham?

Matt Tait: The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Tom Keegan: Walker, Texas Ranger (pilot, 1993)

Benton Smith: Step Brothers (2008)

Bobby Nightengale: Iron Man (2008)

Scott Chasen: Phone Booth (2002)

7. What player shocks KU fans the most and how?

Matt Tait: Lagerald Vick’s dunks drop jaws of KU fans

Tom Keegan: Lagerald Vick throws down a ridiculous in-game dunk

Benton Smith: Udoka Azubuike goes end to end and destroys a rim

Bobby Nightengale: Svi Mykhailiuk plays like a first-round talent

Scott Chasen: Lagerald Vick has a monster season

8. Assign a Halloween costume to describe Mitch Lightfoot’s season.

Matt Tait: U.S. postal worker

Tom Keegan: Jack Nicholson with an ax from The Shining

Benton Smith: Scream costume

Bobby Nightengale: Rocky Balboa

Scott Chasen: Headless Horseman

9. More technicals: KU basketball players, Bill Self or push?

Matt Tait: Players

Tom Keegan: Players

Benton Smith: Bill Self

Bobby Nightengale: Bill Self

Scott Chasen: Push

10. Who is KU's most replaceable player between Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike?

Matt Tait: Malik Newman

Tom Keegan: Lagerald Vick

Benton Smith: Lagerald Vick

Bobby Nightengale: Lagerald Vick

Scott Chasen: Lagerald Vick

11. What will KU’s best late game defensive lineup be at the end of the year?

Matt Tait: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike

Tom Keegan: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike

Benton Smith: Graham-Mykhailiuk-Vick-Garrett-Azubuike

Bobby Nightengale: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Lightfoot-Azubuike

Scott Chasen: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike

12. What will be Bill Self’s biggest adaptation this year?

Matt Tait: KU shooting a higher percentage of 3s

Tom Keegan: Living with mistakes

Benton Smith: Playing bigs through foul trouble

Bobby Nightengale: Five-guard lineups

Scott Chasen: Malik Newman

13. What will Sam Cunliffe’s biggest play this year look like?

Matt Tait: Dunk-contest moment in a game

Tom Keegan: Put-back dunk in a game

Benton Smith: Late-game 3 on the road in Big 12 play

Bobby Nightengale: Dunk in warmups

Scott Chasen: First-half 3 in an early NCAA tournament game

14. Will Chris Teahan’s first FGM come before or after January 1?

Matt Tait: Before

Tom Keegan: Before

Benton Smith: Before

Bobby Nightengale: Before

Scott Chasen: After

15. Predict KU basketball’s worst day in the 2017-18 season?

Matt Tait: Day after Stanford game (Dec. 22)

Tom Keegan: Elite Eight loss

Benton Smith: Sweet Sixteen loss

Bobby Nightengale: FBI investigation resurfaces in college basketball

Scott Chasen: Non-conference injury

16. What odds would you have to be given to bet $50 against KU winning the Big 12?

Matt Tait: 50-to-1

Tom Keegan: 12-to-1

Benton Smith: 50-to-1

Bobby Nightengale: 11-to-1

Scott Chasen: 25-to-1

17. Which player’s success will hinder another’s the most?

Matt Tait: Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk

Tom Keegan: Billy Preston, Svi Mykhailiuk

Benton Smith: Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk

Bobby Nightengale: Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick

Scott Chasen: Marcus Garrett, Svi Mykhailiuk

18. What anthem should Bill Self have for the 2017-18 season and why?

Matt Tait: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), returning to the Final Four

Tom Keegan: Down by the River (Neil Young), Final Four in San Antonio

Benton Smith: I am a God (Kanye), Self has total control of the program

Bobby Nightengale: What is Love (Haddaway), "Baby don't hurt me"

Scott Chasen: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), KU's best lineups will be 3-guard, 2-big

19. More losses for KU: vs. the SEC (Kentucky, Texas A&M) or in the rest of non-conference play?

Matt Tait: Rest of non-conference play

Tom Keegan: Rest of non-conference play

Benton Smith: Push

Bobby Nightengale: SEC games

Scott Chasen Push

20. What former Jayhawk and former Big 12 player from the streak would cause KU the most trouble to play against?

Matt Tait: Josh Jackson, Michael Beasley

Tom Keegan: Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant

Benton Smith: Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant

Bobby Nightengale: Joel Embiid, Blake Griffin

Scott Chasen: Thomas Robinson, Kevin Durant

21. Pick one player in the nation to add to KU.

Matt Tait: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Tom Keegan: DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

Benton Smith: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Bobby Nightengale: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

Scott Chasen: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

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How Marcus Garrett can channel the mold of a recent Bill Self favorite

From left to right, KU coach Bill Self, freshman guard Marcus Garrett and former KU player Josh Jackson.

From left to right, KU coach Bill Self, freshman guard Marcus Garrett and former KU player Josh Jackson. by Scott Chasen

For a Kansas basketball freshman, no descriptor should carry more weight from Bill Self than the word “tough.”

It’s a word the KU coach doesn’t throw around. Players have to earn it. Self assigns it far less frequently than a word representing the opposite — soft — which he can be heard shouting in disgust from the sidelines of games and practices, usually with a matching facial expression.

In that regard, Marcus Garrett fits the mold of one of Self’s favorite freshmen. The raw materials are just a little different.

“Marcus is going to be a really good player,” Self said. “I think he’s one of our tougher guys.”

Now press pause and jump back a year.

Josh Jackson’s days were numbered from the moment he stepped on campus.

Everyone knew he was a one-and-done and likely top-five NBA draft selection, despite what the swingman said, asked about that very topic in a press conference in February.

At the very least, the Big 12 coaches had a pretty good idea of Jackson's future. That included Self.

“We had a 6-8 guard that could rebound and block shots and defend, and he wasn’t a normal guy,” Self said of Jackson. ‘He was a guard, but he could do anything. And he was a matchup nightmare for others.”

Garrett will not be those things, at least at first. He doesn’t have Jackson’s athleticism. At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, Garrett doesn’t have Jackson's size

Garrett can, however, replicate some of the things that made Jackson what he was. His Allen Fieldhouse debut was a step in the right direction.

The do-everything, hybrid guard-wing-whatever-he-is was asked to play the four, as well as in the backcourt. Garrett defended in the post and on the perimeter. He both threw and received inbounds and outlet passes. He didn't let a veteran opponent take advantage of him.

via GIPHY

Same mold. Different material.

“He’s a really tough guy and that’s going to help us a lot,” said guard Svi Mykhailiuk.

Defensively, Garrett was tested. Several Pittsburg State players tried to go at him, to varying success.

Late in the first half, Demetrius Levarity received a pass on the right wing. He tried a hesitation dribble to get by Garrett. Then he spun back to his left to attempt a hook over his right shoulder. Garrett forced a tie-up and then ripped the ball away.

One possession later, Garrett was hounding Jabari Antwine. Antwine was trying to get the ball into the post, where the 6-foot-7 Levarity was being guarded by 6-foot-2 Devonté Graham.

Garrett’s activity forced the Gorillas to look elsewhere. They ended up getting called for a shot-clock violation.

“He gets his hands on a lot of balls. That’s what he does,” Self said. “He’s not going to be a guy that’s going to average double figures as a freshman. But he can be a guy that can steal us a lot of extra possessions.”

And yet, there are still the moments that will drive his coach crazy.

With just over two minutes to play in the first half, Garrett trailed Graham up the court.

Graham passed Garrett the ball and he shot a contested 3. The ball didn’t move from side to side, a staple of not only Self’s offense, but also that of Garrett’s former coach. The possession lasted seven seconds.

Earlier in the first half, Garrett poked a ball away. Rather than passing it to an open Mykhailiuk, who was running up the floor, he began to dribble.

Garrett turned it over and Billy Preston had to step in and take a foul to stop a layup. Self screamed in frustration from the bench.

In those moments, the freshman looked like a freshman, as compared to the “freshman, but he’s not really a freshman” Self had a year ago.

“Maybe the biggest dog in college basketball as a freshman last year,” Self said of Jackson. “I mean, he was an assassin.”

The good news for Garrett is that he doesn’t need to be just yet.

It’s unlikely Garrett will play a meaningful minute this season without two of Graham, Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick on the floor, meaning his developing 3-point shot won’t need to come around overnight.

For now, Garrett can play his way. That means straight-line drives to the basket to draw fouls — he shot a game-high eight free throws — and a little bit of everything else, like the five rebounds (two offensive), three assists, one steal and one block he tallied against Pittsburg State.

By the time he’s an upperclassman, though, would it shock anyone if these words that Self spoke of Jackson last year were being spoken about him?

“God, did he play good. I mean he played good. He showed America tonight that’s about as versatile of a player as there is in the college game.”

Reply 5 comments from Tony Bandle John Strayer Jerry Walker Brian_leslie John Brazelton