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Expect a snail's pace offensively from American

Team: American
Record: 4-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 282

3 Strengths

Three-point shooting: American is almost exactly NCAA average when it comes to taking three-pointers (33 percent of its shots are threes), but it is well above average when it comes to making them. The Eagles have made 39.7 percent of their treys this year, which ranks 16th nationally. In addition, AU gets 33.1 percent of its points from the three-point line (56th-highest split nationally).

Foul avoidance defensively: American ranks 52nd nationally in defensive free throw rate, which compares the number of free throws shot by an opponent to its field goals. Teams are averaging just 14.5 free throws per game against the Eagles compared to 52.2 field goal attempts. AU also has had just two foulouts all season, with both coming from starting center Tony Wroblicky.

Slow pace: Pace would typically would not be considered a strength or a weakness, but if a team like American is playing a top-10 team in Kansas, it definitely wants to limit possessions to have the best chance at an upset. AU actually is the second-slowest team nationally when it comes to pace, posting an adjusted tempo of just 59.5 possessions per game (NCAA average is 67.1). Eight of the Eagles' 12 games have had 59 possessions or fewer; KU, meanwhile, has yet to have a game with fewer than 59 possessions (The Jayhawks' lowest total was 63 against Washington State.).

3 Weaknesses

Turnovers: American has been miserable on both ends when it comes to turnovers. The Eagles give it away on 23 percent of their possessions (273rd nationally) while forcing turnovers on just 17.7 percent of their defensive possessions (293rd nationally). AU is especially poor when it comes to steals, as opponents have doubled up the Eagles on steals this year (94-47).

• Three-point defense: American is the rare team that not only allows tons of threes but also surrenders a high percentage — perhaps a result of the change-up zone defenses it plays. The most striking number is that 41.5 percent of opponents' field goal attempts against the Eagles have been threes (ninth-highest split nationally). Teams have made 36.5 percent of their threes against AU (276th nationally) and have scored 38 percent of their points against American from the three-point line (second-highest split nationally).

• Shooting inside: The Eagles have made just 42 percent of their two-point shots this year, which ranks 314th nationally. A big problem has been blocked shots, as 13 percent of AU's two-pointers have been rejected this season (315th nationally). No Eagles player is shooting better than 50 percent from inside the arc; to compare, KU has six players in its rotation that have made 50 percent or more of their twos this year.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-8 senior Stephen Lumpkins (No. 32) takes on the biggest offensive load for American. He puts up a team-high 25.4 percent of AU's shots, and though he's just under 50 percent from two-point range (59 of 119, 49.6 percent), his best skill is getting to the free throw line. Lumpkins draws 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes and has the nation's 50th-best free throw rate, getting to the line 85 times while shooting just 120 field goal attempts. He make the shots when he gets to the line, too, posting a 73-percent free throw percentage this season. Lumpkins also is AU's best rebounder, grabbing 10.6 percent of his team's offensive boards (308th nationally) and 20.2 percent of his team's defensive caroms (206th nationally) when he's in.

• Six-foot-5 sophomore guard John Schoof (No. 22) has one of the most fascinating statistical lines I've seen from any player this season. Schoof has made 50 percent of his threes (24 of 48), 20 percent of his twos (four of 20) and, get this, 100 percent of his free throws (20 of 20). I guess the scouting report would be to guard him on the perimeter and let him do whatever he wants in the lane (while doing everything possible to not foul him). Schoof barely shoots, taking 13.8 percent of his team's shots, but his line was too weird to not bring up. He's also extremely turnover-prone for the limited role he has offensively.

• Though 6-foot senior guard Daniel Munoz (No. 2) is second on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game, he's far from being an efficient player. Munoz is a good three-point shooter in a small sample size (17 of 36, 47.2 percent) and can make free throws when he gets to the line (22 of 24, 91.7 percent), but basically everything else about his offensive game is a mess. He's made just 37 percent of his two-pointers this year (26 of 71) while tying for second on the team in two-point attempts. Like Schoof, he also turns it over at an alarming rate, posting a team-high 39 giveaways in 12 games (that number looks even worse considering the slow pace AU plays at). The senior posts a decent assist rate, assisting on about a-fourth of his team's made baskets while he's in, but the overall offensive profile still doesn't look pretty for the high-usage guard.

Prediction

At No. 282 in KenPom's rankings, American figures to be the second-worst opponent KU plays all season. Having said that, Chattanooga was the worst (No. 293), and KU trailed by eight at half to the Mocs at Allen Fieldhouse before pulling away for a 14-point win.

I'm not expecting American to compete in this game, even with a slow tempo and a heavy reliance on three-point shots. The biggest reason is turnovers, as the Eagles figure to be "out-possessioned" in this one, getting up far fewer shots than the Jayhawks do.

KU should roll in a low-possession game, with American struggling to crack the 50-point barrier if it doesn't hit a large number of threes.

Kansas 74, American 47

Hawk to Rock

If a team ranks in the 300s in offensive block percentage, I'm almost automatically going to default to putting KU center Jeff Withey as my Hawk to Rock.

Some teams are good at getting shots around big men, while some teams just aren't. AU has not shown the ability to avoid blocks, and the Eagles haven't faced a shot-blocker of Withey's caliber yet this season.

Not only that, AU is an extremely poor offensive rebounding team, meaning Withey should be able to gather a high number of defensive rebounds.

Triple-doubles are extremely hard to get, but Withey's points and rebounds should easily get to double figures against American, and his block total should get to five at the least.

I'll go ahead and predict right now that Matt Tait's story on American after the game will begin with the Eagles talking about how great Withey is/was defensively.

Predictions tally
10-1 record, 169 points off (15.4 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

Comments

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

Anyone know early if there is going to be a good stream for this game? Also, my HTR is Withey, and I'm calling 17 points, 12 boards, and 8 blocks with 0 fouls.

Phil Leister 1 year, 9 months ago

On that front... I just got a new Android tablet, anyone know if the firstrow or similar links will play on a nexus?

Adam Evans 1 year, 9 months ago

I think it will all depend on what sort of flash/adobe the tablet runs. Some sites stream some wont depending on flash compatability.

Daniel Kennamore 1 year, 9 months ago

No offense Jesse, but I really love that lone loss on your prediction record. :)

KJD 1 year, 9 months ago

The "Slow Pace" topic and this kind of team fits perfectly for some lingering thoughts I have about KU Defense present and past. In the early-mid 90's it was a regular subject of how KU would play lesser talent slow down teams. Obviously you have to speed them up to raise the number of possessions in the game. Roy would send waves of subs, regularly playing 9-11 guys in order to play ferocious D which meant ball pressure, attacking passing lanes, rotating to help, and being more energized than the other team when going after 50/50 balls. Self preaches the very similar principles. I think of Self as being a bit more "angle" oriented and my favorite example of that is having our bigs to set perpendicular hedges on high ball screens around the arc. Both coaches knew that effort on the D end was most important and that attacking effort on D is what speeds these teams like American up. It's also how KU has turned Defense into Offense for over two decades.

With the longer TV timeouts now, especially during the NCAA Tournament, Roy started shortening his bench and created new ways on the offensive attack to speed the game up in the break/secondary break. Self shortens his bench as the season progresses instead of sending waves of talent at teams too. Self gets an advantage by sustaing high energy/pressure by recruiting high level athletes, working them through boot camp so they experience/know their ability to exert at a higher level, and the medical/training staff are helping players recover/build towards this higher level of athletic effort.

I understand that looking at the numbers this could be a low possession game. Especially if the two a day practices after the break has the Jayhawks feeling fatigued. On the other hand I could see KU forcing the pace way up through superior defensive pressure, creating turnovers against a team that turns the ball over a lot. If the field house is providing the juice after a big win and puts the nerves into a jump shooting team, long rebounds could produce several fast break opportunities to increase the pace further. Plus, if American relys on getting to the line our best shot blocker hardly fouls and our perimeter D is skilled/conditioned to slide their feet, stay in front of their man without fouling.

American will try to slow it down though it will be interesting to see how KU raises the pace. This is why I enjoy your scouting reports because I would have gone into this particular game with no idea on how American plays.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 9 months ago

"Roy would send waves of subs, regularly playing 9-11 guys in order to play ferocious D which meant ball pressure, attacking passing lanes, rotating to help, and being more energized than the other team when going after 50/50 balls."

I might disagree with you a bit here. Really, Roy and Self are opposites in their approach to the game (my humble opinion). Roy played more people due to the pace of his game.

Roy's focus was to play fast, create more possessions in the game, shoot quick, don't worry as much about turnovers because you are creating more possessions, and to try to get the opponent to take quick shots. In watching and studying both coaches, I am very comfortable in the opinion that Self is a much, much better defensive coach. I'm comfortable in saying that they aren't in the same league as defensive coaches.

For Self, offense generally flows from the defense. Defense is the core of everything on the court. For Roy, that was not the case .. defense was necessary, but offense was a creation in and of itself. Every movement was to get a shot. To push the ball. To try to score. You pointed out the "secondary break" .. there is no real secondary break with Self's teams. Not to any great exent. Roy was/is a master of the secondary break. It's just a difference in philosophy. Roy's teams play more recklessly than Self's.

One thing you will also see with Roy's teams is that (most of the times) there was no designated player to take the ball out of bounds. The closest guy threw the ball in. That's not the case with Self.

Self's content to slug it out in the high 50s or low 60s. Roy never was, and I'm guessing, never will be.

Again, just my opinion.

KJD 1 year, 9 months ago

I think what you are saying is interesting and I agree with a lot of it. Obviously from my comments I don't agree that they are opposites in every thing they do. The way I'm reading you is that your analysis/comments and my analysis/comments don't conflict much. My opinion is that Williams over time has become an Offensive genius that also coaches teams that play fantastic defense too. Each team always varies. In a similar discussion/post last week I used this Bob Knight quote which followed Indiana's loss to KU in the 1993 Elite Eight:

"Their defense was exceptional." Knight said. "Mostly what we did was hang in. Their depth is part of their strength. We've got to score 80 against a team like Kansas." Kansas can play great D and still score 80. Those two goals in a game are the ideal, not a conflict of interest.

I do think that the coaches are quite different in approach. Still they have similarities. Roy Williams played the high/low offense in the 90's. Coaches evolve, grow and let go of past practices over time. It sounded to me from some quotes/video that Self grew his knowledge base last year with Larry Brown around to offer his opinion on his observations of the current coaching staffs tendencies and Browns knowledge of how to try other ways against certain teams/players.

One of the ways I think of their difference is that Roy would lament the way the game was becoming more physical, particularly around the basket. He would have preferred the game to be officiated in a way which allowed more finessed skill to have room to make plays over the physical banging and contact that Self’s teams are so good at. I'm thinking of Williams comments in the late 90's and early 2000's. Self regularly talks about being tough. Williams adapted and Tyler Hansbrough is a good example of that adaptation. (continued)

KJD 1 year, 9 months ago

The physicality that Self's teams exerted challenged the Jayhawk's style you are describing in the Sweet 16 in 2001, especially around the glass. Gooden and Collison were Sophomores going against more physically mature bigs. Illinois beat KU 80-64. That KU Williams team still hung tough : “Although it never appeared Illinois was on the verge of blowing a 12-point halftime advantage, Nick Collison scored nine straight points for the Jayhawk's, cutting the deficit to 62-57 with just over five minutes remaining.” Kansas coach Roy Williams said "I think their physical size and the work they did on the defensive end made us play less than perfect on the offensive end. They played better than we played."

The following year in the Sweet 16 KU beat Illinois 73-69. "I felt as though I have been through a war," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "I never felt comfortable. It was a battle all night long." Still, that Kansas team hung tough and won. Illinois guard Frank Williams said, "Their guards did a good job of pressuring us. It interrupted our rhythm a little bit." Self said, "We didn't shoot the ball well. I'm sure trying so hard had something to do with not shooting it well because our guys tried hard."

Now to get to your comment that Self is in a different league than Williams on the Defensive side of the ball. I don’t really know the criteria to discuss that statement directly, especially when comparing such a long span of time and so many different players and teams, though I would agree that currently Self’s teams are built more around defense and Self is currently a better Defensive coach. To be a great coach like they both are you have to be highly skilled coaching both ends of the court and putting together compatible whole game philosophies. I would also agree that their total game philosophies are quite different.

What is probably missing in my comments is that I get a sense that Williams KU teams were great defensively which in my opinion is often overlooked because of his reputation as an offensive innovator. The quote you pulled from my comment is exactly where I was describing some of those important overlaps in Defensive principles that both coaches have used. I could see those principles grow in KU teams play over the course of a season. (continued)

KJD 1 year, 9 months ago

Part of what I'm thinking about too is that during the Roy Williams days the philosophy was that Kansas teams had more talent than most all teams and that higher possession games favored the more talented teams. That doesn’t mean you don’t put a lot of effort on the defensive side of the ball, quite the contrary. To quote your analysis of Williams you write that KU teams under Williams "try to get the opponent to take quick shots." How do you get an opposing offense who wants to slow down a game to take quick shots? My post your commenting about is attempting to begin an answer to that question. My view is that KU teams under Self and Williams go about it in very similar ways.

Take tonights game for instance, the game that this article is scouting. Kansas clinically attacked American while American was on Offense throughout most of the first half. It was high energy ferocious D tonight. Fantastic ball pressure, especially on the perimeter and getting into the offensive players grills, took American out of offensive rhythm. KU regularly disrupted the passing lanes, especially in the back court while trying to pass across the top of the KU D which then created several fast break opportunities. I would say that the attacking defensive energy was the biggest reason why we doubled their score tonight in the first half. (end)

KJD 1 year, 9 months ago

A few more lingering thoughts to add on this subject. Roy also emphasized ball reversal just as much as Bill does now in the half court. Ball reversal breaks down defensive positioning. My opinion/thinking is that Bill works to get the ball inside to a big at an optimal scoring angle to either score or collapse the defense which leads to open jump shots. That's what I think Bill means when he prefers to play inside out, it's not just pounding the ball inside. Roy to me, and this is my opinion and I would love to ask these questions to the coaches to get their thoughts, is looking to create space for his players to make beautiful plays by superiorly skilled players. I think of Roy's ball reversal in the 90's as getting Paul Pierce space to either shoot a three, or Paul could choose to dribble in for a mid range J or take it all the way to rim which regularly resulted in a jam. Another player Roy opened space for was Keith Langford his Freshman and Sophmore years where he was (I'm running out of superlatives) greater than any other at elevating and slamming it home in traffic by an attacking slash. Langford also had a strong J and an outstanding all around scorer.

You don't even have to play man to have a great team. Roy mixed in zones and I always got excited when he would throw the 1-3-1 because KU was so successful in attacking offenses with traps on the side and clogging the middle with bodies. Roy often surprised other teams by unleashing the 1-3-1 late in close games to steal a possession or two. Jim Boeheim has won 900 games by playing his now famous 2-3 zone. He beat KU with it, and every other strong Big XII team that year, for a National Championship.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 9 months ago

Start the attack...give the ball to Mac!!

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