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Recap: Bill Self has reason to be upset with his defense

Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

Travis Releford played 13 minutes in the second half. And I think that might be the most important thing to take from KU's 82-57 victory over UT Arlington on Wednesday.

This really isn't a point about Releford. It's more about KU coach Bill Self. After watching KU's postgame press conference, and hearing Self talk frustratedly about his defense, I came away thinking that the coach's philosophy might be altered a bit from this point forward in the season.

Self isn't going to change. He's always going to emphasize defense. He loves getting after a team. He loves when his players take pride in taking an opposing team out of what it does offensively.

Right now, KU's players' mentality doesn't seem to match that of their coach. And it looks like it bugs him more than it does them.

Which is why Releford's 13 second-half minutes might be important, especially after Self said that Releford was the best defensive player for KU on Wednesday.

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a dunk by teammate Thomas Robinson against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a dunk by teammate Thomas Robinson against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Through recruiting, Self has loaded his lineup with gifted offensive players. He has numerous guys who can shoot, leap, run and penetrate.

But right now, he only has a few guys that are giving him the defensive effort that he's looking for.

The coach has the ultimate motivator, though: He determines playing time.

All things being equal, I wouldn't be surprised if he increasingly opts for the players that are playing the best defensively.

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his team for poor defensive play against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his team for poor defensive play against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A couple times in the press conference, Self talked about how interesting practices in the next week would be for his players. It sounds like an open audition for more playing time for about 10 Jayhawks, as few have been consistently playing well over the last handful of games.

This might be the time for someone — Releford would be a good example — to make a case for more playing time by guarding better than his teammates.

If Self can't convince his players on the court to be better defensively, I have a feeling he might start looking for other options.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Thomas Robinson probably just played his best game as a Jayhawk.

The sophomore forward combined efficiency with high usage, posting 1.39 points per possession used while taking on a huge offensive load for KU (ending 25.2 percent of possessions).

He also continued to be dominating on the glass, taking down 32.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds (to put in perspective how high that number is, his 20.4 percent offensive rebounding percentage coming in ranked sixth in the nation) and 19 percent of the available defensive rebounds.

And he did it all without turning the ball over, which has been the biggest obstacle for him since arriving at KU.

A stat line of 20 points, 8-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds is a good effort on any night, but the fact that Robinson pulled it off in just 24 minutes makes the feat even more impressive.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson delivers a dunk before the UT Arlington defense during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson delivers a dunk before the UT Arlington defense during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Self would prefer to have Robinson be a boost off the bench, but it's getting harder for the coach to do that with as well as the Washington, D.C. native is playing lately.

Room for Improvement

After the game, Self said that he believed his team's defense had gotten worse over the last month.

Statistically, it'd probably be hard to argue with him.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor forces a turnover against UT Arlington's Darius Richardson during the first half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor forces a turnover against UT Arlington's Darius Richardson during the first half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

UT Arlington had the type of offense that the Jayhawks chewed up and spit out at the beginning of the season. Some examples: KU allowed 0.64 points per possession against Valparaiso, 0.61 points per possession against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and 0.56 points per possession against Ohio.

On Wednesday, the Jayhawks allowed 0.86 points per possession against the Mavericks — a team not as good offensively as the three listed above.

UT Arlington played a much slower pace than is normally does (66 possessions, compared to an average of 73), but it still was able to get good shots off late in the shot clock.

Because of that, the Mavs were around their season averages across the board offensively.

Their eFG% was 47.3 (compared to their season mark of 49.8 percent). They turned it over 24.2 percent of the time against KU (their season mark is exactly 24.2 percent).

KU's defense roughly held UT Arlington's offense to an average output this season. That's not a good thing, considering Mavs have played four non-Div. I schools in their first 11 games.

Tough-Luck Line

We'll probably look back and say that this was the worst game of Josh Selby's career at Kansas.

Kansas guard Josh Selby wipes his face off with a towel after coming out of the game in the second half against UT Arlington, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Selby wipes his face off with a towel after coming out of the game in the second half against UT Arlington, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The freshman contributed just 0.52 points per possession while struggling to a 1-for-9 shooting night.

There's both good and bad to take from Selby's line. One good thing for KU fans is that, on an off shooting night, the guard didn't force the issue offensively. He used only 13.9 percent of KU's possessions when he was in, meaning he deferred to teammates more than we saw in the first two games.

Kansas guard Josh Selby runs down a loose ball against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Selby runs down a loose ball against UT Arlington during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Selby's misses also weren't always a negative for KU's offense. Because he draws so much attention defensively, oftentimes Selby allows KU's post players easy opportunities for offensive rebounds. That happened Wednesday, as four different times off Selby missed shots, one of KU's big men grabbed the offensive rebound and put in a stickback.

Then again, when Selby isn't producing offensively, KU might have better options on its bench. We've talked all along about how Selby's defense will improve, and it looks to me like the freshman is trying hard on that end. He's just not there yet.

Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed and Elijah Johnson all are more consistent defenders as of now, and all have the ability to keep the ball moving offensively if they are in. If Selby isn't scoring or creating for teammates, Self has the luxury of putting in a guard that might be a lower-risk, lower-reward player if the situation calls for it.

Bottom Line

The Jayhawks used their advantage inside to pull away from the Mavericks. KU came away with 48.4 percent of the available offensive rebounds, (second-highest total of the year) and 74.3 percent of the defensive rebounds (third-highest total of the year). The Jayhawks also made 21 of their 33 two-point attempts (63.6 percent).

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson grabs an offensive rebound between UT Arlington guard Darius Richardson (2) and Jordan Reves (55) during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson grabs an offensive rebound between UT Arlington guard Darius Richardson (2) and Jordan Reves (55) during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Still, KU didn't take a step forward defensively on Wednesday. Though UT Arlington slowed down the pace, it was still able to get off good shots at the end of the shot clock by beating KU's defenders off the dribble and making jump shots.

Coming in, one would have expected the Mavs to struggle much more offensively against the Jayhawks than they did.

Don't be surprised if Self tinkers with his rotation to see if he can boost his defense, even if it means the Jayhawks don't have their most gifted offensive players on the court at the same time.

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Comments

Hank Cross 3 years, 9 months ago

UTA had 3 points in the first 5 minutes and scored only 28 in the first half. That's pretty anemic offensively by any standard. Likewise, Cal didn't score in the first 5 minutes of that game. The problem is that during these periods KU is not putting a lot of points on the board to deliver the early KO of which they capable.

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Michael Luby 3 years, 9 months ago

Selby just couldnt put it into the bucket last night at all!!!! I saw atleast half of his shots rim in and out. It was like there was a little gremlin hanging on the inside of the net and poking his finger at the ball everytime Selby shot it. Double you tee eff!?!?

Your right though JN, Coach will alter his starting line up quite a bit the next few games, just to shake loose his teams lack of tenacity for D from the mortal coil.

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Joel Thomas 3 years, 9 months ago

oxycali, I have to disagree with the anemic offense point. Although they didn't score a lot of points the first half, they were efficient while using most of the shot clock. So they achieved their goal of limiting possessions while staying close. I think what most people saw was a KU team that couldn't stop UTA from making shots, which is disconcerting, especially when comparing them this year's most prominent team in Duke, who consistently bludgeon opponents.

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Greg Lux 3 years, 9 months ago

I guess Josh is human after all .... Probably good that he had this type of game against a weaker opponent at home then a stronger opponent on the road. Ku fans love Josh and even when hes not "on" they support him strongly.

As for our defense or lack there of: A number of times we had a player trapped just to see him pass the ball out to an open man. We are far to slow getting into the lanes time after time. I don't think we are lazy but we just don't seem to have the fire we need to tighten up our defense. Or blocking out sucks at times. We leave player open in the corners for 3 point shots that seem to often go in for a score. We can NOT help on defense when our man is standing in the corner to get an open 3 ( Wake UP! ). The 3 easiest places to make a 3 are the two corners and the top of the key. Guard them please. Withey going out to try and block a 10 foot shot leaves the basket unprotected and time and again we give up an offensive rebound for a score... Stay at home Jeff until the man comes to you.

On offense are rotation sucks. We have a tendency to stand around the circle and pass the ball side to side without moving through and around the defense. We need more motion in our offense if we are going to be effective down the road.

Lastly, The twins as great as they are at times continuing to take poor shots when the defense pushes them away from the basket. Pass the ball out and reset the offense instead of throwing ( and I mean throwing) up and off balance falling away 12 to 15 footer which has little chance of going in the basket.

This is a very talented team .. USE your talent and your HEAD and you will do fine.

Rock Chalk

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ancient_hawk 3 years, 9 months ago

I notice also that when they run pick/roll, they have gotten away from the swing pass, upscreen-the-screener, and backdoor cut by the big for the lob. Of course, everyone is looking for that, as we ran it a lot early in the season.

But it's a great way to soften up the inside defense when they're overplaying the entry pass as the ball is reversed. And most of our perimeter players are vertical enough that they can slip the upscreen and go in the the alley-oop themselves.

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ancient_hawk 3 years, 9 months ago

I honestly don't understand why Self is using this group as he is defensively. Where are the intense ball pressure-1/2 court traps-corner traps? They're just as long and athletic IMO as the '08 group. I do understand not using full-court pressure, as that can backfire quickly.

I know that he likes "bulldog" keep your man in front of you and challenge the shot D. But a group of kids from UTA should not be able to run clock, and then decide when THEY want to attack.

Is it the lack of a bona-fide shot-blocking machine like we had in Aldrich?

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upinsmoke 3 years, 9 months ago

I seem to recall in 2008 Coach Self called some of the bigs soft and they responded the rest of the year. Maybe this is what is what he is trying to do now.

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KU_FanSince75 3 years, 9 months ago

The coach for UTA mentioned that KU pressed as to speed up the pace. This is something that I mentioned during the live broadcast. The pace was so slow that HCBS didn't really have a choice. Self hates pressing but sometimes you got to do it. Pressing is gambling. I know Jesse mentioned he couldn't understand why KU was pressing with the good guard play that UTA has. In order to speed up the pace, a pressing team will sometimes give up easy baskets. The coach for UTA was smart to try and slow it down against the Jayhawks. Jayhawk Nation will cringe when I say this, but the Missouri Valley does the same thing (with the exception of Wichita State). Most teams run the shot clock down to five seconds and then, try and shoot before the buzzer goes off. This will not be the last time a team will try and slow the pace down against KU. It is hard for me to watch Missouri Valley games because the pace is soooooooo slow. Sometimes you'll see final scores like 53-48----utterly ridiculous!

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flyingfinn 3 years, 9 months ago

1) Agree with upinsmoke...Coach Self knows how to motivate players and will get all of the bigs playing better before tourny time 2) Yes KU will have to be prepared to face slow down teams..ahhhhhhhhh believe we lost to N. Iowa an Miss Valley eam last year 3) TT simply has to plat better at Point or turn it iver to someone else 4) KU fans the sky is NOT falling; yes we can play better but the last time I looked we are undefeated and not playing a cupcake schedule like Mizzou, I believe in Coach Self and we will play better

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KU_FanSince75 3 years, 9 months ago

Mizzou playing a cupcake schedule----no s_! That will hurt them later on. And to think they are the 10th best team in the land. Unbelievable!

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Hawk62492 3 years, 9 months ago

I hate to defend Mizzou, but we should probably look at their schedule from a reasonable perspective. They've played games against then-#14 Georgetown (now #9), then-#21 Illinois (now #23), #24 Vanderbilt and a dangerous Old Dominion team, and escaped with an 11-1 record. And were it not for a boneheaded last-second turnover that led to the buzzer-beating equalizer by Georgetown, Mizzou would be among the lone remaining unbeatens in college basketball. Granted, the games against Vandy and ODU were at home, and the Braggin' Rights matchup was on a neutral floor, but that's still a schedule stocked with pretty respectable opponents. I loathe the Tigers as much as anybody, but be careful and don't take them too lightly. They're a jet-quick, dangerous squad.

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Dirk Medema 3 years, 9 months ago

62492 - A little more research wouldn't hurt either. Sagrin rates mizzoo as the 17th best team after playing the 282nd most difficult schedule. By comparison: 1 Kansas - 116 2 Ohio State - 277 3 Duke - 201 4 Kentucky - 42 5 Georgetown - 16

(http://www.usatoday.com/sports/sagarin/bkt1011.htm)

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KU_FanSince75 3 years, 9 months ago

@ hawk62492----all good points and the game in Columbia is always a frickin' war. I did watch the Georgetown/Missouri game, btw, and it was a bonehead last-second to by the Tiggers.

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Steve Corder 3 years, 9 months ago

Self knows his basketball and he has every right to be disgusted. UTA's poor 2nd half shows you what happens with when there's no bench strength to match the Hawk's bench. Tired legs make for poor shooting. The B12 season will provide the real test as to how far they can go in March. This is a talented team and they should be fine in March.

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