Jayhawks' defense inviting teams to get hot from 3-point range
Hop onto Twitter during any Kansas basketball game these days and you’re liable to see a few — or a few hundred — KU fans bemoaning the fact that the opposing team, which is not always known as a great shooting squad, is lighting up the Jayhawks from the outside.
While bad luck or the unfair fairy usually catch most of the heat, it turns out that the Jayhawks themselves are largely to blame.
“I don’t think that we’ve got the personnel, as much as we’ve had, to be there on the catch (and) we're not a real quick team,” said Kansas coach Bill Self when asked after Saturday’s 80-61 loss at Tennessee if the way the Jayhawks were defending teams was encouraging teams to fire away from beyond the 3-point line. “More inviting would probably be the answer, but when you allow a guy to catch the ball on the (3-point) line and you close out short, it's a relatively in-rhythm type shot.”
Although Tennessee appeared to outplay the Jayhawks in most areas on Saturday, the discrepancy in 3-point shooting between the two teams — again, not necessarily a strength for the Vols coming into the game — stood out the most.
Kansas shot just 25% from behind the arc (6-of-24) and made just 2 of its first 17 3-point tries before throwing in a few late with the game well out of reach.
Tennessee, meanwhile, drained five of seven triples in the first half and finished 8-of-13 for the game, good for 62%.
So many of the Volunteers shots were shot over Kansas defenders that were in good guarding position, but appeared to be playing the drive more than worrying about the shot, which allowed the Vols players clean looks all evening.
"Guys caught it and shot it on us,” Self said after Saturday’s loss. “We need to make them catch it a step further out and then close out short, and we don’t do that much. We don’t do much to play our man before he catches it.”
While the answer was addressing the 3-point issues, that fact is true for KU’s big men in the post, as well. And it has led to a rough month for the Jayhawks, who wrapped up January at 11-6 overall and 5-4 in Big 12 play, but just 3-5 since the new year arrived.
Looking even further at KU’s issues in January, the Jayhawks allowed their eight opponents to shoot 42% from 3-point range last month after holding their nine opponents in November and December to 32% shooting from 3-point range.
Seven of the KU’s eight January opponents hit at least eight 3-pointers against the Jayhawks. And five of those seven hit at least 40% from 3-point range.
For the most part, KU’s opponents have gotten tougher, to be sure, but Self believes his team’s defense also has made it too easy on teams.
“I'm pretty frustrated,” Self said. “I think we've had some pretty good defensive teams in the last 18 years, and I can't remember a defensive team that was so giving, as far as allowing people to to basically execute what they want to do, as opposed to us kind of taking them out of what they want to do. We haven't done that in quite some time.”
Just two of KU’s final nine opponents — Baylor at No. 1 and West Virginia at 81st — rank in the top 100 in 3-point shooting according to KenPom.com. And KU will play six games against team who currently rank 183rd or worse in that category. So it’s possible that the numbers soon will even out and KU will start seeing teams do less damage from the outside against them.
But rather than hoping that the percentages slide back in his team’s favor, Self is hoping that his team will change the way it defends the arc this month.
“We're not giving up on that by any stretch,” Self added Saturday. “But we're not near as aggressive or near as athletic on the perimeter as we have been in the past.”