Thursday, July 16, 2015


Column: Will Self keep Kansas playing faster?

Kansas coach Bill Self records the Team USA players during the medal ceremony after their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Kansas coach Bill Self records the Team USA players during the medal ceremony after their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.


Having innate ability to control situations that easily could spin chaotically out of control is one of the qualities that makes good coaches successful.

Just force yourself to watch talented basketball players competing in pickup games. It doesn’t take long for those contests to turn into a series of break-away dunks. Very boring stuff, no matter how gravity-defying the dunks.

Kansas University coach Bill Self is one of the best in the business at getting his athletes to play in concert and do what he wants. In other words, he knows how to control them.

It’s surrendering control that generally doesn’t come as easily to successful coaches, which was why it was encouraging to hear Self talk about one of the many positives of his team’s trip to Gwangju, South Korea, from which the players brought home gold medals earned at the World University Games.

“We probably played faster than anybody there, without question,” Self told reporters Wednesday night at Hoglund Ballpark, where at least a thousand showed up to welcome the team home. “I thought it was a positive. It made me trust guys to make plays for themselves, to play one-on-one as opposed to try to run offense to score.”

It takes mature players to earn Self’s trust and in Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis, for starters, this team has plenty of it.

Self also has the right personnel to push the pace. Mason is faster with the ball than most players are without it. In Gwangju, Nic Moore, on loan from SMU, had the speed to keep up with Mason. Once Devonte´ Graham heals from the quad injury that sidelined him from the World University Games, he’ll be the one keeping up with Mason. He’s up to it. The rebounders throwing outlet passes have equally attractive options in Mason and Graham.

That hasn’t always been the case. Wayne Selden, now the No. 3 ballhandler, was the second in the starting lineup the past two seasons. The year before that, Travis Releford was the second-best ballhandler among starters.

Self’s two Final Four teams started a pair of combo guards, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers in 2008, Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson in 2012, but did not play at a fast tempo, in part because opponents had to use so much of the 35-second shot clock to get a shot off against such good man-to-man defense.

KU’s great guards of the past didn’t have the chance to show how well they could play with a 24-second shot clock, as did the current team in international play.

Watching how well his players handled the responsibility that comes with playing faster emboldened Self to say that he trusts them to work faster and more often without a script. It will take patience and the ability to trust his deep bench to stay with that plan.

Statistics don’t show all, but Ken Pomeroy has some interesting ones. In the glossary on his website, Pomeroy defines adjusted tempo (AdjT) as “an estimate of the tempo (possessions per 40 minutes) a team would have against the team that wants to play an average D-I tempo.” Counting backward, KU ranked 53rd, 93rd, 87th, 121st, 53rd, 99th, 82nd and 132nd.

While the rest of the nation must adjust from having 35 seconds to get a shot off to 30, the length of the new college clock, KU will have six more seconds that it had overseas.

If Kansas picks up the pace, that means more possessions per game, a factor that favors the favorite. Fewer possessions equates to a shorter game, giving the underdog a better shot at pulling off the upset.


Brianna Zaleski 7 years, 2 months ago

Good article.

Not only are we going to have an adv over teams, this season, because of chemistry and continuity, but we will have a jump on everyone in regards to the new, shortened clock. That will be an adv in the early parts of the season.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

So 8 games played with a shorter shot clock and using almost a completely different court with very different officiating, allowing more contact than in the USA, we will have jump on everyone??? How do you figure? We will have to adjust as well from that type of game to the new rules as well.

Hate to break this to you but there is this thing called practice, with real officials, that most teams do when something like this happens in the game. This will help them get adjusted. Now its not actual game type play, but there will not be much of a jump or adv we will have over other teams this season.

Jay Scott 7 years, 2 months ago

Yeah Rod. 8 games and a month of practice kinda is an advantage....

Glen Miller 7 years, 2 months ago

What we got this summer....... a month of unlimited practice, playing with a 24 second clock, playing in a tournament format where winning was the only option after pool play, players gaining experience in an officiated and physical environment, players gaining chemistry, National exposure, 8 games against mostly quality opponents, a taste of winning.

What the other college teams got this summer....... 2 hours of practice a week max, pick up games with no defense, playing with guys who aren't their teammates and that's about it.

So tell me again how DON'T have a head start?? Sometimes I wonder if you're as ignorant of the facts as you are just to get a rise out of us. For someone who thinks they are pretty smart, you leave me speechless on here repeatedly and not in a good way.

Jacob Joseph-David 7 years, 2 months ago

I wish you never commented. You must be a whole lot of fun at parties

John Pritchett 7 years, 2 months ago

Rodney, it's like training with weights on your ankles. You overcompensate, then when you take them off, you're more prepared than you would have otherwise been. The experience we had with international rules overcompensated for the changes coming next season, and make KU really break out of old habits (not just players but coach) and adapt. They did an amazing job. Adapting to the changes coming to NCAA basketball next season will be easy, and KU will have a jump.

Shannon Gustafson 7 years, 2 months ago

11 games actually (two against Canada & one against China in Exhibition, plus 8 at the WUGs) plus a month of unlimited practices.

Shannon Gustafson 7 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, but I'm sure it won't help the team have an advantage compared to other teams who got much less time over the off-season...different rules and all. It's the same reason all of these kid's past experience playing HS and College basketball won't help them this year...different rules and all.

Dale Rogers 7 years, 2 months ago

One look at the advantages a similar situation gave Kentucky last season is all it takes to see the trip most definitely was an advantage early in the season. Add to that the talent Kentucky had then and KU has now and it's pretty clear KU will be "off and running" when others are learning how to work with the new rules. Nobody argues that additional practice won't be needed. All he's saying is this trip will likely prove an advantage to Kansas in the early part of the upcoming season. I agree with him.

Joe Joseph 7 years, 2 months ago

Rodney apparently 'likes' his own comments.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

My take is Self will have more time to come up with 4 or 5 plays that he can run with the shorter clock with a drive the lane bail out at 5-7 seconds. I think he saw some advantages in Korea but it will be interesting to see if he will break his tried and true methods to adjust to less time. To me it can't hurt our scoring issues that much and with the extra 10-12 possessions possible each game with the shorter clock, coupled with a more experienced backcourt this could not have happened at a better time for our team.

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 2 months ago

You do understand that when the shot clock went from 45 seconds to 35 seconds, scoring went down culminating with last year being the lowest scores on record.

Field goal percentage is down. Possessions are down. Scoring is down to just over 67 points per game, its lowest level since the early 1950s, after declining in 13 of the last 15 seasons.

Brianna Zaleski 7 years, 2 months ago

Brett, Yes, there was a lot of growth on this trip, and not just from the players. The biggest adv we may have gained is a more adaptable Bill Self.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 2 months ago

Pretty damn good article, Keegs. With all that said, I don't think the change from the 35 to 30 second shot clock will be too much of an impact for Self and Kansas. Now, other collegiate teams from Mid-Majors and Smaller conferences I think it will impact more, but the teams like Kansas, Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Louisville, Zona, etc etc...I don't think will be a big impact except give them a better advantage because of their athletes they have on their roster.

With all that said, Tait did an article last week stating which Jayhawks were impacted the most by the WUG games and their gold medal run this summer. He listed, Selden, Mickelson, and Bragg as 1,2,3 who benefitted from the extra practice and games. From a Players standpoint I agree with Tait's assessment and ranking (Although I think Vick and Bragg tie just because of the Frosh factor).

Having said all that, if we are truly assessing "Everyone" on the team who benefitted the most from the games...I'm gonna sneak Bill Self in at #3 ahead of the Frosh Bragg/Vick. Why was Bill Self impacted so much from these games?

Self, as Keeg's mentioned in this article, has always had control of his teams. He's always had a system. Has Self had too much control? I think over the recent year's Self has been stubborn and hasn't relinquished control to his teams as much as he should? His teams for better or worse were very "Robotic" and structured and I think some players struggled with that mightily.

Not only was I excited for KU/USA's play in these WUG games (Its the best team ball and togetherness I've seen since 2008), I was very excited to hear Self's stance about trusting guys more, allowing them to have a little more freedom, playing a little faster, and allowing guys to go make plays and relinquish his strong hold per say.

IMO, in the overall grand picture going forward I don't think playing Faster or Slower is gonna matter for KU. The 30 sec shot clock will benefit KU a little against least athletic squads, but I think we found that having to play at 24 secs forced Bill Self out of his comfort zone and he had no choice, but to allow his guys to go make plays and put trust in them. From my perspective that was one of the biggest things learned from this squad this summer.

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

Interesting article about all the other teams doing international trips this summer. We certainly aren't the only one:

Louisville, Cal, Iowa State, Nebraska, BYU, LSU and Marquette among the list. Curious to know what type of games they are playing and how much practice they will get.

Rob Zerwekh 7 years, 2 months ago

A 30-second shot clock won't change anything. KU returns to the narrower lane and shorter three-point lane of NCAA play. Opponents will muck up the game and limit possessions as much as possible. We have experience winning ugly, though.

Don Burgundy 7 years, 2 months ago

The lane is actually wider now, thanks to the rule changes last month.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 2 months ago

The lane is not wider now, just the charge circle going from 3' to 4'.

Joe Joseph 7 years, 2 months ago

Bill Self is nothing if he isn't stubborn. He routinely says things before the season along the lines of playing faster, plaything more through his guards, using a 10-man rotation, or letting Perry Ellis play point guard. Self usually toys with things a bit the first few games of the season, but by the time conference play comes around he's almost always back to his traditional style of play. Which works better than 80% of the time, so it's hard to complain.

I loved how freely the players played in Korea. You could tell they weren't afraid of being benched. Permanently, like they act - especially the younger, less trusted players - during the season. Brannen Greene would have went absolutely bananas in Korea had he been healthy and able to play.

Don Burgundy 7 years, 2 months ago

If Self were smart, he would play through Frank, DG and wayne more this year because besides Perry, who is a proven post player that can get him a bucket whenever? I wish Self would stick with this free-flowing style of play in the regular season, however it's a most likely that he will revert back to his old ways.

Joe Joseph 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm as excited about Diallo as everyone, but I'm not sure he will be a real low-post presence on offense. Haven't watched him in person, but his highlight reels make it seem like he gets most of his points from cleaning up the glass. I'm not sure he has much of a back-to-the-basket game...yet.

I agree with Don. To play to this team's strengths will be to play outside-in. Spread the floor, drive, and dish.

Travis Clementsmith 7 years, 2 months ago

Exactly Rob. Its one thing to talk about playing faster, and quite another to do it when the other team is trying to take it away from you. ISU and WVU were the only teams last year that really gave us an opportunity to play faster for different reasons. ISU liked that tempo and WVU sold out to rebound. Everyone else immediately dropped their backcourt down the other way when a shot went up to prevent KU fast breaks.Talented bigs are a luxury in college ball. You're a fool if you don't play through them.

Mick Allen 7 years, 2 months ago

Coach's statement on his return from S. Korea makes me more optimistic than I've been about his willingness to tweak the tried and true system. The equation is pretty simple in that if you have more athletes than your opponent you want to increase possessions and impact the pace of the game. You do this by not only pushing the ball on offense and implementing more dribble penetration and kick and pick and roll and pick and pop, but also by using more 3/4, 1/2 court pressure to influence tempo. Right now we have 12 players who could get minutes, even assuming 2 of the 12 are asked to red shirt, extending our pressure defense would allow Coach to play 10 instead of 8 to try to keep fresher legs on the court. Not all of the many line ups he could play would be appropriate in extending pressure, but it should be used every game to some degree to deny to teams with less talent, the ability to run the 30 second clock down to decrease the number of possessions.

Edward Daub 7 years, 2 months ago

Excellent Points! Bobby Huggins adapted at WVU (he had his doubts) and was quite successful last year with the up tempo , pressing style.

Harlan Hobbs 7 years, 2 months ago

Rodney, I liked you better when you were posting meaningful thoughts. Your immediate attack on Brianna just gets old. You're better than that.

The bottom line is that Bill Self is clearly one of the best coaches in America. He adjusts all the time. I'd like to have a dollar for each time his in-game adjustments have helped produce a victory for KU.

This team has the talent and experience to go far this year. A lot of luck along the way is also necessary, so here's hoping that this is our year to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Don Burgundy 7 years, 2 months ago

Regular season he adjusts, postseason he freezes up. (see WSU game, UNI game, VCU etc.)

Mick Allen 7 years, 2 months ago

Do the players occasionally "freeze up" too?

Rob Bedford III 7 years, 2 months ago

Selden has gone Arctic the last two postseasons.

RJ King 7 years, 2 months ago

Absolutely, I would think. But, as you referenced our depth earlier - it may help to alleviate that (to a "degree").

Kit Duncan 7 years, 2 months ago

This year's team brings the maturity lacking in the previous two. "Next play" really will be the mantra this season. Instead of dwelling on a missed shot, turnover, or failure to stop an easy basket, this year's players will put mistakes aside and move on to the next play. It was quite evident in Korea that this team believes in itself and I look forward to an exciting season!

Harlan Hobbs 7 years, 2 months ago


Think about UNC in the 2012 Elite Eight. I am sure that I can come up with a lot more instances than you can. Remember, the players still have to execute the game plan. The games you cite generally fall into that category but it happens. Try to be a little more of a good sport. Constant nagging and pessimism tends to make you a bore.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.