Tuesday, February 2, 2016

No-man land: KU’s zone not popular with players

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets over the top of Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets over the top of Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Sick of seeing Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis score seemingly at will during the first half Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, Bill Self asked his Kansas University basketball players if it was time to implement a 2-3 zone.

“We were, like, ‘No.’ That’s not the way we’re going to be able to win games. We’ve got to be able to defend. We’ve got to be able to keep guys out of the lane,” KU sophomore guard Devonté Graham said.

“I think it was me, Frank (Mason III), Wayne (Selden Jr.) and Lando (Landen Lucas). All of us didn’t want to play 2-3 zone. It seems like the easy way out. We just want to defend,” Graham added.

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Kansas basketball coach Bill Self meets with media members to discuss (once again) the Jayhawks' overtime victory over Kentucky, as well as the Big 12 race, KU's defensive issues and much more —including Wednesday's rivalry game with Kansas State.

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Despite the players’ best efforts of persuasion, KU coach Self felt he had to do something drastic, with Kentucky on its way to scoring 46 first-half points in the Jayhawks’ 90-84 come-from-behind, overtime win.

“Our guys don’t want to play zone,” Self said. “During the first half, I said, ‘Let’s play 2-3, and they’re, like, ‘No, we can go on them, coach,’ which we didn’t.

“But we went 2-3. You (media) don’t even know that two possessions in the first half they scored five points, because both of the points on both possessions were in transition where guys didn’t run back to their spots and whatever.”

Self abandoned both man-to-man defense and 2-3 zone for a triangle-and-two the second half to help slow Ulis, who finished with 14 points and five assists the first half and 12 points and three assists the second half and OT.

“Our guys know we want to hang our hat on (man-to-man) and then sprinkle in other things. But certainly the triangle-and-two, it did bail us out Saturday whenever Willis (Derek, six points) wasn’t in the game,” Self said.

Graham, who said good man-to-man defense “is all mental, pride, heart, you’ve got to buckle down and guard your man,” hopes the Jayhawks’ improve their staple defense so they won’t have to use zone again.

“We’re not used to playing zone. Kansas isn’t used to playing zone like that,” Graham said. “We’re just (used to) matching up with our man — ‘mano y mano’ — and shutting that guy down. It’s definitely a pride thing.”

Asked who is KU’s best one-on-one defender, Graham said: “I’d say me, Frank and Lagerald (Vick). Lagerald is a pretty good on-the-ball defender, especially in practice guarding me, Frank and Wayne. He’s pretty quick. Then (after Vick) I’d say me,” Graham added, smiling.

“Lagerald is growing. He gets better every day. He’s starting to find his place. As a freshman, you don’t really know what you are supposed to be doing. He’s kind of finding that little mojo of his. He’s definitely doing well.”

Asked a question Monday of how shooting guards Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk have been faring in practice of late, Self brought up Memphis freshman Vick.

“They’ve been fine. Lagerald’s been the best guy off the bench in practice, and we tried to play him the other day, and that was probably too big a stage for him this early because we hadn’t really given him a chance to play” Self said.

“Of those three, I would say Lagerald has been the most consistent of the three. But you always want to have somebody in there that can stretch the defense and shoot the ball. Thing about it with Brannen, the other team’s always going to have to guard him because he does shoot it so well.”

Greene had seven points and four boards in 10 minutes, while Vick missed one shot and had a foul in two minutes, and Mykhailiuk didn’t play versus UK.

Self said after the game that freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (six points) and Cheick Diallo (two) would continue to be called upon as the Big 12 slate resumes Wednesday against Kansas State (8 p.m., Allen).

“They have played better in practice, primarily Cheick,” Self said. “Cheick’s played better the last couple days in practice, and I thought he was pretty good, and Carlton obviously made some shots and played well. Those eight points of jumpers (three buckets by Bragg, one by Diallo) kind of bailed us out when Perry (Ellis) wasn’t in the game (because of foul problems). So they were very important there.

“We played triangle-and-two at least half the second half. Our veteran guys have a much better chance to play that well than what Cheick and Carlton do because we haven’t practiced much of late.”

Mickelson day to day: KU senior forward Hunter Mickelson, who missed the Kentucky game because of a high ankle sprain, remains questionable for Wednesday. He’s listed as day to day.

Selden shines: Self praised junior guard Selden, who scored a career-high 33 points versus UK, on Monday’s “Hawk Talk” radio show.

“He looked like a complete player,” Self said, noting Selden scored by getting to the basket, with an in-between game and also by hitting threes. “Without saying too much, he’s put himself in a position he probably made himself some money on Saturday (emerging as NBA prospect), even though there’s a lot of ball (left). There’s opportunities to lose it, and there’s opportunities to make more. Certainly he put himself in a good place nationally because he did so many good things,” Self added.

Bolden cuts KU: Marques Bolden, a 6-10 senior forward from DeSoto (Texas) High who is ranked No. 16 nationally by, has cut KU from his list of schools following the recent commitment of Udoka Azubuike. Bolden has a list of Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma and TCU.


Pius Waldman 6 years, 3 months ago

Message to Graham: Evans, Ulis and Paige agree you guys need to stay man to man so we can drive to the goal and score.

John Myers 6 years, 3 months ago

Devonté needs to watch some film. He sure seems to think they're capable of man, but I haven't seen it of late. If our guards weren't getting blown by every game, Self wouldn't have to go to zone.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 3 months ago

Wow, DeVonte you are dreaming. I am beginning to think this team is all about their swagger.

You can't score but tell Self we are comfortable with a certain rotation. Tell Self no way on a zone because we like Mano a Mano but can't keep other guards out of the lane. Holy freaking cow!

Michael Maris 6 years, 3 months ago

“Our guys don’t want to play zone,” Self said. “During the first half, I said, ‘Let’s play 2-3, and they’re, like, ‘No, we can go on them, coach,’ which we didn’t.''

My question is this, who's running that show over in Lawrence for the 2015/2016 season?

Tom Jones 6 years, 3 months ago

Exactly. What kind of coach wants to know what his players think? Insane.

Bryce Landon 6 years, 3 months ago

The inmates are running the asylum. That's never good.

Jonathan Briles 6 years, 3 months ago

I like man to man defense better, but this group has not shown the ability to play it recently. I don't really care what the players prefer playing for pride reasons. I would hope they have more pride in winning than they do in what defense they play to get there. I want them to be better at man to man defense, but I want to win more than that. The best thing is to play multiple defenses to keep the other team on their heels.

Wow I hate the final list Bolden has made. Go to a conference rival or go to a team I despise? Unfortunate.

Mike Barnhart 6 years, 3 months ago

Well that makes sense, Graham "thinks" he's a good defender. Sorry Devonte, as Roy always said, "The eye in the sky don't lie!" Unfortunately, the problem may be genetic - you can't teach quickness.

Frank is a pretty good on the ball defender but he's got a "tell" (like in poker.) He's always glancing behind him for some reason. If his man notices this AND has an open lane, it's blow-by time!

Cedric Spire 6 years, 3 months ago

It's like 6 straight games they haven't been able to guard the other teams PG. They have pretty much proven they can't play man to man against the top PG's so triangle and 2 it is.

Steve Corder 6 years, 3 months ago

Well, since coach Self asks them who they want to play with on the floor, it only makes sense that they tell him they don't want to play zone....Players always know best.

Rae Bricil 6 years, 3 months ago

Completely agree. With their solid man to man defense and Lucas and Traylor splitting time at the 5 this team will be unstoppable.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

....or at least a 2 seed, as they are currently projected. Total falling of the sky.

Stuart Corder 6 years, 3 months ago

Self's team - especially his point guard - is naive. Defense is NOT "all about mental, pride, heart". Defense IS about ability and technique, Mr. Graham/Selden/Mason/Lucas - you have been unable to show any ability to stop lane penetration.

You can have all the pride in yourself that you can handle only after you start controlling and winning games, as is your expectation every game as a Kansas basketball player.

Drew Doerfler 6 years, 3 months ago

i like graham, but wow! delusional! one of the first steps in becoming a better defender is to acknowledge your weaknesses and then work to diminish them. Devante is a huge liability on the defensive end....can't keep anyone in front of him and is out of position a lot of the time. The ONLY reason, we won that game (outside of selden's career game) is that self finally went to a gimmick defense to change things up and make kentucky uncomfortable offensively. I think we also would have won the michigan state game if self would have changed defenses in the second half to stop valentine from doing whatever he wanted.

Travis Osier 6 years, 3 months ago

I couldn't agree more. I wanted to post a comment but you said it well. Not only the MSU game, but the ISU game. Once it started to shift, we could have changed to the triangle-2 and I think we would have won.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Self has been repeating that Graham could guard man to man for years? How many years? This is only Graham's soph season....................

Damian Glaze 6 years, 3 months ago

I heard a comment in an interview (I think it was Kevin Hart) the other day that was something like: paraphrasing "Until I understood that I wasn't as good as I thought I was I didn't understand what it took to get better at stand-up comedy and hone my craft in a way that made my act stand out from others."

This is what Graham lacks from a basketball sense. I don't think he understands how bad their defense really is. God bless him for his confidence, but that is blinding him from reality. I wouldn't put him in the top five of defenders on this team. When Heild was going nuts for OU, Mason was called upon to be in his pocket and shut him down. Is his confidence (dare I say arrogance) keeping him from getting better? Does he think he is so good at defense that what is going on is because of someone else? I assume the players watch the tape just as much as the coaches to understand where things went wrong. I sure hope he and the rest of them figure it out. Opposing guards have been humiliating this team all season. This type of play is how you lose to the Wichita States, the Bucknells, the Bradleys, the Northern Iowas; oh and the K-States and TCUs.

This article disturbs me.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

"Opposing guards have been humiliating this team all season."

Like Baylor's? UCLA's? Vandy's? In the first half, KU guards ate ISU's lunch. They've had some bad games, and some great ones. KU guards outscored UK's by 10. They'll need to keep getting better.

Glen Miller 6 years, 3 months ago

Bill Self's stubborn ways has evidently rubbed off on his players. I don't care what you THINK you can do, the tape tells me that we can't stay in front of our man very well. It's not like this game was the first time..... and it won't be the last. As a player or coach, you have to be able to look in the mirror and admit that sometimes your way isn't the right way. I'm glad that for once, Self understood that our man to man wasn't working. Had the players had their way, we'd more than likely have lost that game. I get the pride, but don't be foolish.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't mind a coach asking for player input but the coach should make ALL decisions.

Robert Brock 6 years, 3 months ago

Somebody needs to explain to Graham that "mano y mano" means "hand and hand."

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

The next two games provide a chance to really shut down teams defensively and get in a better defensive rhythm. The idea of switching in and out of defenses can be effective in confusing opponents, especially coming out of stoppages where a set play will be used. I'd like to see them use a bit of zone just for a wrinkle each game.

Chandler Accipiter 6 years, 3 months ago

Too bad the rim protection is only on breakaway layups. A shot blocker in the middle would at least give the guards getting into the paint something to think about.

Plenty of fouls to give up front, how about knocking an opposing PG around a little bit when they drive the lane? Have Mickelson sharpen those 'bows while he's on the bench and bring him in to thug things up. Turn ""Opie"" into "The Enforcer" (...okay, maybe a little too far there).

Ben Kane 6 years, 3 months ago

this doesn't work because they get to 1-1 and double bonus too quickly.

this team is going to get beat in March unless they stop guards so I hope we see a lot of different zones sprinkled throughout games to mess teams up. Need a few so they can't scout and practice to beat just one.

David Howell 6 years, 3 months ago

Whining about ZONE ?! These same guys watch film and don't see what we see ? Their ability to sag off of great 3 pt. shooters so they can have career games and or overplay and allow them to drive the lane and score or get fouled ....................

KU needs to mix the defense up more often so other teams don't get comfortable in what we are throwing at their offense. If it means playing more zone, they better get used to it !

Kurt Eskilson 6 years, 3 months ago

I wasn't reading whining into it. What I "heard" was that the players know Coach wants them to play man to man and they want to work harder and get better at it – because they believe that is how Kansas Basketball is supposed to be played. They practiced the triangle and two, and when Coach called for it, they ran it and made it work. So it's not as if they refused to do it, or as if what they want over-rules what Self wants. I'd be MORE concerned if they said, "yeah, we stink at man to man and we give up on that. Let's quit trying to guard the hard way and just play zone instead."

Joseph Bullock 6 years, 3 months ago

I was a pretty good player in my day (to bad I had a chip on my shoulder), but reading this artical and some of the comments amazes me. First of all, as Jay said, our guards have had some nad games, and some great games-but let me take that a step further: they have had some bad stretches, and some great stretches, in the same games! About people saying a coach should not listen to their players: coaches listen to their top players all the time-but that does not mean they always do what the players say, or think! But Graham really does need to take a step back, and watch the tape, a little bit closer. Did I say a little bit? LOL

Linda Peschka 6 years, 3 months ago

If they would have played a productive man to man defense, Self would not have had to switch to a zone. They do not know how to play a tight man to man. Graham has absolutely no room to talk.

Joe Baker 6 years, 3 months ago

Sounds great Graham, but swallow your pride and do what is needed to win. When 'mano y mano' is not working, you go zone or whatever coach wants to WIN.

Michael Maris 6 years, 3 months ago

All I ask, is for Jayhawk Basketball players to play with vigor, enthusiasm and passion each and every one of these remaining 2015 / 2016 games.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

That's what most teams do with a Soph PG who has a 4-1 assist to turnover rate, scores 10.5 PPG and shoots 43% from 3. They stop playing him.

No, they don't. Not a chance.

Jerry Walker 6 years, 3 months ago

Our philosophy of man defense is in a shambles right now. We can't stay in front of a quick PG and we're not hedging screens well. Our sagging, help defense is too slow to react and by sagging off, we rarely deny any passing lanes.

The talent is there for a ferocious man defense but something has got to change.

Barry Weiss 6 years, 3 months ago

this problem of opposing guards getting past our starting guards has plagued us during games off and on all season. I do not think that will change. We obviously need to be prepared to use both defenses each and every game. Especially if we continue to shorten the rotation, I think man to man wears our starters out sooner and then the blow by begins.

Next, having Diallo or Mickelson in as a rim protector sure helps our guards.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 3 months ago

Sorry for the delayed observations from the game:

1] For all of you who watched it on video, TV, etc. the volume you heard was about 10% of the live effect. At one point, the decibel level approached jet engine !!

2] My definition of a "Junk Defense' as Keegs put it, is a defense that doesn't work. This one obviously did.

3] To our players, there is an old Chinese proverb, "to know your weakness, is to know your strength." Maybe they should think about it.

4] I have been going to games for 20 years and this is the first one I witnessed every Williams fund old fart, standing and yelling their asses off. WOW, we must hate Kentucky!!

5] As always, the Salty Iguana Nachos were outstanding.

6] The 201 - 9 won/loss record is impressive, but I did a little research today and discovered that KU is something like 150 and 3 over the last eight or so seasons. That is other worldly!! Our winning % at home is something like 96%. On the road it's a mere 74%...Self you slacker!!!

7] I am really not too clear on the Chicken Little thread that weaves its way through this site, but after being part of that mob scene Saturday in Allen, makes me proud to be a Jayhawk and I guess the sky will stay up another day or so.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 3 months ago

To point 7). A day to day attitude and strategy may just be the ticket. Practice hard, play hard and be special as needed.

Colby Hebert 6 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone factored in the new rules? Is it not a lot harder to keep guys in front of you if you cannot even touch them in any way? You cannot even put a hand near them now.

I have noticed our guards have drawn a lot of fouls and have gotten into the paint almost at will at times as well. We just have not finished..

A rim protector, and driving to pass instead of going 1 on 3 and trying to score on every drive is really the problems I see..

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Rational thought like that is no where near as gratifying for some as demanding that talented players be benched and future HOF coaches be fired.....

Kent Richardson 6 years, 3 months ago

I certainly agree. If the calls are made all over the floor equally then WVU would be out of players quicker. Although their constant pressure keeps you out of your comfort zone. This was evident against ISU last night. Niang was not making all of his little flips and junk and McKay displayed the worst hands in the conference.

Bryce Landon 6 years, 3 months ago

No shame in playing zone. If that's what you have to do to win games, so be it. Besides, from the shooting %'s of opposing teams this season and the previous two seasons, it's not like the man-to-man has been working very well.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone noticed overall in college BB this year that when a shot goes up and off the rim or backboard, the action slows down, as evidenced by no movement, and I think the whistle has blown. Then after a pause the players closest to the hoop start moving and off we go. I see this several times every game. Am I having mini strokes or is this a theme? It's like the game console is buffering.

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