Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jayhawks to get second crack at Syracuse-style zone

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) delivers on a lob jam over Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) delivers on a lob jam over Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.


It's extremely rare for a college basketball team to play the same team twice in a row.

And that will not be exactly the case at 8 p.m. Wednesday, when No. 2 Kansas faces Washington at Sprint Center in the Jayhawk Shootout in Kansas City, Mo. But the unbeaten Jayhawks will be getting the next best thing.

“Watch Syracuse,” KU coach Bill Self said when asked for a quick breakdown of the challenges Washington might present. “I mean, they run more actions than Syracuse, offensively, but there's a lot of similar things and, defensively, they play the same zone.”

Led by longtime Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins, the Huskies (6-2) will bring to town a style of play that is eerily similar to the Syracuse team that Kansas defeated last weekend in Miami.

That means Kansas (7-0) will get a second chance to tackle that legendary 2-3 zone and, from the sound of it, that's something Self is looking forward to.

“The way that I thought we would attack it best on Saturday was awful,” Self said of KU's plan against Syracuse. “I mean, I thought, 'There's no way this won't work.' And none of it worked.”

From there, the Jayhawks transitioned to more of what Self called a “stationary” zone offense, which led to a lot of standing and passing, shooting and passing over the top of the zone.

While that worked well — especially for Devonté Graham, who matched his career high with 35 points, and Lagerald Vick, who worked with surgeon-like precision in the high post — Self and the Jayhawks are not expecting to see the exact same looks from Washington that they got from Syracuse.

“We got the ball to the high post in the second half quite a bit against Syracuse's zone,” Self said. “So I'm sure that (Washington will) do some stuff to maybe try to take that away. So we need to have a couple of different ways to attack it.”

While KU's fresh comfort and familiarity with the zone will be an advantage for the Jayhawks, Washington will have a similar advantage in that Hopkins can call — and surely has called — his old boss and ask him what worked, what didn't and what he wished he would have done against the Jayhawks in Miami.

Still, Self likes where his team sits and so does Las Vegas, which has KU pegged as a 22-point favorite in this one.

“Playing Syracuse the game before we play Washington hopefully will help us a little bit, because Mike, obviously, is going to do a lot of the same things they do at Syracuse,” Self said. “... It'll be a nice challenge, but it'll be really nice to see if we can improve how we attack their zone.”

Graham gains another

One day after earning three national player of the week honors for his 70-point week that featured back-to-back 35-point games in wins over Toledo and Syracuse, senior point guard Devonté Graham snagged another on Tuesday.

The folks in charge of The Oscar Robertson Trophy on Tuesday named Graham their national player of the week for his strong performance that took him from fourth on the KU scoring list to the top.

Graham enters the clash with Washington leading KU at 18.6 points per game, with a .408 mark from 3-point range and team-bests in assists (55), steals (16) and free throw shooting (.923).

Sosinski addition official

KU football player James Sosinski, a tight end who has spent the past couple of weeks practicing with the men's basketball team in search of a walk-on spot on the roster, has impressed Self enough to earn that spot.

Sosinski, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from Chandler, Ariz., who is listed at 250 pounds by KU basketball, officially has been added to the 2017-18 roster.

The former South Mountain Community College player who averaged a double-double during his one semester with South Mountain, will wear No. 55 for the Jayhawks and is expected to be in uniform, on the bench and available for Wednesday's game.


Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 10 months ago

I've been searching clips on James on the internet but only found 1. Hopefully he will excel in practices. Here's to make it to the team, James!! Hoping to watch you on national TV!

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

Clint Normore version 2.0. Welcome to the team James, I'm sure the post game feelings/activities will be 180° different from those you have taken part in up to this point.

Dale Kroening 4 years, 10 months ago

This is a full game . James makes the first shot of the game with a dunk . Looks like hes out of shape a bit in this video , but hopefully he's in better shape now . Either way just having another big body cant do anything but help . He's like a poor mans Christian Moody , less athletic , but a stronger.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

This comment surprised me a little bit: “The way that I thought we would attack it best on Saturday was awful,” Self said of KU's plan against Syracuse. “I mean, I thought, 'There's no way this won't work.' And none of it worked.”

I thought Vick played really well at the high post with a few exceptions where instead of passing, taking the shot might have been a better choice. Still, Vicks unselfishness and play were both key in our victory. Also, after a slow start, Graham and Svi started stretching Syracuse zone, opening up room for some tremendous lobs down low. If anything, we probably should have won with a larger point spread but overall, I thought it worked pretty well against probably the best known full-time practitioner of the 2/3 zone.

I think it will be up to Washington to make more adjustments to our game then vice versa.

Matt Tait 4 years, 10 months ago

Just a guess, but I think Self thought they would be able to attack the zone with the dribble more than they did, but they struggled with that.

That's why he switched to that "stationary" offense, which just moved the ball from side to side and in and out of the high post, which worked much, much better.

It'll be interesting to see what's required and what works tonight...

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

Agree that we weren't able to attack the zone with dribble penetration. I thought both Vick and Newman and maybe even Svi would have had more success. Fortunately, we had some great displays of athleticism and passing when we were able to use the lob.

This is why we need another legitimate big to attack the zone by going over the top with our hi/lo game. I'm not sure if our sophomores and freshmen even know that style of play that worked so well in 2008.

Noel Graham 4 years, 10 months ago

It was pretty ugly the first 10 minutes of the game. A number of bad turnovers and bad shots. Bill Self adjusted and they did better but the game would have looked a lot different if Graham didn't go "Steph Curry" on them.

Dale Stringer 4 years, 10 months ago

The were a few bad shots. I saw a lot of goods shots that were just shot badly. Svi had two or three that were just short and Malik's also seemed to fall right and bounce off the rim. Dok was just lost out there half the time too.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 10 months ago

Ditto, Marius. The high post position is the key to beating the zone. If that person is a multi threat like Lagerald or perhaps Malik, it makes KU extremely hard to guard.

Obviously, Lagerald is the best candidate for now given his athleticism and passing ability. Would be nice to see Malik work into that if it can get him out of a funk.

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 10 months ago

Malik is too short, IMHO. You would probably want Vick or Lightfoot, use pivot to optionally face the basket, too.

Dale Stringer 4 years, 10 months ago

Svi, with his size, could have been option two. I just thought Lagerald did such a good job at it that there was no reason to switch.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't know that Malik is too short, but so far he has been too timid on offense to pose a serious threat. Hadn't thought about Mitch, but that could make some sense, as long as he isn't simply limited to being a sub for Udoka.

Mitch has the height to challenge on a drive to the basket and he has shown the ability to shoot the jump shot. If he can make the quick decisions from the high post, he definitely could be a factor, especially if Preston returns and deSousa is allowed to join the team at mid semester.

I also agree with Dale about Svi and the opinion that Lagerald has done such a good job thus far that a change certainly isn't necessary.

The bottom line is that KU has a good array of options on offense, which is a nice luxury to have given the lack of depth at this time.

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 10 months ago

You know, getting Mitch to drive to the basket will be a great challenge for the coaching staff, too. If they can mold him a bit to develop that quickness - one dribble, that's all it takes for a guy like Mitch, to get to the basket from the high post. One pump fake, a strong 2-hand dribble, lower shoulder, then BAAAAM.... jam feast is all over the basket...!!! Quick feet, quick jump, quick dribble... he'll be ready for the league. Get used to duck, get low, get down, Mitch, you'll feel the difference!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.