Sunday, January 8, 2017


Tom Keegan: Foul trouble bigger issue for this Kansas basketball team

Kansas forwards Landen Lucas (33) and Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) smother a shot by Texas Tech guard Niem Stevenson (10) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forwards Landen Lucas (33) and Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) smother a shot by Texas Tech guard Niem Stevenson (10) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


The pattern repeats itself with uncanny regularity. Kansas basketball coach picks the time to crank up the public criticism of his team in a specific area, hammers it home behind closed practice doors and the players respond to the challenge in impressive fashion.

First-year Texas Tech basketball coach Chris Beard saw it play out repeatedly with Self’s teams over the years, many of them coming when Beard was an assistant at Tech under Bob Knight and then Pat Knight.

“I knew we were going to play against an inspired Kansas team,” Beard said after his Red Raiders lost to Kansas, 83-68, Saturday night in Allen Fieldhouse. “As a competitor, I would have much rather Kansas play better against TCU and Kansas State. I knew what I was getting into. I know coach Self and I know (assistant) Norm (Roberts). I could just imagine what their practices were like the past couple of days.”

Beard knew it, so he shared it with his players, making them understand how hard they would have to work to score on Kansas.

“We did everything we could with our players to explain, ‘You’re about to play not only against a great team, but you’re about to play a team that’s motivated to play great defense.’ I thought they took us out of a lot of our stuff,” Beard said. “The first pass in our offense was difficult tonight. They changed up their ball-screen coverages on our shooters, so I give them a lot of credit for how they played defense tonight.”

So nothing has changed in regards to Self’s ability to reach his players in a way that makes his wishes their commands.

Even so, plenty has changed as to how difficult it will be for this team to defend up to KU’s normal defensive standards under Self. Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending wrist injury left KU with a seven-man rotation and without a traditional rim protector.

The lack of depth means smothering fouls near the rim to make opponents earn their points at the free-throw line, Self’s preferred way of doing business, won’t be as available a strategy this season.

“We've had teams before where we had enough big guys if it wasn’t a hard foul that would be reason for guys to get their butts jumped in film session,” Self said. “I’ve said many times, ‘Like we care if you have two fouls. It makes no difference to us because we have somebody who is just as good or close to as good that we can put in.’ So that’s how you keep guys minutes’ balanced.”

That approach worked in many ways with the typical Kansas depth.

“That’s how you keep guys happy is you basically play aggressively so when they foul, they have to come out,” Self said. “So nobody can be mad at the coach because you pulled them out. But we don’t have that this year. I do think Landen (Lucas) especially has to be a little bit more cautious down there.”

Lucas committed just two fouls against Tech, so he was able to play 31 minutes. His help defense was a huge factor against Tech. When he played, KU outscored Tech by 23 points. When he sat, KU was outscored by six points.

It will be tougher for Kansas to stay out of foul trouble on the road because that’s the way it goes in college basketball.

The potential for foul trouble altering how aggressively Kansas defends near the hoop ranks as the top negative to a seven-man rotation. The fatigue factor is a little overrated.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who uses a 2-3 zone that doesn’t require quite as much movement from his players and does not put them at as high a risk for foul trouble, used six players in a 77-66 victory vs. Pitt, and three of his starters played 40 minutes.

On those nights that Lucas encounters foul trouble, Carlton Bragg Jr., whose confidence is hiding somewhere at the moment, will need to answer the challenge better than he has so far.


Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

Lack of Kansas caliber depth maybe. Lightfoot and Coleby would play significant minutes on the 2012 Kansas National Final team and would be part of almost every other Big12 rotation this season.

F Steven Blazer 5 years, 5 months ago

A little surprised that Coleby doesn't get an occasional rotation. I think as the year progresses we'll see more of him. I think he can give some solid minutes if Lucas gets into some early foul trouble again.

RJ King 5 years, 5 months ago

Coleby's invisibility makes me wonder what's actually up with his recovery. The knee brace could just be a precaution, but Self has a history of disclosing injuries/ailments AFTER the season is over.

Fewer teams to put away early in conference this year. Hopefully Coleby's resting, healing, and ready when we need him.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

What in the world is going on with Bragg? I thought everyone said he was playing so well over the summer and would be a huge break out player.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 5 months ago

I spent several possessions on Saturday night watching Carlton off-the-ball. Just watching motion, action, etc. trying to get a better feel for his play. There are three things about Carlton that stand out: he clearly has some strong basketball skills, he's clearly in his own head right now and the third is that he is just not a big dude.

Though he has definitely put on muscle this year, he's not a wide-body. Check out the team photo, and you'll see that he's not a space-eater. To a degree, I saw this on the court in the way people get around him to tip rebounds out of his hands, grab boards, etc.

For him, technique, fundamentals and strength are going to be everything. It's going to require a lot of focus, and he seems to be out-of-sorts mentally. Here's hoping he comes around.

Deep thoughts...

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes he is talented but his inability to hold on to the ball, hold rebounding position and persistent fouling shows he has a long way to go before even considering entering the NBA draft. He somewhat reminds me of Perry Ellis during his sophomore year.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 5 months ago

He appeared more comfortable outside than banging with the big boys down low. He's got a legit outside jumper, but struggles to finish at the rim. I think he's having to learn a bit different of a role from last year. The Ellis effect seemed to free up guys last year. I still think he is going to be even better next year.

Mike Greer 5 years, 5 months ago

By his senior year Ellis had a way of pulling more than his share of defenders. I think it has taken the guys in the paint a bit longer than expected to get used to playing without Ellis. I think that was part of the problem Lucas had early and still part of the issue with Bragg. When Lucas and Bragg are both in the game, neither really is the offensive threat Ellis became, so neither really helps the other by attracting personal attention.

Rick Golden 5 years, 5 months ago

One of Braggs issues is his strength, hes constantly getting knocked around underneath

Andy Godwin 5 years, 5 months ago

No fouls in the first half for Lucas was important and maybe a first for the season. A reason for Lucas keeping out of foul trouble can be attributed to the KU guards limited the number of penetrations by Texas Tech guards.

Jerry Walker 5 years, 5 months ago

We're just one injury away from critical mass on the frontline. Lightfoot and Coleby will need to have productive minutes during the conference schedule...and I think they're up to the task.

Mike Greer 5 years, 5 months ago

So I have to ask the question, why haven't we seen much of Lightfoot and virtually no Coleby in the past few weeks? Can someone shed some light on this.

Brett McCabe 5 years, 5 months ago

Was shocked that, with a big league at home, neither one played.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 5 months ago

I would agree they probably could have seen some action against Tech, but our big lead did not come until late. Even then, big leads can disappear fast with teams that are knocking down 3's. But I think everyone agrees it sure would be nice to get those guys in. Its only a matter of time before some foul trouble forces Coach's hand.

Robert Brock 5 years, 5 months ago

Bragg's problem - his feet are in the wrong place on the court frequently. The dude doesn't understand positioning or rotation. It's a shame he can't redshirt.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

...or that he doesn't have Weber coaching him...right Bob?

Bob Bailey 5 years, 5 months ago

No ratings for TT game! Keep up with it!

Dale Rogers 5 years, 5 months ago

Keegs, you might want to update that next-to-last paragraph unless you really intended to say Syracuse beat themselves.... just sayin'.

Benton Smith 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks, Dale. Syracuse beat Pitt (updated).

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 5 months ago

The situation with Coleby and Lightfoot shouldn't be too complicated. They obviously haven't shown in practice that they deserve more minutes thus far, unless it is absolutely necessary due to foul trouble.

I'm more concerned about Coleby because he as been around the system for a year and a half. Unfortunately, his injury kept him from gaining the kind of experience through practice last year to enable him to be a more impact player this year, provided of course that he isn't having lingering effects of his injury, either mentally or physically.

I didn't expect Mitch to play that much this year while he is learning the system. However, I am confident that, long term, he will be a significant producer for the program.

Our biggest challenges will come from the teams that can attack us inside. Then, staying out of foul trouble while maintaining acceptable defense will be extremely difficult.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

They have both shown to be extremely poor FT shooters. With the closeness of all the Big 12 games, I hope Self can keep both on the bench. Throwing the ball to either of those guys all the other team needs to do is foul them, it's like an automatic TO every time.

Maybe Self can work either into the game in the 1st half when it may be more possible to trade possessions for fouls but even those possessions are vital.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

Coleby has shot 6 FTs this year. He shot 80% his last season at Miss.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

What a relief. Thanks for that very good news. I realize Coleby is coming off an injury but he's not giving me evidence to have confidence in him playing a league game. It is nice to know he can actually shoot FTs.

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