Friday, March 10, 2017

Jayhawks plan to use time off to fix, focus on defense

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) lunges to defend against a three from TCU guard Alex Robinson (25) during the first half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) lunges to defend against a three from TCU guard Alex Robinson (25) during the first half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center.


The Kansas men’s basketball team knew well before Thursday that its defense was an area of concern. An 85-82, quarterfinal loss to TCU in the Big 12 tournament merely confirmed it.

So, now, while resting up, recharging and moving forward with a new mindset all figure to be benefits of the Jayhawks’ unexpected weekend off, the one aspect of improvement this team will focus on most between now and the opening tip in next week’s NCAA Tournament will be the one that let them down the most on Thursday.

“Defense,” said senior Frank Mason III when asked that very question. “On the defensive end, playing every possession like it’s game point and just giving 100 percent effort, making ’em work for everything.”

While that strategy sounds like a sure fix for KU’s problems, the fact remains that giving 100 percent effort all the time has been difficult for this team because of its lack of depth. KU’s starters — also by far its most talented players — often have played 35 minutes or more, a reality that has forced certain Jayhawks to pick spots to conserve their energy.

On Thursday, with freshman Josh Jackson serving a one-game suspension, Mason played all 40 minutes and the only action junior guard Devonte’ Graham missed were the five minutes he spent in the locker room getting an injury examined.

Beyond that, sophomore Lagerald Vick and junior Svi Mykhailiuk, two of KU’s less talented defenders, each played 35 minutes, with Vick, Mason and Graham all playing the entire second half.

While those heavy workloads are not ideal, they are this team’s reality. So instead of wishing for depth to magically appear or for reserves to suddenly start playing at a higher level, the Jayhawks (28-4) will move into the Big Dance with their sights set on finding a way to improve their defense. While some of that falls on the players rising to each occasion, as Mason suggested, KU coach Bill Self put a lot of the responsibility on his own shoulders.

“It’s a good learning experience,” said Self of Thursday’s loss and why it occurred. “I can do a better job, obviously I need to do a better job, of getting our defense together because it was not very good at all (vs. TCU).”

Asked what areas he thought needed work, Self responded with a single word.

“Everything,” he said. “Our ball screen stuff has been so much better but it wasn’t (vs. TCU). We didn’t shrink the floor, they shot too many layups. The 3-point ball didn’t hurt us, it was the fact they were able to get inside of us.... So we certainly gotta tighten up some stuff and a lot of that falls on me getting our guys more prepared.

“I don’t think (losing early in the Big 12 tourney is) the end of the earth by any stretch, but it is very disappointing. Hopefully that will be a good motivator for us moving forward. Doesn’t mean anything is broken, but certainly we’ve gotta tighten some things up.”


Don Burgundy 5 years, 5 months ago

The defense from a fan's eye was trash yesterday, so I can only imagine how bad it was from Self's POV. I think people posting on here that we won't make it past the Rd of 32 need to relax a little. JJ didn't play & This is still the team that won the league by 4 games and beat UK on the road and DOOk on a neutral floor. However, in saying that, this tournament all depends on defense IMO. We know KU can score with the best of them, but when they need a stop to seal a game, will they get it? Time will tell.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

I bet Self works on some zone defenses. Besides shrinking the court, we need to shrink the game time. Since we don't have a bench that can be counted upon, some kind of zone variations might be able to get us to the 2nd-half 10 minute mark with no foul problems and be fresh. The secret to this team is to be close toward the end and then turn it on. The starting 5 of this year's team can be anybody. I'll take our chances against anyone for a 10 minute game going all out.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

Completely agree but since he never once used it on TCU shows just how inflexible Self can be.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

Coach has shown anything but inflexibility the past couple years. Allowing his power forward to move outside and handle the ball in the weave last year. Starting his best player out of position and virtually abandoning his bedrock hi-lo. Giving this team the freedom to improvise, and shoot tons more 3's. Goodness there are whole articles written about how much Coach's flexibility to adapt in recent years.

Maybe Coach saw something that we didn't see.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe. He has moved from his hi-low offense as personnel dictated the change. He has used a zone for short periods.

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 5 months ago

Dirk, everything you've mentioned is offense-oriented. And the offense has flourished. He has remained inflexible on defense and that's where the team has been stagnant for several years.

Steve Johnson 5 years, 5 months ago

Self orchestrated this whole loss. He didn't want them getting beat up during the tournament. Now they are rested and after all, no one cares about the big 12 Tournament. I feel bad for the people that spent hundreds of dollars to attend and Self screwed them out of their experience. The only thing Jayhawk nation will talk about is the NCAA Tournament. If we get bounced early who will they blame? Lets see, Bragg didn't make a shot and turned it over, Jackson and Lucas got in foul trouble, Svi couldn't hit the ocean if he had to and was slow to close on defense, One thing for certain is that mason will answer the bell. Worried about next year, there is no replacement for mason

Brock Wells 5 years, 5 months ago

I disagree with your opinion about Bill orchestrated this loss Steve, even though he admits he did a poor job coaching. We are a 6 man team and anything we get from everyone else is gravy; we got NO gravy against TCU.

I do agree with your other points besides being worried about next year. No reason not to trust Bill and company to get number 14.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

The next time Self admits to poor coaching will be the first time.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

Except that he does it above, and has in the past as well.


Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

So Blind. Self orchestrated nothing but the comeback in the 2nd half. He played the cards dealt to him by others. He had nothing to do with Josh's driving, and after Devonte's arrest, you know he talked to the team about letting him and the staff know about everything.

There are fans that don't care about the Big12 tourney, but if it is a competition anyone that's paid attention for any time knows that Coach cares about winning. If we do well in the next 3 weeks, that will take precedence over the rest of the season, but Jayhawk nation most definitely cares about the regular season

Is Coach worried about losing in the conference tourney? Not more than about doing what's right (suspension). The reality is that the team would still be playing if they had gotten reasonable effort from role players. They got out worked, and now get to walk around with that nasty taste in their mouth for the next week. The key to the next 3 weeks isn't how well the best players play, it is how well the best players motivate the role players to be focused 24/7 on being the best they can be. They will win if they can.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

If Self orchestrated the comeback in the 2nd half then he also should be credited for the collapse in the 1st half.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

We have a week to fix what we couldn't fix all season? Good luck with that. I thought Self might have played zone a few times just to confuse TCU.

Allin Herring 5 years, 5 months ago

Self had his finger prints all over the TCU loss with T costing us two points and his lack of changing up our no defense defence by going to a zone in the second half. Yes we now have the time to "fix" our defence. The real fix comes from inside Self's head. He has to get over his lack of willingness to play zone from time to time when needed. Bill has the best seats in the house let's use it for more than watching the game.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

Well said, Allin. Sticking to the same thing that isn't working is the definition of insanity.

Shannon Gustafson 5 years, 5 months ago

For all of you complaining that Self never plays a zone, never changes it up, ect., how quickly you forget about the games they DID play zone this year, DID press this year, etc. I know all of you armchair experts know more about it than Self does though.

You also may want to go back and watch the game real close to verify your claim that he never went may be surprised.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 5 months ago

I agree with you Shannon, I think what these people ought to do is mosie down to the KU athletic dept or talk to Zenger and se if they couldn't fill out an app to become KU'S basketball Coach. - -See if we can't get Coach fired--I men he is an idiot right? - - Roflmao. - - oh how easy it is to be able to coach from your recliner, Big fat chili dog in one hand and a beer in the other - -you put all o these people together and they STILL have a perfect record ZERO losses - -they all know moe then Coach does - just ask them and they will tell you so lol. - -unbelievable

Garry Wright 5 years, 5 months ago

It's amazing that some of you aren't coaching the Hawks instead of Self.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

It's the original "Self can never be criticized" first line.

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 5 months ago

FT, FT, FT.. who knows KU ends up like Dookies, awarded by refs ~40 FTs... SMH..

Garry Wright 5 years, 5 months ago

I did a little checking. I guess Self is a terrible coach. During the past 14 years through today, the win/loss percentage for the following coaches is: Coach Cal...772 Coach Roy...775 Coach K...810 Coach Self...829

Wow! He is truly a terrible coach, only a .829 winning percentage, the best of the four best coaches the past 14 years. I guess for some fans anything less than a 1.000 percentage win/loss record is bad. Maybe some of you ought to apply for the job, or at least become one of his assistants. Sorry if I am sounding a bit sarcastic. I probably am. This is counting Coach Cal's wins(38) removed by the NCAA for the 2007-08 season.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

Did you also check Self's record in the NCAA? He doesn't fair as well.

Stanleigh Chapin 5 years, 5 months ago

I wholeheartedly agree with Garry, Selfs record speaks volumes, what coaching records do you naysayers have?

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

We don't have to be good coaches to know that Self ought to have a better record in the postseason that what he has.

Robert Brock 5 years, 5 months ago

Self does great work in the regular season.

Tracey Graham 5 years, 5 months ago

He does great work in the postseason, too. Some of y'all act like KU should make it to the Final Four or the Elite Eight every season. Which is ridiculously unrealistic. Self has taken his teams to the Elite Eight 8 times in his career (KU 6, Illinois, 1 & Tulsa, 1). Since Self came to KU in 2003-04, how many other coaches have taken teams to Elite 8 at least 6 times? Not Coach K (Duke has been to Elite 8 "just" 4 times since '03-'04). Izzo (5 times for MSU). Not Boeheim (2 times for Syracuse). Not Pitino (5 times for Louisville). Roy Williams has taken UNC there 7 times, so just one more time than Coach Self has taken KU. Calipari has made 8 trips to the Elite 8 since 2003-04. But as you can see, Self and KU have a very similar track record to the other so-called top basketball schools since Self came to Lawrence.

Noah Oone 5 years, 5 months ago

Does he really do well in the postseason? The epic letdowns against UNI and VCU BACK TO BACK YEARS come to mind. I mean, seriously? Not to Duke, Louisville or Carolina - but a couple of mid majors. AND Bucknell and Bradley. Then the meltdowns against Michigan St and Michigan. I like the 2008 title and the runner up teams, but for all the talent, great teams, great regular seasons and high seeds, he underperforms consistently in the tournament. None of us like it, but we have to call it what it is.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

Well said. Self has two Final Fours and one national title at Kansas, but frankly, he should have five Final Fours and two national titles at Kansas by now. He is an NCAA Tournament underachiever.

Shannon Gustafson 5 years, 5 months ago

We found a couple smart them the facts and they just keep screaming the same ol' tune. No facts can change their mind!

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

There is a perception that Coach doesn't do as well in the post season because he does such a great job in the regular season, and every season. There aren't off years or as many off games as other coaches and teams. That means that virtually every year we are seeded high; I think highest average seed of any other program, especially if you penalize a team for missing the tourney all together (regardless of whether you lose to Robert Morris or not). That high seed creates the perception that if we don't make it to at least the E8, if not the FF, then we've underperformed.

I seem to recall reading recently that we have lost more times to the NC or runner-up than any other program. Ya, there's some luck involved.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

I hate agreeing w/Brock but KU has been the best regular season team in the country.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

Bill Self is to NCAA Basketball what Peyton Manning was in the NFL - great in the regular season but underachieved in the postseason.

Shannon Gustafson 5 years, 5 months ago

Except 1) he's been to the Elite 8 more than all than one coach (Roy( in the time he's been at KU, and 2) KU has lost to more eventual national champs than any other team during that time which indicates they have been in the toughest region more than any other team during that time.

I know facts won't change your mind though.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

The Elite 8 isn't good enough, and it shouldn't be good enough for any of us. Not with the talent we've had come through here, and not with all the #1 and #2 seeds we've had in the NCAAs. The Final 4 is the standard at Kansas, not the Elite 8.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

I would have sworn that Kentucky has been to the final four 3 times under Coach Cal and Williams and Coach K have won 2 championships during that time period.

Will facts change your mind? Or do you value Elite 8's more than final fours and championships?

Tracey Graham 5 years, 5 months ago

Can they please focus on rebounding as well? Why is Landen Lucas the only guy on the team who seems to know how to block out on a consistent basis? KU has allowed opponents to grab 10+ offensive rebounds in eight of the last nine games. Which has resulted in way too many second chance opportunities. Overall, they got outrebounded by 11, 7 and 5 boards, respectively, in losses to Indiana, West Virginia and TCU. They did outrebounded Iowa State by 20 in that OT loss, but that advantage was wiped out by KU committing 10 more turnovers then the Cyclones and by ISU making 18 threes.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

Rebounding is often about effort, and focus.

Bob Zielinski 5 years, 5 months ago

KU did play some zone against TCU. I thought the team tightened up and never really got back into a flow as soon as Devonte limped off to the training room.

The article says Vick and Svi are two of KU's less talented defenders. I disagree, Vick is a solid defender and makes a lot of handsy deflections, blocks and hustle plays on defense.

Criticizing Self for the loss is ridiculous. I find the posters on here who are critical of Self to be a bit short-sighted and even perhaps immature and unrealistic.

Let's have a great NCAA Tournament and enjoy the final games with some of these great players who have given it their all for Kansas.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if they're the same posters that were saying he couldn't recruit, or that we should fire him because the game had passed him by?

Obviously, he's not perfect, but the view from some arm chairs seems to have a column in in the way. Should come with one of those disclaimers - "Partially obstructed view" so you know you're getting what you paid for.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

The problem here is that Kansas has had all season to fix their defense. Yet they consistently give up 45% shooting every single game! If they haven't gotten that straightened out by now, why should we believe that a few days off is going to suddenly make them the "immovable object" on D?

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

They don't need to be immovable on D, but they do need better effort than shown against TCU. They've done it before, so they don't need to learn something they don't already know. They just need to be reminded enough so that it shows when it matters.

Brock Wells 5 years, 5 months ago

UNC 2009 NC team was ranked # 1 at the end of the regular season and lost in the acc tournament.

UK 2012 (still hurts) NC team ranked # 1 at the end of the regular season and lost in the sec tournament.

Dookies 2015 NC team ranked # 2 at the end of the regular season and lost in the acc tournament.

Villanova 2016 (still hurts) NC team ranked # 3 at the end of the regular season and lost in the big east tournament.

Frank, Josh, Devonte', and Landon can carry us to a National Championship!!! RCJH

Dirk Medema 5 years, 5 months ago

Well said, though Frank, Josh, Devonte', and Landon can carry us to a National Championship if they get support from the others. They don't need big point production from anyone, but do need effort and focus from the others - whomever they are.

Calvin Baker 5 years, 5 months ago

Some of you guys talk like its so easy to win a NC, and if we lose its the coaches' faults, or the player's faults, or the head coach planned it that way. So utterly ridiculous! It is so hard to win a conference title , or a conference tournament , or a NC. Officials' calls play a tremendous part in games. It takes just one wrong call or non-call to change a game, and it happened last year against Villanova and several years ago vs. Michigan. So often a player on the other team gets hot and can't miss ( see Jerry McNamara of Syracuse in the NC game). Or a team can suddenly start missing free throws. Or a key player can be called for his fourth foul with 15 minutes left in the game! Teams who win National Championships usually win at least one game in the March tournament that they nearly, and probably should have, lost. There is a lot of luck involved, sometimes more than skill. Some of these comments about Self lack mental lucidity.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 5 months ago

Keep up the good analysis and vibes, Dirk. You're no "fair weather" fan. Most of the others take the loss personally as if they have something to do with KU winning and losing.

Bill Self is as good as any coach in the country, and in a few weeks, he will be announced as a Hall of Fame inductee.

Rick Golden 5 years, 5 months ago

I have been preaching about the giving 100% effort on the defensive end all year to only be shot down by Jay how stupid i was. Mason said it perfectly i just hope its not to late to figure out how to play D at the effort that is needed for 40 min

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

A bad week just got even worse: Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament for the third time in four years. And now we have to listen to those mouthy Cry-Clown fans pound their chests and claim that they are "the REAL Big 12 champion".

Barry Weiss 5 years, 5 months ago

I would take the conference championship over a post season b-12 tourney any day.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

I would take winning both over one or the other any day.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

If you're in a mid major conference, the only way to get into the tournament may be to win the conference tournament. The conference tournament is the automatic qualifier, not the regular-season conference title.

Brian Mellor 5 years, 5 months ago

One might almost get the impression that the major problem that some folks have with losing is that their ability to troll on espn forums is weakened.

KU fans: the spoiled rich kids of college sports.

"Why didn't daddy give me a national championship?!" "Why didn't daddy give me a final four!?"

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 5 months ago

The biggest problem for the ISU folks is that, because they work so much with manure, they just have a natural tendency to spread it around. They shot lights out in the tournament, but my guess is that they will have an off night pretty early in the tournament, and then they will be sent packing.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 5 months ago

I hope they get their asses kicked in the Round of 64 like they did against Hampton in 2001 and Alabama-Birmingham in 2015. The 2001 game put the Cry-Clowns into the elite fighting unit of 2-seeds that were upset by 15-seeds.

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