The Newell Post
ESPN.com college basketball reporter Jason King (@JasonKingESPN on Twitter) took some time to talk about the Kansas men's basketball team signing No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins and what it means for the Jayhawks in 2013-14.
Q: What's your first reaction to Wiggins committing to KU?
A: I'm actually somewhat surprised. I thought that he'd go to Kentucky, just because they've had such a track record of landing these one-and-done-type of guys, and (KU coach Bill) Self has struggled, for the most part, to get these type of players. At the same time, living here in Kansas City, I'm selfishly excited because I'll get to see a lot of a player who some say is one of the best high school players ever — or best college prospects ever.
I think also my reaction is kind of refreshing to see this kid wants to try something different than the Kentucky way. It's good to see he did put this kind of trust in Bill Self, because Bill Self develops players as well as anyone. Someone made this kid realize that. I think this makes Kansas probably a contender for the national title.
Q: You had KU No. 21 on your last top 25 preseason ranking. Where do you think this moves them now?
A: With him picking Kansas, I've moved them up to No. 5, just because I do think the players around him will develop. The reason I had Kansas ranked No. 21 was just because I thought it would really take a while for them to jell and for those young guys to adapt to the college level. I think it will happen, but I think it will happen in January or early February, not in November or December. Their schedule is so tough, I just worry about them struggling earlier. But now, a player of this caliber, I think he'll probably make everyone around him better. He'll get his points. ... Kansas is going to be right there on the cusp of a top-five team with a chance to be a top-five team when it matters most.
Q: How do you think Wiggins fits in on KU's roster with some of the other newcomers coming in?
A: I think they need something at every position. They're going to need someone to step up at every position. There are a lot of question marks out there about Kansas, just because, again, it's all about how quickly these guys will adapt, and he's probably going to adapt more quickly than anyone, because he's probably more talented than anyone on the roster. I think he'll be a guy that probably carries the team through some tough times and tough games early. As far as where he'll play, I think you've got to find a way to get him and Wayne Selden on the court at the same time. Selden can play the 2, and I think Bill Self, he's going to find a way to get his best players on the court at the same time, and both of those guys, I would think, are among his top-five players. They'll make it work. I still think the point-guard position is a concern, but by signing Wiggins, that's going to alleviate a lot of problems, even though he's not a point guard. That's going to make them that much better at other positions.
I think another key is how quickly Joel Embiid develops and how much better Perry Ellis can get. Both of those are really talented guys. All of a sudden, this is a loaded team, I think.
Q: Does this, in your eyes, make KU the favorite for the Big 12 next year ahead of Oklahoma State?
A: I believe it does, in my opinion, because talent-wise, they're just as good. They're bigger down low than Oklahoma State, which doesn't have much size. Then I think the X-factor is Bill Self. I think when the teams and the talent are even and things like that, then you look toward the bench, and I think they have the best coach, not just in the Big 12, but in the country. I think the team that wins the Big 12 is the one that is the most consistent and the one that can win on the road. I think all that revolves around coaching, and I think he's the best. I think now they have comparable talent to Oklahoma State, probably better talent overall, even though it's just not as experienced. But yeah, I do think they're the favorite.
Q: You mentioned Self. How does getting a player of this caliber affect his reputation in college basketball?
A: In a way, I think he needed something like this, because he had developed a reputation as a coach who was, for whatever reason, unable to land the big fish, even though he did get Josh Selby. That didn't really work out. He hasn't been able to land these guys on a consistent basis. I've never understood why. But I think this helps his reputation. Now, he needs Wiggins to come in and really live up to his potential, because the other guys that he's signed that have been this highly ranked like Selby and Xavier Henry have underachieved. He got the hard part out of the way by signing him. Now, he's got to be sure he flourishes in what's sure to be a one-year career.
Q: You touched on this, but what should the expectation be for KU this year now that this has happened?
A: We all know that expectations are always out of whack for Kansas fans. They want too much, too fast. I do think this is a team that could be capable of contending for a Final Four berth, but I think fans need to be patient — and now more than ever, because this is a highly inexperienced team, and they have the toughest schedule I've seen a Kansas team have in a long time. They need to expect some bumps early. But if they're patient and let the best coach in America do his work and trust him, then I think by mid-January, they'll be rolling and be really good when it matters most, because I do think that will happen. I think the key is not to overreact too quickly if there are some struggles early, because those struggles will just make the team stronger in the long run.
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Rivals.com's No. 1-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins will announce his college decision at approximately 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, with Kansas as one of the final four schools on his list.
Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi (@ebosshoops on Twitter) took some time to talk about Wiggins and what impact he might have at KU if he does commit to the Jayhawks.
Q: You’ve seen Wiggins play quite a bit. For someone who hasn’t seen him play, how would you describe his game?
A: He’s an athletic, transition player who can really slash to the rim and get on the offensive glass and find creases in the defense to get things done. He’s an improving ball-handler; someone who’s still working on his shot, but he’s such a ridiculous athlete, that it helps to cover some of the areas of his game that need some work. The jumpshot and the dribble are coming, but also, he’s a big-time defender. He’s already one of the best defenders in the country. So he’s a big, athletic, quick guy that makes plays above the rim, which is something there’s room for on any team — not just Kansas.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about Wiggins' spin move. Can you describe what he’s able to do with it offensively?
A: First of all, there are not a lot of high school kids that have mastery of a spin move. Not only does he have mastery, he’s mastered spinning right or left. How quickly he’s able to spin and how he’s able to do it in tight quarters and immediately explode to the rim … it’s just pure natural ability. You can’t teach that. It’s impossible to teach that. You can go in the gym and learn a spin move, but not like he has with the balance and quickness and the ability to still finish with power out of it. It’s really rather remarkable.
Q: If he did come to Kansas, where would you see him fitting in on the Jayhawks’ roster?
A: He’d play the small forward position. Kansas has shown they like to run lobs over the years. He would surely get plenty of lobs run for him. But he would be a big-time defender. He would help out on the glass. He would be a transition scorer. I think that his ability to get out in transition … he’d be able to help them play fast because of having an additional finisher on the floor and as someone the defense is always going to account for off the ball, because if you sleep on him, someone’s getting dunked on.
Q: He’s the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 in your guys' Rivals rankings. Let’s take the last decade. How would he stack up historically against some of those other No. 1 players?
A: That’s an interesting question. I think, because his decision has lasted for a while — and with how much coverage there is of recruiting stuff — I think maybe some of the expectations of him are being blown a little bit out of the realm of possibility. He’s definitely a big-time prospect, but is he the No. 1 prospect in the last decade? Probably not. Is he somewhere in the top 10, maybe top 5 prospects in the last decade? Yeah, for sure.
Q: Hypothetically speaking, why do you think KU would be a good fit for Wiggins?
A: Because he’s a good fit anywhere (laughs). He’s a freak athletically. The thing with Andrew is this: He’s done plenty, but I think he’s only scratched the surface of what he can do once he adds physical strength and gets a little better with the dribble and more consistent with the jump shot. He can go from this 6-7 small forward who’s an electric finisher to a 6-7 shooting guard who’s an electric finisher, because he can defend all over the court. Guys like that tend to be a good fit anywhere.
I just think another wing athlete is something that Kansas could really use. I guess if you look at next year’s lineup, Wayne Selden is the only guy you could really classify as an ‘athlete’ out on the wing in their lineup. I think the addition of another guy who puts pressure on defenses in that aspect would be really big for Kansas, because it’s just something that they don’t have a lot of. Next year’s team, if you look at who’s coming back and who’s coming in, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be quite as athletic as it’s been in the past.
Q: You’ve talked to Andrew quite a bit. What kind of a kid is he?
A: He’s a pretty reserved, pretty quiet kid. Pretty much keeps to himself, really. He doesn’t really like talking to media and that kind of stuff. He’s been impossible to get ahold of (laughs), other than when he had no choice but to talk to media. I think he’s pretty quiet, down-to-earth, just kind of humble guy who wants to go along and do his thing without a lot of fanfare.
Q: How would this affect KU’s recruiting class if the Jayhawks were able to pull in Wiggins?
A: They’re already the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. It would just solidify that. … Kentucky’s still sitting on six five-stars. That would be (KU’s) third five-star guy with a couple high four-stars and a solid four-star in Frank Mason. It certainly would make an already very-good recruiting class extremely good.
Q: Would it be unquestionably Bill Self’s best recruiting class at KU if he added Wiggins?
A: On paper, probably yeah. I don’t have what (Brandon) Rush, (Julian) Wright, (Mario) Chalmers and (Micah) Downs were all ranked coming in. But on paper, it would probably be their best class. Of course, you can’t find out if it was his best class or not until a few years down the road.
Q: One more on this topic: If KU did get Wiggins, what type of impact might that have for KU and coach Bill Self in general as far as recruiting goes?
A: If you’re into recruiting badge of honors, it’s a pretty big badge of honor to have won that battle. In terms of perception, Bill Self’s already pretty highly thought of as a recruiter. Kansas is already pretty highly regarded by kids, for the most part, on the recruiting trail. I don’t know how much more those guys can be elevated, because they’re already in that elite tier of programs that are always going to be able to get their foot in the door with kids. It would be another feather in his cap, but how much can you change the perception of somebody who already has a great perception?
Q: You talked about Wiggins being in the top five or 10 high school players of the last 10 years. What kind of athletes would you compare him to that you’ve seen since you’ve been a national recruiting analyst?
A: Athletically, he’s definitely way up there. If anyone remembers what a freak Tracy McGrady was when he was young, when he still had legs. There’s a little bit of Dominique Wilkins in his athleticism, in that he also has powerful athleticism.
For a guy who’s as lean as he is, he’s pretty powerful at the rim, which is why it’s kind of scary to think about what happens when he actually hits the weight room. Athletically, there may have been guys that have come and gone who were close to as athletic as him, but he’s pretty much about what you have to figure the limit of the human body is when it comes to athleticism.
He doesn’t just jump high and run fast — he’s got great agility, great balance. He can jump two or three times while other people are still gathering themselves for the second jump. Not a lot of guys can just catch in close quarters like he can and immediately be up with elbows on the rim.
You just don’t see it very often. It’s remarkable. Athletically, he’s truly a phenom. No question.
Six-foot-10 Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson told the Journal-World on Thursday he will be transferring to play for Kansas. The big man will have two years of eligibility for KU starting with the 2014-15 season.
Here'a a look at Mickelson's statistical profile from his two years at Arkansas (stats from KenPom.com).
• Shot-blocking: Mickelson — with a body type much like former KU center Jeff Withey — also is a talented shot-blocker. Though he played in less than half of Arkansas' minutes during his two seasons there, he rejected 8.2 percent of opponents' two-point attempts last year (66th nationally) and was fifth nationally in block percentage during his freshman year (13.5 percent block percentage).
Though Mickelson does not avoid fouls as well as Withey, he's not a hacker, either. He committed 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes his freshman year, then lowered that number to 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes last year. To compare, Withey was at 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes his junior season before dropping that number to 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes last year.
• Defensive rebounding: In limited time, Mickelson had Arkansas' second-best defensive rebounding percentage in 2012-13, grabbing 16.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds (464th nationally). The power forward also was decent in this stat his freshman year, as he posted a 15.4-percent defensive rebounding percentage.
If you're wondering about offensive rebounding ... Mickelson's offensive rebounding percentage dropped from 8.9 percent his freshman year (483rd nationally) to 7.2 percent this year.
• Finishing at the rim: Hoop-Math.com's shot logs indicate that if Mickelson is an especially effective scorer around the rim.
The big man made 74 percent of his dunks/layups/tipins a year ago, and his offensive profile at the rim is similar to that of Withey did this past season.
Essentially, Mickelson isn't great at creating his own shot at the rim, but he's exceptional at finishing passes from teammates when they get it to him in close.
• Jump-shooting: The big reason Mickelson wasn't even close to Withey's offensive production in 2012-13 (Withey was at 1.137 points per possession ended, while Mickelson was at 0.97) was two-point jump-shooting.
Let's compare the two players' numbers from last year.
While Withey was well above the NCAA average of 35 percent on two-point jumpers (40 percent), Mickelson struggled on those same shots, making just 23 percent of his attempts.
The good news for KU is that Mickelson has shown some signs of being a good jump-shooter. He made 36 percent of his two-point jumpers his freshman year, and in a small sample size, he improved his free-throw shooting from 52 percent his freshman year to 80 percent his sophomore year.
• Getting to the free-throw line: Mickelson is not an aggressive offensive player, as he had just 20 free throws last season compared to 166 field-goal attempts. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 12.0 would have ranked last on KU's roster last year, lower than even seldom-fouled players like Elijah Johnson (24.2) and Naadir Tharpe (17.4). Mickelson averaged just 2.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes a year ago, and since KenPom began keeping the stat in 2005, Self has never had a rotation big man with a fouls-per-40 number that low.
In Mickelson, KU gets a player with tremendous upside defensively as evidenced by his high block percentages. Mickelson's biggest weakness is his two-point jump shooting, though other statistics indicate that he should have the skill set to improve in that area. Based on his free throw and fouls-drawn numbers, Mickelson also appears to be a guy that might need to develop toughness — a trait that quite a few players (including Withey) acquired under Self. A year sitting out could help in this area as well, as it will give the 245-pound Mickelson a year in Andrea Hudy's weight program.
For Self and KU, adding Mickelson provides some insurance in the frontcount in case Joel Embiid emerges to becomes a one-and-done player (ESPN's Chad Ford listed Embiid as a potential top-five pick next year if he continues to develop [subscription required]). This also seems to indicate a preference for Self to continue to recruit tall shot-blockers in a college basketball age where many teams have elected to play small.
Going back to 2008-09, KU has had one high-level shot-blocker in the starting lineup (Cole Aldrich, Withey) for four of the last five seasons. With Embiid and Mickelson signed on, the Jayhawks have the potential to be covered at that position for at least three more seasons.
Studies have shown the best shot-blockers have more defensive value than the best defensive guards because of their ability to bring down two-point shooting percentages, and Self seems to have found a comfort zone with these types of players. Though Mickelson still has plenty to work on offensively, he seems to be in a good location if he hopes to improve his toughness while thriving in a defensive system that will allow him play to his shot-blocking strengths.
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Sunday was the 10-year anniversary of Kansas coach Bill Self's introductory press conference to become the men's basketball coach at Kansas University: April 21, 2003.
Let's take a look back at the archives from that day.
• Gary Bedore's main story from the press conference reads like you might expect ... with plenty of talk about how Self was committed to KU and believed it was a "career-ending job."
Here's Self's quote from that day (remember, concern was that Self might want to coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, when Eddie Sutton retired):
"My future is not in Stillwater. It is in Lawrence. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think contractually there'll probably be a couple of things in there to make sure that couldn't happen. But I can tell you right now that (job talk) is over."
Also interesting: Self's first contract was $1.1 million a year for five years, which is a far cry from the 10-year, $53-million extension he signed with KU last September (the $53 million figure is based on the assumption he fulfills the contract to the end).
• Here's the transcript of Self's introductory press conference.
This was an interesting comment from Chancellor Robert Hemenway in the introduction while presenting Self with the head coach's chair:
"We'd be pretty glad if you'd just keep it for the next 25 years or so."
Self is 40 percent of the way to that lofty goal.
• Lawrence attorney Wint Winter Jr. seemed to sum up the fan reaction pretty well with this quote:
"It's like we fell out of a 10th-story window and we just landed in a vat of tapioca."
• Then-Kansas State coach Jim Woolridge had some nice things to say about Self immediately after the hire.
Both are Oklahoma natives.
"People really take to him," Woolridge said. "He's an outstanding coach, an outstanding recruiter. People really will be pleased with Bill Self. He obviously will be different than coach Williams, but I know Bill's teams will play hard and be fundamentally sound and play great defense. He didn't get where he is today because he's not a great coach."
• The KU players at the time seemed happy with the selection of Self as the new head coach.
Then-KU center Jeff Graves, though, might have underestimated Self's tough style a little bit with this funny quote:
"With Coach Williams, I thought I was in trouble every time I looked at him. Coach Self is a laid-back guy. I think we'll be a lot closer."
• It's interesting to read back to the recruits' reaction to Self's hiring in this story from Drew Hartsock:
At the time, David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Jeremy Case and J.R. Giddens were the four KU signees.
None of them ended up having an extended impact in KU's rotation. Padgett, Wilkes and Giddens all transferred, while Case averaged just 4.9 minutes and 1.8 points per game over his five-year KU career.
At the time, KU also was in on unsigned recruit Charlie Villanueva, who later committed to UConn.
• And finally, it appears young Tyler already was photogenic from looking at these pictures (the second one almost could be considered a photobomb).
Just to compare, here's Tyler now:
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After getting some feedback from Twitter followers, the following is my list of the top 10 dunks for the Kansas men's basketball team from the 2012-13 season.
Jamari Traylor gets stickback vs. Michigan State
Jeff Withey slams with authority against American
Travis Releford goes with the overhead reverse jam against Belmont
Jeff Withey throws down one-handed slam against North Carolina
10. Ben McLemore dunks over teammate Jamari Traylor against Washington State
It's hard enough to get dunks in traffic when your own teammate isn't trying to keep you away from the rim. McLemore just started to show his athleticism with this dunk, which is more impressive after you watch it a couple times on replay.
9. Kevin Young puts in reverse alley-oop against Texas Tech
Going reverse seemed to be Kevin Young's specialty this year, but doing so on an alley-oop is something you don't see often — especially with a defender right there.
8. Ben McLemore rattles rim against Belmont
McLemore just beat the halftime buzzer with this jam, and he probably deserved a technical foul for his violent shaking of the rim afterwards. He didn't get one, so it ends up being a fun play to watch again on repeat.
7. Ben McLemore puts in windmill dunk over San Jose State
Man, McLemore can jump. I'm wondering if I could even do this on a 7-foot goal. I doubt it.
6. McLemore goes baseline for jam against TCU
McLemore gets bonus points here for a couple reasons: 1. The dunk gives KU a 38-9 halftime lead over TCU, which had beaten KU a few weeks earlier; 2. McLemore's celebration is great, as he throws a few boxing uppercuts on his way back down the court.
5. Kevin Young gets fancy with reverse dunk against Texas Tech
KU was playing without any emotion before this pick-me-up dunk by Young, which appeared to fire the Jayhawks up. This one took some courage, as it was still a close game and KU needed two points more than it needed style points. Young was able to give KU both.
4. Jeff Withey posterizes Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez
This has all the makings of a memorable dunk: 1. Going right over a tall defender and putting it in over him; 2. Playing against the team's biggest rival at home; 3. Celebrating with "The Superman" shirt opening — an emotional outburst that was rare for a quiet guy like Withey.
3. Ben McLemore's inbounds slam against Ohio State
One of the interesting things about this dunk is that you can see it coming. McLemore uses great footwork to come around the screen, and about two seconds before the pass, the lane completely opens up.
McLemore gets unbelievably high on this jump as well ... so high that he's almost at eye level with the rim at the top of his leap. Because of that, he spikes the ball almost straight down through the rim — something you don't see often in college basketball.
2. Ben McLemore goes 360 on dunk against Texas
The degree of difficulty on this dunk is just crazy.
I know it's a blowout, but this is jam that is usually reserved for slam-dunk contests. The fact that McLemore tried it — and made it — pushes this attempt way up the charts. It's another one we won't likely see at KU for a long time.
1. Ben McLemore goes up and over Oregon State defender
McLemore decided early he was going to dunk this one. And then he did without caring if anyone was in his way.
When a dunk makes you gasp when you witness it in person, it's worthy of the No. 1 spot.
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Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis will be watching Saturday's spring game from the coach's box. He has split up the coaching staff, and he won't be calling any plays. He joked that if you look for him on the sideline, you won't see his smiling face.
• Weis says if you look at the spring game rosters, the blue team should be passing a lot, while the white team will be running a lot. Blue team quarterback Jake Heaps is more of a dropback passer, while White team quarterback Mike Cummings is more of a play-action passer. Weis expects there to be drastic improvements on both sides of the ball from last season.
• The strengths that Cummings had last year he still has. He makes far fewer mental mistakes now. Weis says he has a better understanding of terminology and has a better command of the huddle now.
• Weis thinks his running backs are even better this year, and they were already good last year. If you can run the ball efficiently, passing shouldn't be as tough as KU made it look last year. Weis also thinks his team has put its playmakers in position to make plays.
• Weis joked there's been a lot more fights in spring practices, and that's a good thing. There's a gray area, Weis says: Where's the line between having discipline and losing the players? Weis has talked to his players about playing with a chip on their shoulders. Defensive lineman Chris Martin is the trash-talker of all trash-talkers. That's been missing here somewhat, Weis says. You need some of those guys. Any good defense has some trash-talkers on it. Same thing offensively. The offensive guys are more worried about learning plays right now, but once they get that down, Weis sees a couple of potential candidates for trash talk there. Offensive guys do trash talk as well. Weis says he's proud of New England quarterback Tom Brady and how he's learned how to trash talk. At first, he was a mild-mannered California boy. Weis joked that Brady blames Weis for his development into a "gutter mouth." Weis says you know you've got something good when you've got a trash-talking quarterback.
• Weis says linebacker Ben Heeney, as of late, has been on a clear rise and is playing above everyone else at his position right now. Early in camp, he wasn't playing as well, but that's changed.
• Weis reminds everyone that seven juco guys are still coming in on defense, and he's expecting most of them will be on the first and second team.
• KU receiver Justin McCay reminds Weis of Keyshawn Johnson when Weis first got to the New York Jets. His routes are a little short. He's not the fastest, but he's strong and catches everything. Johnson was the first pick in the entire draft his year coming out of school. The two also are wearing the same number. Christian Matthews has been one of the most pleasant surprises. He's been better than the other receivers. The receiver on the rise is Tre' Parmalee. The coaches challenged him to become more physical, and he's been significantly improved over the last week.
• In the secondary, Cassius Sendish makes the least amount of mistakes. JaCorey Shepherd is making strides, and Dexter McDonald can cover anybody. KU also has juco guys coming in at that position. The secondary might be as drastically improved as any position this seaosn.
• Tony Pierson will be "very, very, very involved" in the passing game during the spring game. KU has big plans for Pierson. KU didn't do all the research on West Virginia's Tavon Austin for nothing. This is a copycat league. Pierson is still the most dynamic running back KU has. The only problem is, he might be KU's most dynamic receiver as well. He's a pain in the butt for defenses, because they won't know whether to call him a running back or a wide receiver. Pierson is faster than Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dexter McCluster (whom Weis coached in KC) by a significant margin. McCluster is tougher, though. Pierson is in the 4.3 40-meter range, while McCluster is in the 4.5 range. That's a significant difference. Weis joked that he'd certainly take McCluster if someone wanted to offer him to KU for this year's team.
• Pierson is a very fast, skilled kid, and he has great football intelligence. Once you tell him something, he's got it.
• Weis says the best two players on KU's lines have been Keon Stowers and Chris Martin. Stowers has been "ruining practice" by getting in the backfield, and KU hasn't been able to block Martin with just one player.
• Stats in the spring game mean nothing to Weis. But how the players carry themselves means a lot to Weis. He'll look for players on the sideline who might not be in the game to see how they're carrying themselves. One of the things Weis liked during Saturday's scrimmage was the enthusiasm on the defensive sideline. That doesn't mean the defense was winning the scrimmage, but Weis could feel the enthusiasm. Those things are important to Weis.
• Trevor Pardula has lifted Weis' spirits in the kicking game. Weis smiled and said he wouldn't go any further than that.
• In the spring game, quarterbacks will only be protected from hits in the pocket. If they roll out or run the option, they can get hit by defensive players.
• Buck position player Michael Reynolds had 2 1/2 sacks in Saturday's scrimmage. His problem — and he knows this — is consistency.
How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan’s frantic comeback over KU
So much goes on in a basketball game that is hard to pick up on first glance.
With that in mind, I had a college basketball coach go through video with me — video of the final 2:30 of regulation during KU's 87-85 overtime loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16. At the time, KU led, 72-62, with the ball, which according to Ken Pomeroy, gave KU a 99.4-percent chance of winning the game.
With help from the coach's eyes, here's some of what went on in the final minutes that you might not have realized.
2:30 left: KU 72, Michigan 62
In transition, KU is a team that likes to have its point guard get to the elbows in transition before attacking the paint. Then, KU has players on each wing for the point guard to pass to.
Elijah Johnson finds trouble when attacking the elbow.
On this play, he's supposed to look at Kevin Young, which he does for a second. Ben McLemore cuts down the middle and is actually open for a split-second, but at the time, Michigan's Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are on Johnson's arms.
The next step in Johnson's natural progression is to find Jeff Withey, which is the correct read. Johnson just doesn't see Michigan's Glenn Robinson III, who elevates to tip the pass.
It's a dangerous play by Robinson, though.
If Robinson misses that, he takes himself completely out of the play. Withey could follow by taking one dribble ahead, which would force Mitch McGary to step up to help. That would open up a pass to Kevin Young, who most likely would have had an opening for a dunk.
Instead, Robinson's fingertip saves Michigan.
2:12 left: KU 72, Michigan 64
Michigan is pressing at this point, but the Wolverines are not trapping KU. This shows that UM, more than anything, is trying to get KU to speed up its tempo rather than turn it over in the backcourt.
Johnson takes a while before trying to get upcourt, but when he does make that effort, Burke sticks out his right arm across Johnson's body to go for a steal that completely stops Johnson's momentum.
Johnson should have been more aware of the shot clock, but it's hard for him to make up for time when he's jammed in the backcourt. Obviously, officiating depends on how the entire game has been called, and in this contest, both teams were allowed to play aggressively with just 29 combined fouls in an overtime game. Keep in mind also that Michigan is one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to avoiding defensive whistles.
Whether it was a foul or not, Johnson simply can't get by Burke, which results in the turnover.
2:00 left: KU 72, Michigan 64
We get to a high ball screen in this play, and this is a tough play for KU to defend with its personnel.
Here's why: KU can't have Withey hard hedge (or come out hard on a ball screen to cover Burke on the perimeter) because it's not going to be easy for him, as a 7-footer, to extend that far defensively.
What KU does instead is sits Withey back about 15 feet on the ball screen, which also is what NBA teams do with their shot-blockers.
This way of defending screens, called "soft hedge" or "pro style," forces Burke to either take a contested mid-range jumper or try to drive and finish over Withey.
The only KU player that "soft hedges" defensively is Withey, and the reason for that is twofold: 1. He might not have the athletic ability to get out in space to hedge or trap ball screens; 2. Putting him that far on the perimeter takes Withey out of position to block shots and rebound, which are his best skills.
Michigan is smart with its high ball screen, running it on the same side of the floor of its best perimeter shooter (No. 11, Nik Stauskas). That's one less KU defender that can help, as if McLemore rotates on the drive, Burke makes an easy pass to the corner for an open three from a 44-percent three-point shooter.
KU plays excellent defense on this first ball screen. Withey soft hedges and does a nice job here, keeping his feet even with the three-point line while maintaining quality spacing against Burke.
Burke realizes KU has defended the ball screen well, and because of that, he backs up with the dribble.
Though we can't know exactly how Johnson was told to play the ball screen by KU's coaches, it's interesting here that he never squares Burke back up to get directly in front of him. Instead, Johnson stays on one side of Burke, which means he's still dependent on Withey to help defend the UM point guard.
Because Johnson isn't truly squared up, the Michigan guard is able to drive.
Still, after a few dribbles, KU has Michigan exactly where it wants it.
Burke is driving into Withey with Johnson trailing him. Burke leaps into the air and has very few options.
KU only needs to do one more thing: rotate its bottom defender, or as you might often hear, "Help the helper."
We don't know KU's specific rotations, but the help defender here would be either Releford or Young. Also notice that Michigan is doing KU a huge favor: Hardaway and Robinson are bunched on the perimeter.
There's almost no chance Burke can make the pass in congestion to Hardaway or Robinson, who are five feet from each other with poor spacing. One person (in this case Young) should be able to guard those two by himself.
If Releford rotates to the weakside big (McGary), KU has this play completely covered.
One thing to consider: Late in the game, sometimes guys can be tentative to help, especially with a lot of shooters on the floor. No one wants to be the guy who has his man make an open three.
Releford appears to be a bit tentative here. Burke gets the pass to McGary, Releford is late on the rotation, and McGary's layup trims the lead to six.
1:27 left: KU 72, Michigan 66
Out of a timeout, Coach says Self calls an effective play — an iso for Releford.
KU cuts Withey underneath, and Michigan's Mitch McGary trails him, which clears out the lane.
McLemore is placed in the weakside corner, as he's KU's best threat to shoot. Just like Michigan's previous play above, KU will run the play to this side, as it'll be tougher for Michigan to help off of KU's best perimeter shooter.
Johnson tosses to Releford, then rubs against Stauskas, who runs straight into Johnson.
KU gets exactly what it wants: one of its best finishers (Releford) isolated against one of Michigan's worst defenders (Stauskas) with McGary out of the lane.
If Releford would have missed the layup, notice also the McGary rotation left Withey all alone for the offensive rebound.
1:18 left: KU 74, Michigan 66
Releford is now guarding Burke, and it's tough for him to get through the ball screen.
Early ball screens are tougher to defend not only because Burke is in a full sprint, but also because it's tough for Releford to know it's coming. It's also more difficult for Releford, at 6 foot 5, to try to squeeze his way over the top to get through.
McGary sets a solid screen, but it still appears Releford could have done a better job of going over the top.
Then, for whatever reason, Releford isn't quick to recover on Burke, and though we don't know if KU was switching all screens at that time, it's unlikely because Withey was still on the floor.
With all that said, Burke still has to hit an NBA three over a 7-footer.
He does. The lead is down to five.
00:45 left: KU 74, Michigan 69
This is another well-executed play for KU after a timeout.
Johnson attacks towards McLemore, which forces Hardaway to help. Right after this, Releford sets a solid flare screen on Hardaway.
Michigan's Caris LeVert steps over to help, but he goes a step too far. McLemore drives baseline but can't finish the short shot in the lane.
00:38 left: KU 74, Michigan 69
The biggest breakdown here for KU is its transition defense.
The Jayhawks not only allow a quick open three to Hardaway (that he misses), but they also are not set defensively. It's much tougher for defensive players to rebound when they aren't in a set position.
When the shot falls off the rim, KU's players scramble but can't grab hold of the 50-50 ball. Keep in mind that KU also had the possession arrow, meaning if the Jayhawks simply fell on the ball like a football fumble, they would have maintained possession.
Robinson comes out of the scrum with it, then puts in a layup over Withey, who was trying to get the loose ball a second earlier.
00:19 left: KU 76, Michigan 71
It's hard to fault KU's defense on this Burke drive for a layup.
The main objective in these scenarios — from a coaching perspective — is to not foul or give up a three. And, Burke is pretty hard to stop one-on-one in this situation.
Burke attacks the rim, and he does so slightly out of control. With this time and score, if Burke is grazed at all by a defender, it's likely to bring a foul call, which would give Michigan a chance to score with the clock stopped.
Burke drives by Johnson for the quick two, but KU avoids a foul and still is ahead three.
00:09 left: KU 76, Michigan 73
After Johnson misses the front end of a one-and-one, this is Michigan's final chance.
You can hear Self clearly on the TV broadcast screaming to his team before Johnson's free throw: "Switch five. No threes."
Self has taken Withey out of the game in favor of Naadir Tharpe, which gives the coach a defensive lineup that is able to switch every ball screen. The intent is to not allow a good look from three.
Without a timeout, Michigan sets two screens to try to confuse KU. Notice that Johnson is doing everything in his power to still try to get through McGary to get back to Burke, which includes barreling right into the big man.
As you see, Young is a second late to switch out to Burke.
Though Young recovers, Burke still is able to get a clean look.
Here's what Self said after that game: "I'll look back on that one, what were we doing, not to switch up. ... That was not that difficult a switch, and don't give up a three, and we let him come off naked and shoot it. It was from 27 to 30 feet, but still it was a great play by a big‑time player."
Self's assessment on the switch is correct.
Young could have jumped out and switched it harder. For many coaches, an often-repeated phrase when switching on ball screens is, "Switching only works if you switch aggressively."
In this case, Young needed to aggressively jump out, almost like a hedge, and switch it hard.
It's still not hard to know what Young might have been thinking in this situation. With Burke out around 30 feet, Young could have thought, "Well, if this guy takes a shot behind the hash-mark, I don't know that's the shot we're going to lose to."
In the end, it's just another example of Burke making a play. By sagging off a bit, Young is playing the percentages, as Michigan's hopes are hanging on a 28-foot shot with a hand in the face.
Though Young could have done more to prevent the three-pointer by switching it a little bit harder, this isn't a horrific mistake — and probably is not even as severe of a miscue as the missed weakside rotation that KU had earlier.
The final takeaway? Though KU could have won the game by making one of a few critical plays, this also was a lot about Burke making big plays at the right times.
After KU held him scoreless in the first half, Burke found a way to make the Jayhawks pay for numerous small mistakes down the stretch — mistakes that might not have cost KU the game against any other guard in America.
More from Jesse Newell
Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
Before looking ahead to Kansas' game against Michigan, I wanted to take a look back at Kansas guard Travis Releford's defense against North Carolina's Reggie Bullock in the Jayhawks' 70-58 victory over the Tar Heels on Sunday.
Bullock, who led UNC in scoring during conference play at 14.9 points per game, finished with five points on 1-for-7 shooting and 1-for-4 shooting from three.
His three-pointer and two free throws both came on plays when he wasn't guarded by Releford.
"That kind of effort on one of our best players," UNC guard Marcus Paige said, "is really one of the main factors in the game."
Afterwards, when asked about Releford, Bullock said it was "one of the best defenses I've played against."
"He did his film work," Bullock said. "He took me out of my game."
Here are four plays showing how Releford did it.
Let's start by talking about Bullock's tendencies: The 6-foot-7 small forward (No. 35) came in as a 44.3-percent three-point shooter while relying almost entirely on teammates to get those shots. According to Hoop-Math.com, 94 percent of his three-pointers were assisted, meaning — like KU's Ben McLemore — Bullock is primarily a spot-up shooter.
Only 20 percent of Bullock's shots this season were two-point jumpers, so the biggest concern for Releford would be getting out to the perimeter to prevent three-pointers.
We can see Releford playing to Bullock's tendencies starting with this clip from the second half (the YouTube video is posted below as well if the GIF is too hard to see).
UNC sets two screens for Bullock, and notice that Releford goes on the high side of both, running around them toward the perimeter instead of trailing Bullock along the baseline.
If Bullock were more of a threat to drive (or if Releford had not been playing scouting report), Bullock might not be defended this way on screens. Against Bullock, though, Releford is selling out to get to the perimeter. Notice how Releford doesn't hesitate to push around the screens towards the left side of our screen — and notice also how he never gets "stuck" on a screen either, taking a couple of blows while still moving toward Bullock.
At first Bullock thinks he's open and elevates to shoot before realizing Releford is right there. At the last second, he passes it to James Michael McAdoo.
McAdoo attempts to free Bullock again with a screen, but Releford fights over the top to contest the off-balance jumper.
"When I was coming off screens, he was there with me every time," Bullock said. "He was sliding right through the screens. He was just being aggressive and trying to beat me on the catch every time I caught the ball."
Releford was disciplined to stay with Bullock when he didn't have the ball as well.
Here's the clip of Bullock's only three-pointer. Releford and Elijah Johnson had switched after a screen earlier in the possession, and when McAdoo drives, Johnson takes a step into help.
This is a mistake, and McAdoo makes Johnson pay for it. The UNC big man dishes out to Bullock, who bounces in the open three.
Notice what Releford does in a similar situation in the second half when Paige starts to drive around KU's Naadir Tharpe.
Instinct would tell Releford to help here, and on many defensive assignments he would.
Releford is locked in, though, and he doesn't make any move away from Bullock.
Because an open Bullock three-pointer would be considered a success for UNC on almost every possession, Releford stays on Bullock to prevent that shot.
As we see, Paige loses the ball going up, and KU ends up with a steal.
There's another reason it was tough for Bullock to get open looks, and you'll start to see it with this next play.
Here, Releford once again fights over the top side of a ball screen, which guarantees Bullock isn't able to get some space for a three behind McAdoo.
Going over the top of a screen is dangerous, though, because it oftentimes can leave the defense using two defenders to guard a ball-handler.
This isn't an issue for KU, though, because of who's setting the screen. McAdoo is not a threat to receive a pass and shoot it from the outside (two three-point attempts all season) and he's also not a particularly good jump-shooter (45-percent two-point percentage).
These characteristics allow Withey to "soft hedge," meaning he can hang back a few feet to simply keep himself between Bullock and the basket should Bullock decide to drive.
With Releford preventing the three and Withey preventing the drive, Bullock passes to McAdoo, who drives to the rim.
Earlier in the week, UNC coach Roy Williams talked about KU being a great defense because it doesn't necessarily try to take the ball away from you, but it tries to limit you to one bad shot.
This is an example. KU's defense has forced UNC from a shot it wants (44-percent three-point shooter taking a three) to a shot that KU wants it to take (45-percent two-point shooter taking a shot over the 7-foot Withey).
McAdoo's attempt misses, and KU secures the defensive rebound.
Here's another example of KU dictating the shot that UNC gets.
Releford goes over the ball screen to stay close to Bullock and Withey soft hedges, which forces Bullock to pass it to the screener Leslie McDonald.
McDonald fires away from 18 feet against a recovering Withey, and KU trades a potential 44-percent shooter taking a three-pointer for a 32-percent two-point jump shooter taking a mid-range shot.
KU's defense wins. One bad shot.
Here's one final example of this, which also shows some strong team defense from KU.
Releford gets caught briefly on McAdoo's first screen, and when McAdoo re-screens, Releford once again fights over the top.
Withey sees Releford is caught up a bit on the screen, so he hedges harder out to perimeter to make sure Bullock can't get up a three-point shot.
Here, Bullock makes a nice play, bouncing a pass to McAdoo, who makes a strong cut to the rim.
Notice what happens, though. Seeing the play in front of him, KU forward Kevin Young slides over to help on McAdoo*, which gives Withey time to recover.
The result is a blocked shot and subsequent fast-break opportunity for KU.
* — This also reminds me of what Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper said after Friday's game about KU's defense. Harper said his biggest frustration was that his team started to drive to score against KU, when to beat the Jayhawks, you have to drive to dish.
Take another look at the photo with Young helping out Withey above.
Notice No. 15 on the wing? That's Young's man P.J. Hairston — a 39-percent three-point shooter.
This is exactly what Harper is talking about. If McAdoo drives to dish instead of driving to score, UNC has the opportunity for an open shot from one of its best shooters.
The ball-screen challenges for KU against Michigan will be different. Not only does Michigan have an All-American point guard in Trey Burke, it also has a player like Nik Stauskas who is dangerous setting screens then popping back to the perimeter for open threes.
In the UNC game, though, KU's defense was able to take away one of UNC's best scoring options thanks to relentless — and smart — defense from Releford.
"When I watched them earlier this year, and even back when I was being recruited by them, you just notice how hard he plays," Paige said of Releford. "You've got to respect a guy like that that doesn't stuff the stat sheet, but at the end of the game, he's making winning plays."
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self said KU didn't play well Saturday, but KU could have played well Saturday and still come up short. Baylor was really good. It was a six-point game with six minutes left, so the final score was worse than what the game actually was. BU still controlled it from start to finish. Self thinks he'll have his team's attention after the loss. KU didn't play poorly because it wasn't prepared or excited. KU didn't play well because it didn't play well.
• On Monday, KU will spend some time preparing for Iowa State or Oklahoma. Both teams did things to KU that hurt the Jayhawks. KU does the same kind of prep for the NCAA Tournament, preparing for the second game early in the week before preparing for the first game. On Tuesday, KU will start preparing for its first-round opponents. That's not being cocky, Self says. Self doesn't think any coach practices four days for one opponent when that team knows it could play a different team the next day.
• Lots of people have reached out to Self saying, "Congratulations, but it sucks how you won the league title." Self says that's not true. It doesn't stink. He's proud of his guys. Once KU was 7-3 in conference, it wasn't in charge of the league race. KU had to do what it did, and it didn't get much help from other schools knocking off the other top teams. KU did earn its share of the Big 12 title. Self says KU isn't going to apologize for sharing it at all. K-State deserves a share of it, too, because it had a great year. After you spend 2 1/2 months trying to win a league championship, you shouldn't discredit it even if you tie. Self is proud of his guys. To get a piece of nine in a row is cool. Every player in the locker room is maxed out on Big 12 championship rings. Self hopes that streak continues.
• Self has never seen the league better with more teams that can win the conference tournament than what the Big 12 has right now. Not very often can you go in and say that six teams can positively win three games in a row. That's not counting Texas with guard Myck Kabongo back or West Virginia and Texas Tech, who are playing better now. TCU also beat two NCAA Tournament teams. There are six teams that can win three games in a row, and no one would think of it as an upset.
• Self says Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson is a first-team all-leaguer in his mind. KU saw him when he was pretty good. So much of postseason accolades are based on numbers and how your team does. If there was a year when six players should have been on the first team, Self said this was the year.
• KU hasn't celebrated its Big 12 championship yet. The team did talk on the bus some. Self is proud of his guys. This team isn't finished yet, but Self's guys did some special things. It's never great losing the last game of the regular season, but the body of work for KU since Jan. 10 has been pretty impressive. The team will talk about the championship, but Self doesn't think KU should be giddy or excited about the way it played. KU has to get its killer instinct back. KU didn't do anything to make Baylor play poorly. The Bears were comfortable the whole game.
• Elijah Johnson can do a better job of "putting himself in the game." Tyshawn Taylor loved being the guy. So much of Johnson's criticism has been from him not making shots. Taylor didn't make shots in last year's NCAA Tournament, but everyone still credited him for playing great. Johnson has to make sure he impacts as many possessions as he can down the stretch.
• Having assistant coach Doc Sadler on the bench gives KU a different perspective. Self thinks Sadler's been good for him to get that differing point-of-view.
• Self thought forward Perry Ellis was KU's best player against Baylor, hands-down. He was aggressive. It tells you what he's capable of. It also shows how valuable Kevin Young is, because when he's playing well and Ellis is playing aggressively, KU's front line totally changes. Self was excited about Ellis, but the team needs everybody to contribute at a high level.
• Self thinks No. 1 seeds are overrated. He said he still told his guys, "Do you deserve a No. 1 seed if you don't win the Big 12 Tournament? The answer is no." Self is not hung up on a No. 1 seed, though. The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups. Self would like to be as high of a seed as possible because that helps guarantee his team plays close to home.
Let's start with a trivia question: In coach Bill Self's 10 seasons at Kansas, who had the worst shooting season with a minimum of 100 field goal attempts?
While you think about that, let's examine just how thin Self's bench is this season.
Since the 2006-07, KenPom.com has tracked the percentage of a team's minutes that come from its bench. NCAA average each year is right around 30 percent.
Self has only had one team — 2010-11 — that was above the NCAA average in percentage of bench minutes. The last two years, he's gone almost exclusively with his starters, as 22.7 percent of his minutes went to bench players last year and 22.2 percent have gone to reserves this season.
There is good news for KU: Final Four teams typically don't have deep benches.
In fact, only five Final Four teams in the last six seasons have had benches that have played 30 percent or more of their team's minutes.
Five other Final Four teams — including one national champion — actually played their bench less than KU has this year.
The bigger issue for Self isn't his team's lack of bench minutes, though — it's the lack of offensive production he's getting from those bench players.
Let's get back to the first question: In Self's 10 seasons at Kansas, who had the worst shooting season with a minimum of 100 field goal attempts? For, this, I'm using effective field goal percentage, which gives 1.5 times credit for threes, because they're worth 1.5 times the points.
Out of 71 players that qualified, the correct answer is Naadir Tharpe this season.
His teammate, Perry Ellis, is second.
If that's not scary enough for Self, let's lower the bar to 50 field goals attempted in a season.
If we do that, KU's four top bench players (Tharpe, Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III) all rank as four of the worst five shooters that Self has had at KU.
It's not impossible for a team with a thin bench to make a Final Four or even win a national championship.
Having said that, I'm sure Self would feel a lot better about his team's chances if his reserves started hitting a few more shots.