Posts tagged with Ku
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.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self wants his guys to play with a free mind against Baylor. He doesn't want his players to burn any energy worrying about what Kansas State does earlier in its game at Oklahoma State. It's hard to not get emotionally invested in that. If Self had the choice, he'd probably rather play the earlier game. But he doesn't think it makes much difference. Self hasn't talked with his staff about whether they'll allow the guys to watch the KSU-Oklahoma State game earlier in the day.
• KU guard Elijah Johnson was the best athlete around when he first got to KU. He had some good moments early in his career. Self has always liked Elijah. He's a very analytical guy. He has been a treat to coach. Self likes to be around him. He's pumping energy into the team. Last year, Tyshawn Taylor took the pressure off everybody else by taking criticism. Good players do that. Johnson had to be that player for KU this year. Johnson did a good job of accepting that and letting it roll off his back. Once he did, it's hardened him and made him better.
• If KU wins Saturday, this will be as cool as any league title Self has won. A lot of people thought before the season it was KU and everybody else in the league race, and that didn't turn out to be the case because the Big 12 has good teams. After KU's rough stretch this year, winning the league would be a great accomplishment. KU still has work to do, but Self is looking forward to Saturday.
• Self says it's tough to play well for four straight months. Usually, teams have to go through crap during the season.
• Baylor still has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. KU knows it will get a great effort from BU on Saturday.
• Self says no one likes sharing titles. He thinks sharing would be great if you're behind a game in the standings going into the final game. Whether the league title is shared or outright, Self knows you get a ring. If you don't share the title, you don't get a ring.
• What Andrea Hudy does with the guys is more than just helping them gain weight. She also helps with their confidence and flexibility. She's done a great job with Withey, but she's done an exceptional job with all of KU's guys.
• Self believes four guys should be in the discussion for Big 12 player of the year race: Kansas State's Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore and Withey. Self doesn't want to say who he thinks deserves it, especially with the season not over. From Self's biased perspective, though, he thinks it's one of his two players. Guys can split the vote in these things, though, and that might come into play.
• Self said he would vote for KSU coach Bruce Weber for Big 12 coach of the year. The Wildcats have been as consistent as anyone in the league. Oklahoma State's Travis Ford and Oklahoma's Lon Kruger also have had good years. One thing KSU does really well is find ways to win coin-flip games.
• Self says Baylor ranks toward the very top of the league in terms of talent. Self picked BU to win the league in the preseason. Pierre Jackson is as talented as any guard in the country. Isaiah Austin is a lottery pick. There are a lot of teams in the country that don't have that.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis encouraged KU linebacker Huldon Tharp — who will forego his final season of eligibility — to come back to school this year, telling him he could sit out spring practices and re-evaluate his football status then. Tharp said physically doesn't think he's capable of playing any more. He wants to get healthy, graduate in the summer, then go out into the work force.
• Weis says there are a couple transfers that aren't here yet. The latest they will be here is late June. There are no questions whether those guys are coming, though.
• KU tight end Trent Smiley had a shoulder worked on in December. He'll be non-contact in spring. Offensive lineman Riley Spencer and linebacker Prinz Kande are coming off knee injuries. Spencer will be able to go in the first spring practice. It might take Kande a couple days, but he should be ready soon.
• Linebacker Schyler Miles had a knee procedure in the offseason. He wasn't at full speed last year. His knee was tweaked. He got it fixed instead of going through rehab. It will take him until early April until he's completely healthy. He will probably be held out of the spring game.
• KU will not have an assigned special teams coach any more. It will be under Scott Vestal's jurisdiction, but every coach will have a special teams assignment this year other than quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus. Weis was disappointed with special teams last year, and he's going to hold every coach accountable for that unit this year.
• Right now, KU's base offense going into the spring is to have two running backs on the field. After analyzing his team, Weis felt one of his best players shouldn't be standing on the sideline. Tony Pierson's versatility helps with that as well. Colin Spencer has versatility, too. Weis spent time studying West Virginia's Tavon Austin, and he thinks Pierson could have the same type of role for KU this year.
• Defensively, KU has a "BUCK" position, which is a guy that can flip from the left to the right side. The other defensive lineman don't switch but instead play end or tackle based on where the "BUCK" position plays. Weis studied KU's personnel, and he didn't feel like his team had enough pass-rushing ability or flexibility with its pass-rushing positions.
• Weis is going to try to oversee the team more instead of just overseeing the offense. To do that, Weis is going to give more responsibilities to his staff.
• Last year in the spring, Weis was trying to figure out what KU had on its roster. In some cases, it was putting square pegs into round holes. Now, you start adapting what you do to who you have. For example, KU has a lot of defensive linemen compared to a couple years ago, when it didn't have many. Now, KU can come up with systems that fit the personnel while also having personnel that fits its system.
• Linebacker Courtney Arnick was the best player on the defensive show-team. Nose tackle Tyler Holmes and Arnick were the best two players on the defensive show-team. Arnick was "a pain in the butt on every single play" with show team, Weis said. This is Arnick's opportunity to take the job and run with it, as he's listed on the first team at strongside linebacker.
• Weis thinks the battle between Pat Lewandowski and Riley Spencer at right tackle will be a good competition. Lewandowski is listed at the top of the depth chart for now.
• Putting juco guys at first team instead of returners says two things: 1. There are high expectations for the juco guys, and 2. The returning guys need to be ready to get into gear and perform.
• Greg Allen has safety size, which is why he switched from corner to safety. He's going to be pushing for playing time. KU's staff is high on him.
• Quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Michael Cummings are going to get all the reps in the spring. Weis thinks Heaps is ready to go.
• Weis said he talked to a lot of his younger players on the sideline during KU's final-game loss to West Virginia last year. He pulled some younger players to the side to ask them, "Do you want to be a part of this crap next year?" to try to motivate them to work hard so they could avoid blowout losses in the future. Those players knew Weis was going recruiting right after that, and they knew they were going to have to go to work right after that as well.
• Weis says all of his receivers are incomplete at this point. All of them are good at something, but they're also not good at something else.
• When KU got Aslam Sterling in August, he was near 400 pounds. He's now at 312. There are so many guys like that whose bodies are different. KU's staff is encouraged, but you don't win championships just in the weight room. You have to take that to the field and show progress.
• The main reason Weis started spring ball early is because he felt you get behind in recruiting if spring ball extends to late April. You have a six-week period to recruit, and if you have your spring game in late April, that period is limited to four weeks.
• Darius Willis will still play some role as a pass-rusher, but his body fits more to the middle-linebacker positions, which is where he's moved on the depth chart.
• One kid at walk-on tryouts made 14 of 15 field goals, including three of three from 50-plus yards. He's not on the roster yet. Weis says KU won't go through what it went through last year in the kicking game. There will be plenty of competition for those spots. Weis says he was happy with "none of the above" with his kicking game last year.
• Weis has been very pleased with tight end Jimmay Mundine. He's been pleased with nearly every facet. He changed his body. He's in great shape. He has leadership in him. Weis has high hopes for Mundine.
• Running back James Sims is in a lot better shape than he was at this time last year. He hangs around some of the hardest workers on the team. Taylor Cox is like that, and Brandon Bourbon is like that, too. You have to work hard to keep up with those guys.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self says he's interested in which teams might be No. 1 seeds at the end of the year. He doesn't check Joe Lunardi on ESPN every day, but he's still interested. This is probably too early to start looking too closely at those sorts of things, though.
• KU agreed with adidas several months ago to sport a camo uniform as part of adidas's marketing campaign in the Big 12 tournament. How much KU wears it in the Big 12 tourney will depend on how KU plays in the uniforms. Self says KU's history and tradition should be what is promoted in its look, but this change will be a one-game exception done for adidas. Self hasn't seen the uniforms for a while, and he probably doesn't like them as much as the normal white uniforms. But for a game or two, it's not that big of a deal in the Big 12 tournament. Sometimes, you have to be a team player. adidas has helped KU quite a bit, so KU will do this to help the company. Those uniforms won't go past the Big 12 tournament.
• Self thinks a season could be a success without winning a Big 12 league title. But he wouldn't feel that way about this year's team if it failed to win the Big 12 title because the team started 7-0 in league play. Self doesn't think you can have a special season unless you do well in the NCAA Tournament. KU had 35- and 33-win seasons that weren't special because those teams didn't win as many games in the tourney as maybe they should have. Last year's season was a special year, mostly because of the NCAA Tournament run. This has been a good year no matter how anybody wants to look at it. KU is competing for a conference championship and is ranked high nationally. If fans looked at it before the season, they would have taken —with three games left — the chance for KU to control its own destiny in the league race along with a chance at a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
• Self says that tiebreakers shouldn't determine conference champions. A split title is the correct way to do it. Self doesn't want to share a conference title, but if two teams have the same record, they should share it.
• KU senior Travis Releford has been even better than Self thought he would be. He's been the glue to the team. He gives KU an element of toughness. He's as important as anybody.
• Self is aware of the racist and threatening tweets that were sent by Iowa State students after the game to Elijah Johnson. Self thinks there's no place for that, but Self doesn't think Johnson and Self are going to dwell on it. Self and Johnson talked about it this morning. The Iowa State student body responded in a way to leave no doubt as to where it stood on the issue. That's good enough for Self. That was an unbelievable basketball game with the best performance by an individual since Self got here. The postgame stuff shouldn't take away from that. Unfortunately, there are idiots around in all different areas. That shouldn't take away from 13,000 people at the game that cheered their team on. Self has always enjoyed going to ISU, and these idiots won't change that. Self is excited that Johnson has his mojo back.
• Self has not been contacted by the Big 12 to be told what the errors were at the end of the KU-ISU game. Self thinks we're on the verge of crossing the line that isn't good. KU benefited from a no-call. There have been many times teams have benefited from a no-call. There were other plays in the game, too. This no-call has been under the spotlight because it was at game-point. Self is concerned the league is opening a Pandora's box to have to comment on every controversial call. It's up to the Big 12. Self isn't saying the league is right, wrong or indifferent. He just thinks the league is opening itself up to a lot of different things. Self thinks the response seemed stern based on how it had been handled in the past. Other issues were handled privately, and this was handled publicly.
• Self thinks it would be best if all referees were under one umbrella instead of being overseen by each conference. It's human nature, but referees get used to certain leagues and certain types of play. Self would like to see KU get officials from other conferences, because in the NCAA Tournament, you end up getting two or three guys a game that have not seen you all year. Sometimes, you can get too comfortable with a certain style of play through the regular season. Geography comes into play when assigning officials, but guys in North Carolina do call games in Lubbock, Texas, and guys in Spokane, Wash., sometimes call games in Lawrence.
• Johnson got no easy points against ISU. He made plays. If he doesn't make every play down the stretch, then KU loses the game. He did it for five or six straight plays when the stakes were the absolute highest. Johnson playing like that for KU the rest of the way is imperative. ISU made 17 threes and goes 29 of 34 from the line, has seven turnovers and Ben McLemore scores 7 points. How do you win that game? Self said you have different guys step up. Self didn't realize how much the guys respected Johnson until after the game. He's never seen a group of guys more happy for someone than when he saw Johnson's teammates after the ISU game.
• Teams have guarded Ben McLemore a certain way through league play. He's had his ups and downs. He's just a young kid that's still learning. Self thinks McLemore will be a better player moving forward after experiencing the struggles in the ISU game.
• KU's young guys love the seniors. Self thinks it's cool to have guys that bust their butts for four or five years then just want to end at the end of their careers, even if that means deferring at times to a freshman like McLemore.
• KU played great early in the first West Virginia then puttered around after that. WVU's pressure bothered KU.
• WVU coach Bob Huggins is a great coach. He's a hall of fame coach. His kids play as hard as any kids in the country. He's as good as college basketball has as far as a complete package in coaching goes.
• Self has heard from a lot of players after winning No. 500. Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar texted Self yesterday. It's unbelievable the run KU has had of late. Self is not that sentimental, but looking back, he thinks it's pretty cool how many people played a role in 500 wins. The players deserve all the credit. Self said he doesn't anticipate getting another 500 wins, because he'd have to coach for a long time to get that.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• The 115th-year reunion this weekend means something to all the guys that do come back. Before the weather concerns, about 200 former players were signed up to come back. The best part is those guys getting to meet up with their former teammates again.
• During KU's three-game losing streak, the team didn't guard well. KU played really good defense against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, especially considering how bad the Jayhawks offense was. KU's defensive rebounding kept it in the game.
• TCU is the only team that handled KU from start to finish. TCU was the only game KU didn't have a chance to win. Self has re-watched the tape. KU didn't play well, but TCU was part of the reason for that.
• KU forward Jamari Traylor gave the team energy against OSU. He's been a boost in that area. KU is better in half-court sets with other players in at that spot, but Traylor can give KU help with athleticism and defense. His right hand is messed up with a sprained thumb, so KU is thankful he's playing. He's going to be a good player. Traylor's a shorter inside player. He's usually Jeff Withey's backup, which means he usually guards the 5 position.
• Self hopes the game-winning shot guard Naadir Tharpe made at the end of the OSU game boosts his confidence. Ben McLemore's shot against Iowa State was a huge shot too, but Tharpe's shot was as big as any for KU this year. Tharpe had to make a play, dribble it then make a jump-hook in the lane. That's not a play that you have 5-foot-10 guys practice.
• Self believed the biggest thing Tharpe had going for him out of high school was his intangibles. He's funny. Everyone likes him. He's a cool kid. He showed up to his recruiting visit in a tie, and Self joked that he's lucky to get kids to dress up in hoodies. Self didn't think Tharpe's personality showed through last year as much as he wanted to. It's starting to show through this year.
• Self believes the Morris twins will play better now that they're together on the same NBA team.
• Self says when people think about the history and legacy of KU, they should think about two coaches (Phog Allen and James Naismith) and all the players. When Self thinks about the history of the Chicago Bears, he doesn't think about Mike Ditka. He thinks about George Halas. There have been coaches that have started the success at KU. Self doesn't see what he and his staff have done as a big part of the legacy, because other coaches laid the foundation.
• Self thinks the way TCU played KU the first time was perfect. It cut off angles in the post and limited transition. TCU whipped KU. No other team has been able to control the game the entire time against the Jayhawks. The Horned Frogs definitely have KU's respect.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Texas looked good against Iowa State on Wednesday night. Having Myck Kabongo back makes a difference for Texas from a speed standpoint. Texas performed a lot better offensively. The Longhorns can play faster with Kabongo back. It gives UT another primary ballhandler.
• ESPN GameDay is great. It's an infomercial for your school. KU's fans do a great job of showing up for that. They get excited for this event.
• Self was worried about his team's confidence before Monday night. The Oklahoma State shouldn't have shook KU, but it did a little bit. Usually when confidence is shaken, it's on the offensive end. Self saw his team's confidence was low when it couldn't get the lid off the basket in the first half against TCU. Against OU, KU played above average offensively, which was good for Self to see. The coach said he thinks KU fully got its confidence back against Kansas State.
• Self says KU gets its leadership by committee this year. That's kind of like the 2007-08 team.
• Elijah Johnson hasn't played the way he knows he can play. A lot of that is making shots. If you make shots, a lot of things change. Johnson is a far superior shooter than what his stats show. Self thinks at the end of the year, his stats will be at a comparable level to last year. Self has confidence that will happen.
• When asked if Naadir Tharpe's role will be increased, Self said Tharpe has a pretty big role already. Whether his minutes are 18 or 24 in a game ... that depends on situation. Tharpe has been inconsistent. He's been good one game and not as good the next. He needs to stay aggressive and drive it and let that set up everything else. He's become a good defender. He did a great job guarding KSU's Rodney McGruder in the first half.
• Self hopes Mario Chalmers gets to meet with the team. He's not sure of Chalmers' exact plans yet. A lot of guys are coming back. Chalmers is scheduled to get to Lawrence on Friday.
• Ben McLemore has been pretty good the entire year. Self would like him to get more looks, but teams are going to do things to try to limit his shots. Self thought McLemore looked terrific on Monday.
• There's a reason why little quick guys have so many assists. It's because they force help. KU has to do a better job of doing that. Tharpe was great at it against KSU. Johnson has shown the ability to do that.
• When KU recruited Chalmers, the coaching staff thought he was going to be great. That was a really special recruiting class. It took Chalmers a while to get on track and get used to Self. After Chalmers got comfortable, he was great.
• Perry Ellis needs to see the ball to go in. He's trying hard, and his attitude is great. If he keeps going like he's going, he'll start making shots.
• Self isn't putting pressure on his guys to win the league. He's putting the pressure on the guys to get better.
This has been a tough season for Kansas senior guard Elijah Johnson, who is trying to make the transition from off-guard a year ago to full-time point guard this season. Not helping him is the fact that he still appears to be hampered by a knee injury (though to his credit, he didn't use it as an excuse Monday and even described his knee as "100 percent.").
For most of the season, Johnson has held back the Jayhawks offense. The offensive rating statistic (using a long but trusted formula) tells us how many points a player produces per 100 possessions on his own. This number is used with usage percentage, which tells what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends (average is 20 percent).
The following chart shows the top six KU players' offensive ratings compared to their usage percentages. Players toward the right are the most efficient, while the players toward the top are taking the biggest offensive roles for KU.
The graph shows that Johnson has been KU's most inefficient player by a wide margin. Compounding the problem is that he has the second-highest usage percentage, meaning lots of KU's possessions are ending in the hands of its worst offensive player.
Johnson's numbers also don't compare well to other starting point guards under KU coach Bill Self*.
* — I picked Sherron Collins as KU's point guard in 2009-10 over Tyshawn Taylor, though you could make an argument either way.
In the last nine seasons, no starting point guard at KU has produced less than a point per possession. Right now, Johnson is at 0.94 PPP.
So what issues is Johnson having offensively? Let's start by looking at his shooting breakdown, with information coming from Hoop-Math.com.
Yes, Johnson is shooting a few more two-point jumpers this year, which will bring down his efficiency some. And while shooting fewer three-pointers, his accuracy from long range is still below the NCAA average.
But the glaring number here is Johnson's field-goal percentage on close shots. While shooting a similar percentage of dunks, tipins and layups, Johnson's shooting percentage is down 19 percentage points from a year ago.
What's the reason for this?
It could go back to the position he's playing. Because he's the point guard and not a shooting guard, he's on the delivering end of fast breaks instead of the receiving end.
Here's a comparison of the close shots Johnson has been assisted on this season compared to last.
Johnson doesn't appear to be getting many of the easy baskets he did last year because of his change in roles. Because most assisted baskets come without a dribble, this might also hint that Johnson is more comfortable scoring without putting the ball on the floor.
The switch to point guard also has sapped another part of Johnson's offensive game from a year ago: alley-oops.
According to the KU Athletics game notes, Johnson had 15 dunks in 2011-12. This year, he has three.
Self likes to talk about how players get shooting confidence by making easy shots, and Johnson hasn't had many chances for those as the primary ballhandler. We did see the Jayhawks try to get Johnson an alley-oop on the first possession against Oklahoma State, but Jeff Withey's pass was knocked away for a turnover.
There might be another reason for Johnson struggling on close shots: He might be trying to avoid contact.
Johnson was just 2-for-6 on layup and dunk tries against OSU, and in this video and also this one, he appears to be shying away from contact* as he gets to the rim while also worrying too much about shot-blockers.
Compare those clips to the first 1 1/2 minutes of this video, which shows Johnson's confident drives from the NCAA Tournament last year.
* — I also can't help but think of the Oregon State game, when Johnson went aggressively to the basket before getting fouled and knocked on his tailbone. A play like that could (for good reason) make someone less likely to be aggressive at the rim.
Johnson's efficiency also has been negatively affected by turnovers.
We can see this best if we look at his turnover rate, which measures what percentage of his ended possessions that are used on turnovers.
Johnson appears to especially be struggling with turnovers since his switch back to point guard. Let's compare his turnover rate numbers to those of Tyshawn Taylor, who also was widely criticized for giving the ball away too often.
Taylor — a more gifted ballhandler — had his turnover numbers bounce up and then down again during his four-year career, with his second-best turnover rate coming in his final year.
Johnson, meanwhile, has struggled most during his freshman and senior seasons — the two years when he's been asked to play primarily on the ball instead of off it*.
* — Keep in mind we're dealing with a small sample size his freshman year, when he played just 151 minutes.
Playing off the ball last year, and serving primarily as a spot-up shooter, Johnson had the lowest turnover rate of his career.
This year, though, his mind-set has changed as point guard. You can see it in the final quote of this Kansas City Star story, when Johnson says, " ... as a point guard, you have to make sure that all five people are in order." Or in this quote from Bleacher Report, when he says, "I base my stats on how everybody else plays."
Johnson has made assists his primary focus this season. And while that sounds like the right thing for a senior leader to do, that way of playing seems to bring out the worst with his turnovers.
For comparison, here's a look at Taylor's assist rate (the percentage of his teammates' assists he contributes while he's on the floor) compared to his turnover percentage over his four-year career.
The two numbers don't appear to be related, as Taylor was able to raise his assist total without affecting his turnovers.
That has been more difficult for Johnson.
Johnson's assist rate has spiked this year (he's 136th nationally), but it has come at a steep price, as his turnover rate has soared as well.
Unfortunately for KU, there doesn't appear to be an easy solution.
Tharpe's efficiency numbers are better than Johnson's, but not by a lot. Playing Tharpe more often would result in better offense for KU now, but it also could result in dwindling confidence for Johnson, who was one of KU's best two players (along with Withey) during last year's run to the national championship game.
Self also could put Tharpe in at the 1 and move Johnson back to his natural position at the 2, but that would mean he would have to take one of his two best players off the floor (Ben McLemore or Travis Releford) or he'd have to play Releford out of position at the 4. Doing that would mean Releford — a talented on-ball defender — would have to guard a big man inside.
Because McLemore and Releford are not good ballhandlers — and because KU's ceiling remains highest with Johnson on the floor — Self appears to be ready to stick Johnson back in there with the hope he turns things around.
If he does, it'll most likely be because he increases his efficiency on close shots or limits his turnovers to the point that he once again becomes a valuable player for KU.
Before we get started, here's what Kansas coach Bill Self said about point guard Elijah Johnson during the Big 12 teleconference this morning:
You know what ... you get back and reevaluate it. You take a deep breath and everything. We are 19-2 and the players that have been playing the majority of minutes have performed at a reasonably high level for the most part. We've had some guys play unbelievably well in some situations. Some haven’t. We’ve found a way to kind of piece it together. We haven’t got consistent guard play. I have to do a better job of helping Naadir and Elijah; but Elijah is my guy. He is my guy; we have the best chance to win with Elijah in the game. ... That is the horse we are going to ride. I believe that will be best for our team.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart dominated the game physically. Not very often does a point guard score 25 points and make one shot outside of two feet, and that's what he did. He just whipped KU going after the ball. KU did a great job on the offensive glass in the first half against a really good Oklahoma State defensive rebounding team. That faded in the second half.
• It's too early to tell if Oklahoma State is the second-best team in the Big 12. It has a lot of talent. OSU has played the toughest schedule in the conference so far. Athletically, the Cowboys have got some guys that can play.
• Self has been on Johnson pretty good, because he hasn't played as well as he can play. Self is not pleased with how he's playing. Johnson's not pleased either. But most quarterbacks are judged by their record more than their stats. It should be that way with Johnson. Self says for KU to have any chance to compete at the highest level, it has to have its best players play the best. Johnson is one of KU's best players. Self is going to ride Johnson. But that's his guy.
• Self knows what gives KU the best chance to win is not being emotional about what happened in a certain situation. Doing that might not be the best thing for the long term prospects of his team.
• Self thinks when you worry about shooting, everything else goes haywire. When Johnson starts caring about, "I don't care about my shooting percentage. What can I do to get our team the best shot?" he'll be better off. Sometimes, Johnson puts too much pressure on himself to make shots. He needs to focus more on being a player and not just a shooter. Once he does that, he'll make more shots.
• Jeff Withey's stats are fine. Self says lots of players played under their ceilings against OSU. Withey has done pretty well. It's a long season, and it's a physical season for a guy that has a lot of guys leaning on him. He's done a great job, though.
• Withey has pleasantly surprised Self more than anybody he's had at KU. Withey is stronger, which brings confidence. The biggest thing with him is he's fallen in love with basketball. Self thinks that has as much to do with his progress as anything.
• Self joked there's a chance he might mention the word "toughness" in practice today. Self is upset because he thought his team stood there and took it. KU allowed OSU to take the game. When things were going bad, KU's body language wasn't good. It was almost a mind-set that you might take for granted that other teams can beat you. Self thought his team looked like a spoiled team on Saturday. It's not broken. It's not panic time. But it is a wake-up call to fix some things. The Baltimore Ravens lost a lot of games this year, but they didn't bench quarterback Joe Flacco. Losses are OK if you get better from them. Self says losing at home was good for his team. He would take a home loss over a road loss at this point, because it humbled his team more.
• TCU will be competitive. Coach Trent Johnson is just in his first year. He's building for the future. Johnson knows what he's doing. It's just a matter of time. Self thinks TCU is good for the league, as having a Big 12 team in Dallas is good for recruiting. Self hopes for a good KU turnout in Dallas. The Jayhawks will be happy to play again.
• Does Andrew White III deserve to play more with his talent? Absolutely. But the need of the team is ballhandling and passing, and he doesn't fit that need. Self said truthfully, if KU had better ballhandlers and passers, White would be playing more. KU has always played with multiple guards. It's not doing that as much this year because the team needs Travis Releford and Ben McLemore on the floor at the same time.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.
• Self says he thinks there are lower scores in college basketball this year partly because of greater physicality in college basketball. The officials are calling it just fine, but there's more contact than there used to be. Self thinks across America there are more good defensive teams than offensive teams. National scoring averages being down a point per game is a pretty big number, but Self isn't as concerned with that number being down as some others are.
• Self believes Travis Releford might do as much as anyone in the country as far as helping a team win. He's great with intangibles. Releford is shooting well in Big 12 play, and part of that is because he shoots a lot of layups. Self wants him to be aggressive offensively, though that doesn't always means shoot more.
• Self thinks Ben McLemore and Releford ... those wings go from defense to offense better than any other wings in the country.
• Releford is smart defensively. He's a bright kid and knows how to play the scouting report well. Self gets upset when Releford makes a mental mistake, because he doesn't think that should happen with him.
• Self believed before the year that his team had the potential to be great defensively. Self thinks his team can still improve in some areas. Not many teams have Releford- and Jeff Withey-type defensive players. Self says this team is good defensively, but the 2007-08 team was his best defensively. That team had a lot of pieces. It didn't help the helper defensively; it helped the helper's helper. Self hopes this year's defense can get to that level.
• Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart has good size. What Self likes most is how he has changed OSU's personality as a program. He's going to be a pro.
• Oklahoma State made a lot of plays late to beat Iowa State on Wednesday. Self also saw that OSU scored easy late. That doesn't normally happen in late-game situations, where it's usually tougher to get easy shots.
• Self says OSU has four guys that can "go off" on any night offensively: Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and Smart. Self picked OSU second in the league. From a talent standpoint, OSU might be the best team in the league. It also probably is the most athletic team in the league.
• Ballhandling is a concern for Self. He even joked later, saying, "Hell yes," it was a concern. Self thinks his team sometimes is just careless and lazy. KU has to handle trapping situations better. KU has always been a team that has wanted teams to press it, because it had good guards in the past that loved to break that to get numbers on the other end. To be fair, Self said KU doesn't have the number of ballhandlers this year as it's had in the past. KU needs to a better job of relieving pressure with its bigs. Everyone also needs to be less careless moving forward.
• Self hasn't mentioned the 18-game win streak to the guys. He mentioned the team's national ranking to the guys the other day, telling them to not try to go into protect mode because of it.
• Self is believing that Jeff Withey is starting to get the national attention he deserves. KU has two players at their respective positions (Withey and McLemore) that are playing as well as any players in the country at their positions. One reason Withey's block numbers are going down is because teams aren't attacking him. Teams are taking longer shots, which is fine with Self.
• Self said you have to respect what Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has done. He's happy that Snyder picked up a five-year contract extension. Snyder's getting stronger as he goes. He's better now than he ever has been.
• The Big Ten is great this year. Self says that league has five of the top 15 teams or so. Self thinks Michigan has been the most impressive team to date. Indiana has had great stretches as well. You're going to lose games in that league because of the competition in that conference. Self thinks there are a lot more really good teams overall in college basketball than maybe we thought a month ago.
• Self doesn't buy into the Big 12 being down. He thinks the league had some bad non-conference losses. Conference RPI ranking is determined only in non-conference play. In Big 12 play, it's hard to win on the road. Self thinks the Big 12 does a great job of preparing its teams for postseason play.
• Self doesn't keep track of his team's win streak. He says he would love for KU to get to a 23-game win streak, which would break the school record. But he wants that because it would mean that his team has improved to 12-0 in the league.