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Jordan Juenemann scouting report: Transition D, toughness key against North Carolina

On Saturday, I consulted Kansas senior walk-on Jordan Juenemann for a scouting report of KU's next opponent, North Carolina.

The following is a transcript from our conversation.

Kansas guard Jordan Juenemann drives against Fort Hays State guard Tyrone Phillips during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Justin Wesley.

Kansas guard Jordan Juenemann drives against Fort Hays State guard Tyrone Phillips during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Justin Wesley. by Nick Krug

Jesse Newell: First off, what do you know about North Carolina?

Jordan Juenemann: You talked about last time what sticks out the most. To me, it's their front line with (Tyler) Zeller, a big 7-footer, and (John) Henson, as long and athletic as he is. Then also Harrison (Barnes) at the 3, and just their size. They're also the top rebounding team in the country. I think they're averaging about 42 per game, and that's with 14 offensive rebounds. So that's just really key for them. In transition, they do a lot of stuff in the early offense. It's tough. You really have to stop the ball and get back in transition. They're just so big, and they've had a really good season with only five losses. It's going to come down to a toughness game, for sure ... just willpower.

JN: Defensively, what do they do best?

JJ: They play good defense. Roy (Williams) gets them to play good defense. They really pressure high up the floor, and their bigs are so good that they can just match up one-on-one with any other bigs they face. But they really don't want to play defense that much. They want to get out and run and be on the offensive. You look at their scores ... they're a high-scoring team. They're trying really hard early in the defensive possessions. They just really pressure.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes defends against a pass from Ohio guard Nick Kellogg during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes defends against a pass from Ohio guard Nick Kellogg during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

JN: You talked about how they don't have to help off on bigs. How big of an advantage is that?

JJ: That's a good question. We saw that (Friday) night with Jeff (Withey), how he played. We didn't trap the post on C.J. Leslie or any of those guys. We just played straight up. Jeff helped over on T-Rob a little bit with Leslie, and Jeff ended up coming up with some big blocks. It's nice that you don't have to trap out of the post and then the guards don't have to rotate to guard the backside. So that helps out big-time, just knowing that you have confidence like that. Carolina surely does have that with Zeller — he's just such a big body — and Henson. They're blocking a lot and rebounding a lot.

JN: We hear a lot about transition defense. What is the key to that?

JJ: The key is our bigs getting back and being in strong help. You don't think about it all the time. With our bigs and Jeff, they have to run however many feet it is — 86, 90 feet — every time, from baseline to baseline pretty much. And if they get back fast, then that stops the guard from having a wide-open floor. Because when (the bigs) are running back at the top of the key, they can be in strong help and bluff at them and slow them down a little bit. It takes going to the glass on the offensive rebound, then just getting back and finding our man, because they have some shooters, too. Harrison can shoot it, and their 2 man (Reggie Bullock) can shoot pretty well. So that's the key, is just getting back.

JN: That's interesting. Usually we think of guards stopping transition, but really, it's the bigs that are the key, because they clog things up.

Kansas teammates Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey talks strategy during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas teammates Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey talks strategy during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

JJ: Coach preaches on that a lot, because you see Thomas kind of lag back a little bit and poke at the opposing team when they get the rebound. (Coach) is always like, 'Thomas get back! Thomas get back!' Because it stops a transition layup, too. If you're back at the goal, they can't get that. It's also with guards getting in motion early, picking up and engaging at half-court. It really is on the bigs to do that.

JN: You guys have such limited practice time between these two games. How much can you even pick apart another team in one day?

JJ: That is true, and especially the late night we had (Friday) night. But, they kind of run the same stuff we've seen all year with sets and actions. The big thing would just be keying on what they do in transition early. They do little actions out of that. Just how we're going to guard ball screens, stuff like that. We'll have a practice (Saturday) and get focused in and go through the things that we're going to need to do. But you're right, we don't have much time. We'll mostly just be watching film on them and doing that.

JN: What will be the keys for you guys?

JJ: I've just got to say, it's Carolina, so it's not only going to be about execution or anything about that. It's going to be about making plays, because this is the big-time and the big stage. Like I said, willpower and toughness are going to win this game, not execution or anything. Getting 50-50 balls that are up in the air ... everything.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson gets some contact from North Carolina State forwards DeShaun Painter (0) and Richard Howell during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson gets some contact from North Carolina State forwards DeShaun Painter (0) and Richard Howell during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Rebounding is a big key with them, getting so many rebounds. In the Ohio game, I heard they out-rebounded them by over 30 (63-30). That's just really going to be key. Also, guarding our man and sticking to the gameplan Coach has for us.

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North Carolina’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 24.

Team: North Carolina
Record: 32-5
Seed: 1
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 7

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams laughs as his players talk about video games during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams laughs as his players talk about video games during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Strengths

This might be a surprise, but this year's North Carolina team is actually better defensively than it is offensively (though it ranks in the top 20 nationally in both categories).

The Tar Heels are ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency, mostly because they excel in a few key areas.

For one, UNC almost never gives up free throws. The Tar Heels are No. 1 in the nation in defensive free-throw rate — a statistic that measures how many free throws a team gives up compared to the number of opponent field goals it allows. UNC's opponents have averaged just 13.6 free throws per game, which is even more impressive considering the Tar Heels play at the ninth-fastest pace in the country.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes defends against a pass from Ohio guard Nick Kellogg during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes defends against a pass from Ohio guard Nick Kellogg during the first half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

North Carolina's defense also has been able to limit good shots because of its size; UNC comes in as the tallest team in the nation, according to average height per position.

Opponents have made just 32 percent of their threes (67th nationally) and 43 percent of their twos (23rd nationally) against UNC, while the Tar Heels have blocked 14 percent of the two-pointers against them (16th nationally). UNC also doesn't allow many second chances, grabbing 73 percent of the available defensive rebounds (25th nationally).

UNC ranks 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks to two main factors: turnovers and offensive rebounding. The Tar Heels turn it over on just 17 percent of their possessions (10th nationally) and also grab 40 percent of their missed shots (ninth nationally).

Weaknesses

North Carolina actually isn't a great shooting team, especially from deep.

The Tar Heels have made 34 percent of their three-pointers (169th nationally) and 50 percent of their twos (108th nationally). They also struggle at the free-throw line, where they shoot just 68 percent as a team (220th nationally).

North Carolina forward John Henson puts up an off-balance shot over Ohio forward Ivo Baltic during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward John Henson puts up an off-balance shot over Ohio forward Ivo Baltic during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Defensively, UNC is not a turnover-forcing team, creating giveaways on just 19 percent of its possessions (259th nationally).

The Tar Heels also tend to allow a lot of three-pointers. This season, 36 percent of opponents' shots against UNC have been threes (273rd nationally) and 33 percent of the opposition's points have come from behind the arc (24th-highest split nationally). This trend was evident Friday, when 45 percent of Ohio's shots (32 of 71) and 55 percent of its points (36 of 65) came from three-pointers.

Players to Watch

Let's start with the player that nearly everyone has been asking about this week: point guard Kendall Marshall.

North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall wears a brace on his wrist  during practice at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall wears a brace on his wrist during practice at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-3 sophomore fractured his wrist last week, and the decision on whether he'll play will be a gametime decision.

Marshall is one of the best passers in the nation, contributing 44 percent of his team's assists while he's on the floor (third nationally). Earlier this week, UNC coach Roy Williams said Marshall was the best guard he'd ever had at attacking teams after they score and pitching ahead to teammates.

Marshall barely shoots, attempting only 12 percent of his team's shots when he's in, but that doesn't mean teams can lay off him. The sophomore has made 53 percent of his twos this year (77 of 146) and 35 percent of his threes (28 of 79).

UNC's best player this year statistically has been 7-foot center Tyler Zeller.

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller smiles as he talks about facing the Kansas big men during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller smiles as he talks about facing the Kansas big men during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

The senior has kept his two-point percentage high (55 percent) despite having to take on a huge offensive role for his team. He also draws 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes (34th nationally) and makes 82 percent of his free throws.

Zeller also has been great on the glass, pulling down 14.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds (33rd nationally) and 19.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds (186th nationally).

Six-foot-10 forward John Henson's role is more that of a defensive stopper. The junior blocks 10 percent of the opponents' two-pointers while he's in the game (24th nationally) while also pulling down 26 percent of the available defensive rebounds (21st nationally). He's actually shot more two-pointers than Zeller this year but has only made 50 percent of his shots from there (194 of 386). Henson also has struggled at the line, where he's just a 52-percent shooter.

UNC small forward Harrison Barnes takes the highest percentage of his team's shots (29.1 percent of them when he's out there), and though he's not as efficient as Zeller, he's still solid.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes puts up a jumper during practice at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes puts up a jumper during practice at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

The 6-foot-8 sophomore has made just 47 percent of his twos (174 of 368) but has countered that by putting in 38 percent of his threes (47 of 123) and 73 percent of his free throws (134 of 184).

Reggie Bullock — a 6-7 guard — is UNC's other main three-point threat.

The sophomore has made 38 percent of his threes this year (65 of 171) while keeping his turnovers down.

Bullock suffered a knee injury during Friday's game against Ohio, but he's expected to play against Kansas.

Bottom Line

Sunday's game sets up to be a terrific matchup between two of the best frontcourts in the nation.

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller pulls a rebound from Ohio defenders TyQuane Goard (32) and T.J. Hall during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller pulls a rebound from Ohio defenders TyQuane Goard (32) and T.J. Hall during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

There will be a few storylines to watch:

1. UNC gets 60 percent of its points from two-pointers (14th-highest split nationally), while KU is the No. 1 team in the nation in two-point defense (40 percent). Which team will be better at its strength Sunday?

2. Though KU is also reliant on two-pointers (55 percent of its points come from twos), there's a strong possibility that UNC's strong interior defense and ability to avoid fouls will make it tough for KU in the paint. Will the Jayhawks be able to create and make open threes?

That appeared to be a weakness for UNC's defense on Friday, when Ohio made 12 of 32 threes (38 percent). So far this tournament, though, KU has made only 12 of 54 long-range shots (22 percent).

3. Will KU be able to get back in transition? UNC thrives on getting easy points, and Zeller is one of the best big men in the nation at beating his opponent down the floor for easy looks. KU's Thomas Robinson also has been poke-happy lately, trying to knock away defensive rebounds from opponents instead of immediately running to get back on D.

If KU's defense is able to get set, it should be able to get stops against UNC, provided that the Jayhawks are able to get the defensive rebound.

With a limited rotation, KU coach Bill Self might have to use most of his screaming to urge his team to sprint back defensively.

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles next to Elijah Johnson as his players speak to his personality during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles next to Elijah Johnson as his players speak to his personality during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

UNC's quick pace also should force Self to go to his reserves a bit more than he might in other games. Self has critiqued himself all year, saying that he's needed to sub more.

He'll have to be extremely disciplined to follow his own advice in KU's biggest game of the year.

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N.C. State scouting report from … KU walk-on Jordan Juenemann

I was impressed with Kansas walk-on Jordan Juenemann's ability to break down a matchup from talking to him during this video last week. (Be sure to check it out if you haven't seen it yet.)

So Thursday, I figured I'd get his thoughts about the KU-N.C. State matchup set for 9:17 p.m. Friday.

The following is a transcript from our conversation. I've added links to give you more information about some of the technical basketball terms he discusses in case you'd like to learn more about them.

Kansas guard Jordan Juenemann puts in a bucket past Texas Tech defenders Jaye Crockett, left, and Deshon Minnis during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Jordan Juenemann puts in a bucket past Texas Tech defenders Jaye Crockett, left, and Deshon Minnis during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Jesse Newell: What do you see from N.C. State? What challenges do the Wolfpack bring?

Jordan Juenemann: I see they’re very athletic. That sticks out the most, just with their guards being 6-5, 6-5. A shooter in (Scott Wood) in 6-6 that, 75 percent of his shots are threes. Then you also have their posts, 6-8 and 6-8 with C.J. Leslie and (Richard) Howell. You just see they’re really athletic, and they’re a really good defensive team on the first side, because they get out and pressure. And their bigs are playing well. They’re on a roll, and their athleticism sticks out, and that helps them out.

JN: As a practice squad, what do you guys do to try to prepare your team to get ready for NC State?

JJ: We learned their whole offense, most all their sets and what they do — their regular offense that they fall back into out of everything. Really, they just kind of go out and play. With Lorenzo Brown the point guard, he’s very talented. But we learned their whole sets, and we made sure we went over it live with the first team. And all the guys guarded us in all their actions. And we got it down pretty well.

So it was nice doing that against the first team, so they could practice guarding all those things, because they do some stuff with their bigs. They duck-in a lot with their posts, and they really post hard. And it’s like a Triangle-kind of offense that they get into ...

... where it’s a down screen ...

and duck-ins with their two posts and a guard in it the whole time. So, we were doing that with them.

JN: You said you learned their offense. What do you guys do to learn that?

JJ: Coach (Kurtis) Townsend’s got the scout, so we would meet 20, 25 minutes before practice — the red squad — and Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (Traylor) really helped us out big time. It took us a little bit. It took us longer than it should have. We were expecting 20, 25 minutes. It took us about 30 or 40 minutes with coach Townsend, just because we were doing it each side and really getting it down.

Coach Townsend had all the sets and the names. We correlate the names to what the action is, so that helps out a lot. Just with our experience, we just try to get that down the best we could, because we talk about the national championship year, and coach Townsend said that our red team ran the offense better than the actual team that we played. It really helps out our guys, because you know what’s coming even before the games happen. So to have that asset ... I find it important for us to do that.

JN: How early in the week do you do that?

The Jayhawks take the court during a day of press conferences and practices at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

The Jayhawks take the court during a day of press conferences and practices at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

JJ: We started Tuesday. They guarded us live Tuesday a little bit. Then (Wednesday) quite a bit. Then (Thursday) they guarded us. And we’ll break it down, like that Triangle action with the guard and the two posts. We’ll break it down with just guard and that for a drill in practice.

It’s nothing too advanced or anything. It’s conventional, which is a good thing. They have two post guys and three guards like us, and we’re used to that, unlike the Purdue matchups or Iowa State where your 5-man is bringing it up. ...

JN: So what is a big key for you guys on Friday?

JJ: With their athleticism, they get out and pressure on the first side. We really need to get the ball side to side, because they’ll break down. With them just being so athletic, rebounding is key. Just to keep those guys off the glass, because I think they’re averaging 10 offensive rebounds a game (This season, NCSU is averaging 12.1 offensive rebounds per game).

Then in transition, stopping them, because they just get out and run. Their bigs ... C.J. Leslie, Coach said he’s like Tyshawn (Taylor) but faster — as fast as Tyshawn if not faster. And that’s such a big thing is transition and getting out and going. And Wood will spot up on the three in transition, and we don’t want him to get going. So just like what Coach says is rebounding and transition ... stop that, and that’ll be a big key for us.

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NC State’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 22.

Team: NC State
Record: 24-12
Seed: 11
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 35

North Carolina State's C.J. Williams, right, celebrates the team's win over Georgetown in an an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. N.C. State beat Georgetown, 66-63.

North Carolina State's C.J. Williams, right, celebrates the team's win over Georgetown in an an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. N.C. State beat Georgetown, 66-63. by Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Strengths

NC State is best on the offensive end, where it ranks 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Wolfpack's greatest strength is offensive rebounding, as it pulls down 36 percent of the available caroms (51st nationally). Not only are NCSU's players athletic, they're also tall: Six of the players in the Wolfpack's seven-man rotation are 6 foot 5 or taller.

NC State limits turnovers — giving it away on just 19 percent of its possessions (79th nationally) — and also is a balanced shooting team. The Wolfpack makes 50 percent of its twos (93rd nationally) and 36 percent of its threes (99th nationally).

Having said that, NCSU gets almost all its points inside. Fifty-eight percent of the Wolfpack's scoring comes from two-pointers, which is the 33rd-highest split nationally.

Defensively, NC State is strongest in the paint as well. The Wolfpack allows opponents to shoot just 46 percent from two-point range (81st nationally) while blocking 10 percent of the opposition's two-point shots (93rd nationally).

NCSU also is a strong defensive rebounding team, grabbing 70 percent of the available defensive boards (99th nationally).

Weaknesses

NC State does not force teams into many mistakes, creating turnovers on just 19 percent of its defensive possessions (259th nationally) while playing mostly man and 2-3 zone.

The Wolfpack also allows an above-average number of three-pointers, with opponents shooting 34 percent from three against them (141st nationally).

Though NCSU gets most of its shots inside and plays at a fast tempo, it doesn't get to the line much, averaging just 21 free-throw attempts per game.

The Wolfpack also has one of the thinnest benches in the country. NCSU's reserves play just 20.9 percent of the team's minutes, ranking 332nd nationally. That's an even lower percentage than KU (23.5 percent, 309th nationally).

Players to Watch

Statistically, two of NC State's best players are sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown and junior forward Richard Howell.

Though he will turn it over, Brown is great at penetrating and also is one of the nation's best passers, contributing assists on 35 percent of his team's field goals while he's in (29th nationally).

Duke's Seth Curry falls as North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) drives to the basket during the second half of a game in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Duke won, 78-73.

Duke's Seth Curry falls as North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) drives to the basket during the second half of a game in Durham, N.C., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Duke won, 78-73.

The 6-5 Brown has made 49 percent of his twos (137 of 282) but isn't much of a three-point shooter, making just just 25 of 73 tries from deep (34 percent). Brown is a strong defender, creating steals on 3.1 percent of his defensive possessions (213th nationally) while averaging just 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes (86th nationally).

The 6-8 Howell is an outstanding rebounder on both ends of the floor. He's best on the offensive glass, where he grabs 16 percent of the Wolfpack's misses (17th nationally), but he also leads the team by pulling down 23 percent of the available defensive rebounds (73rd nationally).

Howell is efficient from two-point range, making 50 percent of his shots there (156 of 310). He also draws 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes but isn't a great free throw shooter, knocking down just 64 percent of his shots at the line.

Six-foot-8 forward C.J. Leslie was selected as a second-team All-ACC pick this year but appears to be overrated a bit simply because of a high scoring average (14.6 points per game).

North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, right, collides with Georgetown's Henry Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game, Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. NC State defeated Georgetown 66-63.

North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, right, collides with Georgetown's Henry Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game, Sunday, March 18, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. NC State defeated Georgetown 66-63.

The sophomore, who was Rivals.com's 14th-best player in the class of 2010, takes a team-high 26 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game. He's a good shooter inside, making 54 percent of his twos (181 of 337), and he also provides a presence defensively, pulling down 20 percent of the available defensive rebounds (179th nationally) and blocking 6 percent of opponents' two-point tries (137th nationally).

Some of his other numbers, though, have hurt his overall production. Leslie turns it over at a high clip for a big man, as he's had six games where he's turned it over five times or more. He's also averaged 3.3 turnovers over his last six games and doesn't balance that out with many assists (36 assists in his 33 games this year).

Leslie also draws 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes but has struggled at the line, where he's made just 59 percent (108 of 182).

Junior forward Scott Wood is NCSU's only true three-point threat. The 6-foot-6 Wood is a high-volume, high-accuracy three-point shooter (think in the mold of Baylor's Brady Heslip or Purdue's Ryne Smith), making 42 percent of his treys this year (93 of 223) while keeping his turnovers low.

NCSU's final starter C.J. Williams is someone who probably isn't as assertive as he should be. He's made a team-high 57 percent of his twos this year (122 of 213) but only shoots 19 percent of his team's shots when he's in.

Bottom Line

Remember all those characteristics that Purdue had that teams should want to have as an underdog (slow tempo, high risk-high reward offense)?

NC State does not match that profile at all.

The Wolfpack likes to get out in transition and plays at a fast pace, ranking 84th nationally in tempo. If that holds up Friday, KU will have plenty of possessions to prove it's the better team, which is an advantage for the Jayhawks.

As mentioned above, NCSU also rarely shoots threes. Because three-point shooting is highly variable, it's much more unpredictable than two-point shooting. Defenses also can have more of an effect on two-pointers than three-pointers.

In short, a lucky stretch of three-pointers shouldn't sink KU in this game, which is another positive for the Jayhawks.

KU also shouldn't have a problem playing its best lineup. NCSU will play a more traditional starting five with two big men, meaning Jeff Withey should receive huge minutes if he's able to stay out of foul trouble.

The comfort of this game for KU should be that, if NCSU wins, it will have won beating KU at its own game.

The Wolfpack, which scores almost all its points inside, will have to score those points against the second-best two-point defense in the nation (40 percent). It'll also have to try to snatch offensive rebounds away from the nation's top defensive rebounder, Thomas Robinson.

Meanwhile, NCSU's stingy interior defense will have to limit KU's strong front line, which has led the Jayhawks to a 54-percent two-point percentage this year (12th nationally).

KenPom predicts a nine-point victory, giving the Jayhawks a 79-percent chance of winning.

The difference between this game and the Purdue game is that it will be much tougher for NC State to make up those nine points because it doesn't play a risky style.

That isn't to say NC State can't win. But the odds are definitely stacked against the Wolfpack to beat a more talented team in a style, pace and fashion that the Jayhawks are most comfortable playing.

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How a missed blockout and a lucky carom helped KU take down Purdue

Normally this would be the time to look ahead to Kansas' next opponent, but with such a dramatic finish in KU's 63-60 victory over Purdue on Sunday, I wanted to go back to take a deeper look at the Jayhawks' critical defensive possession in the final minute.

Let's set up the situation. KU led, 61-60, with 23.3 seconds left. Purdue had the basketball after a KU timeout. Here's the cued-up video if you want to follow along.

After the game, Purdue's Robbie Hummel said the plan was for him to come off a screen to receive a pass. We can see from the video that Hummel is supposed to curl around Terone Johnson, who sets a ball screen for teammate Lewis Jackson first.

Something very important happens here: Notice that Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson switch on the original ball screen.

When Purdue had gone to a small lineup this season, most teams put their big man on Johnson, who was easier to guard from the perimeter (31-percent three-point shooter, 22 of 71) than the taller Hummel (38-percent three-point shooter, 72 of 188).

When KU switched in the second half to put Travis Releford on Hummel, Robinson was forced to guard the 6-2 Johnson.

This change forces KU away from its normal defensive principles. Instead of hedging on ball screens, KU — with its small lineup — is now switching all ball screens.

"It's just different," KU coach Bill Self said, "when you haven't practiced that way a ton."

Robinson is focused, though, and switches as he's supposed to. The bigger issue for KU is that this creates a mismatch, putting the point guard Jackson against Robinson, who is a foot taller but not nearly as quick.

Even with the mismatch, Purdue's plan is to get the ball to its best player, Hummel, on this final possession.

Hummel starts to come around the screen when he notices something: Releford is overplaying him defensively.

Releford anticipates Hummel's cut, so he tries to beat him around the screen to deny the ball.

In the middle of a play designed for him, Hummel reads the defense and calls his own audible.

He back-cuts Releford.

And for a few frames, he is wide open.

This is still a tough read for Jackson, who is expecting Hummel to come to the top of the circle to receive a pass.

When he doesn't see Hummel there, it looks like the point guard's instinct takes over, and in this case, that means doing what he does best: trying to drive the ball. Remember, he still has Robinson guarding him.

If Jackson would have looked up, he'd have seen an open Hummel. And if Jackson would've gotten the pass around Robinson, Hummel would have almost certainly had an uncontested layup, as Purdue's spacing would have made it nearly impossible for any of the Jayhawks to help on D.

Even though Hummel's snap decision left him open, the senior said he regretted it afterwards.

"I probably should have just come off the screen," Hummel said, "but he was on top of me, so I tried to back up for a layup."

Hummel described the next few seconds as a scramble.

With Jackson's timid drive cut off by Robinson, Hummel dashes to the perimeter to go get the ball.

When he receives it, Jackson makes a smart play and sets a quick ball screen for him to clear some space.

Remember how well Robinson did switching on the first ball screen above?

He's not as quick to react here. Robinson is late to get to the perimeter to help out Releford on the screen.

The result is Hummel getting off a clean shot on what, a few seconds ago, was a broken play.

"I got a pretty good look," Hummel said. "I thought it was going in. It felt good off my hand. It was just a little bit short. I thought Lewis did a very good job of finding me there, and that's on me to make that one. I just didn't make it."

One last interesting thing on this play: Notice that each KU player, because of Purdue's positioning on the perimeter, has good position for the defensive rebound. Tyshawn Taylor has inside position on Johnson, Conner Teahan has inside position on Ryne Smith and Elijah Johnson has inside position on D.J. Byrd.

Watch what happens, though. Taylor gets caught up in watching the shot and doesn't even attempt to box Johnson out.

With a running start, Johnson deflects the ball away from Teahan, who had kept good rebounding position by staying between Smith and the rim.

The deflected ball zips by Smith before making its way to Robinson.

And here's where Taylor's missed blockout becomes a blessing.

Robinson now has a clear lane to throw cross-court, as Terone Johnson has taken himself out of the play by (correctly) gambling to go for the offensive rebound.

Because Taylor didn't get inside position, that also means he has a head start on the rest of the Boilermakers down the floor. This gives him a two-step advantage for an uncontested dunk to put KU up three.

KU's defense definitely wasn't perfect on the above possession, but as you can see, a missed shot, a blown boxout and a good bounce ended up being enough to get the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.

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Purdue’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 17.

Team: Purdue
Record: 22-12
Seed: 10
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 23

Purdue guard Lewis Jackson gets past Saint Mary's forward Mitchell Young for a bucket during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. At left is Saint Mary's forward Rob Jones.

Purdue guard Lewis Jackson gets past Saint Mary's forward Mitchell Young for a bucket during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. At left is Saint Mary's forward Rob Jones. by Nick Krug

Strengths

Purdue has been outstanding offensively this year, ranking sixth nationally in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Boilermakers' greatest strength is getting shots up. Purdue is No. 1 in the nation in offensive turnover percentage, giving it away on just 13.5 percent of its possessions. Opponents also find it hard to get steals, coming away with swipes on just 5.9 percent of Purdue's possessions.

Purdue is a dangerous three-point shooting team, making 37.6 percent of its shots from deep (45th nationally). The scarier part for KU might be the number of three-point attempts the Boilermakers take, as 37.3 percent of Purdue's shots are threes (45th nationally).

Weaknesses

Defensively, Purdue hasn't been great. The Boilermakers rank 87th in adjusted defensive efficiency and thrive in few areas after playing the nation's 14th-toughest schedule.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter gets at his defense during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter gets at his defense during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. by Nick Krug

More than anything, the Boilermakers haven't been able to limit good shots. Opponents make 49.4 percent of their twos (231rd nationally) and 34.8 percent of their threes (189th nationally) against Purdue, while the team also doesn't force a lot of turnovers (19.7 percent, 200th nationally).

Purdue does not grab many offensive rebounds, pulling down 31.2 percent of the available caroms (211th nationally). Free throws also are a weakness, as Purdue has made just 65.7 percent of its attempts from the line (281st nationally).

Players to Watch

Even after two torn ACLs, 6-foot-8 senior forward Robbie Hummel remains as Purdue's best player offensively.

Purdue forward Robbie Hummel (4) reaches high to slap hands with teammate Terone Jonnson during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Purdue forward Robbie Hummel (4) reaches high to slap hands with teammate Terone Jonnson during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. by Nick Krug

The All-Big Ten first-teamer shoots 28.9 percent of his team's shots on the floor (126th nationally) while remaining an efficient player. He's only made 44 percent of his twos this year (117 of 268) but has to be respected as a three-point shooter, making 37 percent there (65 of 175).

Hummel's greatest strength, though, is his ability to not turn the ball over. He is No. 1 nationally in turnover percentage, as just 6.7 percent of his used possessions result in giveaways. Here's another way to look at it: Hummel has more than one turnover in just seven of Purdue's 34 games, and that's while averaging more than 32 minutes per game.

Hummel is also Purdue's best defensive rebounder, grabbing 21.6 percent of the available boards on that end (113th nationally).

Lewis Jackson, a 5-9 point guard, gives Purdue its best threat off the dribble. He's made 50 percent of his twos (114 of 227) while also drawing 4.7 fouls per game. He's not a danger from three, though, where he's attempted just 26 all season (six of 26, 23 percent).

Purdue has two other deadly three-point shooters KU will need to track. Senior Ryne Smith pretty much only shoots threes (he has only 34 two-point attempts all season), but he's made 43.8 percent of his long range shots while taking a whopping 201 of them (88 of 201). His statistical profile almost exactly matches that of Baylor's Brady Heslip, if you're looking for a comparable player.

Meanwhile, Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year D.J. Byrd has made 43 percent of his threes this year (61 of 142) while posting one of the nation's best turnover percentages (8 percent, eighth nationally). He also shoots a lot, putting up 24.9 percent of the Boilermakers' field-goal attempts when he's in.

Purdue guard D.J. Byrd puts up a shot against Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Purdue guard D.J. Byrd puts up a shot against Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova during the second half on Friday, March 16, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. by Nick Krug

Bottom Line

Don't let Purdue's 12 losses fool you; the Boilermakers played a tough schedule this year and have seven losses to KenPom top-10 teams.

Purdue is a gifted offensive team that is dangerous because it has few turnovers and is nearly guaranteed to get a lot of shots up.

As mentioned above, the scariest part for KU is the high percentage of threes that Purdue shoots. In a one-game setting, this can make for a wide range of outcomes.

Think of it like this: With every three-pointer Purdue takes against KU, it's buying a lottery ticket. Hey, there's the chance that you get 14 straight lottery tickets that lose. If that happens — and Purdue misses almost all its threes — KU has a chance to bury the Boilermakers and win by 20 or more.

But that's the thing about the lottery tickets ... though over time, you will always lose, on a given day, you might win.

As an underdog, the Boilermakers have the tendencies (average-to-slow tempo, high-risk, high-reward offense) that you want when facing a favorite in March.

With a lack of size, Purdue also has played small for much of the year, which included Friday's 72-69 victory over St. Mary's.

We've seen KU struggle when it's had to go small against Missouri, and Purdue could present many of the same challenges Sunday.

In short, Purdue is a scary matchup because it is good offensively and has the potential to make up points with a string of good luck.

KenPom predicts a seven-point KU victory, giving the Jayhawks a 73-percent chance of winning.

The Jayhawks will increase their chances of winning if they limit their help on drives and stick to Purdue's shooters on the perimeter to try to prevent the Boilermakers' lottery tickets.

Meanwhile, KU needs to perform better offensively against a weak defensive team; the Jayhawks posted just 0.96 points per possession against Detroit on Friday.

KU will have to be better Sunday to outscore Purdue ... though the return of guard Tyshawn Taylor to full-time duty should definitely help.

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Detroit’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 11.

Team: Detroit
Record: 22-13
Seed: 15
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 115

Detroit coach Ray McCallum, left, celebrates with his son and guard Ray McCallum Jr. following the team's 70-50 victory over Valparaiso in the Horizon League men's tournament title game on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Valparaiso, Ind.

Detroit coach Ray McCallum, left, celebrates with his son and guard Ray McCallum Jr. following the team's 70-50 victory over Valparaiso in the Horizon League men's tournament title game on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Valparaiso, Ind.

Strengths

Detroit's strengths mostly come on the offensive end.

The Titans get to the free throw line often, attempting 24 free throws per game. Detroit also makes a lot of the shots once it gets there (74 percent, 37th nationally).

Detroit has been solid on the offensive glass, pulling down 35 percent of its misses (68th nationally). UDM also is a good shooting team inside, making 50 percent of its two-pointers (92nd nationally).

Defensively, the Titans force turnovers on 22 percent of opponents' possessions (63rd nationally). UDM also blocks a lot of shots, swatting 13 percent of opponents' two-point attempts (26th nationally).

Weaknesses

Detroit is not a good team defensively, ranking 178th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency measure.

The Titans haven't defended shooters well this season, as opponents are making 49 percent of their two-pointers (200th nationally) and 37 percent of their threes (294th nationally).

UDM also is foul-prone — allowing 19.9 free throws per game — and isn't a great defensive rebounding team, pulling down just 67 percent of the available defensive rebounds.

Offensively, Detroit has been abysmal from three-point range. The Titans have made just 30 percent of their shots beyond the arc (326th nationally) and average just 15 attempted three-pointers per game.

Players to Watch

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Detroit's best player is former McDonald's All-American Ray McCallum Jr.

Detroit guard Ray McCallum (3) goes to the basket against Mississippi State center Wendell Lewis, right, in the second half on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, in Detroit.

Detroit guard Ray McCallum (3) goes to the basket against Mississippi State center Wendell Lewis, right, in the second half on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, in Detroit.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore does almost all of his damage from two-point range and at the free throw line. He's made 56 percent of his twos this year (158 of 284) and also draws 4.9 fouls per 40 minutes (322nd nationally). Once he gets to the line, he makes 'em, as he's a 77-percent free throw shooter this year. McCallum also is a good defender, coming away with steals on 2.7 percent of his team's possessions.

McCallum's weakness has been his three-point shooting, as he's made just 25 percent of his treys this year (30 of 120).

Six-foot-6 senior guard Chase Simon is second on the team in points per game (13.5), but he's a much less scary option. Not only is he more turnover-prone than McCallum, he's also a worse shooter inside, making just 42 percent of his two-pointers despite attempting 254 of them.

Simon actually shoots more while he's on the floor (25 percent of his team's shots) than McCallum Jr. (24.8 percent), despite being the less-efficient option.

The one three-point shooter that KU needs to worry about is Jason Calliste, who has made 35 percent of his threes while attempting 4.5 long-range shots per game.

Detroit also has a pair of decent big men in 6-10 junior Eli Holman and 6-11 senior LaMarcus Lowe.

Holman's specialty is rebounding, as he comes away with 14.5 percent of the available offensive rebounds (29th nationally) and 21.4 percent of the available defensive rebounds (119th nationally). He's also efficient offensively, making 61 percent of his twos. One of the only things holding him back is playing time, as he's played in only 41 percent of Detroit's minutes this year.

Lowe, meanwhile, is more known for his shot-blocking. He's swatted 11.4 percent of opponents' two-pointers while he's been in, which ranks 14th nationally.

Bottom Line

Detroit has an elite talent in McCallum Jr. and also is the second-best 15th seed, according to KenPom (only Lehigh at No. 86 is better).

All-Access with Detroit Mercy from CollegeInsider.com on Vimeo.

Still, there are a few reasons to think that an upset will be unlikely against KU.

For one, Detroit plays at a fast pace, ranking 73rd in adjusted tempo. Usually, the best chance for a much-lower-seeded team to pull off an upset is to slow the pace down and limit possessions. The more possessions there are in a game, the more chances a team like Kansas will have to prove that it is the better team.

Detroit also is a team that does not make — and more importantly, does not take — a lot of three-pointers. Only 27.6 percent of Detroit's field goals are three-point attempts (293rd nationally), meaning KU shouldn't have to worry about its first-round opponent pulling off a stunner by having a lucky stretch of three-point shooting.

The numbers would suggest that the Jayhawks should have success against Detroit's defense — which is about NCAA average — if they can avoid turnovers.

Defensively, KU will need to pay most attention to McCallum Jr. while also avoiding unnecessary fouls that would give Detroit the chance at easy points.

Considering everything, expect KU to be about a 15-point Vegas favorite against Detroit, making it an unlikely upset in the round of 64.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 3/5/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

The ball moves on offense much better for KU compared to earlier in the season. Guys also trust each other more and have become more comfortable with their roles. Also, players have gotten better individually.

• Self thinks it's probably a good point that KU's players had to learn to become starters. Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey were ready to be starters because they had gotten better and paid their dues at KU. A lot people say they want to have a greater role, but they have to prove from their actions that they're ready for it. A lot of backup quarterbacks want to be the signal-callers until it's fourth quarter, and you have to go the length of the field and they're rushing six on you. It's something you have to go through and get used to.

Self doesn't think Thomas Robinson has a huge repertoire of post moves, and KU doesn't teach him a ton. You need to be able to score over your left shoulder and right shoulder, and you need to have a counter to both of those. Self doesn't think there's an important reason to teach a post guy 14 moves. But footwork is different — catching and feeling comfortable with your footwork. Self doesn't think that coaches should cloud young kids' minds with a lot of moves.

Robinson has always had the moves he's had this year in his bag, but he's just never been able to use them. One thing that is good about Thomas: He can shoot it, but he also can drive it and catch you leaning, and if you are leaning, he can make a move off your lean. Danny Manning is good at working with those guy on certain things. You don't need a ton of moves, though; just be good at what you do. NBA players keep it simple as well in the post.

Self says that KU can be as good on the perimeter defensively as it's ever been during his tenure here. Releford, Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor all have the potential to be lockdown defenders. KU just doesn't play that way all the time. It's not something you just do. Self gets a kick out of coaches that say, 'We're not guarding very good, so we're going to practice defense this week and get great.' It doesn't work that way. It's a mind-set.

Withey's sweeping hook developed at KU. Sometimes, though, Withey takes himself out of a better shot because he moves himself further away from the basket when he shoots the hook. But Self does think that's an effective move for Withey. He thinks he should probably try to shoot that every game.

Self says he doesn't care about the Big 12 coach of the year voting. Self says he voted for Missouri's Frank Haith to be conference coach of the year, because he thought he deserved it. Though Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg did a remarkable job as well. Having three different Big 12 coaches of the year this season is a tribute to the coaches in the league. There have been four teams in the league (KU, MU, Iowa State, Baylor) that far surpassed what their expectations were. You could make a case for a lot of different guys. That doesn't bother Self at all, and it's probably good for the league.

Self didn't guess Withey would be Big 12 defensive player of the year, but he did predict that Withey would lead the conference in blocks before this season started. Withey deserves defensive Big 12 player of the year. Self doesn't think anyone one blocks or alters shots better than him in the conference. Withey has been consistent on the defensive end. One reason Robinson has had such a great year is because Withey defends the other team's best post player to keep Robinson from fouls. Withey has been great for KU. He's had a terrific year.

Self thinks it's time for Releford to get back to being a defensive stopper. He can get it back through practice and his mind-set. The best way to keep a player from scoring is to not let him shoot it. But that's something that Releford and Johnson can do a better job of. Self is sure that Releford's foot is fine from his injury earlier this year. Self hasn't even thought about that. Self hasn't heard one complaint. He's not getting treatment for it.

• Self thinks distractions have more to do with winning and losing at this time of year than anything else. Some people say, "How can there be distractions?" Self thinks, "How could you not be distracted?" when there are so many things going on with family and people in your ear, including runners, who tell players what they need to show people to increase their stock. If you have 100-percent trust, you have fewer distractions. If a player thinks that people on the outside know more than the people on the inside, you're going to have major distractions.

Mature guys basically cut everybody off. Mature coaches cut everybody off. That's not easy to do at all. Those are the things that Self worries about as much as anything else. Before the VCU game last year, Self has never had a team any looser. It was perfect. Then you go into it, and it just has a different feel to it. Who knows how KU will react, but Self thinks the team will be prepared to react well.

Manning has been an unbelievable influence for KU. He's been a great role model. He's a great teacher, and the guys respect him. Self can't imagine KU having a better guy coaching big men than Manning. He gets a lot of credit for KU's big men, but Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend are great with the guards, too.

• Self thinks that this year's team is a relatively mature group. His team isn't overly mature. KU still blows leads and things like that, but when the going gets tough, KU's guys hunker down pretty well.

Oklahoma led KU at halftime in Norman, Okla. Texas A&M led KU at home in the second half. A&M plays more like KU, with a lot of man-to-man. KU will work against 3-2 zone in practice just in case it plays OU. The round-robin is good in that it's an easier scout for these other teams, as you've played every Big 12 team recently.

Self doesn't think offense will be at a premium in the Big 12 tournament. It seems to Self like the second time you play a team in conference, the offense usually isn't as good, because people scout you. Everybody in the league knows all the calls and the tendencies.

Self says it would be great to play Missouri in the final, because that means KU has won two games in the Big 12 tournament. It would also be fantastic to play Iowa State or Texas, because KU would have won two games.

Self doesn't know enough about the process to know what KU needs to do to earn a No. 1 seed. To Self, Kentucky and Syracuse are No. 1 seeds on matter what. Also, Self thinks one No. 1 seed will be from the ACC. Maybe one can emerge from the Big Ten. Then Missouri and KU would still be in the running. Self thinks some weird things would have to happen for the winner of the Big 12 to not have a great chance at a No. 1 seed.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 3/1/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

Self's relationship with Tyshawn Taylor has been good. He can frustrate you, but Self is sure he frustrated his mother and father. He's meant about as much to KU's program as anybody who's been here four years. He's one of the premier players in America. He deserves All-American consideration. He needs nine hours to graduate, so he'll walk in May. He's emotional, sometimes too emotional, but that's one of his biggest assets as well. He means a lot to Self personally. Self usually doesn't get emotional about certain things, but he can see himself get emotional about him because of how far he's come. For him to improve as much as he has is pretty good. He's felt the weight of the KU fans, and sometimes rightfully so, but Self thinks Taylor's turned everyone with his play this year.

Tyshawn's gone through a lot, too. He hasn't had it easy by any stretch. He's overcome a lot. He had great mentoring growing up. Since he's been here, he's done what you hope every kid would do. He's given himself to this place. He's had a great career; he just hasn't always been smooth getting to the end result. It's been pretty amazing to Self.

Tyshawn always wanted for a team to be his team. He always wanted to have a bigger role, but that was sometimes tough with all the great players KU had in years past. He's embraced the leadership role this year. Self believes the more he's been given freedom and the more he's been given a role, the more he's embraced it and the more unselfish he's become in the helping of others.

The only time Taylor could have considered going pro was after his freshman year, and that would have been a bonehead move. The decision would have been made before he played USA Basketball that summer, where he played well and led the team in scoring. Because of that, in his mind, he had been anointed a bigger role than what he had, and Self thinks that's why he struggled sophomore year. No matter how you looked at it, Taylor was KU's fifth-best offensive option that year. The way they system is set up has benefited Taylor the way it was intended to benefit him. You get better every year; you have a bigger role every year; then when you leave, you're as prepared as you can be. Self doesn't think Taylor could leave out of here being more prepared than he is to take the next step.

Self thinks national player of the year is a two-horse race, and both horses are good. You could make a strong case for Thomas Robinson, but Self thinks you could make a great argument for Kentucky's Anthony Davis as well. One difference is that defenses focus in to stop Robinson, whereas Kentucky is more balanced, so defenses aren't designed to stop Davis. Davis will be the No. 1 pick. But Self believes as a college player this year, Robinson has had the best year.

Self says Taylor not being on the 30-person Naismith list is a snub. If Taylor isn't one of the best 15 players in the country, it would be unbelievable to Self.

Self said it would be a coin flip as to whether Taylor or Robinson is more valuable to KU. You could make a case that Taylor has had every bit the conference season that Robinson has had. For the whole season, Robinson has been better. Self wouldn't mind co-players of the year. Missouri's Marcus Denmon deserves to be in the conversation, too. Self thinks those three should finish 1, 2 and 3. If you just look at the conference season, though, Taylor and Robinson have been equally important to KU.

Self says he appreciates three conference championships the most while at KU. The first was when KU started 1-2 in the conference and tied for the title (2005-06). That's one Self will always remember. The second is 2008-09 after KU lost all its players from the title year. This one being a round-robin and talking about how much more difficult this one will be to win a round-robin, Self thinks this title equals those previous two, and maybe is worth even more.

Self says the new format made the conference championship more difficult. KU might have benefited from having an 18-game schedule because the Big 12 North was so good this year. KU has gotten some breaks this year, but Self also noted that only two of KU's Big 12 wins have been by less than five points. KU's guys have done a good job from start to finish.

Texas can beat KU. The Longhorns could easily come in and rock KU's world. You look at Senior night around the country, sometimes guys are nervous about postgame speeches and other things. Texas could get KU, and it would be a nice resume-builder for them. J'Covan Brown always goes nuts against KU as well.

Brown is going to get points. KU did a pretty good job defensively on him, and he still put up numbers. KU has to eliminate transition. Self's never been one to say, "Let's stop him." He's been more a coach to say, "Let's stop them." Lots of guys have scored high-point totals against KU, but KU has still been able to beat that player's team many times.

Conner Teahan has similar value to everyone else on the team. He's a threat. You have to guard him. Self had a recruit tell him after the Missouri game that every time Robinson had a good shot on the block, Teahan was on his side, because MU had to respect that he could shoot it. That's smart for a recruit to figure out. The value isn't just Teahan making shots. The value is him being on the court. Self thinks he holds great value.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 2/16/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

The ideal amount of minutes for Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson would be 32-33 minutes. Self gave the guys the last two days off to recharge their batteries. KU doesn't practice a very long time. On Thursday, KU will practice about an hour and a half.

Jeff Withey is a guy that averaged three minutes a game last year. It is pretty much out of left field to be the player he has been the last week and a half. His performance has taken KU to another level. If you're a 7-foot player and playing 24 minutes a game at KU, you should average nine points and seven rebounds per game. That should be a given.

Self sent Withey to the free throw line against Baylor to put him in that situation just in case KU ever needed him to shoot in that situation down the road. It's different shooting at the line with no one else around you. Withey had another opportunity to shoot those free throws against Kansas State.

If you look at Withey's last three games, almost all of his shots have been layups. Withey is playing great, but he's making easy plays. Usually there's a reason a guy has a good game, and sometimes it's because of the way an opponent guards the rest of the team. Withey's two tip-ins against Kansas State were unbelievable plays. He's been so much more aggressive. He's going after the ball.

• Self says he talks about the Big 12 standings every day. KU keeps track of the standings in the film room. KU does think about those standings. In a basketball game, the last four minutes are the most important, because if you mess up, there's no time to recover. The same can be said about the standings. The end schedule is important because there's less time for a team to make up for a loss.

• To Self, the postseason is the most important season, and part of that is because the media has made it that way. It's called the "Road to the Final Four." CBS has done a great job promoting it. There are Bracketology sites out there. Self thinks sometimes the conference season is lost out there. Self asked if the New York Giants were better than the Green Bay Packers this year. The Giants had a better three weeks. If a team wins the Big 12, you can be considered one of the teams that is a contender to cut down the nets in April. Playing bad one day is awful and you don't want it to happen, but Self thinks how you play over 2 1/2 months should be more important.

Self doesn't know if having a limited rotation will be good or bad for the NCAA Tournament. If you look at Syracuse, it started this season playing 10-11 guys, and that rotation has been whittled down. Self doesn't think a lot of teams want to go more than an eight-man rotation. Self is fine with what he has.

• Elijah Johnson has been playing fine. He's played really good defense lately, especially against Baylor's Brady Heslip. Johnson just isn't making shots. Self is just waiting for Johnson to hit his hot stretch. Travis Releford had that kind of offensive stretch earlier in the year, and Jeff Withey is in the midst of a stretch like that right now.

Self would describe Taylor's career at KU as inconsistent but terrific. He averaged 10.0 in points for his high school team, and now he's averaging 18 points per game at Kansas. That's a big jump. One of Taylor's best strengths is that he's emotional, and one of his biggest weaknesses is sometimes that he gets too emotional. While he's been starting point guard for the last three years, KU has only lost 11 games. He's a big reason for that. Taylor is Self's kind of guy. Self doesn't know if he could enjoy coaching a player more than Taylor the last few months. The things that have gotten him in trouble have been Tweeting and Facebook. That might not be talked about at smaller programs.

Self doesn't worry about late-game free throws. He never has. He worries about turnovers and stuff like that. KU can practice that. Taylor has to have confidence and courage and step up and make free throws late. Self's not going to do anything to have Taylor improve in making late-game free throws. Taylor is a guy who's never going to be an 80-percent free throw shooter, because that's not what he is. But he needs to make them when it counts the most down the stretch.

Self thinks when Taylor shoots less, KU is a better team. When he shoots more, it's when KU is running crap offense and the team needs him to score. Sherron Collins was the same way. Collins scored all his points in close games that KU needed to win. Taylor is a guy who may end up scoring 20 points on 17 shots, but that will be good because it will be in a game when KU has nothing going offensively.

Self says Taylor is unique as a point guard, because he doesn't think he's ever coached a guard that is that tall and that fast at the same time. Taylor doesn't think the game like Deron Williams or Aaron Miles. He doesn't have the ability to make shots consistently like Sherron. But none of them had the speed that he has or the courage to get in there and make plays. Self wondered aloud whether KU's had a guard during his tenure that has played better over a six-week stretch than Taylor has the last six weeks. It's pretty good. Sherron didn't have a stretch like this, and neither did Mario Chalmers, partly because they played on teams where they could defer. On this team, Taylor can't defer. He's been solid for KU.

Self thinks Thomas Robinson has been the Big 12 player of the year. You could make a case for Tyshawn Taylor and Missouri's Marcus Denmon. Self thinks those three have distanced themselves in that discussion.

• Texas Tech will muddy the game up. The last game between the two teams, KU and Texas Tech set ball back a few years. It was around 16-15 with about eight minutes left. Self doesn't think winning ugly is bad at all, though. The KU-KSU game was a lot like a Big Ten game on Monday.

Self thinks Wichita Heights with Perry Ellis has to go down as one of the premier teams in Kansas basketball history. What Ellis has done under pressure with the expectations high has been impressive to Self. It's remarkable the high school career he's had. Self is most excited to coach his athletic ability. That kid can run and jump. Self thinks it's going to be exciting to watch how he progresses. His athletic ability allows him a chance to be great.

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Topeka mayor proposes hoodies and hats ordinance to reduce crime

If you like wearing hoodies and hats and you like to shop in Topeka, you just might be out of luck if Mayor Bill Bunten has his way.

According to the AP:

Mayor Bill Bunten says he’s suggesting that the city allow a retail store to ask people who come in wearing a hooded sweat shirt or ball cap to take it off their head so surveillance camera can see them. Police Chief Ron Miller also recommended a similar measure to discourage robberies.

Topekans say the proposal is both “socialist” and “communist,” and one local business owner said she’d lose customers. Bunten said the problem is kids these days.

"I wouldn't have a quarrel with it,” he told KSNT. “Now, I don't have a hoodie and I don't have a ball cap, but if I did I'd take it off. Most people take their hats off when they go into a store anyway. Well, they used to."

Bunten told the Topeka Capital-Journal he's not proposing an outright ban of hoodies and hats, but wants to give stores the option to require customers to take off the items.

Brisbane, Australia, banned hoodies after a number of crimes jolted the area. Public schools in Allentown, Pa., briefly banned hoodies, and skinny jeans (“too snug for school”). Some folks in Colorado Springs, Colo., believe they’ve been unfairly targeted for wearing hoodies in stories. Stores in the Los Angeles area are requiring people to take off their hats upon entering establishments.

And 16-year-old Dale Carroll, of Manchester in England, was barred from donning a hoodie after he was found guilty of anti-social behavior.

Apparently, he and other local kids (hoods?) caused “mayhem,” which is a tall order for a young teen.

Manchester magistrates heard that Carroll was part of a gang who caused mayhem to residents of Collyhurst village in the city for almost three years.

The court heard he had attacked locals and once attempted to cut down a CCTV lamppost with a chainsaw.

The teenager threw fireworks at cyclists and at one stage pulled a person from their bike and threatened them with an axe. He also drove a car on to a pavement and down steps close to the Sparrow pub in Collyhurst.

Carroll of Cheetham, Manchester, was found guilty of anti social behaviour and was banned from wearing a hoodie or cap in public and from entering a large part of Collyhurst, including the home he shares with his mother in Manordale Walk.

He was also prevented from congregating with more than two people, except family members, and banned from possessing fireworks, axes or chainsaws.

The proposal wasn’t discussed at the Topeka city council’s Tuesday meeting, but Councilman Andrew Gray wore a hoodie to meeting. He said it was comfortable.

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Remembering the Dickensian aspect of the “The Wire” on Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday

It’s Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, and scholars and fans are remembering the author for his important contributions to the literary world.

Pop culture owes much to Dickens, whose complex characters and examinations of the underbelly of society have influenced everything from “Lost” to the Muppets.

Fans of “The Wire” will recall a newspaper editor’s plan to capture “the Dickensian aspect” of Baltimore in the series’ final season. The HBO series owes a lot to Dickens, though creator David Simon drew a clear delineation between comparisons of down-and-out Dickens characters and the street punks and drunks that told the story of Baltimore, which, as we learn through the arc of the series, is a circle that remains the same, even if the characters change.

“(Dickens) would make the case for a much better social compact than existed in Victorian England, but then his verdict would always be, ‘But thank God a nice old uncle or this heroic lawyer is going to make things better,’” Simon told Vice magazine. In Simonsonian Baltimore, the rich uncle is actually a drug kingpin.

In March, a fascinating story was published on The Hooded Utilitarian, “a quasi-blog/quasi-magazine hybrid devoted to cultural criticism,” examining the cultural contributions of a Victorian serial novel called “The Wire,” written by an author forgotten to time, one Horatio Bucklesby Ogden.

Of course, it’s an elaborate satire of scholarly takes on Dickens, but it’s a great read. A “Victorian masterpiece…forgotten and ignored by scholars and popular culture alike,” is how Joy DeLyria and Sean Michael Robinson describe Ogden’s novel. They write how “The Wire” was mass produced, and praised by intellectuals of the time, but failed to find large audiences.

The serial format did The Wire no favors at the time of its publication. Though critics lauded it, the general public found the initial installments slow and difficult to get into, while later installments required intimate knowledge of all the pieces which had come before. To consume this story in small bits doled out over an extended time is to view a pointillist painting by looking at the dots. …

Lastly, one might stand back from a pointillist work; whereas physically there is no other way to consume The Wire than piece by piece. To experience the story in its entirety, without breaks between sections, would be exhausting; one would perhaps miss the essence of what makes it great: the slow build of detail, the gradual and yet inevitable churning of this massive beast of a world.

DeLyria and Robinson describe the characters that make “The Wire,” with detailed looks at “slimy” Scott Templeton, Omar Little, “a Bronte hero,” “bourgeois merchant” Stringer Bell and Detective Jimmy McNulty, “used and exploited by corrupt social systems.”

Images of Ogden’s book – complete with etchings familiar to fans of Dickens’ novels – are included.

One passage describes a scene in which McNulty and his partner, Bunk Moreland, are examining a room for evidence of a murder:

Mr. Moreland – having more at stake in the proceedings, or rather less interest in pursuing what amount to, in his opinions, a goose chase the likes of which only Mr. McNulty would subject himself – put his cigar in his mouth and looked down at the sketches which they had obtained from Scotland Yard. Years of detective work such as this had compelled Mr. Moreland into an attitude of complaisancy; in most investigations his attitude was one of general affability and a charming lack of anything like concerns. As he flipped through the sketches, however, he took out his cigar, and his tone was exactly that of a child at last being forced to chores when he said, “Aw, f—k.”

Knowing that Mr. McNulty would share in his disgust, Mr. Moreland referred Mr. McNulty to the sketches. “Mother f----r,” said Mr. McNulty, indicating by this succinct phrasing his understanding as to the work that would be required in order to make sense of the sketches and the heinous nature of the crime. …

At the window Mr. Moreland set up another one of the sketches, marking another point, then crossing to help Mr. McNulty with his measuring tape. Holding the tape at the height of the victim so that Mr. McNulty might accurately determine the height at which the bullet might have entered. Mr. McNulty used a firearm to gauge the height at which the handgun may have been fired.

“F---,” said Mr. McNulty.

Or, as today’s HBO would have it:

DeLyria and Robinson have turned their analysis of Ogden’s work into a book, “Down in the Hole: The unWired World of H.B. Ogden,” available this summer.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 2/6/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

• Self says flopping was something that has been talked about with officials in the past, but there haven't been a lot of games where KU has had a lot of that going on against it. Some players get reputations as being floppers. Self said he had the all-time greatest one at Illinois, Lucas Johnson. Self called him "Fake Hustle" because he fell down every possession, then acted tough when he got a call. Self thinks for the most part, officials have done a better job with the flop, and he's saying that after KU had six charges against Missouri.

Self has never had a team that has relied on its bench this little, but that's how it's going to be. The thing that was disappointing to Self on Saturday was that KU was forced to play small because Jeff Withey wasn't a factor. That forced Thomas to play out on the floor defensively, which is not KU's strength.

Self thought Justin Wesley did a great job against Missouri. He was energized and defended out on the floor better than what he's practiced. Self thought KU did a decent job with its bench against Missouri. Conner Teahan played pretty well and hit two big shots. The bottom line is, KU's starters have to be ready to play 32-35 minutes.

Self doesn't know what happened with Withey against Missouri. KU wanted to throw it inside early, and it didn't. That's on KU's guards too. KU was just a better team when it could play Thomas Robinson alone on the post. KU scored almost every possession the second half. MU's matchup didn't take advantage of KU, but KU's matchup didn't take advantage of MU.

If you study the game, MU didn't guard the perimeter in the first half. It's hard to get it inside when all of a team's defenders are around a guy in the paint. The best way to open it up is make a shot or two.

Self thinks his team is pretty tough. He's glad his team is not playing Monday. That would be a quick turnaround. He thinks his guys will bounce back. If KU doesn't play well or win Wednesday, it won't because of the Missouri game. Coaches don't let it go. Kids have girlfriends and go to class. They have other things that occupy their mind. Players bounce back better than coaches.

Self says his team made two bad plays down the stretch against Missouri. Taylor turned it over and he charged. Other than that offensively, KU didn't make any bad plays. Self doesn't consider missing free throws a bad play. Defensively, KU had to get stops, and it didn't. Robinson got called for a walk up eight, and Self hinted that he didn't see it on the tape. Self said the charge on Robinson ... he wants him to make that play every day of every situation of every game. That has nothing to do with closing. KU did make a couple bad plays, and MU made a lot of good plays. MU's Marcus Denmon made a lot of great plays. He made three straight three-point plays, and if any of those go the other way, the outcome's different. KU could have almost had a shot-clock violation every possession and won the game, if MU had backed off. That's what's frustrating as a coach. Self said he won't let this one go.

• Self says his team played well against Missouri. Self left the game with three things: 1. MU's really good; 2. KU has to close better; 3. KU's really good. If anything, Self is leaving out of Columbia thinking KU has a chance to be a really good team.

Self thinks Baylor will have a good home court on Wednesday. In the past, KU has had between 1,500 and 2,500 fans there. That might not be possible Wednesday because of the excitement at Baylor with this year's team. MU's home crowd didn't keep KU from leading by eight with three minutes left, though. It's not impossible to play in tough environments.

• Tyshawn Taylor played great against Missouri. If Self had it do all over again, he'd want Taylor on the free throw line more than anyone on the team. Taylor likes that moment more than anybody else. Self doesn't have anything remotely negative to say about Taylor. He lost the ball once and charged once. Self doesn't dwell on missing free throws. The first half, Taylor played so well, KU had a couple bad possessions because Taylor was feeling it too much. Self would run a play, and Taylor thought he saw an opening and would try to make something happen. Still, Taylor had 17 the first half, and defensively he was really good against MU's Phil Pressey.

• Baylor is long. But what makes Baylor different this year is guard Pierre Jackson. He's one of the premier players in the league. He's getting assists, but the Bears are putting the ball in his hands at game point, and he's delivered. Taylor could do a better job against Jackson than he did in KU's home game against BU.

• It's much easier for big guys to play better against big guys. You see that all the time in high school basketball. Big guys can dominate bigs, but playing against small guys throws them off a little bit. Self thinks Withey will play better against Baylor's tall guys.

Self says Baylor is best at playing around the rim and playing in transition.

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Re-introducing the KUsports.com App

The updated KUsports.com App is now available for download at the iTunes store.

The app — which is free — contains a new look and also added features aimed at providing more comprehensive coverage for those who follow KU sports. Those with the first version of the KUsports.com App will simply need to download the update through the iTunes store.

The new app features all the latest news and feature stories from KUsports.com's writers, along with an added feature of offline reading capability.

The app also will be a useful source of information during men's basketball and football games, providing live stats and also up-to-the-second commentary from KUsports.com writers like Tom Keegan, Gary Bedore and Matt Tait.

Another useful feature will be expanded statistics, which will include box scores and also comprehensive player and team stats. These statistics are available for football, men's basketball and women's basketball.

The app also provides an easy-to-navigate schedule, making it simple to reflect on KU's past games or plan for the ones coming up.

This version of the app has been updated for iOS 5 and also is current with the 2011-12 basketball season.

More features also will be added in the near future, which will include Android availability and access to photos, videos and other exclusive content from KUsports.com.

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No more chemically processed pink goo at McDonald’s, and the mystery of the McRib

By now you may have seen the bizarre photo of pink goo - more milkshake than meat - which in reality was a pre-production hamburger patty, treated with ammonium hydroxide, a chemical found in household cleaners and fertilizer. It's also used to kill bacteria. It was also used in burgers from fast food giants like McDonald's and Burger King.

Meat treated with ammonium hydroxide.

Meat treated with ammonium hydroxide. by Alex Parker

But no more.

British tabloid The Daily Mail reports that McDonald's ended the practice in the summer. The paper credited celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's campaign against meat treated with ammonium hydroxide as a catalyst for the decision, but McDonald's denied that. The Daily Mail reported that Taco Bell and Burger King have also ended the practice.

Oliver shocked audiences when he showed how meat - the cuts often left to make dog food - made its way into restaurants, school lunches and home kitchens.

I also came across some information about the bizarre, but oh-so-tasty, delicacy is the McRib, the limited-time-only meat patty that is literally shaped in a pan to look like pork ribs.

Chicago Magazine explains the evolution of the McRib, invented by Meat Industry Hall of Famer Roger Mandigo, and why it is so darn limited.

Here's how Mandigo and two co-authors described the general process in a 1995 article, the process which gives us the McRib:

Restructured meat products are commonly manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by comminution (flaking, chunking, grinding, chopping or slicing). The comminuted meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins. These extracted proteins are critical to produce a “glue” which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a “meat log” of specific form or shape. The log is then cut into steaks or chops which, when cooked, are similar in appearance and texture to their intact muscle counterparts.

Mandigo explained the principle behind restructured meat products in Food Chains: From Farmyard to Shopping Cart:

"Most people would be extremely unhappy if they were served heart or tongue on a plate," he observed. "But flaked into a restructured product it loses its identity. Such products as tripe, heart, and scalded stomachs are high in protein, completely edible, wholesome, and nutritious, and most are already used in sausage without objection." Pork patties could be shaped into any form and marketed in restaurants or for airlines, solving a secondary problem of irregular portion size of cuts such as pork chops. In 1981 McDonald's introduced a boneless pork sandwich of chunked and formed meat called the McRib, developed in part through check-off funds [micro-donations from pork producers] from the NPPC [National Pork Producers Council]. It was not as popular as the McNugget, introduced in 1983, would be, even though both products were composed of unmarketable parts of the animal (skin and dark meat in the McNugget). The McNugget, however, benefited from positive consumer associations with chicken, even though it had none of the "healthy" attributes people associated with poultry.

In other words, the McRib, or at least the restructured meat products like it, consists of staples—or even specialties—of other cuisines.

As for why it comes and goes, it's not due to a marketing campaign. It's not even a case of demand. It's all supply, according to the Lincoln, Neb. Journal-Star:

And to this day, the McRib comes and goes from the McDonald's menu for reasons that have to do with its intense popularity and a national supply of pork trimmings that's typically a lot more limited than the supply of beef trimmings.

"If you suddenly start to buy a large amount of that material," said Mandigo, "the price starts to rise."

As the cost to McDonald's rises, the McRib tends to go out of circulation again. And then the same parts of a hog tend to flow back into the processing lines for Spam, Vienna sausages and other specialized products.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/26/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

• Jeff Withey has developed as much as anyone this year for KU. He's developed into a presence defensively. He keys KU's success as much as anyone when he's on. He makes it tough for other teams to score in tight.

Most big guys in the NCAA now are 4 men. There are not as many true 5 men like Jeff Withey out there. Kentucky's dominant center is a 4 man. So is Ohio State's. North Carolina is playing with two 4 men. There just aren't that many anchors out there. The schools that can get those guys in recruiting have an advantage in some ways.

Iowa State's Royce White controlled the first game against KU. Self thought KU didn't play as active as it could have against ISU. KU isn't a good rebounding team if it's not amped up. KU needs to have its guards do a better job of cleaning up rebounds. Long shots mean long rebounds, so KU's big men need help defensive rebounding against ISU.

• Self says this is the toughest stretch of KU's season, starting right now. KU's next four road games are against ISU, Missouri, Baylor and Kansas State.

Self likes what he's seen on the road from his team so far this year. KU hasn't played unbelievably well on the road, but it's guarded well. Self doesn't think KU has had a performance on the road that would guarantee a win any of its next four road games, though.

Coaches can change gameplans from game to game against a team. Self doesn't think ISU dared KU to shoot in the first game, but the Cyclones didn't guard KU's high-post players out top in that game.

Self doesn't like to put numbers on guys, but he thought Taylor could be a 40-percent three-point shooter this year, which is a good percentage. He's shot it much better than that (Taylor is shooting 46 percent from three). If you take away a stretch to start Big 12 play, he's shot well above 50 percent from three. But still the best thing he does is get tot he basket.

• Self thinks Elijah Johnson has played better than his numbers. He struggled last game badly, but Self thinks he's really a good player. His numbers shooting the basketball haven't been good at all. He's shot 29 percent from three, and Self thinks he's a 40-percent three-point shooter at worst. It's going to happen. If it's going to happen, now would be a good time, because KU needs him to be a double-figure scorer from here on out.

Self thinks Johnson can still become a better defender. Self says there was an article not too long ago written about the pride he takes in his defense. He should have read that article before the last game. Self thinks he can become a much more solid defender, because there's been times he's been really good in that area, and there's times he's not. If you worry about your shot, you're not going to shoot it good. If you have to make shots to play well, you're probably not a complete player. Self just wants Johnson to focus in on being a guard.

The way Johnson was shooting threes the other day, he wasn't too worried about what happened on the previous shot. Self thinks that's a positive, though his shot selection wasn't great. It was almost like he was pressing, just trying to make one. He had a bad game against Texas A&M, but he also made the biggest shot of the game against Texas. So he's done a lot of really good things. He just hasn't shot consistently from behind the arc.

• Iowa State is good. That's an NCAA Tournament team. That's pretty good in just two years for coach Fred Hoiberg. He went through the transfer route. It seems to be working pretty well.

• Self isn't a big guy to mess with a player's shots, but he says you can make minor adjustments. Your release point can be too low, or your follow-through can be too flat. There are some minor things you can do. For some, though, to change their shot, you almost have to red-shirt them. In golf and basketball, if things don't go well, you go back to the way you've always done it. That's why Self thinks so much of shooting is between the ears. You can have poor form, but if you have a good follow-through, you have a chance to make shots. Tweaking is the most that Self would like to do for a guy that is playing. With a guy like Jamari Traylor, who is red-shirting, the coaches can work with his shot as much as they'd like, because it doesn't matter if he misses a lot of shots in the next week. With other guys, the coaches can't do as much. They might talk through minor stuff.

Self says there's nothing wrong with Johnson's shot. It can get a little flat sometimes. The thing about shooters ... if you're a good shooter, you miss short or long. You never miss right or left. Almost all of Johnson's misses have been a little long. He's just a notch off.

Self is confident putting Travis Releford defensively on the opponent's best guard, but that might not always be best for KU, because that might put Johnson on the other team's best rebounder. But Self is comfortable with Releford guarding anybody. He's become a smart defender.

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Testing Bill Self’s theory: How was KU’s late-clock defense against Texas A&M?

Kansas coach Bill Self had some interesting comments about his team's defense following the Jayhawks' 64-54 victory over Texas A&M on Monday.

The coach was most upset with his team's late-clock defense against the Aggies. Here's his quote:

"I think if you were to go back and look at us statistically — which I don't have any way to do this, but we probably need to start charting this — I would say the percentage of people scoring against us is far higher in the last seven to eight seconds of a possession than it is in the first 27. We don't finish possessions. How many times tonight did they score under five on the shot clock, or we foul? That's the thing that's so frustrating, because we're not finishing possessions, and that's something that we really emphasize."

So how poor was KU's late-clock defense against Texas A&M?

Let's take a look.

After going back to the tape, here is a graph showing each Texas A&M field goal, along with how much time was left on the shot clock. Please note I did not include Dash Harris' shot right before the halftime buzzer, as the shot clock was turned off.

As you can see, KU's late-clock defense doesn't appear to be as bad as Self remembered.

A&M scored only twice with less than 8 seconds left on the shot clock. That's only 10 percent of its field goals (two out of 20), which is much lower than Self's original prediction.

If you calculate it, the Aggies' average field goal came with 22.7 seconds left on the shot clock (among those 19 shots when the shot clock was on). That appears to be relatively early, especially considering A&M plays at a slow pace.

Here are the three times when KU was scored upon with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.

With 12:20 left in the first half, KU center Jeff Withey switches on a ball screen, then doesn't get out far enough to contest Elston Turner's three-pointer.

On A&M's next possession (and perhaps this is why it stuck in Self's mind), A&M's Dash Harris gets by Elijah Johnson off the dribble, which forces help from Withey. Harris sees the help coming and dishes to Keith Davis, who puts in an easy layup.

Then, with 16:52 left in the second half, Withey helps with a ball screen, then trips and falls down in traffic. Elston Turner realizes this and is able to find David Loubeau for a wide-open layup.

To be fair, Self also said that KU fouling at the end of the shot clock should be considered as poor late-clock defense as well.

"I think it's breakdowns," Self said, explaining why his team was struggling late in possessions. "Travis (Releford) fouled twice because he reached. Or guys forget we're switching or trapping or whatever it could be. Then the other thing is, offensive teams are always most aggressive in the last five or six seconds of the shot clock because they've got to get a shot. So I think it's just a combination of things."

Going back to the tape, there were two instances of KU fouling with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.

With 15:15 left in the first half, Tyshawn Taylor is whistled for an apparent blocking call ...

and with 17:40 left in the second half, Releford is called for a reach when he had help from Thomas Robinson behind him.

Taking the whole game into account, it doesn't appear that KU's late-clock defense is as much of an issue as perhaps the eye test told Self it was.

That doesn't mean the Jayhawks can't (and won't try to) improve in that area before their next game against Iowa State.


Postscript: A few commenters said they would like to see a graph that included KU's fouls and also the times when A&M scored points off an offensive rebound.

After going back to the tape, here's a graph that includes those two elements.

This seems to only support the statement above: KU's late-clock defense — at least against Texas A&M — did not hurt the Jayhawks as much as it might have originally appeared.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/19/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full press conference audio has been posted.

KU's players have pleased Self as of late. Self joked that he didn't like his players much — and they didn't like him much — up until after Christmas, except for a couple outings. The team has pleased Self with its toughness and effort. KU is a work in progress. Self thinks KU can play better. Some guys can make more shots. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor can't play much better than they have been playing, but other guys around them could still be better.

More than any team he's had at KU, Self believes energy level keys this year's team. Before the common denominator was talent or depth. This year, KU has to be turned up to play really well.

Self doesn't believe Tyshawn Taylor is doing too much differently in his last few games. He's been making shots, and the basket has looked bigger to him. He's been aggressive all year. Most of the time, that's really good for KU. Self said Taylor made a great play against Baylor when he was wide-open in the corner, waited for about three seconds, then drove in for a layup. He's showing good patience, too. Talent-wise, Self thinks Taylor is one of the top five guards in the country.

Self doesn't think this team scores off its defense as well as the 2006-07 or 2007-08 teams. Those teams were relentless. It's hard to keep defensive pressure turned up for 40 minutes when a team doesn't sub much. So this team has become a good defensive spurt team. There are times when KU doesn't get any steals but still plays its best defense because it's solid.

Thomas Robinson was a very raw, energetic, active guy when KU recruited him. The coaches thought he could be really good. His hands have been a pleasant surprise. If he gets his mitt on the ball, more than likely he's going to get it. Also, his body has continued to develop. He also has a "want-to" that is about as good as anybody Self has had at KU. Right now, he's driven and focused. Coaches get too much credit when players improve. When you have a ball in your hands for three hours a day, you're going to get better. Robinson has been a guy that has wanted to get better.

This is the one-year anniversary for Thomas Robinson's mother passing. Self says he couldn't have handled the situation Robinson has been through as well as he has. He's a remarkable kid and deserves the things he has coming his way. Self is sure this weekend will be emotional for him. Robinson will be off-limits to the media before this game. Self is amazed at how well he's done. Robinson is playing with a smile on his face and seems happy, when we know he has a bigger burden than he's showing.

• Self was proud of KU's administration after last year and proud of the NCAA for allowing KU to help Robinson with his mother's funeral. Last year was an example of a group of guys becoming a family.

If Texas' J'Covan Brown played against KU every game, he'd have been national player of the year the last two years. He's killed KU. The Jayhawks need to do a good job with him. Texas is young and talented. KU will have to combat UT's speed.

Texas' Myck Kabongo will be a pro. He's fast. KU recruited him. He's got a great personality. He's a good leader.

• Self thinks you can pre-judge players inaccurately if guys don't play hard in high school. You shouldn't judge them then, because you need to see how they do in a different environment. When the Morris twins were in high school, Self sent Joe Dooley to watch them work out and asked to rate their work ethic from one to 10. Dooley rated it as a negative-3. Dooley told them they'd never make it through a practice. And they almost didn't early, but then their mind-set changed. Self says to give him athletes that can shoot and that are tough, and he thinks KU can get them to work hard.

It's hard to limit J'Covan Brown's touches. You have to try to limit his good touches. It's hard to keep the ball from guards.

Self says this isn't like a Kansas State or Missouri game, but it still feels like a big rivalry to KU. It should get more that way as the teams play twice a year.

Self remembers a lot about KU's 2001-02 team. While Self was coach at Illinois, the Illini had a wide-open 16-footer to put that game into overtime in the Sweet 16. KU got a bad draw that year, because Illinois was playing really well, and KU drew it as a 4-seed. Self thought KU was the best team in the country that year. Any team that can bring Wayne Simien and Keith Langford off the bench is going to be good. KU honored that team against Iowa State, but that team needs to be honored later as well so the guys that are playing now can come back when they're retired.

Self thinks it will be hard for any other team to go undefeated in the Big 12 like the 2001-02 team. Self believes that team was close to Roy's earlier teams in the late '90s with Jacque Vaughn, Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz.

• Brett Ballard is a rock. Baker is fortunate to have him as a coach. He's going to do a great job there.

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Recap: Why Thomas Robinson’s rebounding was more impressive than his points

Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

If you haven't yet do yourself a favor and read this well-researched blog by RealGM.com's Dan Hanner.

In it, he talks more about Kansas and the KenPom rankings, also why some teams are ranked as highly as they are.

Following Kansas' 81-46 victory over Texas Tech, the Jayhawks have jumped all the way up to second in KenPom's rankings, behind only Ohio State.

A toothless Justin Wesley laughs with Elijah Johnson on the bench late in the second half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. Wesley had the tooth knocked out during a recent practice.

A toothless Justin Wesley laughs with Elijah Johnson on the bench late in the second half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. Wesley had the tooth knocked out during a recent practice. by Nick Krug

A big reason for that was on display Wednesday: KU has drubbed the weaker teams it has played this year.

Against teams that are ranked 101 or worse in KenPom's rankings, KU is 7-0 with the second-best KenPom ranking in the country.

Hanner does a nice job of explaining that these types of blowouts aren't insignificant, while also discussing why margin of victory is one tool that is important when evaluating teams.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Thomas Robinson runs away with this award despite only playing only 19 minutes.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson stretches out while awaiting a couple of Jayhawk free throws after a technical foul against Texas Tech during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson stretches out while awaiting a couple of Jayhawk free throws after a technical foul against Texas Tech during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

The junior was efficient, posting 1.84 points per possession used while ending 26.7 percent of KU's possessions.

Still, what was even more impressive was his rebounding.

Robinson grabbed 12 rebounds in his 19 minutes, which left him with some ridiculous rebounding percentages. Not only was he able to grab 22.5 percent of KU's misses, he also came away with 52.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds.

Just think about it. When Texas Tech put up a shot and missed, there were 10 players on the court who could have grabbed it. While Robinson was out there, he grabbed those misses 52.6 percent of the time, while the other nine players combined for the other 47.4 percent.

Robinson's 77.2 effective field goal percentage also was second on the team to guard Naadir Tharpe, who was a perfect 3-for-3.

Through three games in conference, Robinson is playing at a national-player-of-the-year level. KU fans need to enjoy him while he's still here.

Room for Improvement

Man, this one's tough, as we're going to have to get really nit-picky to fill this category with something.

The Jayhawks and Red Raiders chase a rebound during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

The Jayhawks and Red Raiders chase a rebound during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

I guess KU could have done a little better job of forcing turnovers against the Big 12's most careless team. KU forced turnovers on 19 percent of Texas Tech's possessions, which was below KU's season defensive average (22.8 percent) and also well below Texas Tech's season average (24.6 percent).

Still, Texas Tech finished with just 0.73 points per possession and also had its lowest point total in nearly five years (since March 2007 against Kansas State). So even without forcing a lot of turnovers, KU's defense was outstanding.

Tough-Luck Line

Other than an impressive dunk off a lob from Robinson, Elijah Johnson had a quiet night.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson flashes a smile during a Jayhawk run against Texas Tech during the second half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson flashes a smile during a Jayhawk run against Texas Tech during the second half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

The junior posted just 0.60 points per possession used while ending just 11.7 percent of the possessions he was in.

In his 27 minutes, he was 1-for-4 from the floor with three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers and a steal.

Johnson also is in his worst shooting slump of the season. With an 0-for-2 effort from three Wednesday, Johnson has made just five of his last 25 long-range attempts (20 percent) spanning the last five games.

With the two misses, his season three-point percentage is down to 29.3 percent (27 of 92). That's almost five percentage points lower than the NCAA average three-point percentage (34.2 percent).

Johnson should still keep firing away with open looks from three, but he's probably also at the point where he should pass up semi-guarded ones until he sees a few more go through.

Bottom Line

KU's 81-46 victory over Texas Tech ends up being even more impressive considering the slow pace.

Kansas forward Kevin Young elevates for a dunk on the Texas Tech defense late in the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas forward Kevin Young elevates for a dunk on the Texas Tech defense late in the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

The game had just 63 possessions for both sides, which tied for the slowest-paced game KU played this season (the UCLA game also had 63).

It's harder to blow a team out by 35 when you don't have the ball as often. The Jayhawks posted 1.29 points per possession (their third-highest mark of the year) while holding the Red Raiders to 0.73 PPP (also the third-worst for a KU opponent this season). That's a PPP differential of 0.56 PPP that you won't see often, especially in conference road games.

Meanwhile, TTU's 0.73 PPP was its worst mark since March 3, 2008 — when it scored just 0.70 PPP in a 109-51 drubbing during KU's senior night.

The Red Raiders' effective field-goal percentage of 32.4 percent also was its worst since the 2006-07 season.

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

In other words, it was another great night for KU's defense, which seems to only be getting better as this season continues.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/9/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his weekly press conference today.

Full press conference audio has been posted.

Travis Releford has practiced well. When Self worries about Travis, it's when he's not aggressive. He's scoring more and not worried about scoring. Statistically, he's a good three-point shooter. He's not going to be a high-volume three-point shooter, but he's a guy you have to guard. Self likes it when the shot leaves his hand. He's a shot-maker.

• Some players have to shoot well to play well. Tyshawn Taylor is not one of those players. Self thought Taylor did a lot of nice things against OU. He tried to do a little too much late, but he was aggressive, and he's defending better.

• Self likes what KU has done in the last two games because it's scored off its defense. The Jayhawks have been more active with their hands defensively. There's a skill to that. Self is not saying to reach, but getting more deflections and touches defensively. That was the difference in the OU game.

Sometimes guys play to please the coach and not to screw up. Releford has gotten to the point where he's comfortable enough that he knows what he's doing and has figured out that being aggressive is what the coaches want from him as well.

• Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie has had the itch to get back coaching the last couple years. Self thinks the time off probably was good for him, especially so he could spend some time with his family, as his mother had some health issues. He's going to be able to recruit guys down there.

Texas Tech had its chances against Baylor. It could have won the Oklahoma State game as well. It was a one-possession game late. The Red Raiders are getting better.

KU's coaches show their players film of opposing teams when they're running their stuff the best and playing well. Self thinks most coaches do that.

Self talked to Gillispie about getting back in the Big 12 last year and getting back to his home state and an area where he could recruit. Kentucky is a different deal. Gillispie will do a good job of taking good players and making them do great things.

TTU's Jordan Tolbert puts pressure on the defense. He's a prototypical undersized four-man that drive it. He's good. He's been the most dominant production freshman in the league.

Self thinks there are a lot of times when stereotypes are made about kids that are young who make mistakes that they wish they can have back. Athletics, in many instances, allow those kids to make a good life for themselves and be productive. Jamari Traylor is an example, not from a legal standpoint, but he's been able to use basketball to get an education. Sherron Collins is the same way. Self says it might be a bad analogy, but it's kind of like the movie, "Trading Places," where Eddie Murphy and Dan Akyroyd switch places. So much of decisions that are made are environment-based. Self rarely passes judgment until you give kids opportunities. If they screw those up, that's one thing. But everybody deserves a second chance.

• It doesn't do Self much good to watch last year's film of Texas Tech. This year has different players and different schemes.

Self believes Jeff Withey has been great the last two second halves. He thinks the biggest reason is that he's played with more fire and energy. When he plays with fire and energy, he plays athletically. KU needs him from the tip.

Travis is a great kid. There are a lot of things that depth does. It allows you to keep guys on the bench. It allows you to play through fouls. It also allows you to red-shirt guys. Three of KU's top six players spent an extra year here because of KU's past depth. The biggest reason why players get better is because they want to get better. If you have a mind-set of, "I want to do something with this," you're probably going to do it. Travis has bought it, both feet in, and he's benefiting from that. Releford is a defender, loose ball, energy guy that scores out of making simple plays. He's done a really good job of that. Travis knows who he is, and he plays to his strengths. Self says Releford needs to average double-figure scoring from here on out.

Red-shirting allows you to substitute age 18 for 23. That's the biggest thing that red-shirting does.

Self is picking Alabama in tonight's BCS Championship game. He would like LSU to win, because Les Miles has Oklahoma State ties, but he thinks psychologically, it's tough to beat a team twice in one year. Alabama missed some field goals in the first matchup. He doesn't see the Crimson Tide beating itself again in this game.

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