Kansas coach Bill Self employed old practice trick to prepare for Missouri

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks in front of his bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Columbia, Mo. Kansas won 95-67. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self pulled out an old trick during the Jayhawks’ practices leading up to last Saturday’s rout of Missouri in Columbia.

And it’s one that dates all the way back to KU’s matchup with UAB in the Sweet 16 in St. Louis during the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

That UAB team, which was seeded ninth and upset No. 1 Kentucky in Round 2, was led by head coach Mike Anderson, the former Nolan Richardson assistant who took Richardson’s 40 minutes of hell defensive philosophy to every team he joined as a head coach.

And the Blazers, like all of Anderson’s teams, were known for their pressing style and frantic pace. So, in leading up to that game, Self had the Jayhawks practice against more than the five players they’d see on the court on game day.

The idea was simple: If you can get the ball up the court against seven, eight or nine guys in practice, it should be a lot easier when you’re playing five on five in the game.

It was. Kansas routed UAB 100-74 to advance to the Elite Eight.

Fast-forward to last Saturday, when the Jayhawks faced Dennis Gates’ Missouri Tigers, who, like Anderson’s teams, prefer to operate at a breakneck pace and play a gambling style of defense that led them to becoming the No. 1 steals team in Division I entering Saturday and a defense that forced more than 21 turnovers per game.

To combat that, Self threw it back to 2004.

“We practiced against eight all week long, going full court, playing against eight the entire possession as long as that possession lasted,” Self said during weekly radio show, “Hawk Talk,” on Monday night. “I think it’s a little easier to play against five when you are practicing against eight.”

Self said the Jayhawks have done that throughout the years whenever they’ve played “teams that pressure like that.”

There have been no shortage of those teams in the Big 12 — particularly West Virginia, which for years was known as “Press Virginia” — and several other matchups, be it in the regular season or the postseason have necessitated the approach, as well.

Because KU needed to prepare its entire roster and not just the starting five, Self said Monday that several KU managers jumped onto the court to function as the extra bodies in those particular defensive drills.

“”We’ve got some of the craftiest 5-foot-7-inch managers,” Self joked. “I mean KJ (Adams) thinks he’s really doing something when he posts one of them up. We have maybe the shortest managerial staff in America. We go about 5-6, 5-8, 5-8, but they are quick. Not very big, but they are quick. We’ve got a couple managers that can really play, that are legitimate NAIA or Division II players. That is a bonus.”

This week, with another full week to prepare for their clash with No. 14 Indiana — 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN2 — the Jayhawks may not have to employ such a tactic.

The Hoosiers entered the week ranked 148th nationally in steals per game, with 72 takeaways in their first 10 games. Missouri still leads the country in that stat at nearly twice that clip, recording 132 steals in its first 10 games.


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