A couple of weeks ago when asked to grade his team thus far Self offered up a "C+ or B-" rating saying, "There's times when we look really good. I think and there's times when we don't look so good."
Coaches are never satisfied and Self knows his team needs to continue
to get better to win a conference title and make a deep run into March.
So it doesn't matter that his team is 11-0 for the fourth time in the
Self era at KU. There are always ways to get better.
"I thought initially to start the season we were much further
along than what I had anticipated and I think the last couple of weeks
we haven't been as good as we were when we started," Self said on a Big
12 conference call less than two weeks ago.
Really Self received his most important present early when Josh Selby
saw his first action of the season. The freshman guard has been nothing
short of outstanding and it's scary to think about the ceiling with a
kid that's only going to continue to get better and better. We've
already seen some marked improvement in spots for Josh especially on
the defensive game after just two games. Selby's output has been
immediate and awesome and Kansas might not be 11-0 if not for his
game-winner against USC.
For now allow us offer up the sleigh and the reindeers as Santa
hopefully slides down the chimney and makes good on three critical
Jayhawk Christmas wishes in 2010.
Defense, Defense, Defense
One thing is certain – this Kansas team can score. Self admitted he is
surprised at how easily this team has been able to score on the
offensive end. It's no surprise that this team leads the Big 12 early
in the season and is the best in the country in field goal percentage
(53.4 pct). We could spend our time talking about how super KU's
offensive production has been and how this team shares the ball – good
enough right now for fourth in the country in assists - but for Bill Self it all begins and ends at the defensive end of the floor.
Fresh out of the gates this season KU's defense looked solid. But as
the competition has picked up at times the defensive effort has
wavered. The Jayhawks are still giving up just a shade under 61 ppg BUT
Self has sensed a difference lately.
"When you shoot quickly and you don't always play smart offensively at
least really, really guard on the other end," Self continued. "That's
just what we haven't been doing consistently. Defensively I don't think
we're playing with the same energy we were earlier in the year."
Listen there's no reason to sound an alarm as far as the defense is
concerned. KU still keeps plenty of opponents under 40 percent and
gives up just 37 perecent from the floor so far this season. If you
back up beyond the three-point line Kansas gets even stingier allowing
just over 26 percent from behind the arc.
But against Arizona the Wildcats shot 45 pct and KU allowed 27 points
from Derrick Williams. UCLA shot 48 pct and Tyler Honeycutt went off
for 33 points. Then when facing USC in another tight win Alex Stepheson
and Donte Smith combined for 38 points. It's a fact that the Jayhawks
continue to have issues defending the post area.
Self has employed a fair amount of big-to-big doubles in the post area
and the success with it has varied. Against USC the rotations weren't
quite there but certainly KU did a much better job against Cal. The
defense has to stay on an uptick heading to conference play for Self to
feel truly comfortable and happy and for KU to continue to emerge as a
national title contender.
Self is willing to continue to loosen the reigns and allow his team to
play freely on offense but if and only if, it plays hard at the
defensive end of the floor.
One thing leads to another. Self mentioned the energy and there were a
couple of games where it was lacking. But Josh Selby appears to have
injected the team with a new energy. Much like Sherron Collins, Selby
has the moxie and isn't afraid to show his emotion. He's a leader
already emotionally and as he gets more comfortable he maybe the
catalyst for the type of energy this team performs with.
"I think a lot of it is the energy," said Self prior to the USC game.
"I don't know why it seems like to me we haven't played with the same
defensive intensity as what we were playing not necessarily the first
game or two."
The intensity was there against California in a game that became
physical and chippy but Kansas needs to have that type of fervor on the
defensive end consistently and it starts with effort and energy.
Better free throw shooting
If you peruse the early season statistics in the Big 12 you'll see that
Kansas (64.9 pct) ranks second to last in the category of free throw
shooting percentage. In fact, only preseason Big 12 favorite Kansas State (54.5 pct) shoots it worse from the charity stripe. That better
change for both teams. If you really want some perspective Kansas is
currently 259th out of 346 Division I teams in free throw shooting.
KU is still beating teams by an average of 24 ppg but the games are
about to get a lot tighter. Free throw shooting and getting to the line
is what wears teams down and allows the Jayhawks to dominate and pull
away in games. At times KU hasn't been able to maintain large leads
and/or step on the throat of the opposition and free throw shooting has
a lot to do with it.
Coaches don't like to talk about it because they feel it gets in the
heads of players even more but going forward Kansas simply has to be
better from the charity stripe and however Self decides to address the
issue is fine, but it is an issue.
Right now on the Kansas roster only Selby, Tyrel Reed, and Brady
Morninstar are shooting it at higher than 75 percent from the line. The
good news is Selby will have the ball in his hands a lot down the
stretch but Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris, and Thomas Robinson are all
under 70 pct from the line. Markieff Morris is one of the only Jayhawks
to improve his free throw shooting percentage from last year to this
year (62% to 75% this season).
We could go on and split hairs and talk about KU being loose with the
ball at times – this team certainly giveth and taketh. Tyshawn has more
turnovers than anyone but yet his assist-to-turnover ratio is amongst
the best in the conference. As a team KU's assist-to-turnover ratio is
still something to be proud of. You just would like to eliminate the
times where the unforced turnovers occur.
But all of this is splitting hairs really with a team 11-0 and ranked
3rd in the nation. Self has a lot to be thankful for this Christmas
with a talented roster and another legitimate crack at some postseason
hardware I don't think he'll find coal in his stocking just an
ever-present wish to improve.
All I Want For Xmas Is...
Phog.net Top Stories
Big 12 Football Roundup: Week 3 Top StoriesAll you need to know about Big 12 teams leading into Week Three of the college football season.
Big 12 Recruiting Notebook (9/15/16)News, notes and recruiting scoop out of the Big 12...
Scout's Inside Recruiting ScoopSep. 14 -- What's the latest on the top recruits in the country? Scout's basketball recruiting team -- Evan Daniels, Brian Snow and Josh Gershon -- break down the latest, including…
Bruin Report Online09/14/2016
Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 2A look at the Big 12 Power Rankings after two weeks of play