Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Some Jayhawk Basketball Notes


Warning: not a lick of orienteering in this post. If you're not interested in Kansas basketball, don't bother reading any more.

I watch most Kansas basketball games on TV. Usually, I also keep track of something as I watch. I might track each offensive possession. I might track shot defense. "Scoring" a game like this forces you to watch carefully and you might learn something that you wouldn't if you just sat and watched. I've got various scoresheets scattered around the house. I should put them in spreadsheets so I can actually compile some data. I haven't done that yet. So I won't be quoting my data as I write up some thoughts about this year's Jayhawks.

This year's team has a big strength compared to last year's team. Last year's team had two players who were difficult to replace: Simien and Miles. If either of them got hurt, in foul trouble, or effectively removed by the other team, Kansas was in trouble. As last season went on, I noticed that opponents who pressured Miles in backcourt and slowed him down had a lot of success. They forced Kansas to play a half court game, which was much less efficient.

This year's team doesn't have any single players who are essential. That is a real strength. Of course it isn't good if a defense shuts down Rush or if Kaun gets in foul trouble or any player gets taken out. But, that sort of thing isn't going to put Kansas in real trouble.

This year's team lost a few very close games. Last year's team won a bunch of very close games. If you listen to sports talk radio, you'll hear people saying things like, "they've won a lot of close games, they know how to win." Well, I'm pretty sure that good teams don't win a lot of close games. Good teams don't play a lot of close games. They win easily.

This year's team began the conference season with two losses in three games. Since then, they've played 14 games. The margins of victory for the 13 wins: 42, 10, 10, 10, 34, 1, 21, 21, 13, 15, 33, 15, and 14. That's a good sign.

This year's team is "young." They start three freshmen and two sophomores. I don't know if that is good or bad.

When Roy Williams was the coach, I think it'd be fair to describe the defensive philosophy as to prevent teams from getting shots and to steal passes by getting in the spaces between players. Under Bill Self, I think the philosophy is to prevent teams from making shots and to make steals when players under tight defensive pressure (often a double team) make bad passes. Both approaches have been successful. Williams teams look nicer playing defense. But, pretty isn't what matters.

Last year's team was very efficient playing in transition. If they ran up the court and took a shot in the first couple of passes, they had a good points/possession rate. But, if you could get them into a half court game, they became much less efficient. That seems to be true of all teams. But, this year's team looks relatively efficient in the half court game. That's a big strength. If a team losses a lot of efficiency in the half court game, an opponent designs a defense to force a half court game. But, you can't do that against this year's team. Or you can, but it isn't as effective.

I could keep writing, but today's game is coming on TV in a few minutes.

posted by Michael | 2:50 PM


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