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Man, I just can't help but think this team is going to struggle in March. We have some glaring weaknesses that Texas is attacking.
For one, our lack of a competent PG is just killer. Elijah just isn't comfortable attacking off the pick\roll, and Naadir Tharpe is...well, he's still Naadir Tharpe. We really have no ability to break down a defense like we did last year with Taylor\Robinson or any of the previous years with Taylor, Sherron, etc. It's really forcing us to rely on the ball-swinging and a good defensive team isn't going to have a ton of issues defending it.
To compound that, we really struggle to score against size down low. Withey and Young just don't have moves to get looks consistently, and frankly have trouble finishing even when they do. With neither of them being able to hit consistent mid-range shots, there is very, very little margin for error down low.
We are an elite team when in transition - both Releford and McLemore are fantastic decision-makers and finishers. The problem is that we're not defending near well enough on the perimeter this year to force steals and generate those easy possessions.
We're also a shockingly poor group of rebounders, with Young being a solid OREB guy and McLemore rebounding his position well. Even if we just had one guy that could come in and clear out the floor for 2-3 minutes at a time and not allow any other rebounds, we'd be so much better off.
I really want to believe in this team, especially given how poor college basketball is on the whole this year, but it's hard to see past some of these glaring flaws right now.
Honestly, you have some points but I really think it is a case of seeing the flaws most in someone you watch all the time.
Whatever anyone says we are a very good defensive team and we are not a bad rebounding team (not great but pretty much right in the middle of Self's teams here statistically on the defensive glass). This is the best defensive team FG% wise that KU has had under Self and it is just not that close.
I think we are going to have to do some things differently on offense but I still think you are way overly negative on Tharpe who is not great but has given us decent minutes at times for a guy who has not played much at all prior to this year. This team won't be a top 5 offensive team but we also are not going to shoot as poorly as we have the past 3 or 4 games the rest of the year.
Frankly I think most KU fans are over-thinking this. If we get on a hot shooting stretch we are as dangerous as any team. If we are cold then every game after the first round will be an absolute war for us but we will have a chance because our defense is very very good.
What are we? We are an elite defensive team that has a bunch of veterans arrayed around a superstar freshman that we need to carry us on offense when we can't shoot the ball effectively. We are going to have some poor offensive games.
I wanted to add that is not to mean I think we are a favorite. We have a shot, like a few teams.
I think Florida is the only clear odds on team I would expect to see in the Final Four this year.
Louisville has kind of the same issues but is a bit better team.
Duke without Kelly just looks broken, with him they might be in that group clearly above us.
I think you can throw us in a group behind those first two that all have flaws and could win but might not. I can't complain too much about being there.
Oh, I know I'm being overly harsh all around and am nitpicking to an extent. At the end of the day, college basketball is really down and KU is certainly more likely than most to cut down nets in March\April.
Side note: Florida? I think they're a decent team, but I don't trust any team being run by Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario. My odds-on favorite for a Final Four is Louisville, followed by KU\Duke, and then a tier of tOSU, Indiana, Michigan, etc.
Back to the topic - I'm looking at this solely from a perspective of a potential S16 loss. There are a lot of functional problems we have, most of which stem from not having a PG. I know you like Tharpe, and he's a nice player, but can we agree that he's nowhere near the level of PG that Self is accustomed to having? I said on twitter, and I think it is an apt description, that Tharpe plays like he's your best player even though there are 4 guys (assuming Young on bench) you'd rather have shooting. He certainly bailed us out of some possessions because he's the only guy capable of using a pick effectively, but his decision-making is too erratic for him to be reliable in any given game.
And Elijah....is just lost. He's caught between running the show and being a shooter. This team would be so much better if we even had an average floor leader (say, Trevor Releford or Javan Felix), our team improves immensely because Eiljah can move off the ball, Tharpe suddenly is burdened with less responsibility, etc.
On defense, I just feel like we had such high potential as a perimeter unit...and we could be so much more devastating out there. With Withey swatting damn-near everything, our guys should be overplaying and poaching a LOT more, similar to how Russ and Mario played in 08. Now, I guess part of it could be foul concerns, given the lack of depth on the bench.
The big key going forward for Self is figuring out how to maximize their use of Ben in order to drive the offense a bit smoother. I'd love to see him down on the block a bit against guards, as he's got a pretty sweet little post game. I also think Travis needs to see a bit more time ahead of Perry at the 4 in order to stretch things out a bit, but it's hard to get many more minutes out of Travis than we already are.
Right now, our best offensive unit is 4 smalls and Withey, as every team is going to ignore Kevin Young on offense.
I generally agree with you but they are playing great defense and offense so far this year and they profile out as a team that could be there at the end. I would agree with you that they are far more volatile than your typical top 5 on offense and defense team just because of the inherently streaky nature of some of their players but they do have all the pieces you need to get the job done.
I don't really like Tharpe so much as I think a ton of KU fans, particularly on twitter and I am guess on other message boards, have gone way way overboard on bashing at the kid. I run hot and cold on the kid but I didn't feel that he forced shots today. We were just completely unhinged offensively regardless of who was on the ball (part of that is that Texas for all their faults has been a really good defensive team this year). At times he is going to give us useful minutes other times he is not. I tend to be forgiving of players like him who try to get into the lane and make a play or take a ball screen and make a play off of it.
I agree at time Elijah is just way off. I have not seen a player under Self where it is more important that he make an early long range shot than EJ. I actually liked what he tried to do today when he attacked the rim (usually he is a pretty fair finisher, today was just strange all around) but I agree he seems to be struggling to find his role whenever his shot is not dropping. He has to get to where his shooting does not carry over into his game otherwise.
I do agree with you that on defense I feel like we should try to force more turnovers but I do think our defense on the perimeter is actually pretty stout. I get the impression what we are trying to do is make sure we don't turn guys loose by gambling, knowing that if teams have to score in set situations they won't score a lot. Personally I am with you, I would gamble quite a bit more and do more overplaying with Ben and Travis in particular. But that has never really been Self's style. Other than the teams with Robinson and Chalmers we seem to turn people over on about 20% of their possessions most years. This year we are 19.3. Even those teams topped out around 24% (hell we were only 22% in 2008). That is just the way Self is going to play defense I guess.
I agree with you that I would like to see us flip ourselves around and play inside out with Ben at times. It would change the look a bit and make teams play a bit differently.
we are all used to seeing a team with a great point guard and an interior scorer who can beat most their defenders one on one.
This is a team that's going to have to win from the perimeter. McLemore is going to have to start playing like the best player in the country and learn how to take over a game. The interior guys will have to be good enough to keep defenses honest, but they are already that.
There was a play yesterday where Withey made a Collisonesque double move with an up and under... If we could get more of that from him to beat his man... and a little more confidense to take the shot from the key...
I think Ben has the same problem Manning had as a freshman. He defered too much to the upper classmen. He's going to have to assume somewhat of a leadership role on this team.
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Agree completely with your assessment and honestly I think we have to hope that KU doesn't run up against a team that is on fire from outside in March. On the quoted part, just think how bad it's going to be down low next year if KU doesn't land Randle....... I mean nobody can score down there.
It's too soon to totally discount Perry's scoring down low after a year of Hudy, but it's definitely a concern.
As for March, we're far from the only team that will have problems if we face a team that is on fire from outside.
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My biggest issue with Perry is that he's a "1 move and done" player. He turns one way, typically to his left, and puts up a hook shot. He has no counter-move instincts at all, which is a big part of why he gets so many shots blocked. Just watch next game and see how many times he shoots after his first spin.
Strength is an issue, and I often wonder if that's why he struggles to take a shot that doesn't start down at his waist? Part of that is habit and fundamentals, but I'd be at least some of that is a strength issue. If you notice, his jumpshots and hooks all start really low on his body.
At his size and length, he absolutely has to develop some actual "moves" down low to get buckets, or he'll be resigned to being a garbage bucket guy for most of his career.
While it's probably a bit too early and overly harsh to discount Perry's scoring, I'm also a big believer in guys typically not changing their game much in 3-4 years of college. Their strength improves, their fitness, their understanding - but "moves", talent, and ability (especially in guys that have been playing at a high level for so much of their lives like Perry has) generally don't change a ton.
I will say that Perry's effort on the glass has certainly improved of late, as he's getting tougher and more physical down low. He's probably the best box-out guy we have, though that's not saying much with this team.
I'm surprised that you say that "moves" and "talent" don't improve over 3-4 years of college after seeing the progress Thomas Robinson made in his 3 years at KU. I'm not saying that Perry will be all world next year, but the year over year improvements that Robinson made to his game over 3 years would prompt me to believe that this is possible with Perry as well.
Athleticism goes a long way ie talent and Thomas was in another class than Perry in this regard. That won't improve, but I do believe a counter move can be taught.
Yeah, Jeff Withey was totally devoid of a counter move just last year...
Thomas had plenty of skill in his freshman year. I got to see him workout at a camp with the twins, and he looked like an NBA kid. He was somewhat clueless and only knew how to play at one speed, but the kid had serious NBA level talent.
With Perry, I've just never seen that level of skill. He certainly has talent, but it's not even close to the Robinson\Morris twin level of talent.
I think people overrate how much Self improves a big's ability down low. They improve a TON, but most of it is in understanding the game, learning the speed, and improving their strength.
For reference, the staff said from day 1 that Thomas and the twins were NBA players. They've never once intimated that to anyone about Perry.
Withey has more "moves", his problem is he still just has no ability to use them quickly\effectively. I don't think Withey's skill has changed at all since he came to KU. He shows the same stuff he did in AAU - good shooting stroke, reasonable hook with his right hand, fantastic shot-blocking ability. His difference is he's figured out how to not foul and has made himself a lot stronger.
And still, I think he's used 1 counter move this season (the great one against Texas) thus far.
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