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A Look At Bill Self on Kansas Basketball Media Day

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Bill Self was his usual quotable self on media day, but did we learn anything?

Andy Lyons

Note this article isn't titled "What we learned at media day" or anything of the like because Self has a long history of seeming to be candid while actually never saying anything of substance or out. (case in point: Bill Self saying last year that Andrew White could be the first guard off the bench)

So let's get to today. Self had a lot of quotes about his team and the personnel. Rather than a plain recap, let's select a few and rank them on a scale from 1 (honest) to 10 (liar liar pants on fire). All quotes are from this link.

I can see a scenario where Wayne (Selden, Jr.) plays point with two big wings, and I can see a scenario where Frank (Mason III) and Devonte’ (Graham) or Frank and Conner (Frankamp), whoever it is, is in the game at the same times. I don’t see many scenarios where all three will be in the game together, but I think we can definitely play small. Frank is tough enough, he allows us to play small because I think he can guard a bigger guard.

I'm giving this a 5, mainly because it's two separate assertions in one quote. I will buy Bill Self a yacht if Wayne Selden plays point guard for one second this year, but I definitely think two of the three point guards will make it onto the floor at the same time. Kansas did it quite a bit last year with Tharpe and Mason, and I think Conner is too steady with the ball and too good of a shooter to leave him off the floor too much (more on this later).

So I see us being small a lot. But when I say being small, I can see us playing Wayne at the four, Kelly Oubre at the four, Brannen Greene at the four, to make us even though standing height will be about the same, but a much more perimeter oriented team.

This one gets a 9. Wayne Selden will never play the 4 either. He's officially listed at 6'5", and I don't think Kansas can get away with a Frankamp, Mason, Oubre, Selden, whomever lineup. Selden wasn't a great rebounder last year, though that is probably a function of role and health just as much as ability, and unless two or three bigs are all in foul trouble I don't see Selden getting any playing time other than at the 2 or 3.

The reality is, Hunter, with his skill set, will probably have to do some more things in order to see playing time just because of what our needs are based on our other personnel. But you’re right, he’s our best shot blocker.

Our first 1! As a Freshman at Arkansas, Mickelson posted the 5th best shot blocking rate in the country, and though that number dipped in his Sophomore year he was still an above average shot blocker. He did, however, lack a bit in the other areas of his game. Mickelson had eFGs well under 50% and was a fairly poor rebounder for his size.

He [Brannen Greene]’s really improved. Of course, last year he was one of our most talented guys and didn’t play much. This year he’s in a dogfight for playing time because that’s a loaded house, crowded house, back there with Wayne and with Kelly (Oubre, Jr.) and Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) and with Brannen. That’s four really good, tall perimeter players.

So, Brannen is going to have to do some more things on the defensive end and learn how to make others better. But Brannen Greene is a very talented guy. I mean, he’s arguably as good a shooter as we have. He can run all day, he can do a lot of different things athletically, he’s gotten stronger, but he’s still got to buy into guarding on the other end.

This reminds me a lot of the Andrew White situation last year. A guy is "really talented" and a "great shooter" but never gets on the floor due to some perceived difficulties on the defensive end of the floor. Maybe he did have some of this talent that HCBS speaks of but if he did he would have played more. Is talent without statistical production really talent at all? Or is it just a guy who looks like he should be good at basketball but for whatever reason just isn't?

None of that is necessarily applicable to Greene, but it is a good rule of thumb. If all you can say about a guy is he's talented or athletic or whatever else and the numbers don't bear anything out, be wary. As for Greene specifically, if he can shoot the ball as well as people say he can, I think he has a chance to be a good backup wing.

But I see some similarities with Cliff and Thomas (Robinson). Cliff is probably a little bigger at the same stage, about the same athletically. Offensively, about the same. There’s a lot of similarities in him. Cliff has to get where he goes after every ball, and he did that in high school, so hopefully that will translate to college.

Agreed! Robinson I would say was probably more athletic, but Cliff definitely is a giant human being and just destroyed people in high school. Kansas is the perfect school for him because he got away with being a bully in high school, and probably will in college as well, but he's also going to learn post moves and counters to those post moves and get into a really good conditioning program that's going to prepare him for the NBA.

To me, Devonte’ reminds me of Aaron Miles. You know, just a guy that would do whatever it takes to give the team the best chance and be a good leader in all areas. You know, he can make a shot, too.

So I think that his intangibles will probably allow him to play more early on because if you look at our team, that’s what our team needs as much as anything else are those intangibles.

I won't pretend to know anything about Devonte Graham as a basketball player. I've watched his mixtapes, which tell you nothing, and I've read a bunch of quotes about him, but that's it. I will say though, that if he reminds HCBS of Aaron Miles, "he can make a shot" probably shouldn't be one of the first things to come to mind.

And to expand on that point a little more, if he is a below average shooter, that would give Kansas two below average shooters in the backcourt (if Mason is with him) or potentially three if he, Mason and Oubre all play together. Whether this will give Frankamp and Mykhailiuk the inside track on some more playing time (it should) remains to be seen. But this could be the second year in a row where Kansas isn't great from beyond the arc depending on personnel.

I hope so, because we stunk last year defensively.

We didn’t put pressure on the ball. We never cut the head off. Teams got comfortable. When I say we stunk; we were probably still the best or second best defensive team in our league, but that’s not who we’ve been for years, and we’ve been better than that.

And so we don’t have a shot blocker behind us if it were not for Joel last year, there’s no telling how bad we looked at times defensively, because people got the ball where they wanted to get it, and he covered up mistakes.

This year, we don’t have a seven foot tall guy to cover mistakes like that. But I do think we are going to be able to pressure the ball, deny one pass away, and I think you’re going to see a pretty good defensive team.

Self was correct in saying that Kansas was the best defensive team in the Big 12 last year. They allowed 1.026 points per trip in Big 12 play, which obviously is not good, but I think it was a function of the new rules and the Big 12 being a very offensive league more than anything else. Also, and not to throw a guy who left under the bus, but having a point guard who can't stay in front of his guy is a disaster because when he gets beat it breaks down the defense more than anything else.

I do think that Kansas will have the ability to deny a bit more and get up on guys if they want to, but whether they'll follow through is another story. They haven't been a ball denial, force steals type team for awhile now, and with no shot blocker (I do have high hopes for Mickelson or maybe Alexander or Traylor to develop) they'll likely have to be even more cautious to avoid good looks at the hoop. And, and this is a post for another day, but playing off and letting guys take 15 footers all day wouldn't upset me too much.

He [Conner Frankamp]’s got to get stronger, he’s got to. And the thing about it is, as good a shooter as he is, he’s not good enough. And as strong as Wayne is, he’s not strong enough.

I am not reading too  much into these quotes about playing time, and I think (or hope) that by adding Selden in there he's not making a point to say that Frankamp isn't going to play, just that everyone needs to get better. Which is fair.

But I hope everyone is ready. If Conner doesn't play this year, the #freeandrewwhite campaign is going to be tame in comparison. I might go chain myself to Allen Fieldhouse in protest if Conner doesn't get at least 20 mpg.

Pressure is an option. But pressing could be, too. I’m not a big press guy, as you guys know, because I think you can win games when you have superior talent a lot of times against teams.

But Coach (Eddie) Sutton (at Oklahoma State) always taught me or told me: So we can beat a team 70 59, or somebody else could beat them 105 70, so who is better? And the answer is, who knows?

You play a style that gives you the best chance to win in the postseason because that’s when you’ll be playing against good guards. And a lot of times good guards love it when teams press.

So I don’t want to be a pressing team against certain teams and a non pressing team against the really good teams. I want to develop an identity that "this is who we are and it will work against whoever we are playing against." And that doesn’t mean you can’t press some. And certainly, I would anticipate us doing so, but I don’t think it will be a staple of everything that we do defensively.

Finally, the money shot.

Can I swear? No? OK. Well in any event if Self is trying to say that he could employ some sort of press this is a repeat of a repeat of a repeat of a giant lie he's always told. He doesn't press. Which is fine at times, but when it works (in short bursts) over and over and over again and leads to huge comebacks (that fall short) it's probably a good idea to press more.

Because of Kansas's depth and top end talent, there are only a handful of teams I wouldn't like to see Kansas press this year. In past years, Kansas has had some plodders (Aldrich, Withey) who needed to be on the floor a lot, but also couldn't really be used in a full court press. This year there's no one who should otherwise be playing who couldn't press. As such, Kansas can go at least 9 deep in employing a press and I guarantee that because of their depth and conditioning, they would murder every team in the second half. I'm not saying go full on Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, but if they pressed for anywhere between 5-10 minutes per half they would avoid some of the out of left field losses they've suffered, and it would be a good way to ensure a lot of playing time for everyone.

I get Self's assertions that you don't want to go up against great guards in the postseason with a press a lot, but there are a lot of different looks you can throw at a guy to confuse him, and also hopefully wear him down so that once he gets into the front court he's not as effective. I will pretend the first sentence of the fourth paragraph doesn't exist because that is insane.

Also, with regards to the second paragraph: the team who wins 105-70 is better.