Busting Brackets

Coach’s Clipboard: Kansas Jayhawks Versus Wichita State Scouting Report


Coach’s Clipboard 2015 NCAA Tournament Edition: The most intriguing showdown of the tournament materialized when Wichita State and Kansas won their opening round games. In this scouting report we take a look at some keys to victory for each team.

When the brackets were released on Selection Sunday, the possibility of a showdown between the Kansas Jayhawks (27-8, #2 Midwest Region) and the Wichita State Shockers (29-4, #7 Midwest Region) jumped off the page. The context alone makes it the most intriguing game of the tournament thus far.

Kansas is college basketball royalty and the premier program in the state. They’ve won 11-straight Big 12 championships under Bill Self. The Jayhawks have been to 14 Final Fours and have collected three national titles. The very inventor of basketball, James A. Naismith, coached at Kansas.

Wichita State has a strong basketball tradition and their successful run during Gregg Marshall’s tenure have brought the Shockers into the national forefront. There is the 35-0 start last season before falling to Kentucky in an epic struggle. There is also the back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference championships. But no matter what the Shockers do, they will not be the elite program in their own backyard.

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  • Wichita State and college basketball fans have been clamoring for a showdown with Kansas and Self has refused to entertain the idea. And he is correct for doing so. The Jayhawks stand to gain nothing by playing Wichita State.

    Win, and it is expected because you are the bigger program from the bigger conference with the McDonald’s All-American roster. Lose, and you were “out-coached” by a trending in-state rival with lesser players. There is no upside for Kansas.

    But Self and the Jayhawks cannot avoid the showdown any longer. The programs face off in the round of 32 in Omaha and it promises to be electric.

    Dramatic storylines aside, what are the keys to victory on the court for each team? When the build up subsides the game will be settled on the court and here’s how Kansas and Wichita State get it done.

    Both teams are elite on the defensive end. Kansas is ninth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and Wichita State checks in at 17th. Scoring will be a chore for either team.

    The Jayhawks’ obvious advantage is size and depth in the frontcourt. Perry Ellis (a Wichita, KS native), Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson give self a rotation of post men he can use to pound it in the paint. And Self’s High-Low Offense is designed to to just that.

    Kansas uses lob passes and spacing to create post isolations. Post players often “walk their man up the lane” to clear room for the lob to be thrown over the defense. In the clips below, you can clearly see the low post players using this technique of gaining leverage to clear space for the over-the-top pass.

    The offense is designed to eliminate the possibility of weakside help from wing defenders. If they do help too far, Kansas three-point artists like Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene will make them pay.

    The “high-low pass” is easy to recognize, yet difficult to stop as the Jayhawks often spend entire possessions manipulating the defense to set it up. This is how Self and the Jayhawks will attempt to capitalize on their inside advantage.

    Wichita State builds its attack around the savvy point guard Fred VanVleet and that is an advantage over almost any team in the country. The duo of VanVleet and Ron Baker form one of the best backcourts in the nation.

    VanVleet excels at using the high ball screen. Marshall spreads the floor and spaces shooters around the perimeter to allow VanVleet room the penetrate, play pick-and-roll offense or kick out to shooters like Baker when he draws their defenders. Below is the basic offensive construction the Shockers use to employ VanVleet’s talents.

    VanVleet has excellent “dribble weapons” like an inside-out dribble, hesitation move and crossover that allow him to blow by helping big men as he comes off ball screens.

    One of the ways Marshall utilizes VanVleet’s skills is by using drag screens in transition. After Wichita State gains possession, the trailing big men will both set ball screens at the top of the circle for VanVleet.

    He has complete freedom to use one, both or neither of them to create offense. The drag screens can give VanVleet shot opportunities if the defense goes under the ball screens, they allow for penetration and dump-offs to big men, an opportunity to create his own offense using his dribble weapons or drive-and-kick threes. Below you see all of this in action.

    Kansas point guard Frank Mason will have his hands full with VanVleet. And Self has some tough decisions to make about how to defend ball screens.

    Will he instruct his guards to go under the screens? Will he have big men step out to hedge and give help? Will he force help defenders to rotate on men rolling to the basket thus leaving them vulnerable to the three? Perhaps he traps VanVleet coming of the ball screens to force it out of his hands. How Kansas deals with VanVleet and his usage of ball screens will be something to watch for.

    The scene in Omaha is sure to be electric. When the dust settles the results will be assigned meaning way beyond the actual results. Wichita State fans would love to land an eliminating blow the the state’s basketball titan. Kansas fans would love to see the Jayhawks deliver a quieting message to Wichita State.

    Emotion aside, the players and the strategies will decide the game. Look for whomever establishes these go-to actions to advance to Cleveland and the Sweet Sixteen.

    Next: Three Thoughts on the Kentucky Wildcats Win Against Cincinnati