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Texas vs. Kansas: Shot Selection vs. Fool's Gold

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We talk about fool’s gold, heat checks, and shot selection on this blog almost as much as tote bags, pederasty, Scipio's sabbaticals, and HenryJames' continued parole violations. So I wanted to take a moment and explain why if you’ll indulge me. Look no further than the Kansas game for an instructive example.

The poster children for Fools Gold are deep treys that swish early in the shot clock and driving runners from your big men that magnetically fall in the hoop. They are also idiots who buy "precious" coins off infomercials. They may shoot you into a 18-3 lead but they are also just as likely to shoot you out of ballgames as evidenced by KU’s double digit loss to Texas last Saturday.

Conversely, even when Texas was down by 15, they were still in the ballgame because they were getting great looks and while Kansas’ shots were falling, they were usually horrible in terms of shot selection. It was only a matter of time before Kansas came back down to Earth because the shots that sparked the 18-3 opening salvo weren’t going to continue to fall against a club as long and athletic as Texas. Hence Kansas’ torrid beginning was fool’s gold and the heat checks by the Selby and the Morris twins weren’t coming in the confines of Kansas’ offensive comfort zone. Two passes and jack up a shot isn’t an offense regardless of how talented your club is. And it certainly isn’t a viable, sustainable offense against a defensive club the caliber of Texas.

Fast forward to the second half of the KU vs. Texas ballgame for an indication of how terrific Texas’ shot selection was. Even though the Horns were held to just 23 points in the first half, you knew they’d break out offensively if they continued to get the same open looks. They got these same open looks in spades but converted the majority of them. The result? 51 points in one of the most explosive halves of offensive basketball in recent memory. But the real story is what kind of shots the Horns took in the second half.

Here’s a breakdown.

According to the shot chart, 33 of or our 51 second half points were either layups or foul shots. That’s amazing efficiency especially when you consider KU is one of the top 2 or 3 defensive teams in all of college hoops. But wait, there's more!

Of the other 18 points four of the field goals were 3 balls and 3 of the field goals were non layups. Two of four 3′s were wide open jumpers—one coming off of a drive and kick to Brown and the other on a blown assignment by Tyrel Reed that allowed Cory Joseph to simply dribble to the arc and shoot an uncontested 3. (I think Reed assumed KU was still in a triangle and two but it was obviously man.)

The two other 3’s should be characterized as tough shots. One was a contested 3 by Brown off a ballscreen and the other was a banked 3 by Joseph with the shot clock winding down. It happened to us against UConn. It was Kansas' turn.

As for the 3 mid-range field goals, one came on a drive and kick by Hamilton to Johnson for a wide open 15 footer, one was a dotted circle jumper by Brown after he backed down Selby, and the third was a Cory Joseph pull up from 15 feet.
So outside of all layups and free throw offense, I’d characterize the following as tough shots that are “wins” for the defense: the Brown dotted line shot is an outstanding individual move where J’Covan used his strength to take Selby down to the cup and muscle in an 8 footer. Not a shot you make a living with. The Cory Joseph banked 3 up against the shot clock is obviously not a good shot-hell, they should deduct points for that. The Cory Joseph midrange pull up isn’t a shot you want to hang your hat on, but Cory is capable of hitting it. Still, if I’m Self I don’t mind that shot. And finally the J’Covan Brown contested 3 off the ballscreen wasn’t a good shot and certainly something you don’t design an offense around.

So all told, that’s 10 tough points off of 4 questionable shots. The other 41 points came by simply running offense and were a direct result of getting great looks. That’s the opposite of fool’s gold. In fact, it goes to show if Texas just runs their stuff and stays patient, they can drop big numbers on every team in America in any venue. This isn’t Kevin Durant or Jordan Hamilton going 15-20 from the field. This an example of efficient offense that can carry the day even when your stars like Jordan Hamilton and Gary Johnson are having off shooting nights.

It’s the difference between consistent scoring and suffering through a tale of two halves as Kansas can certainly attest.