Scouting an unknown opponent adds new wrinkle, but overall process familiar for Kansas

Kansas head coach Bill Self leads his players through an inbounding scenario during a practice on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self leads his players through an inbounding scenario during a practice on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Sure, it’s possible that Kansas and Iowa State will meet in the Sweet 16 or Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the Elite Eight or UCLA and Oregon in the Final Four or Duke and North Carolina in the national championship game.

And if any of those, or others like them, wind up being the case, then scouting reports won’t be as important for each coach to come up with because those teams all know each other so well from having competed in the same conference and faced each other multiple times already this season.

That’s not the case for the early rounds, though, where teams are facing each other for the first time this season — sometimes the first time in years or ever — and are currently in the process of scouring over notes and video to get a good read on their upcoming opponent.

Although the Kansas men’s basketball team does not yet know who it will face in the first round in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday — the winner of UC Davis vs. North Carolina Central at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday plays Kansas on Friday — the Jayhawks are busy scouting a number of different opponents.

KU coach Bill Self talked about the process Monday morning on the Big 12 coaches teleconference and sounded like a man comfortable with not knowing the identity of that first opponent because he and the Jayhawks have experienced similar situations so many times before in other tournaments.

“Same thing we do if we played in Maui, for instance,” said Self, outlining his scouting game plan for the week. “I wouldn’t go to Maui just looking at the first opponent. I would spend early in the week looking at the second-round opponent and then, as you get closer to the game, focus on the first opponent. The NCAA Tournament allows you to do that because each weekend’s a two-game tournament.”

Self confirmed on Sunday that teams were not allowed to send assistant coaches to Dayton, Ohio, to watch that NC Central-UC Davis match-up live. But assistant coach Norm Roberts has spent the past couple of days devouring every available bit of information on both teams and Self personally will move into that phase of his preparation tomorrow.

“We divide the scouts up, obviously,” Self said. “Norm has the first game, regardless of who it is, and Jerrance (Howard) and Kurtis (Townsend) have the second game if we’re fortunate enough to advance. Me personally, I’m watching (potential second-round foes) Michigan State and Miami. That’s what my focus is right now because I don’t know who we’re playing (Friday) yet. My focus, beginning (Tuesday) night, wiIl probably be both UC Davis and North Carolina Central. I want to have the best deal possible. I want my own scouting report done on the potential Sunday game before Wednesday because Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I want my total focus to be on the first game.”

While the scouting report procedure will provide Kansas with a detailed look at the specific teams the Jayhawks could and will face, Self said the big-picture thinking is to expect tough games from start to finish.

“All the teams in the field are saying, ‘God, we got a tough path,’ because the reality is you do,” he said. “You don’t have as many dominant teams, or any dominant teams, compared to what you’ve had 15 or 20 years ago, and even though parity may not be the right word, you have more evenly balanced teams. The difference between a 5 and a 12, a 3 and a 10, a 1 and a 5 or however you go about it is less now than probably it ever has been. It makes for some great match-ups, especially early in the tournament that first weekend.”


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