OMAHA, Neb. – This is a small thing, what I'm about to point out, but it's interesting all the same and maybe a sign of something bigger.
Let's go to the second half of Kansas' win against New Mexico State, the one that eventually set up a juicy non-rivalry game with Wichita State on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16. Let's go to the moment where Brannen Greene may have gotten his mojo back.
If you are the kind of person who is reading this, you are probably the kind of person who knows that Greene is a dead-eye three-point shooter who for more than a month has been a bad three-point shooter.
In the nine games leading up to the NCAA Tournament, Green made just four of 25 three-pointers. That's fairly terrible, and it's made worse by the understanding of everyone involved that hitting three-pointers is a sizable chunk of Greene's basketball value, and that KU is a much more dangerous team when he's on.
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So, with about eight minutes left in the game Greene hit a three-pointer from a wing. Later, KU coach Bill Self would say that it was important for Greene “to see the ball go in the hole.” Earlier in the game, he had missed a three-pointer badly. So much of shooting is about confidence.
Anyway, Greene hits that three-pointer and as he's going back on defense he mouths the words “finally” and slaps hands with a few teammates. He smiles. Self must've seen the reaction. A few seconds later, Kansas gets the ball back and there's a timeout.
Self has a lot of strengths as a coach, but if you talk to other coaches about him, one of the things they usually mention is how strong his team is out of a timeout. KU can get six or eight points per game on out of bounds plays after timeouts alone.
KU was up by 17 at this point, so it's not like the outcome of the game was in the balance, but Self saw a chance here to infuse some confidence in a player who needs it. So Self called something to get his guy a look.
After the game, Greene remembered what happened in detail.
“(Self) drew that play up,” Greene says. “An up screen for Devonte to drive, and then Perry was going to screen me to the corner. It worked out perfectly. The guy got caught up on Perry's screen, and I was open. So I just took the shot and knocked it down.”
And now, in GIF form:
Again, there is no way of knowing if this unlocks something in Greene. It could be a fleeting moment. He could've been bound to break out of this anyway, with or without a boost from his coach.
All the same, Self thought it was important to put that moment in the head of his best shooter.
“Everybody needs confidence,” Self says. “Everybody needs to see it go in, and he hasn't seen it go in for two or three weeks, so that was nice.”