It is no secret amongst KU fans (or the rest of the Big 12 for that matter) that Brannen Greene can flat out shoot the rock. Coming out of highschool, Greene (rated a 4 star recruit by Rivals) was regarded by many as one of the better outside shooters in the class. Struggles during his freshman year kept Greene from ever being able to get in a groove or make much of a contribution, but during his sophomore year he has become one of the best shooters in the Big 12, which has some wondering why Bill Self doesn’t give him more minutes (especially with the unspectacular offensive play of Wayne Selden Jr.) Below is a breakdown of what Greene brings to KU when he is on the floor.
Greene has been absolutely on fire from behind the arc this year shooting a Big 12-best 50% from three point range. This is a huge upgrade from last years 33% rate. Greene is a very dangerous weapon any time he is on the floor because of the way he demands constant pressure from defenders, which spreads the floor and allows for other scoring options like Perry Ellis to get open and also helps to open up the lane for slashers like Frank Mason. Greene is starting to become the type of player that every opposing player will have to be aware of when he is on the court. He has an incredibly quick release and at 6’7, he is able to shoot over smaller 2 guards without trouble. He is especially deadly in quick catch-and-shoot situations and in transition, but he has proven his ability to shoot off the dribble this year as well. What is most encouraging about the way Greene has played this year is the confidence and swagger he has developed throughout the season. Greene has been described by Self as a player who exhibits a “no conscious” attitude. In other words, Greene is not afraid to put up a shot at anytime and he is quick to forget about his mistakes. An attitude like this is the type of “alpha-dog” mentality that Self loves to see in his players. All too often in college basketball young players will get caught up in their own way by “thinking” instead of just playing the game of basketball. Even players with unreal talent (Andrew Wiggins when he was at KU for example) often have trouble with this, which leads to them not being as assertive and aggressive as they can be. With Greene, this is far from an issue. Weather it is an increase in minutes which lead to this confidence (from 6.6 minutes a game as a freshman to 14 minutes a game this year) or just more time under Self, Greene has become a real threat and his confidence is the main reason why.
When people get confused about why Greene has not played more minutes this year or played over Selden more often, they don’t need to look any further than his defense. Self has always been a coach that has prided himself on having a great defensive team. Over the last decade, KU has been a mainstay at the top of the rankings for team defense statistics such as opponents FG% and points against, although this year has been somewhat reversed. KU is currently 9th in the Big 12 in opponent’s points against giving up 64.7 points a game (Baylor is first in the conference giving up only 58.2 points a game.) This is the type of thing that drives a coach like Bill Self crazy. When looking at Brannen Greene, one would think that he has the potential to become a very good defensive basketball player. At 6’7, 215 lbs. one could very easily make a comparison to former KU guard/forward combo Brandon Rush who was 6’6 and weighed 210 lbs. Rush is to this day still regarded by Self as one of the best lockdown defensive players he has ever coached. Unfortunately for Greene, he is nowhere near Self saying anything like that about him. Often times Greene appears to be lost on defense and unaware of how he should be guarding his man, as well as when and if to switch on screens. Also, all too often it seems like smaller guards are able to blow past him with ease using their speed. This is somewhat of an anomaly because when watching Greene, it appears that he has good speed and quickness for his size. The problem is that Greene has yet to develop decent lateral quickness. He appears to have problems shuffling his feet fast enough to keep up with smaller guards driving to the lane. These are all things that can be improved upon, and he is the first to acknowledge it when asked about not getting playing time, often saying in post game interviews that his defense needs work and that Self is working with him to improve it. With his tall body and long arms, one would at least expect for Greene to have a respectable amount of steals, but even with over twice as many minutes per game than last year he averages the exact same amount of steals; a paltry 0.2 per game. For Greene to start earning more minutes over superior defensive players like Selden, this will have to be improved.
Although Greene has never had much of a reputation for being able to drive the ball in the lane, he does have some ability to do so. He is not much of a finisher at the rim, but his overall FG% has gone up from 38.5% his freshman year to 50% this year (even though the main reason for this is his ridiculous 3 point FG%.) If he can improve his ability to get in the lane occasionally and score from inside, it will keep whoever is guarding him honest and will keep opponents from being able to continually face-guard him, which will open up more opportunities from beyond the arc. He has below average ball handling skills and passing abilities and at times it looks as though he gets too sped up and tries to force quick passes which lead to turnovers. He is not a major factor for rebounding, as he averages only 2.2 per game but some of that is realistically due to him placing an emphasis on running back for transition offense opportunities. He can be a valuable piece of the offense late in games because of the way he shoots free throws, (90% on the year) which in a conference as complete and talented top to bottom as the Big 12 with close games seemingly happening every night, is crucial.
All in all, Brannen Greene is a player that can be a potential game changer because of his ability to shoot outside and spread the floor, but also a player that has plenty of room for improvement, especially on defense. He will become a bigger and more important part of the team as the year continues to progress, and he will likely be an important piece of the next few years of Kansas Basketball. Under Bill Self, it is not unrealistic to believe that his defense will start to improve and that he will continue to play like an alpha-dog with no conscious on offense.