Coach Self stepped in front of the mic yesterday afternoon and had quite a bit to say. The primary topic revolved around Elijah, Tyshawn and guard play in general. Some discussion on what Brady and Tyrel mean to the team, injury updates and how a team hits 26-2 despite dealing with so many personnel variations during the season.
Head Coach Bill Self
On if Elijah Johnson will start Saturday:
"Yes he will start Saturday, absolutely. Unless he gets injured or something comes up then he'll be starting in the backcourt with Tyrel (Reed) and Brady (Morningstar)."
Bill said ABSOLUTELY....hmmm?
On how much he tributes having steady influences in Tyrel and Brady:
"We've been able to dodge some bullets by having guys out, guys stepping up and playing well. I don't think we would be dodging the bullets as easily if Brady and Tyrel were two of the components that were gone. They are a calming influence over our guys and have been our two most consistent players, especially since conference play started. Brady's stats in conference play are a joke - what is it 54-7? That's a joke. He's leading the league in three-point field goal percentage too so hopefully he can keep that going. Those two have been the main stage of the backcourt and certainly whenever (Marcus and Markieff Morris) are playing like they're playing right now, they would certainly be missed if they're not out there."
I'm convinced that a team needs players like this to make a deep run. And by that I mean seniors with experience, leadership and he ability to play a steady game night in and night out.
On if the calming influence from Tyrel and Brady is coming from experience or personality:
"I think it's a combination of both. A lot of it is experience though. They've both been there and done that and they don't ever take it for granted. But also, their personalities are such where they allow the other players to be the best players they can possibly be with no ego involved. Sometimes ego gets involved - why is he getting shots and I'm not? - That stuff doesn't even register with Tyrel and Brady. Tyrel could go into a game thinking he's going to take 15 shots or three shots, it doesn't even register and it makes no difference, whatever is best for the team and Brady certainly feels the same way."
Is this a subtle hint at the phrase Sleepy-Eyed Kansans? Did Warden sneak into the presser?
On KU's record of 26-2 being so remarkable considering all of the players that have been out or injured:
"Remarkable probably isn't a great word because we have good players. I do think that this year has surpassed - record-wise - what I thought it could be without question. I didn't think going into the season that this team could be 26-2 at any point in time. I guess this is the only point in time that we could be 26-2; you'd have to play 28 games in order to do that - that's my Oklahoma math coming out of me. But certainly I did not anticipate this.
I did not anticipate losing two lottery picks, your best player and best leader. But somehow or another, we talk about we don't have and we look up and we're still 26-2. The disappointing thing to me is that we lost a tough game at home to Texas and that's certainly affected the league race more so than anything. Usually you don't run the table on the road; usually you lose a couple of games on the road in good leagues even if you have unbelievable years. Certainly we've been good on the road and it remains to be seen how we'll finish on the road. But the loss at home is something that doesn't happen very often if you're going to win the league and that, to me, has tempered our record more than anything."
This puts it all in perspective we've been very lucky in recent years. Every year we seem to lose a lot but never miss a beat. Depending on what happens next year I think it could be our first, but I certainly think Self is owed the benefit of the doubt on that.
On Thomas Robinson returning from his knee injury:
"He's doing great. He's an amazing guy. He practiced yesterday for the entire practice. I sat him out the last 15 minutes to shoot free throws. He's shooting those a lot better now. He's doing great. Mentally he's close to 100 percent, believing that he's healthy. (Physically) he's still probably 90 percent. There's still another week before you feel like he has the same explosion he had before the injury."
On what was different about Elijah Johnson in his performance on Monday:
"I don't really know the biggest difference, but with Tyshawn not playing, he knows he's going to play. That helps a lot, knowing that you don't have to look over your shoulder if you screw up. He's a bench-watcher more so than what I'd like when he screws up. He wants to please, he wants to do what's right, but when you play not to screw up usually that's when you screw up the most. I thought he played with more of a free mind. I don't know if that's the reason or not. It helps when you make all of your shots, and you get some confidence that way.
To me, I thought he focused in on what we wanted him to do, which was do a great job on (Keiton) Paige. He did a fabulous job, made two screw-ups, two major screw-ups guarding Paige in a span of 30 minutes, which is really good. He played well because he wasn't worried about screwing up. He was worried about guarding Paige and being solid defensively. When you're worried about the right things, good things happen in other areas."
On what area his team has improved the most this season:
"I think regardless of what happens, we've proven that we can take some hits personnel-wise and keep on moving forward. We still don't have everybody playing their best. If you go through and look at who has had great individual seasons, there are only four guys that have had great seasons - Marcus and Markieff Morris, Brady and Tyrel. Everybody else has been pretty sound and played good in spurts. That's not taking anything away from them. Very rarely do you have a situation where everybody plays their best all of the time. That doesn't happen very often, so when we dipped we've had other guys step in. Mario (Little) was great when he needed to be great. Travis (Releford) has been great for us when he needed to be great, Elijah, Josh, whoever. (Jeff) Withey has given us good minutes when we needed him to give us good minutes, so I would say the thing I've learned the most is that we can absorb things when things aren't going well on the court, which is a positive for any team."
"Seeing them early in the season to where they are now, (Oklahoma head coach) Jeff (Capel) has done a great job. The game last night (against Texas A&M) they were in the game late. A&M is 9-4 in the league, so he has done a great job. They are certainly a different team than they were when the season started. They've lost some close games of late, and their record is not an indication of how much they've improved. They are a much better basketball team than they were a month-and-a-half ago."
On what matchup problems Oklahoma presents:
"Obviously, I love Cade Davis. They've been playing him at the four, but you can guard him at the three, you can guard him at the four. They can present problems that way. He can really get on a roll and make shots. (Andrew) Fitzgerald's become a very good back-to-the-basket guy and even facing (the basket). That's Thomas (Robinson's) teammate in high school, so that will be interesting. He's looking forward to that. The thing that they do is they mix their defenses. They do some things where they just don't give up easy baskets. I think they're good defensively."