Kansas Basketball Presser: Jayhawks Look Ahead To The Final Four

Watch it or read it. Self and the team conducted what is likely the last presser in Lawrence before shipping out to the Big Easy

Kansas head coach Bill Self

On if he envisioned this team getting to the Final Four:

"We always think, dream and hope for that. There's no question that that's always the case. When we started (this year), I think the reality was, `I hope we're good enough to get in.' The guys have done such a great job and played so well. They've gotten better. The players that we thought these guys could become, they've become."

On if there was a defining moment or game this season:

"We were really good when we played at Missouri. I left there thinking, `Hey, we're good.' We got beat, but I thought we were good. Then going to Baylor, we saw how good Baylor is, and having them down 20 I thought we were good. So I would say that week was the time where I thought maybe we could play amongst the elite."

On if his approach to the NCAA Tournament was any different this year:

"No. People will make a big deal out of whatever. If a guy misses a wide-open shot but he makes a guarded shot, all of a sudden it's, `What did you do differently?' There is nothing different going on. It's pretty much the same routine, the same thing we do throughout the course of the entire season. Not much has changed."

On if not being able to sub out guys like junior forward Thomas Robinson or senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor when they make bad plays has helped this year:

"I don't know that it does. I've always thought it helps guys to play right whenever you have somebody you can put in. That is one of the greatest attributes of depth. In this situation, they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm going to allow them to play. They (Robinson and Taylor) are both going to do something every game. Tyshawn did a couple of things in that Carolina game where you thought, `Wow,' but then he did a couple of things that made you go, `Wow.' That's just who we are and how we do it, but nobody can ever question their competitive juice. They're both so competitive."

On the recent performances of junior forward Kevin Young:

"We should talk more about him. He's been great. In the last three weeks or so, he's pursuing the ball as well as anybody we have in our program. He got eight rebounds (against North Carolina), four offensive. He was keeping balls alive. He made one bad (play). He made a great move and misses a dunk, hangs on the rim and falls down. He doesn't get back, the man scores and he goes and tackles their guy when he sets a ball screen. That was not a great 20 seconds, but other than that, he's been terrific. With his frame, he doesn't need to be tackling anybody, but he's been absolutely terrific. I have total confidence going to him off the bench. He and (junior center) Jeff (Withey) are fine, he and Thomas are fine. There is no problem going to him in any situation."

On if he knew what he was getting with Young:

"When he came, we thought he would be the best loose ball guy we'd have. He's become maybe the best loose ball guy we have, so he's playing the way we thought he would. He does more with the stat sheet than anyone on our team. If he plays eight minutes, he's going to find some way to get on the stat sheet. He's one of those guys that finds a way to impact the game as soon as he checks in. He's definitely active. We haven't had anyone like Kevin in awhile."

On Ohio State:

"Their team has gotten better. People should talk about (sophomore forward) Jared (Sullinger) because he's terrific. He's an All-American without question, but I think (senior guard William) Buford is pretty good and (sophomore forward) Deshaun Thomas is averaging 22 points per game in the tournament. (Sophomore guard Aaron) Craft is as good as any guard around and (sophomore guard Lenzelle) Smith (Jr.) has played exceptionally well throughout Big Ten play. Their bench is good too, and they're big. Jared is terrific and deserves the accolades, but they're not a one-man band."

On if Robinson and Sullinger will match up against each other:

"If we did that, that would put Withey on Thomas, so that's probably not going to happen. We will wait and see how things play out, but they're going to be matched up against each other some. Deshaun is more inside-outside slash post. He can stretch it."

On Frank Martin accepting the head coaching position at South Carolina:

"I'm really happy for him. I spoke to him last week after the tournament telling him congratulations on another great year. He told me this could be a possibility. I don't know what the situation is down there, but I think he left a good situation so he must feel this is a really good situation for him personally. We played down there and it was a great facility and a great location. There are a lot of positives there, but our league will miss him. He was nothing but good things for our basketball league."

On what the team learned from the Davidson game:

"We were kind of full of ourselves after the Ohio State game. Tyshawn had surgery that next day, then he played against Davidson so there is no excuse but he wasn't 100 percent. I just thought our attitudes weren't great, we had selfish thoughts and we didn't play like we liked each other. I also think we looked like a tired team with not a lot of energy. That Davidson game was really good for us. Losses now aren't any good because you can't learn from them, but in that particular situation, it was a loss we learned a lot from."

On why Withey was better in the second weekend of the tournament:

"Because he played against traditional teams and he got a chance to guard a big. Even though NC State wasn't big, they played closer to the basket. Jeff is one of those kids that is kind of laid back. I don't think he realizes how important he is to us sometimes."

On who would be favored in a math-up between KU's 2008 Final Four team and this year's Final Four team:

"The '08 Final Four team would be favored, but I'm not sure the '12 Final Four team would buy into that at all. It's unbelievable to me how much these guys enjoy competing. The longer they compete with each other, the more they like each other. This is a close team. We've had some close teams in the past, but I don't think we've had a team this close. That '08 team was so unselfish to have so many good players and still sacrificed and guarded. But there is something about this team and how they get on each other and hold each other accountable; only teams that really care about each other do those things. It sounds easy in theory, but unless you really love your brother next to you, you're not going to jump his butt when he does wrong. These guys hold each other pretty accountable."

On if he is able to foster that accountability:

"It's a little bit of fostering maybe, but it primarily just happens. The one thing about being here that has been so cool is if we win enough, the pie is big enough for everybody. But you have to win enough and these guys have bought into winning coming first. Everybody has moments where you put your own agendas ahead of what might be best for the group, but for the most part these guys have bought into that the last two months better than any team I've had."

On if he's impressed with how Thomas Robinson has been concentrating on the tournament and not looking ahead to the future:

"Thomas is a guy that has handled all the situations remarkably, considering the situation he's in, which makes it harder to handle all the situations. He's been an absolute treat. He and I have moments, there's no question about that, but I think when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and you know the end is drawing near, it seems like everyone has (come together)."

On if that closeness helps explain why the team has succeeded in the last three games when the game has been on the line:

"I think so. These guys, I don't know if `cocky' is the right word, but they've got something about them right now that they just think they can rely on someone to make a play. A huge play in the game (vs. North Carolina) at the end of the first half when Carolina is playing for one (last shot) and Elijah (Johnson) rips (Harrison) Barnes and gets a layup. Little things like that, that give you momentum going into half because we had totally screwed up the first half being up seven. Guys just have a timing to make plays like that. Jeff's (Withey) block and tap, I mean I don't know if that's because of competitive juice or liking the moment, but timing has just been right for these guys to have an opportunity to make those type of plays in the most opportune times. It could just be good timing."

On this year's Final Four teams having great history and tradition:

"It's a heavyweight group. There's no question about that. I heard somewhere that there's 49 Final Fours between the four groups, which I've been told might be the most all-time. That's a pretty good deal. If a Final Four game can kind of slide under the radar, us and Ohio State kind of is, in large part because of the civil war (Louisville vs. Kentucky) going on in Kentucky right now, which is great. It's a great field and one we're really proud to be a part of."

On keeping the players from the distractions in New Orleans:

"You have to trust your guys that they are mature enough to handle certain things, but they have to trust you that what we tell them is right. You guys (media) will have your moment with them and we'll have curfew tonight, but they have to be kids too. They should enjoy this. They need to be a normal college student as much as they can for this week, but still curfew is now. Don't miss class this week because you're still a normal kid like everybody else."

On Robinson being named a unanimous AP All-American:

"I'm not surprised at all. I mean, how cool is that? What's just as cool to me as him being a First Team All-American is Tyshawn (Taylor) being third team. To me, that's the first team for Ty (Taylor). That's unbelievable to me, how well those guys have done."

On if he thinks this is his best coaching job:

"I don't know that you should rate. We've done good, but to me a lot of times the challenges are coaching guys when you have to manage egos, roles, chemistry and getting all the guys to buy in. I'll say this; this has been one of the easier coaching jobs that we've had because it's been easy to get guys to buy in and be exactly what we want them to be. There's only so many that we can put out there and they all bought into that. I don't know good, bad or whatever, but from an easy standpoint, maybe harder to win games, but easier to get everybody to play the way you want them to."

On how Conner Teahan's leadership has been through the tournament since he was on that 2008 Championship team:

"Conner's been great the whole time. He's been a good leader for us. He is the only one that has gone through something like this and he has told them throughout the process that the things we are talking about are important. There's no question he's been good, but I've also read some things that some of our other kids have said about how they've learned from the last couple years that they are not going to allow some of the things to creep in, from a distraction situation, to happen again. I think they've all learned."

On Aaron Craft's ability to defend:

"Everybody talks about his on-ball defending, which is really good and as good as anybody in the country, but to me the thing that doesn't get enough attention is he has the strongest and fastest hands. He's as good as anybody I've seen at raking the ball out of a big guy's hands. When the ball is down, he is unbelievable about raking. He's really, really bright. He's good offensively, don't get me wrong, but he's unbelievably bright defensively and how smart he plays. He's really good, but his hands are what make him a little bit different."

On New Orleans hosting the Final Four:

"I haven't been there since (Hurricane) Katrina, but I'm excited. I think it's a great site. The last time we were there was in '03 and I know I enjoyed myself even though I was a neutral observer. Bourbon Street is fun. I don't know this for a fact, but the proximity this year, it's not far for us and it's certainly not far for Louisville and Kentucky. I can't imagine there being a city, or a host, probably host more fans from their respective schools as this one will."

Kansas senior Tyshawn Taylor

On if he has had anytime to unwind following Kansas' victory over North Carolina on Sunday:

"I'm still trying to unwind and get geared up at the same time. It's a good feeling to be going down to New Orleans. We're enjoying it. I'm looking forward to it."

On if he has celebrated Kansas' Final Four berth:

"I slept pretty much all day yesterday. When we got back we had the little pep rally here. That was so cool having our fans here showing us love. That was a good feeling to come home to, but after that died down a little bit I've just been relaxing ever since. I did a little media today to kind of remind me we're in the Final Four. It feels like the last two weeks. We have to gear up again and go win two more games. Winning that game the other day was good. I think it was good for me because it was against North Carolina which is a really good program, but I still didn't even really feel it. It feels unreal. I think I'll feel it a little bit more when I get down there."

On how the team is preparing for Ohio State:

"We know what's up next. We're about to get right back at it today with the same routine we've had the last couple of weeks during the tournament. We come here and get prepared starting today. Yesterday, we had the day off and today we come back and get prepared. We understand that we have a tough challenge ahead of us. Ohio State is a great team and they have been proving it all year. They kind of had some ups and downs. They started real high in the rankings and dropped some spots, but have been pretty consistent all year. They have players who can do it from everywhere; from the point guard, to the wing, to the post, they are talented. We really have our work cut out for us and I'm sure they feel the same way. It's going to be really exciting and I'm excited for this."

On if people can take anything from Kansas' victory over Ohio State earlier this season:

"You can, but the circumstances are completely different. This might as well be a whole new year since the last time we played them. Jared (Sullinger) didn't play which is the biggest thing. I feel like our team was still kind of in the process of getting good. I'm sure at the same time they were in that same process. I'm sure they have gotten better since then. I know we have gotten better. The one thing everybody understands about that game is that Jared didn't play. His presence was definitely missed in that game for his team. He's going to be there on Saturday. I think we're looking forward to that and I know our bigs are looking forward to that challenge. Jared is an All-American and a really tough and good player. Our bigs are ready for that challenge."

Senior guard Connor Teahan

On making it to the Final Four:

"It's awesome. It's a lot of fun. I think we're just happy to be here. Obviously, we're happy with where we've gotten this season, but we're not satisfied yet. We're going to try and obviously get into the championship game and see if we can win (a championship)."

On having gotten past the win Sunday night:

"Not really. Just because we haven't really practiced yet. I'm still a little tired from the weekend but looking forward to practicing today, getting better this week and hopefully seeing what Ohio State has to bring and getting our scouting report ready for them. I haven't really come down from the game on Sunday yet. Coach (Self) will get us focused today. I'm sure about that."

On the bus ride back from St. Louis:

"It was kind of long. We were waiting to get back, and then we got in some standstill traffic. Some car pulling a truck caught on fire. We were just sitting there. The bus was completely stopped for about 45 minutes. Everybody was extremely happy. It was cool to be with everybody, and we just couldn't wait to get back to the Fieldhouse."

On any advice he has given to his younger teammates:

"I kind of gave them more advice leading up to this situation. I haven't really talked to them too much about how to handle the Final Four. I did tell them it's going to be crazy, but just listen to Coach Self in terms of limiting distractions because that's a huge part of this week. As long as we can do that, I think we'll be very successful."

Junior guard Travis Releford

On what's different about this year's team compared to last year's:

"Different names. We haven't changed anything we've done since I've been here. Coming into this season there were low expectations for us and what we were supposed to do. We just overcame it all."

On if the team played looser against North Carolina:

"That was the case because we're both teams that enjoy getting up and down and playing a fast-paced game. I think that just got us more comfortable and we got to run our plays on offense."

On if he thought he would be in this position during his redshirt season:

"It never crossed my mind that I would be on a Final Four team and I didn't know at this point in my career that I would be playing a bigger role."

Junior forward Thomas Robinson

On if he's excited about going against Jared Sullinger:

"Yeah I'm excited, but at the same time it doesn't matter who I'm going against because it's the Final Four. I don't care if it's a sixth grader."

On Kevin Young's performance lately:

"Kevin has been coming in and giving us good minutes. When he comes in, he's a spark of energy right away, either with a put-back or a dunk or tapping the ball to give us an extra possession. Kevin's play in the tournament has been big for us."

Junior center Jeff Withey

On being in the Final Four:

"It's had some time to sink in and I feel blessed. Our fans were great; as soon as we got back, they were here in the Fieldhouse for us. It's definitely a dream come true so far."

On if he likes the match-up with Ohio State:

"Yeah, definitely. We're excited to play against them. We got to see them earlier in the year without Jared Sullinger. We are familiar with them, so I think it will be a good match up. They have a really good front court, but so do we. It will be a fun game."

On what makes up Kansas' "It" factor:

"The last two years, we lost, so this year we have a chip on our shoulder to win. I think that has taken us a long way. The first couple of games in the tournament, we didn't do so well, but our defense stepped up. That gave us more confidence."

On coming back from his foot injury last year:

"I had just gotten cleared and I had surgery on my foot. That was really depressing, but I fought back, and now this year has made up for all the times I haven't been able to play. I've learned so much and I've been playing at my dream school so it's been a lot of fun this year."

Junior forward Kevin Young

On his memories from Kansas' first game against Ohio State this year:

"That was the last time I hit a three. I haven't taken too many since them. They're good memories. The fans were amazing that game and it was just a fun game to play in."

On if he hoped to be a part of a Final Four when he transferred to KU:

"Definitely. I came here because of the tradition and to win. That's what they've been known to do and that's what we're doing now."

On what brought him to KU:

"At Loyola, the coaches and I just didn't see eye-to-eye on the court. I have a lot of respect for those guys and they were great mentors to me. They helped me develop my game and off the court, we got along perfectly. They respected my decision to leave there, so I'm grateful for that. Then I went to some junior colleges, then at the end of the summer, I got a call from Coach Townsend who said they were interested, and I decided to come see what it was like."

On if he is playing at his peak:

"I don't think so; not yet. I still have a long way to go personally to help the team continue to win. I do like the idea of the bigger the stage, the better I play. I try to keep that mentality because if we all don't play well, some of us aren't coming back next year and I don't want to send anybody off with a loss."

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