Thursday afternoon the Kansas Jayhawks met with the media for the first time in New Orleans. Bill Self, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor all weighed in on NOLA, the Final Four and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Head Coach Bill Self
On how to control things while playing on a national stage:
"I think the more you try to control something, the less you actually do. You just have to let it ride and go play. The things you try to control aren't the things between the lines. It's the media, distractions, agents, runners, family members, tickets and hotel rooms. Those are the things we need to control. As far as playing, I am not going to try to control that. All four teams have gotten here by playing a certain way."
On senior guard Tyshawn Taylor's level of play:
"I actually believed that Tyshawn would play at this level since we recruited him. He played on that great St. Anthony's team that won the national championship and all five guys went to high major schools. I thought Ty was the best prospect out of everybody. The thing about Ty is he wanted it so bad to be his team, but he's had Sherron (Collins), Cole (Aldrich) and the (Markieff and Marcus) Morris twins and their personalities would never allow that to happen. Now it is kind of his team even though Thomas (Robinson) gets a lot of credit. He certainly is a great leader for us. A senior point guard finally realizes that it's his show. The more responsibilities he's given, the more he appreciates that."
On facing Ohio State for the second time this season:
"When we played them early on, just like we played Kentucky early on, anybody you play in November or early December is like two seasons ago. They (Ohio State) are definitely different in large part because Jared (Sullinger) didn't play against us. It was a home game and we have a pretty good home court. The parts have improved individually and the pieces are fitting very, very well. We've gotten better, too. In that particular game, we played well and our pieces fit better too. We've gotten consistent play from a variety of guys. They are a challenge because they score from all five spots. You are going to have to defend all five spots and that's one of the biggest challenges."
On the challenges presented by Ohio State's defense:
"Things changed with Jared (Sullinger) being in there. Thad (Matta) is a good coach. It's a lot easier to get a team to guard than it is to be cohesive offensively. They guard and we guard too. I think this will be one of those games where easy baskets are hard to come by. Hitting 70-percent of those 50-50 balls may be as key a stat in this particular game as anything because both teams have done a great job in not giving up easy baskets. One thing that the Big Ten does well as a league, having coached in it for three years, is that you better be sound defensively. That's the way the league plays."
On if this has been his best coaching job:
"We've had some years better than others coaching our guys. This isn't a hard team to coach. It's a lot easier coaching a team when everybody in your program agrees who your starters should be and everybody in the program wants those starters to play 30 minutes a game. The guys who come off the bench to play, everyone thinks they should be the ones getting all the minutes off the bench. That's not a hard team to coach and when a team cares a lot, it's pretty easy. Coaching and managing egos and trying to cut nine guys to seven is more difficult. These guys haven't been difficult at all. Taking a team with lower expectations and performing pretty well gives you the appearance that you are doing a better job coaching."
Junior Forward Thomas Robinson:
On being compared to Anthony Davis as the best player in the country:
"At this point in the year, it doesn't matter about competing with Anthony Davis anymore. That was for earlier in the season, before the postseason to try to prove if I am the best player in the country. Right now, it's about me trying to get my team to a national championship."
On what favors Kansas in their match-up against Ohio State:
"I really haven't looked at too many favors. I think it is going to be a really balanced, even game at all spots. They have great, solid guard play, and good bigs. We have the same thing so it should be a good game all the way around."
On center Jeff Withey:
"A smooth seven-footer, Jeff is a good free-throw shooter, and a good shooter. All it took was confidence with Jeff to believe that he could do it. He is finally coming around and I'm glad it's now."
On Ohio State's Jared Sullinger:
"He is a good player. If you don't come prepared, he could cause a lot of problems for you. I just want to make sure that my mind is right and that I am prepared to face him."
On if he can take anything away from Kansas' first game against Ohio State this season:
"No, I really can't. That game seems like it was a year ago. We are a lot different and a lot more mature as a team. We stick together more now. We are playing better right now. We have definitely come a long way."
On his arrival and experience so far in New Orleans:
"It's a little over-whelming. You get here and there is a band and people hand out beads. It's exciting to be here. You have to cherish this moment, but at the same time, you can't lose focus. I am excited to do anything. I am excited to be talking to y'all right now. We have been taking pictures all day. Like I said, I am just going to cherish this moment because not too many people are fortunate enough to get here. You just have to take advantage of it."
"He's meant so much. He's an awesome coach and a great mentor. It's sad to see him go, but I'm happy for him, he deserves it. He's going to make Tulsa a lot better. He gave me a lot of confidence. Every day we worked with him, we got a lot of shots off and we work on our footwork. He gives us a lot of tricks when we are playing, so he will definitely be missed."
"It doesn't change much. We are definitely happy for both of them. It shows that if we keep on winning it opens a lot of opportunities for everybody. It's awesome for both of them. It's not a distraction by any means."
On what your teammates do to make you get angry to play better:
"In practice they will usually give me elbows. During games, right before the game really, they will get me hyped up, just talk to me. I think I'm getting better at it. At the beginning of the year, it was tough for me to get into the zone, but as we have been playing more I've been able to get more aggressive. They just talk to me and tell me that it's going to be one of my games. They say that tonight's my night and give me a couple punches, nothing major."
On using the tournament as an advantage to showcase your skills:
"I feel like, definitely, this tournament is an awesome opportunity for a lot of people that didn't have a chance to show their skills during the regular season to have a chance to show their skills in this tournament. I'm lucky I get to go against T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) every day in practice, so I'm used to going against All-Americans. I think North Carolina was a great opportunity for me to go against some guys my size. Jared Sullinger and Sam Thompson from Ohio State will be really tough to play against. We are excited to play against them. Anthony Davis is in this tournament and he's going to be the number one draft pick. There are a lot of great guys playing in this tournament and to be able to go against guys like that makes me better and more excited to play."
On running the stairs after the Columbia game:
"I didn't understand at first. It took me a while. My reaction was obviously not very happy and angry that I had to run stairs. As soon as I got in I wanted to show him that I could play and I felt that I meant something to this team. That was my way of trying to get back at him by playing even harder and I think he definitely knows how to get underneath my skin. He is a great motivator. I love the guy. Over the past couple of games, he's definitely got me to play harder. Now looking back I'm 100% glad he made me do that."
Junior Guard Elijah Johnson
On keeping focus on basketball during Final Four week:
"I think it's just a basketball game at the end of the day, but it's the magnitude of the game. It's what it means to people's lives, a fan base and to certain parts of the country. It's bigger than just a game. To us, it's just a game. To the outside world, it can be a plus or a negative in many ways. We are conscious of that. I think that at the end of the day, it's just a basketball game. The experience of being down here and going through all this such as the setup and the media is definitely a big deal. I never felt like I had a red carpet laid out for me ever in my life. The experience is definitely fun and something I've never been a part of, but I'm enjoying it. We are down here to just play some basketball."
On his expectations for this weekend:
"I'm confident in my team right now. I have never been more confident with a team I've been a part of. I love my team. I am having fun with my team and we are learning. We went through some hard times together and were there for each other. I feel like right now we are the closest that we are ever going to be. After this weekend, we will never be together again like that. I think that is something that is on our mind. It's making us more hungry. We are having more fun and enjoying the process more because of it."
On Kansas assistant coaches taking other head coaching positions:
"I am happy for our coaches. I know at the end of the day they want to help Kansas. They want to see us win a National Championship. It's really about KU in the current time. I am happy they can break off and take care of their families and have a better situation for Coach (Danny) Manning and Coach (Barry) Hinson. I think that's great. I think if they have an opportunity, they should take it. I don't think it's something they should overlook. Jayhawk nation will always love them. That shows you if you do the right thing, the pie is big enough for everybody. I never thought I'd be able to help one of our coaches get a job and for us to be part of the reason that happened makes me feel good and makes me want to win even more."
On the level of basketball being played this weekend:
"The best basketball has yet to come. These four teams are going to play some good basketball this weekend. I think this season is going to end with a nice bang. I think whichever team wins deserves it because all of the teams are worth being here. I respect all the programs and the coaches for getting here. It's going to be fun for us this weekend. Saturday and Monday could be the most fun days of my life."
Senior Guard Tyshawn Taylor
On improving over the course of the season:
"I was being indecisive about my playmaking and scoring. I think it came to the point in a season where the whole team had a little talk and this is what you bring to the table, this is what you deserve and this is what will help us a win. It came to the point where I was not as indecisive, I stopped looking at the scoreboard and it opened up a lot of things as far as passing and cut down my turnovers. I stayed aggressive, did not let criticism get to me and I think it paid off after that."
On Coach Self's relationship with the team:
"Coach Self does an amazing job coaching us. Coach Self, in my eyes, he knows he cannot coach all the players the same way and there are some days guys are having bad days. It could be because something is going wrong off the court, but he won't be as aggressive or scream as much to that guy and things like that. I think he understands how to coach us and does a really good job getting to know his players. I think that shows. I have been here for four years and I have not always been the easiest guy to coach, I'm sure, but he has found a way to coach me and keep me in the loop. He has to deal with 15 other guys that have problems with other things and he does a good job with it. I am not sure what it is or how he does it, but he has been doing it for a long time, so I am sure he has the hang of it."
On reaching the Final Four:
"I think it has been a long season. I am really excited to be here. I wish we could put aside all this stuff and go play, since that is what I want to do. Getting here yesterday was kind of what opened my eyes. This is really the Final Four. Of all the college teams there's only four left and we're one of them. All the hard work we have been through, this is what we talked about at the beginning of the season. This has been an up and down process for this team this year, but we're here and it feels like we have accomplished so much, but we're not satisfied with just making it here. We're excited about it, but if you make it this far, you do not want to lose now, you want to keep it going. I'm excited to be here. I wish we could just play and I can just talk to you guys after we play. This is a process, we got to enjoy it and embrace it. This is my first time here, I'm just going with the flow, anything they tell me to do, and I'm just doing it and having fun."
On shooting in domed stadiums:
"I think I have a lot of experience shooting in domes, just not a lot of experience making them, making threes anyway. I do not think it is as big of a deal as it may seem to be, I have been playing in domes up to this point in the tournament, and I have not made any threes, but I am still here. I do not really have to make threes to be an effective player. I can bring other things to the table as far as being an effective player and helping my team win. I think that I personally have to understand that if my shots are not falling, I can do other things. As a team, if I'm not making shots or we're not being the best offensive team that night, we can stop the other team from scoring, rebounding and be tough. If we can continue to do that, whether the threes are falling or not, we can be an effective team."
"He has made a huge impact on the team. He has been that guy that guys can go to outside of basketball and talk to about different situations going on in our lives. Sometimes he can relate to them. He helps us out a lot, on and off the court. Losing him is going to be huge, but right now we still have him."
On the impact of Coach Manning and Coach Hinson leaving after the season:
"I don't think it is a distraction at all because they are still here with us. Right now, we can't even picture them not being with us until the time comes. We aren't really focused on that because they are still with us."
On the Ohio State game back in December:
"I don't remember much except for us winning and T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) playing really well. I guarded (William) Buford most of the time."
On guarding William Buford and his challenges:
"He is a scorer for them (Ohio State). He puts up a lot of shots. It will be a challenge limiting his shots and making him take tough shots."
On the Final Four experience:
"This week has been very busy. We have been preparing and practicing. We all talked to (Conner) Teahan because he is the only one on the team who has been through the situation. He is telling us all the things we are going to have to go through and all the stuff we are going to have to do. So far, it hasn't been bad, but this is just the start of it. Coach (Self) says this isn't even half of the stuff we are going to have to do. So far it has lived up to what I've heard."
On defeating North Carolina and making it to the Final Four:
"Last week was a fun experience for all of us because none of us have been in this situation before minus (Conner) Teahan. For us to go out there and accomplish a goal that we set at the beginning of the season is a great feeling. It is a once in a lifetime moment for us."
On playing Ohio State for the second time:
"I think playing them the second time will be a lot tougher. They have all of their players back. (Jared) Sullinger is one of their key guys and he didn't get to play against us at our place. I think we match up with them perfectly. It should be a fun game."