Bill Self met with the media on Monday afternoon and took a little time to reflect upon the development of his team over the regular season and also look ahead toward the postseason. Interesting comments regarding big man development and the contrasting styles of Self and Manning. It seems Self let's Manning do his thing with the bigs even though he doesn't necessarily agree with it entirely. Self also touches on the postseason awards as well as the development and maturity of his team. All in all one of the better pressers of late.
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On the team's improvement since its loss to Kentucky in November:
"Back then, we guarded and rebounded the ball better than we have lately. The biggest thing is that the ball moves, and we trust each other a little bit more. The guys have their roles defined in their minds to the point where they know exactly when to be aggressive and when to not be so aggressive. I think all of the players individually are playing a little bit better, too."
On if players need to learn how to become starters:
"I hadn't really ever thought about it. Elijah (Johnson) started a few games before this year and I believe Travis (Releford) started a few games before he hurt his ankle at Michigan (in 2011). I think the pressures of having a role where your performance dictates whether we win or not probably has a different feel to (coming off the bench)."
On if players were ready to be starters before they came to KU:
"I think they were ready to be starters because they had been here and they had gotten better. They certainly had waited their time and paid their dues. A lot of people say that want it, but you have to know if they are actually ready for it."
On how many of Thomas Robinson's post moves are things that he has developed in his time at KU:
"I don't think Thomas has a huge repertoire of post moves, and to be honest with you, we don't teach our guys a ton of post moves. You need to be able to score over your left shoulder or your right shoulder, and you need to have a counter to both of those. To me, there is not a huge reason to teach a guy 14 different moves. For the most part, I would say his moves are things that he has always had in his bag, but they are things that he has not been able to use."
"I think so; (Tyshawn Taylor) can be, too. We could be as good defensively on the perimeter as we have (ever) been, but we just don't play that way all the time. It is a mindset that you get; it is something that you work on and emphasize. Those guys have it in them to become better individual defenders without question."
On if other programs do not focus as much on teaching low-post moves:
"Danny (Manning) likes teaching them a lot of moves - I don't like teaching them a lot of moves. By the time they are seniors, usually they have developed a larger repertoire of post moves, which is good. Sometimes with young kids, we cloud their mind and make the game more complicated than what it is. I watched (Creighton forward Doug) McDermott play yesterday - that guys has a plethora of different types of moves, more than a lot of other players; he is advanced. One thing that I think is so good about Thomas is, when he catches the ball off the block, he can shoot it, but he can also drive it and get his defender to lean. When he gets you to lean, he can make a move off of your lean. Danny is so good at working with the big guys on different types of things; but I don't think it is something that you need a ton of moves, you just need to be good at what you do."
On if Jeff Withey's sweeping hook shot was developed at KU:
"I would say that it probably developed here - the first time I saw it was here. It is a pretty effective move. The thing about Jeff is that sometimes he can take himself out of a better shot, because sometimes he is going away from the basket. I do think it is an effective shot for him. I would like to see him try that every game, if possible."
On if Jeff Withey needs to keep his game simple:
"I think everybody needs to keep it simple. NBA players keep it simple; most players in the league can score over their left, score over their right and have a counter to both moves. What they use in the game is keeping it simple."
On voting for the Big 12 Coach of the Year:
"I don't know, and to be honest, I really don't care (about who did or did not win). (Missouri coach) Frank Haith won AP Big 12 Coach of the Year, and that is perfect. In all honesty, I voted for him; he deserved it. (Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg) has done a remarkable job, and he definitely deserves it. Everybody gets a piece of it. That is a tribute to the coaches and the programs in the league; the only way you can ever win coach of the year is if your team does well. We had three teams in this league far surpass what their expectations were. You could make a case for a lot of different guys."
On if he saw an all-conference and defensive player of the year season coming from Jeff Withey:
"I didn't; but if you recall, I said before the season that I thought he should lead the league in blocked shots - primarily because he is really tall. Certainly he deserves that, I don't know if anybody in our league blocks or alters as many shots as he does. For the most part, Jeff has been consistent for the whole year on the defensive end; defensively, he has been a presence the whole year. One reason Thomas has had such a great year is because Jeff guards the other team's best post player. Jeff has been great for us, he has had a terrific year."
On his message to Travis Releford about being aggressive:
"Just the same thing I told you guys; it's time to get that back and he can get it back in practice or just with his mindset. The key to being a good defender - in my opinion - if you're guarding another team's good player is limit his good touches. When you let a player get good touches then the advantage goes to the offense. The best way that I always thought to keep a good player from scoring is maybe not let him shoot it. To me - that's just my Oklahoma upbringing - that if a guy doesn't shoot it, then he's probably not going to score. That's something that I think Travis and Elijah (Johnson) can do a better job of."
On if he takes a different approach in the postseason:
"Well we've had success and we've had no success but I don't think it's ever been because of our approach as much as it is maybe just the mindset. I think distractions have more to do with winning or losing this time of year more than anything else. People can say what they want to about distractions and how can you be distracted? But how can you not when you have so many things going on with different family members and different people that have a say-so; next year what are you going to do? You have people in your ear; you have agents, runners saying this is what you need to show people this time. If there is 100 percent trust, then you have less distraction. If there's some that think maybe the people on the outside know more than the people on the inside, you're going to have major distractions.
The thing that amazes me is that outside people don't realize they're distractions; it just blows my mind. The outside people think that they're the only ones talking to you but they don't realize that there's 20 or 30 others doing the same thing; you start adding that up and that's distracting. In their mind they're thinking ‘hey this is my boy, we always talk' or ‘we go way back' but a lot of people go way back. Mature guys basically cut everybody off; mature coaches cut everybody off and that's not easy to do at all.
Those are the things that I probably worry as much about as anything else. You can have great intentions going into postseason - last year before we played VCU, I had never been with a group any looser - I was able to blow them out after the Richmond win due to a couple of guy's media comments so I had their attention. It was perfect; we couldn't have been any looser going into it and then you go into it and it just has a different feel to it. Just ask Russell Robinson; it's just a different feel. A lot of it is just the situation of kids never being there before; they want it so bad and how you react to it. Who knows how we'll react but I think we're prepared to react well, but I don't know how that will actually take shape."
On Danny Manning's development as a coach:
"Danny has been an unbelievable influence on us; he's great with the big guys and he gets a lot of credit but Joe (Dooley) and Kurt (Townsend) are great with the guards too. We don't do a ton of individual breakdown but the 10 minutes we spend a day, that's their time to be a head coach. They've all three taken advantage of that and then during the offseason, they spend the majority of their time doing that themselves because that's their time and that's how they develop as coaches. But Danny has been great; he's a great role model, a great teacher and the guys respect him. I can't imagine having anyone better to teach big guys than what we have."
On what he would rank this team's maturity level:
"I don't know; you can have a bunch of freshmen and they can be pretty mature in certain ways. One thing about young kids is they don't know they don't know; which is good and bad. One thing about older kids is they've been through it so now they know and that can either create confidence or anxiety; it just depends. I do think that we're a relatively mature group; I don't think we're overly mature. You've see how we blow big leads, you see a lot of the things that we do don't look very good or pleases the coach but you also see when the going gets tough, the guys do hunker down pretty good. I really don't know but I think we're probably above average."
On the challenges of playing either Oklahoma or Texas A&M on Thursday:
"Well A&M played us good twice and OU we ended up getting at our place but OU led us at halftime at their place if I'm not mistaken; A&M led us in the second half here if I'm not mistaken. A&M is finally healthy and so that obviously adds to the equation but A&M plays more like us; primarily all man defense. They run some different sets but certainly things that our guys will remember because we just played them a couple of weeks ago. Oklahoma plays through (Andrew) Fitzgerald, (Steven) Pledger and (Romero) Ozby but plays some 2-3 zone so we'll work against zone in the next couple of days. One thing that I haven't even thought about is that the round robin is good in this respect; if we're playing a team that we played in January and we only played them once, guys won't remember. When you play everybody twice - the second time in February - it's an easier scout so I think that will be good when you don't know who you're playing."
On if a complete round robin conference play will affect the quality of play in the conference tournament:
"I don't think the offense will be at a premium. It seems like to me the second time you play people in conference play, offense usually isn't as good because people scout you. Usually in postseason, once you get out of your conference tournament, I think you have a better chance to run a good offense but everybody in our league knows all the calls, knows what they want to do, tendencies, and once you get into postseason it's a little harder because you've never seen that team before. It may be a high scoring affair but I predict it will be grinded out games over in the Sprint Center."
On what it would be like to play Missouri in the final:
"It'd be great because that means we've won two games so that would be absolutely fantastic. It would be absolutely fantastic to play Texas or Iowa State or anybody else; it doesn't make any difference because it would mean we won two games."
On if the team needs to do a certain thing to get a one seed in the NCAA tournament:
"I don't know enough about that; if you were to really break it down - which I have a little bit, but not to the extent that the committee will - to me, obviously Kentucky and Syracuse are number one seeds no matter what. Then you'd almost have to say, if nothing really strange happens, one from the ACC and North Carolina was so good the other night (against Duke) but I don't know if there's two from the ACC.
The Big 10 has gotten a little bit sideways because of the three-way tie for first so maybe the one that wins the league there - Ohio State or Michigan State are certainly still in the running - and then us and Missouri are still in the running. I think some weird things would have to happen for the winner of our league, depending on how Missouri does or how we do, I still think one of us still has a great shot at being a one seed regardless of how the other leagues do because I think our league is good enough that we warrant that."