Kansas vs. West Virginia: Bill Self Previews the Mountaineers
Head coach Bill Self
On if he pays attention to the NCAA Tournament seeding speculation:
"Sure. I don't follow it like maybe some fans do on TV, and I don't look every day at Joe Lunardi's up-to-date bracket or anything like that, but I'm interested. I hope we're up for discussion on those types of things (being a No. 1 seed). Last year we were up for discussion and ended up being a two seed, but I still think it's a little premature and a little early to get hung up on that stuff. We still have three more league games to play, but I do think after the league race is over with and we prepare for the league tournament, I think that's when I'll probably start thinking about that kind of stuff more."
On the new uniforms released by adidas on the internet:
"New fangled? Is that a new jersey term? [Tom Keegan, Lawrence Journal-World: It's a kind term]. Ok, it's a kind term. [Keegan: One of them was Kansas. Are you going to wear them in a game?] We agreed with adidas several months ago to sport that uniform as a part of their marketing campaign in the Big 12 tournament. Now, how much we wear them in the Big 12 tournament will probably depend on how we play in them, but we will sport them in the Big 12 tournament at some point in time. I think all the other schools have agreed to do that too. That was one of their (adidas) big marketing pushes that they tried to get all the schools to do. As everyone here knows, Kansas tradition and history should be what is promoted for in our look, and we've done that for years. But this is one game that we'll make the exception for adidas."
On if there is a financial reward for the schools that wear the new uniforms:
"I do not know that. That's (an agreement) with the athletic director."
On his opinion of the new uniforms:
"It's been a long time since I saw them. We would wear white (typically) so I probably don't think as much of them as what I do of the normal (uniforms) we wear, but for a game or two, I don't think it's that big of deal in the Big 12 tournament. Sometimes you've got to be a team player and adidas has certainly been good to us, there's no question. This is something that was important to them, but they are able to market it with some other schools that they feel can help them in this area, and certainly, we are going to try to do that to help them. It's not going to go any further past the Big 12 tournament."
On if he could consider a season successful without winning the league race:
"Absolutely, but probably not as much this year because we started out 7-0, if that makes sense. Going into the season, 24-4, 12-3, tied for first, sell out for it, but after you start out 7-0 and 19-1, it doesn't seem quite as good. Big picture, absolutely. But the way we started the league race, I would probably say absolutely not, but the whole thing is, I believe this; I don't think you can have a special season unless you perform well in the NCAA tournament. So we've had 35-3 and 33-3 (records); those are great years, you can't take those away, but were they special? We didn't quite get done what we thought we could have gotten done. Last year's season was special because we advanced. When we won the league when Mario (Chalmers) and all those guys were freshmen, it was a great year, an unbelievable year. But we needed to win some games in the tournament to make it a special year. I think that's still the case. You can have a special year and not win your conference. I don't think you can have a special year and not do well in the tournament, at least the way I look at it. Depending on how things fall, I don't think there's any way I'll look at this season as not being a good year; but we've got a chance to make it a great year and then we'll have another opportunity to make it special. This has been a good year no matter how anybody looks at it. We are competing for a conference championship, one in which K-State and us both control our own destiny and one in which we're ranked pretty high nationally and I think if any fan would have thought going into three games left (in the regular season) you could win the league and be a top-five team nationally, I think everybody would have sold out for that. The problem is that we had the three-game mark which magnifies negativity, but I like where we're at."
On the possibility of a split title with Kansas State bothers him, knowing his team has beaten the Wildcats twice this season:
"No. [Sean Levine, KLWN Radio: Should the rule be changed?] No. I don't see how (that would work), if you play everybody and you've got the same record, you tie. The seeding in the tournament doesn't matter either, you tie. We used to say this against Texas all the time; Texas used to beat us in the regular season a couple of times and then we tie for the league championship, then we get an opportunity to play them in the Big 12 tournament. Since there's a tie, now we get the chance to determine the outright winner. I don't want to share, don't get me wrong. But the fact is that if we have the same record, we tie, that's how I look at it."
On if Travis Releford has lived up to the expectations set for him as a freshman, as he nears scoring 1,000 career points:
"Travis has been better than I even thought he would be. He's been great. As evidenced the other night, the way he played in Ames, he's fabulous. Our seniors were all terrific the other night in Ames. Travis has had a remarkable senior season."
On Releford's importance to the team:
"He's probably the personality of our team more than anyone else. He's probably the glue to our team as much as anybody else. I think he gives us an element of toughness as good as, or better than, anyone else. He's as valuable to our team as any of the guys we've had on our team, without question. Ben (McLemore) gets the most notoriety and scores the most points, but if you were to ask our players, Travis is just as important as anybody."
On the threatening and racially insensitive Tweets put out by Iowa State fans about Elijah Johnson:
"I haven't read or seen every one, but I'm aware of them, I was told. Elijah is aware and was told (about the tweets). Elijah and I had talked about it; the thing about it is, those things are totally wrong, insensitive, (and have) no place in society. But I will tell you this, I don't think Elijah and I are going to dwell on it. We talked about it this morning and I think that would probably bother anybody initially, but the Iowa State student body has responded in a way that left no doubt where they stood on the things that were said and the issues (presented). That's good enough for me. It's over. I'm not going to burn any energy on that and I don't think Elijah will as well. That was an unbelievable basketball game with the best performance we've had since I've been here by an individual. To have things like that happen at the end, and there were some other things that happened, I don't think that should take away from what actually happened in the game. I'm excited for Elijah that he's got his mojo back and I'm excited for a lot of things. I know he didn't like what happened but, at the same time, things like that do happen. Unfortunately, there are idiots around in all different areas and that should not take away from 13,000 people that were at the game that cheered their team on and did it wholeheartedly. It was an emotional game that a couple people responded that way; you would have that scenario in every business, at every school, that you'd have a couple people that would go against what would be `right' to make some form of statement. Iowa State; I've always enjoyed going there and I'll enjoy going there just as much moving forward. These couple of idiots will not have anything to do with us enjoying that going forward."
On the Big 12 Conference's statement released about officiating errors made at the end of the Iowa State game:
"I don't want to say I don't agree but I will say that they haven't contacted me to say what the errors are. I have talked to the Big 12 office, but not about that. I really believe, and I'm not speaking behind the Big 12 office's back, I think we're on the verge of crossing a line that isn't good. I think that we benefitted from a no-call. There's been many times that we haven't benefitted from a no-call. There's been many times that other coaches have benefitted and not benefitted from a no-call. We benefitted from a no-call in a big-time game. I'm not going to make light of that. We were the beneficiary of that one play. There were other plays in the game, too. But we were the beneficiary of the one play that received all the attention because it was game point. I'm concerned that now we've opened up Pandora's Box and any time that something happens in the future, we have to make a comment about it. I've always thought you handled your situations in-house. The next thing we'll know, since we've put out there that there's going to be some sort of disciplinary action, possibly, the next thing is that all of you guys are going to wonder `Tell us what it is. What is it?'. All it does is open it up for more questions. If the Big 12 office thinks it's best to answer those questions, then they did the right thing. But if they don't want to respond, moving forward, to those questions, then why do you respond that way initially? That's up to the Big 12. I'm not saying right, wrong, indifferent; what I'm saying is that I think we've opened ourselves up now to different things.
"Is it like the NCAA tournament where you have a coordinator of officials come in and say it's a wrong call, this or that? I don't know; maybe we want to go that direction, I don't know. To me, it seemed a little stern with the approach based on how things have been handled in the past. I think in the past things have been handled, but it's not been public knowledge that it's been handled. Now that it's public knowledge how it's been handled, now the next case in the next game, what's the league office going to do about this? There will be next cases because we're dealing with human beings. I don't really have a problem with what the Big 12 did, I just think it opens up an avenue for more things moving forward."
On if the conference or the NCAA should handle officiating:
"I think that's an inexact science that's been thrown around a lot. I think a lot of coaches would love getting it under one umbrella, without question. I do think that guys get used to calling a game, because they're human, a certain way; the way the ACC plays opposed to the Big East, the Big 12, the Pac-10. The rules are the same; style just sometimes dictates how it's called. You get to the NCAA tournament and there's no more style. You call the game the way the rules are written, with an emphasis. That's not on the officials, that's not on the coaches; in some leagues, per say, some teams have four big guys each. They can afford to pound the crap out of each other because they've got fouls to give. In some leagues, where you've only got two big guys, you've got to keep them out of foul trouble so you play totally different. Then you get in the NCAA tournament and how is that called? I would like to see it probably be more unified, without question. I would like to see us get officials from the Pac 12, from the Mountain West and the SEC, the ACC and the Big 10 and Conference USA. I'd like to see all those guys because you get in the NCAA tournament and you end up getting a guy, or a crew, that two or three haven't seen you all season. That's ok, too. Sometimes in your own league play, you get guys that have seen you every three or four games. Sometimes you can get too comfortable and too used to a style of play. I think there's some things we can probably do to help that, but that's not in the least way criticizing the officiating. I'm not criticizing the officiating at all. I think there's maybe some things that could make it easier on the officials if we had more of a unified structuring. [Media member: Is that realistic?] I don't know. I know it's been kicked around, but I don't know how realistic it is in the near future. [Tom Keegan: Does geography come into play for the refs?] Geography does come into play, but you've got to understand this, too; we've got guys from North Carolina calling in Lubbock and you've got guys from Spokane, Wash., calling in Lawrence. It does come into play, that's why maybe you do four different sites or regional geography. I don't know how it would work, I'm not an expert on many things. Certainly, officiating is not one of them, but I think that could be something that could potentially benefit a lot of folks. But if you get into that, now you've got the individual contractors and how often they can work and a lot of other things going on that may not be legal, to do something like that."
On what made Elijah Johnson's performance at Iowa State the greatest performance he's seen while at his time at Kansas:
"I think it was the setting, it was the points, there were no easy points. A guy may score 20 (points) in four or five minutes because the other team has to foul or catch up. (But Elijah) This is a guy making plays. If you don't make every play, then we lose the game. He had to make five or six consecutive plays in a row to give us a chance to win the game and I think that was what was amazing about it is that he did it when the stakes were at the very highest. It is one thing to get on a roll during the middle of the game or another thing to score points at the end of the game; he got his stuff when it mattered every possession and I think that's what made it the most special."
On how important Johnson's performance was at this point in the season:
"I think it was imperative. You go to Ames - and you guys, other than Gary (Bedore, Lawrence Journal-World), I don't know if there's many stat guys here - you go and the other team makes 17 three's and the other team goes 29-of-34 from the line and the other team has eight turnovers and Ben (McLemore) scores seven points. How do you win that game? It's because we had different guys step up. I think the fact that different guys are stepping up, it does nothing but give us confidence moving forward."
On Johnson's interaction with his younger teammates this year:
"He's been great. I knew our guys liked Elijah, but I didn't realize how much they respected him and liked him until after the game (Monday at Iowa State). I had never seen a group of guys more happy for one guy than they were for Elijah after the game."
On how Johnson's game has evolved during his four years at KU:
"I think he's learned how to play better. He's still an athlete and he's shown glimpses of being an athlete - like he was when he was a freshman - here of late. I think he's just learned how to play. I think he's a much better basketball player (now) than he was when he got here, there's no question about that. You look at all these NBA players; they're freaky athletic in their first five years in the league, then they become great the next five years in the league because they've learned the game goes in slow motion, it's not in fast forward anymore. You see and you feel the game differently. I think he's (Elijah) become one of those guys."
On his memories of his own college career coming to a close:
"I can't remember my college career. If I would have scored 371 points my final game I would have gotten to a 1,000. I tried, I actually did. I shot an air ball from the free throw line and that deflated me a little bit, but I did try.
"I think I thought about it (career coming to a close). I was probably a little bit different than the guys we have that are seniors this year in that I knew that my chances to play professionally were really not very high. I had prepared myself that this was it. You've got guys now that have so many more opportunities after college to go play; you've got guys now that `What is my next opportunity?'. You bundle in all the emotion. For me, it was great playing at Oklahoma State. I absolutely loved it. That's all I knew, but I loved it. When you think about these kids, this is all they know to run out in front of 16,300 every night. They have been so spoiled, and I do think when it gets down to the end of it, I think they realize just how good they've got it and how great they've had it. I think it's one of those things that you think `It will never get here' and then when it does, it's like `Oh my gosh, I can't believe it's here' and I don't know of anybody that I've coached that's played here that wouldn't give a lot to run through that tunnel one more time. I think it was different with me because I knew I was done but we've got four guys that are going to play ball next year. Their whole focus is leaving a legacy; you can ask them that. I think they want to be the team that has done something special because there are so many special teams that have been there before them and that's how they'll be judged over time. I think it's a little bit different for them, but I know that they all respect, immensely, as they are going through the process."
On Ben McLemore's recent struggles:
"I don't know about the last couple of weeks. I think teams have guarded him a certain way for the most part during league play. He has had his ups and downs and he has been more consistent at home and (his) stats back that up. He is young and just figuring it out. I think that every time that he goes through something, he becomes better for it. I think the things that he went through at Iowa State, even though he wasn't effective, he stretched the defense, he allowed other guys to get touches. Even though we may not see that as him having one of his better games, I think he will be better for it. Everything is a learning process and we certainly need him to play great moving forward, because he is our most talented guy, but he has got to find ways to help the team win when things aren't going great and I think he is becoming more complete that way."
On Jeff Withey with the younger players:
"He has been great. Our young guys love our seniors and they are unselfish. Our older guys want Ben (McLemore) to be the best player, because when Ben plays great, we know he is different. I think it is pretty cool to have guys that bust their butt for four or five years and get to their senior year and they just want to win, so they want all those young kids to do well."
On the success the team has had in overtime:
"I don't make much out of that at all. I hope you didn't jinx us, but that is a stat that I did not know. That is a pretty amazing stat."
On the rivalry with Kansas State playing out in the Big 12 standings:
"I would really prefer to be up two games. I think it is good for our state to have K-State good. It is good for us, because it raises the bar. It's also good for the state to have Wichita State good."
On the first match-up with WVU:
"We played great early, got off to a great start and putted it around to go up eight at halftime when it should have been 12 or 14 and then hang on. I don't know if they took the lead, but I know they cut it to one in the second half and then we just kind of hung on. I know we played pretty well for about 15 minutes and then labored the last 25. We turned the ball over and their pressure did bother us."
On coaching against Bob Huggins:
"We haven't gone against each other very much. I think we have only coached against each other like five times. He is a great coach. He is a Hall of Fame coach and his kids play as hard as anybody in the country, without question. Their win-loss record probably isn't what he thought going into the season, but we will get an unbelievable effort. They played Baylor really tough last night and he as good as our game has as far as total package of coaching and it has been that way for a long time."
On reaching 500 career wins:
"I have heard from a lot of players. I told several of them that if we hadn't recruited you, we could have got there a lot sooner. The reality is we have had a lot of great guys. Tyrel (Reed) and Brady (Morningstar) texted me yesterday. I think Tyrel is like the second-winningest player in NCAA history and Brady if you count all five years, won like 164 games or some ridiculous number. I told Brady, 'You have been a part of 33 percent of them and you were only here for five years.' It is unbelievable the run we have had of late and certainly we have had so many good players and they have all played a role in it. I'm not that sentimental and 500 isn't a huge number by any stretch and hopefully we can get a couple more at least, but to look back I think it is kind of cool to see how many people played a role in the success that we have experienced. I owe those guys everything, because coaches don't win games, players do."
On reaching 1,000 career wins:
"There will not be another 500, unless they allow us to start playing 80 games a year. That would be the only way. That means that I would have to coach a long time. I would have to coach until I am your age and I don't want to do that, so I don't think that will happen.