Kansas Basketball: Jayhawks Preview Big 12 Tournament
Head Coach Bill Self
On if it is easier to coach on what needs to improve after playing poorly in the previous game:
"I don't know. The thing about it is, we didn't play good on Saturday and I'm not going to try to spin and make it sound like we did, but we could've played good on Saturday and still come up short. They were really, really good. But even as poor as it was for us, it was a six-point game with six minutes left. It wasn't a 20-point game, but still they controlled it from start to finish and there's no question about that. I think going into a tournament, you always want to be playing your best ball, but you also want to have your guys' attention. I think it's a lot easier - in some respects - to get your guys' attention sometimes after not a great performance. I think we'll have their attention; that doesn't guarantee that we'll play well. We didn't not play well at Baylor because we were not ready or because we weren't excited; we just didn't play well. You come out in the first four minutes, get four layups and make one of them. Then they got on a roll and we played catch-up the rest of the way. I'm excited to get back to it on a neutral court, which Kansas City is neutral, and hopefully that will bode well for us."
On how to prepare for the next game when you don't know the next opponent:
"We'll do it different ways. Like today, we're going to practice for us, but we'll also spend a little bit of time preparing for the potential second game. Both Iowa State and Oklahoma did some things to us that hurt us, but we can work on that stuff in practice and players never know it. As the game gets closer to ours, I wouldn't do that two days before or the day before we play West Virginia or Texas Tech, but we approach it like the NCAA Tournament. We practice for our second game at the start of the week, then we'll focus in and practice the next two or three days on our opponent. In this particular situation, we have to practice for both. But the good thing about it for us is that we played Tech in the next-to-last game of the season and we played West Virginia in the third-to-last game of the season. So they'll both be familiar for our guys. I think most coaches probably handle it about the same way. Trust me, that's not being cocky and thinking that we for sure get to the second game at all, but I don't think any coach practices four days for just one opponent knowing they have to play someone else the next day if they win. You have to familiarize your guys with it."
On putting nine-straight Big 12 Regular-Season Championships in perspective:
"I've had several people reach out to me and say, `Congratulations, great accomplishment and it sucks how you did it,' one of those deals. That isn't true, it doesn't stink. It's a great feat for our guys. It's a goal that we have every year going into it - to win the league. We were in charge of the league race when we were 7-0. After we were 7-3, we were never in charge of the league race. We had to do what we did and then hoped we got some help, and we really didn't get a lot of help in the last eight games or so, with the exception of Oklahoma State beating K-State at the very end. There were a lot of close games that went our way, and there were a lot of close games that went the other school's way to keep them in the race. So it was one of those deals that we had to earn and we did earn it. When you're 7-3 and you still have to run off seven in a row - and still have to go to Stillwater and Ames - we earned it.
"We're not going to apologize for sharing it at all, and congratulations to K-State. I hate that they share it with us, but they deserve it because they had a great year. They won some big games away from home, too. It's one of those things that I don't know if people around here - and maybe rightfully so - appreciate what it is, but from a coaches' locker room standpoint, you want to be the best that you compete against. For us, that's also (North) Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State and some other people that we run against. The primary deal is you spend two-and-a-half months of the season trying to win a league championship, why would you discredit winning a league championship when you spend so much time trying to do it? To get nine in a row, or a piece of it, is pretty cool. What's even cooler is that all the guys in our locker room, no matter how many years they've been here, have all maxed out. If they've been here five years, they've got five rings. If they've been here three years, they've got three rings. That's a pretty cool deal if you think about it, that everyone in our locker room is maxed out. Hopefully that will continue in titles moving forward.
"It is pretty cool because the Big 12 doesn't get the credit it deserves nationally, for being a top league. Up until this year, we were up in the top-three in the RPI for the last five years. You can figure it out, but in our stretch that we won, or shared, nine, how many (Big 12) teams have been Sweet 16 or Elite Eight teams still in the same year that we'd won (the league)? There's a ton. To think you have that quality in your own league that also competes so well nationally, and you've still been able to hang on and do what our players have done, is pretty remarkable and one that we take great pride in. Of course for recruiting, it doesn't hurt either, so I'm really proud of our guys."
On Big 12 Conference road games being tougher this year:
"They were for us. We go to Texas Tech and we're up two at half. We go to West Virginia, they've got the ball and we're up five with less than a minute left. There were some games that could have gone the other way that we had to work for, without question. I don't know that we were ever comfortable (on the road) in the last five minutes of the game where we could kick back and say `Ok, we've got this one'. In the past, we've been able to do that some. I personally think I've never seen the league better with more teams that could win your league tournament than what we have now. You go into the tournament in the past and you could say `You know what? This team could win a couple of games' or `This team could do good' or `This could be an upset'; but not very often do you go in and say `I think that team could positively win three games in a row' and there are six teams that could win three games in a row. There's also Texas that with (Myck) Kabongo back, is a totally different team, and to me, West Virginia and Texas Tech are both playing better. There are no guarantees. TCU, even though their record is probably not what they hoped, look at their two wins that they've had -- we're not bad and Oklahoma's an NCAA tournament team. So anybody, in this league, on any night, can have anybody. There's certainly six teams that could win three games and nobody would think for a second that was an upset. So that's what, to me, makes it tough to win on the road."
On Baylor's Pierre Jackson, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, being named Second Team All-Big 12 postseason:
"Pierre Jackson is a first-teamer, there's no doubt about that. He's a first-team all-leaguer. We saw him when he was pretty good. He gets 28 (points) and 10 (assists) on 13 shots; he was remarkable against us. But the whole thing is, so much of your accolades for postseason is based on opinion; sometimes it's based on numbers, sometimes it's based on how well your team does. I think that all five guys that made first team were 1,000 percent deserving, but if we had a year where we should have had six (players) on the first team, this would have been the year."
On if the team has celebrated the nine in-a-row conference titles:
"No. We didn't pop any bubbly on the way back from Waco, trust me. We haven't done that yet. Yesterday they needed a day off. We did talk on the way back on the bus, when we got back. I'm proud of our guys. By no means are we finished, but you have three seasons: in the non-conference season we did pretty good, in the conference season we lost one that we shouldn't have lost in many people's eyes. To win leagues, that's usually what happens; you take care of business and you don't lose games that everybody has you penciled in to win. If you don't do that, then you've got to go do something special and our guys did do some special things. I'm proud of our guys. It's never great losing the last game of a regular season, if you look at the body of work - as we've all heard on ESPN over the last two months - the body of work since Jan. 10 has been pretty impressive. You eliminate eight days and it's been really impressive. We'll talk about it, but I don't see any reason to be giddy about it or celebrate in a big way. Even though we're happy with our accomplishment, why would we not put a foot on a throat? Why would we take the foot off the gas? I'm not saying we did that, but we've got to get that killer instinct, so moving forward, if we experience some success, we don't think that success automatically comes to you. You've got to work every day. I don't think we did anything to make Baylor play poorly. We didn't play well, but when you don't play well, you've got to make somebody else play badly and we allowed them to be comfortable."
On if he has experienced deja vu this season with the criticism and on the court play of Elijah Johnson, compared to Tyshawn Taylor last season:
"I don't get a great feel for some things. I don't think it's exactly the same, no. One thing that Elijah can do a better job of; he can put himself in the game more, give more people a reason to talk. That's one thing about Ty, you can say what you want to; he gave everybody a reason to talk. Sometimes he actually spoke too much. But if you talk about `He was great or he had too many turnovers;' he put himself in the game and loved being in the game. He loved being the guy that was either going to receive it or get it; get the criticism or receive the praise. I think Elijah is getting more comfortable with that, but I don't think it's exactly the same. So much of Elijah's criticism, from my perspective, has been that he hasn't made shots. If you make shots, you're not a true point guard. I think that's one thing that people can get past. Tyshawn didn't make shots. Tyshawn was 0-for-21 in the NCAA Tournament but everybody talked about how great he was because he put himself in the game. I think that's what Elijah's got to do the rest of the season, is make sure he impacts as many possessions as he possibly can."
On the impact of having Doc Sadler and his knowledge of the Big 12 on this season's staff:
"He knows the Big Ten. He doesn't know the Big 12. It's great having Doc around. Having (former Director of Operations) Barry (Hinson) around was great from a head coach's perspective. It's great having another head coach around, not that (current Kansas assistants) Kurt (Townsend), Norm (Roberts) and Joe (Dooley) don't do it, especially Norm, because he was just a head coach. I'll talk to Joe and Kurt and we'll talk about what we don't do well and we'll ask Doc what he thinks and he'll say, `Personally, I think we're doing pretty well.' It's just a different perspective. When you've been at different places and you've labored at different places, you see what brings a team together from your vantage point and what doesn't. I think he's been really good for me as far as knowing when to put the foot down or when to take it off a little bit. I think Norm has been really good in that regard too."
On freshman forward Perry Ellis' play at Baylor:
"I thought Perry was our best player hands down. He played well. He made one move where he made two guys fall down because they were both good moves. He was aggressive and it kind of tells you a couple of things: it tells you what he is capable of, which is good, but it also tells you how valuable Kevin (Young) is too. We have to have everybody. With Kevin not being in the game, we don't flow as well. We need to be able to rotate guys in there and have everybody playing well. When Kevin is playing well and Perry is playing aggressively like that and you have Jeff (Withey) who gets more than three shots, our front line totally changes. You can look at Jeff and how good he's been and then in this game he gets three shots. You look at Perry showing flashes and in this game he gets two points and one rebound. You look at Kevin, what he's done, and in this game he gets about a goose egg because of the foul situation. It just goes to show you that it doesn't take much for the timing and the rhythm to get off. I was really excited about Perry. We aren't deep enough to say, `Well, if he's not playing, we'll put somebody else in.' We need to have seven or eight guys all contributing at a very high level--much like we did last year. Even though the number was six, we had six guys contributing at a very high level."
On if he thinks Kansas can still be a one seed:
"I would have said after the game, no, but (ESPN analyst) Joe Lunardi has us down still as a one (now a two seed). I personally think the one seed is overrated--but I told our guys, `Do we deserve to be the one seed if we don't go to Kansas City and win the tournament? The answer is no. Let's focus on what's first.' I'm not hung up on a one seed. If we go to Kansas City and play great and we're not a one seed, I'm fine with that. I'm fine with whatever. Getting hung up on a one seed, to me, is not worth it. Last year we were a two and proud of it and everything worked out fine. We've had years where we were a one and lost in the second round. It's all about match-ups. I like to be as high a seed as possible because that would probably guarantee us getting a chance to play close to home. I'm not really looking at it like that. I just want to go play well this weekend. We'll worry about Sunday when it gets here."
On if he would be shocked if Oklahoma State won the national title:
"I don't know if `shocked' would be the right word, but they are a team that can advance far, without question. I think Kansas State can advance far. We've got six teams in our league that on any given night can beat anyone in the country. Now being able to string six together in a row? That's not easy to do. I do think athletically, they can match up with just about anybody."