Men's Basketball Meets With The Media to Preview Oklahoma State

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Jan. 31, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Bill Self held his weekly press conference on Thursday afternoon, discussing the upcoming game against Oklahoma State.

Head coach Bill Self
On his theory as to why we are seeing lower scorers in Division I basketball:
I think, primarily, it is the way the game is being officiated. The game isn’t getting less physical, it is probably getting more physical. I think the officials are calling it within the guidelines or the rules. There is probably more contact than what anybody would like to see have happen. Everybody plays to that if they can use that to their advantage. That would be my guess. I know we have contributed to that some and I think a lot of ours is not as much the way defenses are playing us, it’s just the fact that we don’t execute or have not played as well. I think across America there are more good defensive teams than there are more good offensive teams. Down a point a game is quite a bit, looking at the big scheme of things, but I’m not sure it is cause for alarm as some people are making it out to be.”

On how important Travis Releford has been with his consistency on both ends of the floor:
“I get on Trav (Travis Releford) all the time because I don’t think he always guards the way he should guard; but the reality of it is he has been terrific on both ends. He has been consistent offensively, and even though he has some lapses defensively, I think he is still as good of a perimeter defender as we have in our league. He probably does as much to help his team win, maybe as any player in the country. It is not strictly from a scoring or a rebounding, but from an intangible, standpoint as much as anything.”

On if Releford being the most efficient scorer in the Big 12 right now results from him taking good shots, and would you like to see him shoot more:
“Well, I would just like to see him be aggressive. I think the game dictates a lot of how many shots Travis takes. If people don’t guard him, he should take more. If people guard him, he should drive or pass. He is shooting a great percentage, I think he is shooting 61 percent in Big 12 play; but he is also getting a lot of layups, too, which is in large part keyed by our defense and a lot of times, his individual defense.”

On if he envisioned Releford being this central to the team back when he redshirted him:
“I thought he would be a two-year starter all along, but he has impressed me as far as how much he has gotten better and improved. He wants to be a player so bad; the redshirt year was really, really good for him.”

On Releford being one of the best transition players in the country, according to stats:
I don’t understand how they come up with all these numbers, because in transition, the only shots he shoots are dunks and layups usually, so you should be pretty efficient doing that. He is not shooting a lot of threes in transition. I think we, as a group, Ben (McLemore) and Travis (Releford) probably go from defense to offense as well as any wings in the country do. I don’t think our other guys go from defense to offense nearly as well as they do. But those two guys do it as well as anybody. When they can get out ahead of people, it is hard for (opponents) to catch up.”

On what makes Releford such a good defender:
I think there are a lot of things: strength, athletic ability, he has a great center of gravity, he can really slide, his stance is good and his fundamentals are pretty sound. The thing that goes unnoticed more than anything is that he is smart. He is a bright guy. He understands angles, when to piggyback or when to go ball-side, or when to empty or who to help-off of. When he makes a mental mistake defensively, I get pretty upset with him because I think he is bright enough that he shouldn’t make those. He pays attention to scouting reports, he is a really smart player.”

On if a two-game lead in the Big 12 is substantial seven games into the schedule:
“No, it doesn’t seem like a lot. It is unique to have everybody with two losses or three losses that are chasing you. We can’t be better off than what we are, but I also know that we have tough games against those teams with two and three losses coming up that can make it turn on a dime. Not holding serve at home isn’t really one game, it’s a two-game swing. You think you get it, and you don’t, so they gain a game on you and you lose on them. That is the way it is, at least in my eyes. Although it seems pretty good, and you have some of those teams with two losses and us, who are playing each other a lot here in the next couple of weeks. Who knows how it will look a couple of weeks from now. We have been down two games to Texas in February and somehow won the league by a game. We have been up two or three games, 10 games in, and ended up tying for the league championship. There is still a lot of ball left, obviously.”

On if he expected the team to be this good defensively going into the season:
“I thought we’d be good defensively. I thought we had potential to be terrific defensively. I don’t think we’re as good defensively as we’re going to get yet. But I think we’re pretty good. Not too many people have a Travis (Releford) and Jeff (Withey) on the same team. I do think we can improve in certain areas; but I do think we have been good defensively. I thought we could be. I never thought we’d be a great scoring team. We scored the ball well in December against Colorado, Belmont, Richmond and Ohio State and American. We scored the ball easy and well, in large part, because we made shots. And also in large part because our defense was good. We haven’t scored it, obviously, as well since then but I think defenses have been pretty good against us and we’ve been kind of careless with the ball and execution hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been horrible. It’s just that we haven’t made as many shots. But defensively, I always thought we’d be pretty good.”

On if he thinks this team has the potential to be the best defensive team he’s had while at KU:
“I’d say no. Statistically, yes. Our stats are great. But that ’08 team; people can say what they want to, that ’08 team was so much better defensively than offensively is a joke. They could guard. They didn’t help the helper, they helped the helper’s helper. They were really good and we’re not at that point yet. That team had seven or eight guys that were aggressive at all times. We had one guy that was an unbelievable stealer of the ball and Brandon (Rush) was as good of lockdown defender as we’ve ever had. That team had a lot of pieces. So to say better than that, I would have to probably say…I hope we can get there, but we’ll have to really improve in some areas to get close to that.”

On if he thought Marcus Smart would be an impact player as a freshman:
“I thought Marcus Smart could be the national freshman of the year back when he was in high school and he still can. He’s terrific, he’s got size, but the thing about him that I like so much -and I think everybody likes so much–is that he impacts a program from a personality standpoint as much as anybody can in America. He’s a take-charge guy, he’s a winner. Certainly, (he’s) going to be a pro and I think he’s absolutely terrific.”

On what stood out to him in the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State game yesterday:
“I watched part of it. What stood out to me was that Iowa State had them where they wanted them. Oklahoma State made a lot of plays late; a lot of plays late. The other thing that stood out is that they scored easy. They scored easy when the game was on the line. You don’t see that very often. Teams score easy during the teeth of a game and then in late-game situations, sometimes they don’t quite as easy because everyone hunkers down. They still scored pretty easy and they can score from a lot of different spots. I was really impressed. It was a really good win, it just kind of had a weird ending, as everybody saw that watched it. But it was a great win for OSU.”

On how the team will defensively approach Oklahoma State, who has multiple (three) offensive threats:
“I think they have four. When you stop and think about (Markel) Brown, their leading scorer and Marcus (Smart) and Le’Bryan (Nash) and then (Phil) Forte got 26 against West Virginia the other day. And they’ve got other guys that can score, but those would be the ones that you would think (of). (Michael) Cobbins had a terrific game last night. I picked them second in the league and from a talent standpoint, they may have as good of roster as there is in our league. They are the most athletic team in our league. That will be the thing about it; that we have to guard their athletic ability and they’re skilled players because they can score in a lot of different ways. They post their guards; they do some things differently than a lot of people do.”

On if he thinks Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart are potential professional basketball players:
“They’ll both play in the league. Markel Brown could too, he’s good. Markel Brown is arguably–we’ve got a guy who’s pretty athletic–but arguably, Markel Brown is the best athlete in our league. He’s really good athlete; really good.

On if ball-handling is a concern:
“Yes. One-word answer. Yes. Could say `hell yes’ but a one-word answer would be `yes’.”

On how the ball-handling issue can be remedied:
“I think that we are careless and lazy as much as anything else. Guys just pick the ball up, put the ball over their head. The same way we turned it over against Oklahoma when they threw that little 2-2-1 press at us. I could go back and watch the Oklahoma State game from last year and we did the same thing last year. We’ve got to handle pressure a little bit more and handle trapping situations better. We’ve always been a team that thrived–one, it’s so bad for people to press us, so bad–because our guards have always been so good to get the ball behind the trap and then you’re playing with numbers. We talked yesterday in practice, we’ve got to get back to being that and I think we can. But we have been careless. You look at the makeup of our team and we don’t have the same ball handlers–the numbers–and passers as what we’ve had in past years, too. We’ve got to do a much better job of relieving pressure with our bigs and getting everybody to be a little bit less careless moving forward.”

On the 18-game winning streak:
“I really don’t hear about it much. I hope that we can keep learning lessons through winning, but that doesn’t always happen. Losses aren’t terrible, everybody loses, we’ll lose again. I hope not, but it’s going to happen. The big thing about losses is if you get better through them, and not let one (loss) become two, two become three and you learn from them. We’ve been fortunate in some ways. Even in the West Virginia game, if we had made free throws down the stretch, even with the turnovers, we’re in great shape. The K-State win was a great win over there. We did some things late there that were very positive. The Texas win was really good, because we came from behind. We’ve done a lot of good things while winning, but we haven’t played consistently through the course of the game, which we have to improve on because you’re living on borrowed time if you don’t. But as far as the number of wins? I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that to the guys. We talked about our ranking the other day. You don’t protect it, good gosh, try to go take it. We’re not really hung up on that stuff. Nobody talks about that. They may as a group on their own, but certainly not amongst our basketball family.”

On if Jeff Withey gets enough credit nationally:
“I’m starting to think he does. From what I hear from other people, people are taking notice of what a great year he’s having. Travis (Releford) has been great, Elijah (Johnson) has had his moments where he’s terrific, Kevin (Young) has had his moments where he’s been terrific, too. But the bottom line is, we have two guys that have consistently – for the year – have played about as well as anybody at their positions across the board. So he might not be getting the attention that we think he deserves, but in the big scheme of things, I think it’s coming around pretty good.”

On Withey’s back-to-back blocks at the end of the West Virginia game:
“That (basket) could’ve cut it to three with 10 seconds left or whatever, but those were big-time plays. One of the reasons Jeff’s (blocking) numbers are going down is because less teams are shooting inside the paint. Teams are really trying to attack us outside the paint, which that’s ok. But that’s one reason I think his numbers are going down a little bit.”

On Bill Snyder signing a five-year contract extension:
“First of all, I’m from KU – I’m a KU guy through and through, but you have to respect the job that he does, and his staff. It’s been remarkable. It’s been remarkable to see from a guy that’s followed Big Eight football going back to the early 1970s and seeing what they’ve done over there. I’m really happy for him, I think that’s awesome. I hope he coaches the entire time. With me, the older I get, the more worn down I get. He’s getting stronger as he goes. He’s better now than he ever has been.”

On the Super Bowl:
“I think the 49ers have the best team, but I think I’ll go with the Ravens. They’ve got a guy who’s got a little incentive right now, so I’ll go with them.”

On the national rankings going up and down, especially at the top:
“What it shows is that the Big Ten is really a great league, that’s one thing it does. It’s hard to be number one in a league that has five of the best-15 teams in the country, (and you’re playing) on their home floor. To me, I said this a month ago, I think Michigan has been the most impressive team to date, but when you watch Indiana play when they’re playing well – they’re as good as anybody. Michigan State’s on a roll right now, and of course, Ohio State is in there, Minnesota, Illinois…there’s so many good teams in there that you can’t help but lose a couple. The competition is so stiff, especially away from home. It really hasn’t surprised me. Other than last year with Kentucky, when you go back and look at it, hasn’t it always been like musical chairs there for a bit? We won the National Championship in 2008 and I don’t think we were ever No. 1 until the very end. This is something that’s happened with college basketball this year. We thought a month ago, there are a lot of pretty good teams. I think what you’re seeing now is that there’s a lot more really good teams than what we thought. There’s a lot of really, really good teams with a chance to be great. Probably more so than what most people thought a month ago.”

On his concerns that a “down” Big 12 may not test his team enough:
“I’m not going to buy into the Big 12 being down. I’m going to buy into that we had some bad non-conference losses. Leagues are determined if they’re any good or not before you ever play a league game. That’s where you get your RPI is through non-conference. Once you get in league play, teams are going to beat each other so your RPI stays the same. I think that our league hasn’t been as impressive as in years past, but I know for a fact, it’s hard to win on the road. It’s hard to win on the road against pretty good opponents because you’re getting everyone’s A-game. I think our league does a wonderful job of preparing teams in it for the postseason. If we don’t have success, trust me that will not be the reason.”

On Oklahoma State having the potential to be one of those great teams:
“Absolutely. They’re so young. Phil (Forte) and Marcus (Smart) are both freshmen. Le’Bryan (Nash) is a sophomore and he was hurt last year. (Philip) Jurick is getting so much better, (Michael) Cobbins is only a sophomore. They’re going to continue to get better. They are one of those teams.”

On the possibility of reaching the school record win streak (23) as well as his 500th career victory:
“I have not thought of either one of those. I’d love to get to 23. If we could do that, it would be unbelievable, but all that would mean to me is that we would be 12-0 in the league. I’m worried more about that than anything else.”