Head Coach Bill Self and Players Talk About the Big 12 Tournament

March 10, 2008

Head Coach Bill Self<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

On the All-Big 12 basketball team:

“I haven’t seen it officially, but I was told that none of our guys made the (media) first team and I can see how that could happen with our team because, if I’m not mistaken, I believe four of our players all received first team recognition, but they split the vote. It’s disappointing as a coach because you want your guys to receive postseason honors, but I can certainly see how it happened. You look at our team and who the best player on our team is depends on what game you watch. Right now, Sherron (Collins) would be the best player on our team based on how he played this past week. It’s disappointing, but we’re not crushed. I think we probably had guys deserving being mentioned on that and from what I’ve been told, they were mentioned, they just split the vote, Darnell (Jackson), Shady (Darrell Arthur), Mario (Chalmers) and Brandon (Rush) received some voting. If I’m a voter and somebody asked me who the best player on our team was, I’d probably change my vote from week to week too.”

On Sherron Collins being healthy:

“He’s such an important part of our team. I didn’t realize until this morning that he was the co-Big 12 Player of the Week, but you stop and look at how he played the last three games, he’s been pretty good. He changes the pace of the game and he’s an explosive offensive player, but he also brings an element of toughness and leadership. He’s got a presence about him on the court. I’d say we’re about as whole as we’ve been all year, no question. We’re still nicked up like everybody is, but it’s certainly nice to have him at full strength. I think it’s the best he’s looked since he hurt his foot against UMKC. He got off to a pretty good start those first two games and then he went down and he has not been himself since then. You look at him the other day and he just had a pit bull-type performance and that’s what we’ve been missing because he just hasn’t felt good enough to do that.”

On playing through until Sunday of the tournament:

“We put an emphasis on playing good in the conference tournament when we got beat in the semi-finals two years ago. Everybody puts an emphasis on doing well, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t do as well as what you want. We’ll put the same emphasis on it as we have the past four years and hopefully we’ll have similar results as the last two. We still have a lot to play for. In our mind and in Texas’ mind, even though they beat us, there is a chance to determine the premier team in the league and the only way we can do that, both us and Texas, is if we play really good on Friday and Saturday and get to Sunday. That’s something worth playing for and seeding is definitely something we’re playing for. When you go to school, you want to play for championships and this is our championship. Obviously there’s a ton to play for in that regard.”

On the chance to play for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament:

“I would say yes. We have a chance, but some things probably need to happen to make it a reality. One being we’d have to win the tournament and two, we’d probably need somebody else to not perform as well this week. Even if we’re not that (a No. 1 seed), and I’m not putting any emphasis on it, we just want to gather as much momentum as we can going into next week.”

On who he believes is a locked No. 1 seed:

“Well, I think (North) <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Carolina is. From my perspective, how could you not put Memphis as a No. 1? Tennessee has had the best RPI all year and UCLA had a remarkable year. You could make a strong case for all of those. But things happen- a first or second round exit, other teams get hot. That’s what happened to us last year. I don’t think we were a No. 1 seed last year going into the Big 12 tournament and we played our way to that. I would say (North) Carolina is a lock and everybody else still has some work to do.”

On the atmosphere of the Big 12 tournament:

“I think it’s going to be the best it’s been this year. I thought they did a fabulous job last year in Oklahoma City. The interest level was there, the crowds, the women participating next to the men. It will be very similar here with Municipal Auditorium and the SprintCenter. I think it’s great. I used to love it when it was the Big 8. You get all the fans from the respective schools. Everybody’s crossing paths everywhere you go. I think it’s a lot of fun for the fans. But as a participant, it’s really a good time, especially if you’re doing well. I don’t think anything is too fun if you don’t perform well, but they do a great job of making it a very festive week.”

On a possible home-court advantage:

“I don’t know. We possibly play against Missouri and they won’t cheer for us and we’re in the same night session as KansasState and I doubt they’re going to be totally excited for us. I don’t see it being as big a home-court advantage this year. I thought last year we definitely had a majority of the fans and this year, I don’t know if we will or not, but I’m sure we’ll have a strong contingent.”

On the Big 12 first round game between Missouri and Nebraska:

“I think it’s a coin flip game. I’ve said all along that Missouri is capable of having success against anybody. We had a hard time guarding them both times we played them. Nebraska has really played well this past month. I haven’t heard on Cookie (Miller), but Doc’s (Doc Sadler) got them playing at a high level. Whoever we play isn’t going to be easy. We played Nebraska twice this year and played really well both times. I’d love to say we’re going to play well again, but it will not be one of those games where the outcome is decided early on either one of them.”

On which first round team he thinks will stand out:

“OklahomaState is playing really good. They hung in there with Texas pretty well yesterday. They play Texas Tech the first game, if I’m not mistaken, then they have a chance at a rematch with Texas. I’d say that could be a fun game. I think everybody is capable of winning a couple of games, there’s no doubt about that. I think the KansasState and Texas A&M game potentially is a very intriguing match-up, but if you look at all of them, they’re all intriguing. Anybody can get a good run going for 48 hours and win a couple of games. Teams are all good enough to do so.”

On being in Kansas City Sunday, opposed to another Big 12 tournament location, for the Selection Show:

“Well, I hope we’re playing on Sunday. If we’re playing on Sunday, I could care less where we’re at. Certainly, being able to drive home is always better than having to go through security to fly home, but I don’t think that’s a big deal one way or another.”

On Big 12 locks in the NCAA tournament:

“I think our league has five for-sure locks: ourselves, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor. I don’t see any scenario where we all couldn’t get in. Texas A&M I believe is going to get in, but there could be some scenarios that occur if you have a lot of upsets, so they could probably solidify their position, and I think they already have, by playing well this weekend.”

On the passing of KU legend Otto Schnellbacher:

“We lost one of KU’s all-time greats this morning. The last time we saw Otto was at our 110-year reunion (Feb. 16) with his wife. He was a four-time All-Conference player and one of the greatest football players ever to play here, of course a KU legend. He’ll be missed. He did so much for KU in so many ways that didn’t garner recognition with the Topeka Jayhawk Club. He was a Jayhawk through and through.”

Sophomore Forward Darrell Arthur

On KU’s lack of representation on the AP All-Big 12 First Team:

“I think it says that we are balanced. We have eight stars. Anybody can show up on any day. It’s not a big deal at all.”

On Kansas’ recent strong play:

“I think after the loss to OklahomaState, we have been on the rise. I think we have come together as a team. We had a couple of meetings, and even since then, we’ve been playing really good.”

Junior Guard Brandon Rush

On being selected by the coaches to the All-Big 12 First Team:

“I never really thought about it. It’s good, but we still have big things ahead of us. We need to worry about the Big 12 Championships.”

On the Big 12 Championships being in Kansas City:

“I like that. The SprintCenter is so sweet too. With us being in the same (side) of the bracket with Missouri and K-State, that’s pretty special too.”

“I love playing Missouri, especially if it is in KC. That will be the first time we’ve played them there in a while.”

On KU’s motivation:

“We still want to be the best team in our league. We lost to Texas, and we ended up being lucky enough to get a share of the Big 12 title. We still have the chance to prove that we are the best team in our conference.”

Junior Guard Mario Chalmers

On the Big 12 Conference tournament:

“We have to be focused, prepared to face our opponents and come ready to play. We have to get ready for both (potential opponents; No. 7 Nebraska and No.10 Missouri) but at the same time we also have to worry about ourselves and make sure we stay focused and ready to play.”

On Kansas’ two potential opponent: Nebraska and Missouri:

“We know both teams pretty well. We can’t worry about the two wins we have on each of the teams already; we just have to prepare ourselves to play both again.”

On winning the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City:

“We are out to prove that we are the best team in the Big 12. This week is going to be a big week for us and we have to continue to play Kansas basketball. We love the SprintCenter; it’s like a home-away-from-home. I think it will be good for us to get back there and play again. “

Sophomroe Guard Sherron Collins

On preparing for the Big 12 Conference tournament:

“We are trying to stay fresh and focused. We have seen everyone in the (Big 12) Conference; some teams we played twice and others only once. So we know how to prepare for them. This is where the real season starts, right here.”

On Kansas’ two potential opponents: Nebraska and Missouri:

“We have seen both of these teams twice. Our coaches have done a good job of getting us prepared and it’s nice to have more time to look at each team. Still, we don’t know who we’re going to play until three games into the tournament. We just have to pay close attention to detail and stay focused.”

On playing in Kansas City:

“I think we have the home-court advantage in Kansas City. Last year we were in Oklahoma City where Oklahoma and OklahomaState had the home advantage, but this year it is ours.”

On how Kansas’ Big 12 play will affect NCAA seed selection:

“We are going to try and come out and show that we have the best team in the (Big 12) Conference. That is our goal. As long as we play like we are supposed to we will come out with a No. 1 seed (for the NCAA Tournament). But no matter where we are seeded we still have to show up and play.”