Men's Basketball Meets The Media In Omaha Saturday

March 17, 2012

The Kansas Jayhawks met the press in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, to talk about the team’s match-up with Purdue at CenturyLink Center on Sunday night. Kansas guards Travis Releford and Conner Teahan were interviewed in the formal press conference, as was Kansas head coach Bill Self. The following is a largely unedited transcript from ASAP Sports.

Q. Purdue goes with a small lineup, don’t have a true post player, they spread the lineup out. How can you deal with that? You’re bigger but you’re going to have to get out and chase guys.

Conner Teahan: That’s definitely a challenge we’re going to have to face defensively. We faced teams like Missouri that do that and that’s going to be a test for T. Rob and Jeff Withey. If we can take advantage of that and get the ball inside that will be great, but defensively it will pose problems.

Travis Releford: Defensively it’s going to be problems for us. In the past we had problems with it playing smaller teams because it takes Jeff out of the game, so hopefully we can have them match up with us as much as we have to match up with them.

Q. D.J. Byrd and Anthony Johnson are physically strong on the perimeter. How can you deal with their physical strength and the problems that that poses?

Travis Releford: I think we have guys that can match up with the strength and anybody’s strength in the country on the perimeter. I think guys just need to come out and be prepared for anything to happen.

Conner Teahan: Yeah, they’re quick, and they get in the paint very well. We’re going to definitely need to “D” them up. Like Travis said. Perimeter-wise, I feel good with our strength and quickness. Tyshawn, Travis and Elijah do a great job and that’s go we will need to stop them but we have faced people like that before.

Q. Conner, you guys had to go deeper in the bench than you have in any big games in the late part of the season. Does that help you guys so if you have to go eight deep in a game to get out of it you’ve shown that you can do that?

Conner Teahan: I think the way that Kevin and Naadir came in and played last night was a bright spot. Kevin came in and played great and I could tell he was nervous. It was his first NCAA game, kind of the same situation for anybody. Those are the first real minutes I have played in an NCAA Tournament, so it was good to see them come in. It helps us out for tomorrow, keeping Tyshawn fresh and Elijah and others fresh. If there are moments when we get into foul trouble those guys can give us valuable minutes.

Q. Travis to follow along those lines, playing a six-deep rotation for much of the season and having an early exit in the Big 12 tournament did that help you guys?

Travis Releford: I think it helped out a lot. Being in the game, sometimes guys get tired so to be able to know that we got guys on the bench and if we ask them to come out they will be able to step up in that role for however long they’re in there. I think it gave Coach confidence to put those guys in there and to have them continue the way he wants them to play.

Q. Consensus across the country, Big Ten may be the toughest conference in America, the Big 12 maybe after that. How much pride is in this game, just wanting to win for Kansas?

Conner Teahan: I think that’s huge and I think it brings to our attention how good of a conference they played in. They played in a lot of big games already so we know they will be ready to play and we kind of thought — to be honest I think a lot of guys on our team think the Big 12 is right up there also in the country, Baylor, Missouri, Iowa State is a great team, and from head to toe our conference is just as good as anybody’s. So being able to prove that would be something that we will focus on tomorrow, also.

Q. Travis, you know, the Purdue guys talk about how the NCAA Tournament is all about match-ups. They have struggled this year against teams with “bigs.” They’re 22-5 against teams that don’t have great “bigs” but 0-7 against teams that do. You have great “bigs.” Do you agree with them, it’s about the match-up and what impresses you about Purdue?

Travis Releford: We know that they’re a good shooting team and they can stretch the floor one through five, so the match-up wise, that plays a big role and — to any game. If they have guys that we can’t match up with then they have the advantage. If we have guys that they can’t match up with, then we have the advantage. I think a match-up is a big key of any game.

Opening Statement from Kansas head coach Bill Self:

COACH SELF: We’re excited to have the opportunity to play on Sunday and certainly yesterday was a long day, a late night, but I do think our guys got their batteries recharged. Hopefully we’ll be prepared to practice and get ready to play a very good and talented Purdue team.

Q. Bill, Matt Painter talks about match-ups and in the NCAA Tournament it’s all about match-ups, sometimes you see a draw and it works out well, they’re 22-5 against teams that don’t have great bigs, and 0-7 against teams that do. Maybe that’s an oversimplification but talk about Thomas Robinson and the advantage that you have.

COACH SELF: When you start a perimeter four-man or a really big three sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes at the five, you’re not as big. The challenge is that they have to match up with us and we’ve got to match-up with them. Now you’re pulling natural “bigs” away from the basket to defend the three-point line, which not all teams are experienced with or have had an opportunity to do that. I agree with Matt, I do think it’s about match-ups. We’ve got to do a great job of keeping Jackson out of the paint and do a good job of getting to our shooters. Our big guys will be responsible for a good portion of that.

Q. Bill, when you have a couple of upsets like what happened yesterday when everybody is rooting for the underdog, what are your emotions as you’re watching that stuff? Because everybody has the underdog instinct and you’ve been in the other chair —

COACH SELF: I’ve been in that chair, yeah.

Q. What’s your feeling?

COACH SELF: You know, I think the biggest thing with the tournament that as a coach you should do is not burn any energy on hoping for anything to happen. If it’s definitely not in your bracket, who cares! Even if it is in your bracket, what I found out, what you think may be a favorable situation for you doesn’t usually play out that way. So I’ve taken the approach here that, you know, one team is going to wear a dark uniform, one team is going to wear a light uniform and no matter who it is, you’ve got to beat somebody good to get to the next round. Don’t burn energy worrying or hoping for something to happen, especially if it’s somebody you don’t even have a chance to match-up against.

Q. Bill, they’ve made changes during the year for various circumstances and they have had 10 different guys start and down the stretch they have stabilized that. When you scout a team like that, what do you do, the last few games or look at everything?

COACH SELF: Yeah, to me, season stats don’t mean that much to me. We’ll look at conference stats and basically when you look at Purdue, what caught my eye more than anything else is I think they’re shooting about 37% or something for the year from the three, or at least during league play. In the last ten games they’re 48% from three and they shoot a lot of three’s. They’re averaging over eigh three-makes during a game and the last few games that has been escalated. I look at that and they’re a great shooting team. They have guys that can stretch it from various spots and usually when I watch a team like Purdue I see it more from an offensive standpoint than from a defensive standpoint. They’re like us, so to speak, this is how we guard, this is how we play, they’re the same way. But true motion is hard to guard especially when you have bigs that haven’t played a lot on the perimeter.

Q. Bill, could you talk about Thomas Robinson’s development and how he has become such a special player? Did you see this coming when he was a young kid?

COACH SELF: We thought he could be an all-league guy without question. The thing about Thomas, when he was a freshman he was our fourth best big guy and Jeff Withey was our sixth, because Mario was in there, too. Last year as a sophomore, he had so many personal things go on and at the end of the day he’s playing behind Marcus and Markieff and only playing 15 minutes a game. For him to do what he’s done, nobody saw that coming. The kid cares a lot and he tries hard and when you have a live body and a nice skill set and you have, some natural things, strength and size, and you want it so bad, good things are going to happen. He certainly has had a remarkable year in large part because I think he’s been able to take a terrible situation, tragic, multiple situations and somehow use basketball as his outlet to somehow spin something positive out of it. Everybody admires him that comes in touch with him around our camp because I don’t know how many guys could do what he’s done.

Q. Coach, you’re going to have a lot of your important players getting their first significant minutes in a tournament game last night anyway and you ended up going deep in the bench as well. Could you talk about the importance of getting minutes in a tournament game?

COACH SELF: It is important, there is no question. I don’t know if it’s as important as what a lot of people play it out to be but there is a different feel starting the NCAA Tournament game. I thought we were nervous yesterday, we didn’t have some individuals play great early on. Ty, Thomas and Elijah combined for seven or eight turnovers, the first eight or nine minutes of a half. They have to play well for us, but after that we settled down. We were fine. It was good to get everybody minutes and it wasn’t good that Tyshawn didn’t play the second half. It was good to get Kevin and Naadir key minutes off the bench as well.

Q. Coach, you finished up late last night, does it help or hurt when you get back to a — getting right to bed and waking up.

COACH SELF: It’s a hard game to play because 8:57 became about 9:20 if I’m not mistaken and by the time we got out of here, it was well after midnight. Our guys are going to wind down as soon as they get back to the hotel so all we did last night was eat dinner around 12:45 and then go to bed. But the thing about it is, we were able to sleep in this morning and we will be a little fatigued today but I bet Purdue is, too. That’s what happens after a game and you come off that emotional high and the next day you’re kind of Ugh! But we will have a good workout, it will be good to break a sweat and we will be fine by tomorrow.

Q. Coach, I know you have been immersed in your season but in the few minutes that Charlie Weis has been on your campus and what do you think about the job he will do there?

COACH SELF: I like him.

Q. Why is that?

COACH SELF: I think his resumé is pretty incredible when you study it, he’s done a lot of things, had a lot of experiences, some good, some not so good. He’s open about it, talks about it, will be better because of it, in both areas, good and not so good. But I feel for the University of Kansas, we needed somebody that would draw enough interest that people are going to wake up every day and want to look at the paper to see what he says. He brings that credibility immediately. I think ticket sales are going to spike, there will be a lot of positives that come from it and I think it was good for us at this time without question.

Q. Bill, Robbie Hummel, what kind of unique challenges does he give and you can you think of someone in the Big 12 or someone that you have coached with similar skills?

COACH SELF: I would say first of all with him, how could you not respect this guy, to go through what he’s gone through physically and still play at a high level. The guy is averaging over 16 a game, coming off two ACLs, if I’m not mistaken stud! Stud! He’s been around a long time but the thing about him is he’s almost a big guard. They’re going to play him at the 3, 4, or 5, but he’s a skilled kid that can play “big” and get your big guy away from the basket. I don’t know who we played like that, he’s bigger but kind of like a Kim English, almost, doesn’t shoot as many three’s, but he shot about nine in conference play, so kind of a challenge, which is a pretty big complement.

Q. The coaching carousel in college basketball is what it is and if you stop and think about it, you’re responsible for Matt Painter having the Purdue job because Roy went to North Carolina you left Illinois, Bruce goes to Illinois, Matt does a great job and has one year at Southern Illinois–

COACH SELF: I guess Roy had more to do with it than — Matt has never written me or anything —

Q. Never thanked you!

COACH SELF: Not once.

Q. He’s done a great job in his seven years, it’s all about opportunity isn’t it? And his was unique.

COACH SELF: You know, I think when a guy is a really good player, which he was, and if I’m not mistaken, played with the “big dog” won the championship and, played for a legend. Then he goes and cuts his teeth on his own at Southern and has success there. It’s absolutely no surprise to anybody that he’s done well. Purdue has a great basketball history and for an alum to step in and have an opportunity to coach at his school where you know it means so much, he’s obviously talented because he’s won at another place already, I don’t think it’s a surprise that he’s done well.

Q. Bill, you noticed the fanfare and all the hubbub about the two upsets yesterday. What are your thoughts on the perception of the relationship between the tournament and the regular season and how a lot of fans view it, especially casual fans?

COACH SELF: I think casual fans put all the emphasis on the tournament. Season ticket holders probably put emphasis on both, but maybe leaning toward postseason. We have experienced everything. We have experienced the good and the highlights and we have experienced the first-round exit. The one thing about it, if you coach long enough you’re probably going to experience a little bit of everything. It’s great how the media and CBS and everybody has marketed “Road to the Final Four” because in everybody’s mind that is how it works. It’s not road to the national championship it’s “Road to the Final Four.” If you don’t get there it’s a disappointment. We saw yesterday everybody has good players, a team gets hot, anybody can beat anybody but I do think — because of — and I do think going to the Final Four now is probably as popular as winning the national championship as it was in the 1970s, as far as the hype. Not hanging the banner but as far as the hype. It’s hard to have a great season in today’s time unless you play well in March. In order to make it a great season you have to play well in March. We have been 33-3 and 35-3, I look at those and it was good but it wasn’t special and I think you have to play well in March to make it special.

Q. Do you need to see Tyshawn in practice today to know how well he is?

COACH SELF: I think he’s fine but I do want to see that, I think he’s fine. He cramped in Hawaii, too, and sat out a good portion of the game against Georgetown and that’s a full-body deal. Yesterday it was just his calf, he says his calf is sore. I think he will be fine, he probably needs to see himself do a couple things to give him 100 percent confidence, but I don’t see problems with that.

Q. On Jeff Withey, has his game plateaued or his defense has been good — kind of like a rookie going around the second time in the league.

COACH SELF: As far as scoring?

Q. Anything.

COACH SELF: I think he’s playing as well as he can. If you look at it that way we have had a lot of guys plateau because we have had five starters score 25 in the game this year, but not all five are going to do that. Jeff is not going to be with the primary go-to guy offensively, but he’s going to have some nights where he can get 12, 15, 17. He can consistently rebound the ball and impact around the rim. I thought yesterday there was a stretch in the second half there is no question who the best player on the floor was Jeff.

Q. Do you still have to remind him to be aggressive?

COACH SELF: We want him to look to score, absolutely, but we tell all our guys that. Not so much going after the ball anymore and rebounding the ball.

Q. Bill, I think Elijah probably played more minutes at the point yesterday than in any other game. How do you evaluate him?

COACH SELF: Pretty good. Their pressure wasn’t as good the second half and rarely is it when teams — the initial energy and all that stuff. I’m not sure that he turned it over the second half. I think he turned it over three times to start the game and one second half he played point for 15 minutes and I don’t think he turned it over. He got us into the offense and did a good job on Ray. I thought he played well. That was encouraging for me to see because he hasn’t had a chance to do that that much.

Q. Bill, how pleased have you been — yesterday might have been an anomaly but the willingness of Thomas and Tyshawn to take on so many responsibilities, is that a sign of greatness when they can follow-through with that kind of thing? From an offensive standpoint?

COACH SELF: I don’t know about greatness, but they both kind of figured it out. The one thing about our team, when we share and rely on each other we’re a lot better and it seems to come back to those two. The more we share and rely on our teammates they score more points. We didn’t start out that way yesterday but I thought we did a good job with that yesterday. I’m proud of how those guys have matured and everything and I think sharing is contagious and those guys set the tone for all that.