Men's Basketball Press Conference Quotes (March 19)

March 19, 2008

THE MODERATOR: <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Kansas Jayhawks are here, No. 1 seed. We’ll go right to questions for 15-minute session.

What do you know about PortlandState?

Mario Chalmers: We know they’re a very good team. They have a lot of good shooters on the team. They have a good point guard in Dominguez and good scorers from the 1 to 3 spot. We have to focus in and be ready to play with them.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

DARNELL JACKSON: Them guards, they’re great on the offensive glass, and if you watch them play on defense, it’s like they pressure you so hard where you can’t get into your offense. But our main focus is to try to compete with them guys and keep the intensity at the same level that they’re playing at and just see what we can come out with.

Q. Darnell, all season a lot of expectations around this team. How do you guys handle it and do those expectations grow as you move into the tournament?

DARNELL JACKSON: Yeah, they grow one game at a time. Take it one game at a time. After you win one game, look at the next team who you play.

As long as we stay focused and no distractions and don’t walk around here all cocky, and the next thing you know you lose and we’re going to be disappointed.

Q. For both of you guys, K State plays USC after you guys play tomorrow. Do you have any idea how you’re going to evaluate that game after playing both teams?

Mario Chalmers: We aren’t thinking about K State and USC. PortlandState right now, we just got to worry about them. Then after we handle business with them we gotta worry about the winner of UNLV and KentState.

Q. Follow-up on the same thing, I mean, you guys are the No. 1 seed and yet all we’ve heard this week about this regional is Beasley and Mayo. Does that matter to you at all? Do you think you’re being overshadowed at all by a couple of freshmen?

DARNELL JACKSON: No, it doesn’t matter at all. We’re a team. Just Mayo and Beasley, you gotta give it to them, the guys are great players. But you can’t win a game with one player. It’s a team. You’ve got to have everybody as one to pull off a victory.

Mario Chalmers: Yeah, and to follow that up, we’ve been overlooked kind of the whole season, and right now we are just staying under the radar, keep handling business like we have been doing and we’ve got to be ready to play.

Q. When you guys were watching film on the Vikings, was there any players that stood out that you thought were maybe a little higher quality than the mid-major level that they’re at?

DARNELL JACKSON: To me, I think the whole starting five stood out. Because it’s a lot of tools them guys have the other guys don’t have, and just watching Huff and Dominguez play, those guys are great with the ball. And all their post players who shoot the ball from outside the 3 point line, they can stretch the defense or get it inside. So it’s a lot of things they have that we have to be ready for.

Q. Is there any particular aspect of PortlandState’s game that worries you guys at all?

Mario Chalmers: I mean, not really. We faced a lot of good teams. A lot of teams play just like they do. As long as we play our game and we’re focused and playing out there, competing, it’s going to be a good game. And the team that’s better is going to come out with the victory.

Q. Not to argue with you, but you’ve been in the top 5 all year. You’re the favorite of many to win the national championship. How can you say you’ve been under the radar all season, why do you feel that?

Mario Chalmers: Not necessarily under the radar, but when people talk about the best two teams or the best teams, you always hear about North Carolina or Memphis or maybe even Tennessee or UCLA. Not many people say Kansas is the best team in the nation right now.

We feel in our heart we’re the best team. That’s what I mean when I say we get overlooked a little bit.

Q. Do you guys use that as motivation? Does it piss you off? How do you react to that?

Mario Chalmers: No reaction, doesn’t really make us mad. It’s the way it goes. We know we’re a good team. We know if we fight hard we can win a national championship. And right now we’re just staying focused and taking it game by game.

Q. Question for Mario, a couple of Wichita guys, Brian Curtis and Dupree, were talking earlier about coming up to Lawrence and playing you guys at the rec center in Lawrence. Do you have any memory of those guys or memory of those pickup games?

Mario Chalmers: I remember both of them. They used to come to Lawrence. We both got a real good friend in Zach Simms and we were in the rec room playing with everybody I remember them coming up and playing with us a couple of times.

Q. How were they?

Mario Chalmers: They were both pretty good. I mean, I think they’re better than what they say, what they’re playing at at PortlandState, but that’s the school they chose to go to and that’s what they do.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. Good luck.

Head coach of Kansas, Bill Self, is with us. We’ll ask the coach to give an opening statement on his club being here in Omaha, then we’ll go to questions.

COACH SELF: We’re excited being in Omaha and having the opportunity to be only three hours from home and just excited to play in the tournament.

It’s a great reward to anybody that participates in college basketball to have the opportunity to play in this tournament.

I know our guys are really looking forward to it.

Q. Bill, do you foresee the day when a No. 16 seed beats a No. 1 seed?

COACH SELF: Well, it’s going to happen. You know, I hope it’s not any time in the very near future. But it’s going to happen.

Parity in college basketball teams are definitely getting closer, and we’re playing a team after watching and studying tape quite a bit over the last 48 hours that’s a very, very good team.

After watching tape, I told these guys, how are these guys a 16 seed? Because they do a lot of the same things we do. They play fast. They share the ball, all of them can pass. All of them can stretch the defense from the perimeter.

They’re a hard team to guard. So, you know, it will happen. But certainly I hope it’s delayed for the near future.

Q. There’s going to be a lot of attention to the USC-Kansas State game because of the two freshman playing. A lot of people think they’ll be one-and-done players. That’s quite a trend developing. Is that good for college basketball to have guys that get a lot of attention and maybe they’re just there for one year?

COACH SELF: I think having — you’re asking me having Beasley and Durrant play college basketball has been great for the college game.

You know, there’s three freshman. There’s not just two freshmen in that game, there’s four freshmen in that game. Because Davon will be a pro probably I would think when the time’s right, and Bill also will be one when the time’s right.

But I think that if it’s done correctly — I don’t like the rule. I wish the rule was leave before school or stay for two. That would be my personal opinion.

But there’s been so many good things that’s happened by these guys. Oden was great for college basketball. Durrant was fabulous for college basketball. Conley was great for college basketball. There’s so many this year that’s even a deeper than last that have done so many positive things for college basketball, and I think the only thing that’s a little misleading is the fact that you have so many guys that are new on the scene that get so much attention and maybe some other guys don’t get the attention that’s probably earned their way more than these guys have because they’ve been in school longer.

But, hey, that’s life. It will be that way at the next level, too. So as long as guys go to school and represent their university or class and are great ambassadors for the amateur game and get educated, what I mean by that, you know, pass their classes, get their 24 hours, whatever it is, I think it would be a sad state if guys are going and getting six hours in the fall and not attending classes in the second semester, then I think the rule’s a farce, but if guys are taking care of business, then it’s good.

Q. Your team obviously played great at the end of the year, played great in the tournament. And can you assess the meaning of momentum entering this tournament or do you just build it in the tournament?

COACH SELF: We’ve had momentum coming into the tournament before haven’t played great. We’ve had momentum when we have played great. But certainly I think our team needed to go through some adversity and not — and go through a rough stretch, which we accomplished very well in February, because we weren’t any good in February for the most part.

And so I think coming out of that — so it wasn’t a three-game momentum swing for us. It’s been a three-week swing. And I do think that we’re playing our best ball and it’s been over gradually over that time. So I would hope that that helps prepare us for this weekend.

But you know you never know. You never know in this crazy game, because you can have great momentum and miss shots. But right now we’re certainly on the uptick, at least based on our recent performances and based on recent practices.

Q. Follow up on the missed shots thing. Around college basketball a lot. Coaches often say you can miss shots and can you really just have a bunch of good shots and miss them in a game or is that, or do coaches just like to say that to explain why their team may not have played well that night?

COACH SELF: Shooting is a part of playing well. No doubt about that. But as a coach to me it’s a good or bad shot when it leaves your hand, not if it goes in. We know if it goes in it lends — it gives you a much better chance of winning. And if it doesn’t, it hurts your chances.

But some things you can’t control. You run good offense and miss an open 15-footer or run bad offense and make a guard at 21-footer. Which one is the better possession? From a coach’s standpoint, the miss is probably the better possession.

So I don’t put a lot of stock on that. Now how do we play after the shot’s missed getting on the glass and those sorts of things.

If you have to bank on making shots in order to win, then you probably are going to have a night where you don’t and you lose. So we just don’t emphasize that. We just try to take good ones.

Q. Okay, when you say if you’re not going to bank on making shots to win, you don’t do that, what do you bank on to win?

COACH SELF: I would say first shot defense, rebounding. Taking care of the ball. Stealing possessions. Getting 70 percent of the 50-50 balls. That to me is what you do consistently night in and night out. And then when you make shots, you look really good if you’re able to still do those things. But in tournament games you’re going to have to grind out some wins if you’re successful in the tournament. And I think those are the key components to grinding out wins.

Q. The effort to play — it’s like the effort plays basically?

COACH SELF: Exactly. Not just effort. But can you defend the entire 35 when you break down the last five seconds of the shot clock. There’s a lot of things that go into it.

Can you get a good look in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock? You know, can you, if you’re not shooting the ball well, does that make you a better defensive team? Or one with less energy? Do we steal extra possessions on the glass because guys haven’t shot it well. There’s a lot of things that go into it.

But certainly effort is a huge, huge part of it.

Q. Mario spoke of coming in, flying sort of under the radar from the perspective that Kansas, unlike some of the other No. 1 seeds, hasn’t been projected as often as a potential champion from this tournament. Do you see that at all?

COACH SELF: Well, I would say, for the most part, we don’t fly under the radar that much. But for a team that experiences much early-season success as we did, we probably flew under the radar in large part because of the Memphis success or Carolina success or UCLA success.

And we’re a team of balance. A team of balance doesn’t garner the individual attention that some of these other teams do. We don’t have a national player of the year candidate and that kind of stuff.

So we may be under the radar a little bit based on how others have perceived teams throughout the year. But I think if you’re a 1 seed or whatnot, I don’t think that you’re flying under it any longer.

I do think that maybe we’re not as thought as highly of as some of the other 1 seeds or whatever. But I don’t think we’re under the radar by any means.

Q. Do you think it’s a generation or something, do players need to feel disrespected no matter what to play? It seems like it.

COACH SELF: It’s a vogue thing to say. If a guy says we outrebound them today, then they’re talking trash on our own rebounding ability. Facts are facts. You get whipped or you don’t get whipped.

But people say things, make certain things said as motivational things and stuff like that. I’m not — I don’t buy into much of that. Unless you challenge someone’s manhood, I don’t think any of that goes very far.

Q. Can you give us any insight on the USC-K State game just from playing both of those teams?

COACH SELF: It should be a fabulous game. Both teams are young, really young, and they’re both really talented. I am very, very impressed with what USC has done, especially of late, because their offense is catching up to their defense. They’ve been a great defensive team all year long. I think their offense is certainly catching up to their defense.

I mean that as a great compliment. And I don’t know how to guard Beasley. So we held him to 39. So I’m not an expert on telling anybody how anyone should defend him.

But I think outside the lines is what’s going to be interesting about the game. You’ve got high school teammates going against each other and then you’ve got a lot of rivalries going against each other. I think that’s what’s going to make this game so interesting.