Kansas Sweet 16 Press Conference Quotes
March 21, 2007
SAN JOSE, Calif. –
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Below are quotes from Kansas head coach Bill Self and juniors Russell Robinson and Sasha Kaun at Wednesday’s NCAA Sweet 16 press conferences at HP Pavilion.
Q. What teams have you seen that have a defensive style similar to Southern Illinois?
Russell Robinson: I think Texas A&M is pretty similar as far as aggressive and having athletic guys that can make the physical plays. Kind of reminds me the Bradley team last year we played against in the first round. I think we’re prepared and ready to come out and play hard.
Q. Sasha, a lot of people look at this game and they see what a tough match-up you present for SIU. Could you talk about it from the other side; their quickness, might be smaller, but just sort of what kind of a match-up it is for you guys?
Sasha Kaun: I think it’s a pretty good match-up. They still have some guys that can play inside. We can still play with them and our guards can match the quickness with them.
Q. So much has been made about Southern Illinois’ great defense coming into this game, do you feel slighted nobody is talking about your defense?
Russell Robinson: Yeah, that is a good point ’cause we do play pretty good defense. I think that’s something you can come out and try and prove tomorrow in the game. I think we got a lot of tools. We’ll be ready to play any type of game we’re presented with.
Sasha Kaun: I think I agree with Russ, you know, everybody’s talking about Southern Illinois’ defense. I think we are a pretty good defensive team as well. We have a pretty good field goal percentage.
I think it’s just a matter of coming to tomorrow’s game, showing that on the court.
Q. They’ll probably be motivated playing against a team with a big name in Kansas, a bigger conference school. Talk about motivations for Kansas. Obviously leaving the bracket last year to a Missouri Valley team, can you talk about motivations for Kansas aside from competing for a championship.
Sasha Kaun: I mean, like you said, especially from last year, losing to Bradley in the first round, I think that should be enough motivation. You know, a team from Missouri Valley, they play hard, they’re just a great team. We have to come out there and play with them and match the intensity and stuff.
I mean, also being in the Sweet 16, no game is easy, that’s for sure.
Russell Robinson: This is the NCAA tournament. Doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, what conference, how big their name is, we want to win every game. I think we’re going to come out with enough energy to do that. Doesn’t matter if it’s SIU or Duke, I think we’re just going to come out and play hard.
Q. How much tape have you looked at? Mario said he hadn’t seen anything of SIU yet. I’m assuming you’ve seen broken-down tape, or have you?
Russell Robinson: Oh, yeah. We’ve watched pretty much as much tape as we can the past day or so. I think they’re an aggressive team defensively. I think they might have trouble scoring offensively sometimes. But I think we just got to go out and play our game, you know, play to our advantages, and I think we’ll be fine.
Sasha Kaun: Yeah, I agree with Russ. We watched tape yesterday and stuff. They’re a very good defensive team. I think as long as we don’t panic, we’ll be in pretty good shape.
Q. Could you talk about the burden of expectations at Kansas. It seems like everybody thinks, at least your fans, that you guys should be here if not farther every year. Are you kind of over that when you get to the Sweet 16? Is that a factor in your minds? Talk about the pressure.
Russell Robinson: I wouldn’t call it pressure, but expectations are high. I think everyone expects that, you know, when they got recruited here. You want to be in a position to do big things every single season. This year we have the personnel to do that. I think we want to go out and try to play to our potential. I think our potential is going all the way. We want to take each game at a time and focus.
Sasha Kaun: I agree with Russ and stuff. Definitely when you come to Kansas, any other big school, you come for potential to play in big games, go far in tournament and stuff. Just the pressure comes with it. That’s I guess why players go to Kansas or any other big schools. It’s just a matter of, you know, focusing on the games, playing every game with the same intensity as you would down the stretch, so…
Q. Can you talk about what you’ve seen in their Conference Player of the Year Falker, Defensive Player of the Year Tatum. Do you get into their kid that’s injured, Shaw, whether he’ll play at not? Do you base what you’re doing on whether or not he’ll play?
Sasha Kaun: Talking about the Falker kid, he’s a pretty good player. Like you said, he’s Conference Player of the Year. I think he’s very quick, has a lot of moves in the post and stuff. They have a pretty good guard. He’s a great defensive player.
To answer your question about the injury, I mean, we’re getting ready as he’s going to play the game and stuff. I don’t think it should affect in any way just whether he’s going to play or not. It’s just an injury. I think just, you know, you have to get ready for it no matter what.
Russell Robinson: Falker, we’ve seen him, he’s real aggressive down low, real athletic, good on both ends of the floor. I think it’s going to take a team effort to keep him out of the game, as well as Tatum. I seen their first-round game; came without with a lot of energy. We have to come out and match that energy, if not surpass it. Come out with the right mindset, I think everybody will be fine.
Q. Russell, what does it mean to be a year older going through this? What differences do you see between last year and this year in your maturity, the team’s maturity, the way you are handling the tournament?
Russell Robinson: One thing that I notice is that everybody’s a lot more confident, loose, not really feeling the pressure of the tournament. We’re just going out, letting the coaches do their job in preparing us, we’re listening. I think more than last year, we’re just more confident going into each game.
Kansas head coach Bill Self
Q. Southern Illinois’ assistant coaches were talking about the many times they played you at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois, and now Kansas, and said you kind of had different styles of play every stop depending on the personnel. How did that evolve at Kansas?
COACH SELF: We have played Southern Illinois a lot. Going back to my time at Oral Roberts when they had Carr, Timmons, those guys. They were good then, too. I guess I played them at every stop. Really hadn’t experienced much success against them, to be honest with you. I think we were like 0-3. Going in we won a great game in Vegas against them when I was at Illinois. Haven’t experienced a ton of success.
You know, it’s great to be at a place where you can recruit to your specific needs, but not all schools are like that. Coaches have to tweak how they do things to accommodate their personnel best. I’ve always been a play inside-out guy, always have been. Got to Kansas, we had a couple injuries, one of them to a first-team All-American. Had to figure out a way to win games without him. We became much more of a perimeter-oriented team that hopefully has balance through the inside.
That’s kind of the way it’s evolved for us here at Kansas because we’re counting on guys to make plays as opposed to running plays more so.
Q. Matt Shaw remains a question mark if he’s going to play tomorrow. How do you approach that, prepare for that?
COACH SELF: We’ll prepare as if he’s going to play. I know Matt a little bit from him being in high school when I was at U of I. He’s a tough kid. If he’s not going to play, he’s really hurt, ’cause he’s tough. I would anticipate him doing everything possible to try to be out there. We’re certainly preparing like he will be out there.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what makes Southern Illinois such a tough defensive team.
COACH SELF: Well, I think — this goes back as a pride thing over time. They’ve done a great job with their program over time, really developing that it’s fun to guard. I mean, they enjoy it. If they didn’t enjoy it, they wouldn’t do it this well. They take great pride in stance and position, whereas, you know, sometimes late in the game or late in the clock, whatever, teams can kind of revert back or get a little lazy. They are not lazy minded at all. They anticipate helping the helper as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.
But they guard I think a way that all coaches, if you’re a man-to-man coach, hope their teams guard. Even in positions where they’re extremely, extremely quick, they’re very sound. Even in positions where maybe they’re not quite as quick, their position is so good that they appear to be so much quicker, so much quicker than what they would be in a foot race, so to speak.
The other thing that I would say, they’re about as quick — they’re as quick as anybody we’ll play against, period. But the other thing is, you can really judge how well a team’s coached on one end if all five guys are moving in unison, if all five guys move as the ball bounces or moves. They do that very, very well. Every bounce, every pass, you see five guys changing positions. A lot of teams don’t do that. You talk about it, but you can’t really get teams to buy into it and believe that it’s that important.
Q. Could you talk about Coach Jankovic becoming a head coach, why he’s ready for a job like this.
COACH SELF: Tim has been ready for years. He’s already been a Division I head coach, experienced some success at North Texas. Worked for Boyd Grant when Colorado State wins back-to-back WAC championships when the WAC was UTEP, Wyoming, BYU, Vegas. He worked for Jack Hartman, Lon Kruger, Kevin Stallings, Bob Weltley (phonetic), Eddie Sutton. His coaching tree is about as impressive as anybody, period, anywhere. He’s a very bright guy. He’ll do great there.
It’s a fabulous hire for the Red Birds, a great move for Tim and his family. I think that’s a job that has great potential to be one of the better jobs in the league. You got to do really well to be able to compete in that league because the league’s so good.
Q. Seems like there’s a defensive revival, looking at UCLA, Pittsburgh, you guys. Traditional man-to-man defense is stronger than it’s been in some time. How did that evolve with the three-point shot and the shot clock?
COACH SELF: You know, I don’t know. After Syracuse won it all, all of a sudden America wants to play zone, the flavor of the time or whatever. We haven’t changed who we are. SIU and Chris hasn’t changed, shouldn’t and won’t, I wouldn’t think, who they are. You got to coach what you believe in, what you’ve been taught.
Ben Howland, I played against him going back to ORU-Northern Arizona games. He plays the same way; he’s just got better guys. Jamie learned from Ben. Chris learned from Bruce. Bruce is a great man-to-man coach. You teach what you know. In this particular region, you got some guys — I learned under Eddie Sutton. You got some guys that have been trained. Bruce learned from Gene Keady who learned from Eddie Sutton. It all falls in the same little area what you think’s important.
Those guys all do a good job teaching it.
Q. What, if anything, can be gleaned from the fact that the west regional is the only region where all four top No. 1 seeds advanced?
COACH SELF: I don’t know. I’m confused on the pods, how they all work. What is it, is it the south that has 1, 2, 3 and 5, if I’m not mistaken. 4 and 5 is about a coin-flip game. I don’t think you should read much into it other than the fact that you know in this region, you got four very good teams playing here. Nobody lucked into getting here. Everybody earned their way all year long by the way they played to get here.
Obviously all the teams in the tournament are playing well right now or they wouldn’t be playing this week. Certainly you can make a case for SIU being better than a 4, Pitt being better than a 3 and UCLA being better than a 2. It’s a pretty tough region.
Q. Could you give us a bit of a Saluki 101 with Tatum, Falker, Mullins and Young.
COACH SELF: Anybody else you want to throw in there (smiling)?
Q. Just Matt.
COACH SELF: Just Matt (smiling).
Tatum is as good as we played against this year. He and AC Law, as far as getting the shot on the zone. He’s great at the end of the clock. He can make hard shots. He takes some hard shots, but he still shoots 42% from three. He’s really a good guard. Play the one or the two.
Falker is kind of, from an activity standpoint, a Rodman or a Balkman, the player from South Carolina. He’s everywhere. He can slide his feet as well as any guard. He can switch out and guard a guard. He’s got great length. He blocks shots. He’s a fabulous athlete. He can obviously score.
Mullins is deceptively fast, left-handed. Takes what the defense gives him. Great initiator but can score.
Who was the last one you asked me about?
COACH SELF: Young I think is probably as underrated as any player. I’m sure the SIU people say that. He may be the glue for their team. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t he make first team all league last year? Is that true? I’m asking. He didn’t last year.
But I think that he’s a guy, I may have my facts off a little bit, but averaging between 9 and 10, but capable for going for 20 at any time. Really a good shooter, a very good, quick athlete.