Bill Self Press Conference: Dillons Sunflower Showdown Preview

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Bill Self

Q. The freshmen played pretty well Saturday. Is that something you’ve seen coming in practice?
COACH SELF: Well, they had played better in practice, primarily Cheick (Diallo). Cheick’s played better the last couple days in practice, and I thought he was pretty good, and Carlton (Bragg Jr.) obviously made some shots and played well. Those eight points of jumpers kind of bailed us out when Perry (Ellis) wasn’t in the game. So they were very important there, especially in the first half.

Q. How do you arrive at that number five spot? Is it practice, match-ups or statistical information?
COACH SELF: I’d say more match-ups and practice. There are certain things. Like Landen (Lucas) the other day, the reason he started overtime is because if he can steal a possession on the jump ball, he has a better chance to do (that). Of course, they won the tip, but he stayed in the whole time and played well. I thought Jamari (Traylor) played really well and was active.

A lot of it is experience too. We played triangle and two the majority of the second half, or at least half of the second half. And our veteran guys have a much better chance to play that well than what Cheick and Carlton do because we haven’t practiced much of late.

Q. Last time you won an overtime game at home, the next few days didn’t go so well. Was there an emotional drain from that you think? Certainly, the schedule is difficult.
COACH SELF: Yeah, I would say not like the OU game. I mean, that was like playing an extra game almost it seemed like. The Kentucky game didn’t quite feel like that. I could be wrong, but I would think this will have a different feel to it than what the OU game did. The OU game, I gave them two days off, basically. Of course, we can’t do that now.

But we gave them off yesterday. Even after the OU game, we went to Tech and won. So I don’t know if it was really that. I think it was more after the Tech game, and then the short turnaround at West Virginia. I don’t know if that’s what did it, but certainly the OU game took something out of us. But I don’t feel like this one will have the same effect.

Q. You said that triangle two kind of matched up. But how vital is it for this team to play more zone?
COACH SELF: Our guys don’t want to play zone. During the first half I said, “Let’s play two-three, and they’re like, “No, we can go on them, Coach,” which we didn’t. But we went two-three. You don’t even know that two possessions in the first half they scored five points, because both of the points on both possessions were in transition where guys didn’t run back to their spots.

So I don’t think it’s that important that you play some defense other than man so your guys can see it work. Our guys know what we want to hang our hat on and then sprinkle in other things. But certainly the triangle and two did bail us out Saturday whenever (Derek) Willis wasn’t in the game.

Q. Wayne Selden Jr., had 33 points, but it was more about how he got them. He didn’t rely just on the three-pointer. How positive is that?
COACH SELF: He took five threes in the game in which he played 44 minutes, which is a low number, but he drove it so well. He got to the free-throw line more, and he even got an offensive rebound putback. He scored many ways. I do think his driving the ball should set-up his shot as opposed to the other way around. Because he shoots it plenty good enough that people are going to have to guard him. They’re going to have to close out.

But he’s got to take advantage of those bad closeouts, and he did a much, much, much better job against Kentucky. You know, he got two or three shots blocked with no fouls. I mean, at least he’s aggressive going to the hole. He got some confidence, I think, when he made his first couple knowing that would be a way he could score.

Q. What did you think of Selden’s hustle on that play?
COACH SELF: That was a great play. We didn’t capitalize because we didn’t get a score. But that was a great play. Wayne made a lot of really good plays throughout the game. It was also a big play when he took the charge on (Alex) Poythress late in the second half.

But we watched the tape, and we’ll show them edited clips. There are so many things he (Selden) and our other guys can do better, especially defensively, but he played well. I don’t know if he’s had a more complete game since he’s been here. He’s had games where he maybe scored the ball, making threes. Florida last year obviously comes to mind in the second half, and there’s been other games, but he was a complete basketball player on Saturday.

Q. What is the update on Hunter Mickelson?
COACH SELF: He’s getting treatment. I don’t think he can practice today. But Bill (Cowgill, athletic trainer) said it was day-to-day. Maybe he can get on the floor a little bit beginning tomorrow. His availability on Wednesday is still up in the air.

Q. You talked about man-to-man defense being a one of have to things. What else do you do to work on that?
COACH SELF: That’s not really true. I think a lot of people use the analogy if you’re tough and you want to do it, you can. That’s not necessarily true. There’s actions to how you guard, how you help and recover, there’s rotations. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into it. And also the discipline to always move as your man adjusts or as your man moves, or as the ball moves, you always adjust.

There are a lot of things and sometimes people are slow in doing that. We do our deals in practice, but the hardest thing for us to guard is the ball. Regardless of, if you look across America, we’re not the only ones. Everybody’s having a hard time guarding the ball because guards are so good and they’re so quick.

Frank (Mason III) is really a good guard. And (Kentucky’s Tyler) Ulis got where he wanted to. Well, Ulis will get where he wants to regardless who is guarding him a lot of times. But it’s not the person guarding the ball as much as it is the people off the ball not being in the correct position. Then you’re going to get beat some, but you can’t allow straight line drives. You have to at least direct your guy away from the basket in some form or fashion, and we didn’t do that with Ulis or (Isaiah) Briscoe to start the game. They were straight-line drives. When you do that, you can’t help. So your big comes uphill to help, and you pass the ball beneath, and you get dunked. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.

But the biggest thing we could do is we need to get with the football coaches and get some cornerback drills or something. Except those are always running as opposed to sliding. But that’s kind of the mindset that we need to have is you don’t have to totally stop your guy, but you’ve got to at least direct him, control him and direct him to a certain area. The way the rules are now, you can’t put your hands on them, it’s hard to do.

Q. With that said, how realistic is it for improvement? I mean, how much?
COACH SELF: We’ve gone through phases where we’ve guarded very well. We had some great possessions the other night defensively. We’re not going to win big if we play zone. That’s not who we are. We need to be able to play some, but I don’t think that’s the antidote for success with us.

Q. You had guys in the first half to go to zone saying that they could play man-to-man. Is that just because they’re more comfortable in doing so?
COACH SELF: Yeah, probably so. The thing about it is, if you’re not a good defender, it doesn’t mean that you can automatically be a good defender in zone. You’ve still got to guard the ball once it’s in your area. Kentucky — even though they end up shooting the three good – when they’ve got (Jamal) Murray and Ulis and Willis in the game together, that’s not the easiest combination to play zone because their guards are so good at getting in there.

Triangle and two was a better fit for us whenever Willis wasn’t in the game. And that was a big factor in the rules, because then you could play triangle and two because both their bigs won’t shoot threes, although Poythress did and he made it. But still that would be the percentage play.

Q. What do you see from K-State?
COACH SELF: (We are) Studying them still. Just like Bruce’s (Weber, head coach) teams, they make it hard to score; (you have to) really guard, sound defensively. They are probably as sound defensively as anybody we’ve played. I don’t know about the point guard situation and the injury. I don’t know, have we heard exactly? Questionable.

I think Weber’s done a great job of taking this many new guys and getting them all to buy in to guard the way they have. They are getting more and more confidence offensively. But I think they’ve been a pleasant surprise. And if you really study them and look at their league record, there are only two games they couldn’t have won in league (play). I mean, they’re right there to winning games.

I think they lost one in double overtime. They lost West Virginia in overtime, and then there was one more game that they could have easily won. Was it Texas? Yeah, so they’re right there to really have it. Baylor was double overtime. West Virginia was double overtime. Texas they’re right there. So they’re right there to have their record reversed in the league.

We know they’ll be amped up to play, and our guys will be excited to play. So it should be a fun atmosphere.

Q. So that’s not a concern for Saturday night?
COACH SELF: I would hope so, but you can’t always predict that. You know, unfortunately from a coach’s vantage point, we understand players, their magic level or it varies from game to game depending on sometimes opponents or motivation or whatever it could be. So you can’t think that the same thing doesn’t go with fans, obviously. But we are playing our in-state rival, and they beat us last year at their place. We have put ourselves in a situation where we have very little margin for error in the league race. So I can’t imagine that everybody wouldn’t be amped to be a part of this on Wednesday.

Q. Perry Ellis didn’t have the game he would have liked to have had on Saturday. So how important is it to get him in the game early against K-State?
COACH SELF: We can say that it’s important, because it’s important for us because we’ll be better if he is. But the reality is this kid has played in 130 games and he’s had other games where he didn’t get off to great starts and things like that. So I can’t believe there would be any hangover or carry over.

But the reality is we need him to be engaged and him to produce early in the games because it gives our team confidence, and we’re certainly a much better team when that happens.

Q. Does that experience that he has make you consider not subbing in when he gets that second foul? Or is that automatic?
COACH SELF: We were actually better with him on the bench (Saturday vs. Kentucky). So that’s not a knock to Perry, but the other guys did fine. If we’re up six (points) with two, three minutes left, why would we put him back in? That’s what I was thinking. But we had no idea they were going to go on a 17-4 run in the last three minutes. If the 17-4 run occurred at the eight-minute mark, he would have gone in. But I’m not going to put him in with a minute-and-a-half left because his chance to impact the game was so minimal and something bad could possibly happen.

I think your point is well taken. We put Devonte’ (Graham) in without thinking about it. But with Perry, since we were playing better, I thought that was a percentage play at that moment.

Q. What do you think of Brannen Greene, Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk’s play lately and in practice?
COACH SELF: They’ve been fine. I’m obviously not as pleased with that as what I could somebody. But they’ve been fine. Lagerald’s been the best guy off the bench in practice, and we tried to play him the other day, and that was probably too big a stage for him this early because we hadn’t really given him a chance to play.

But Lagerald has been, of those three, I would say Lagerald has been the most consistent of the three. But you always want to have somebody in there that can stretch the defense and shoot the ball. The thing about it with Brannen, the other teams are always going to have to guard him because he does shoot it so well.

Q. Your block numbers are down this year?
COACH SELF: They’re not down. They’re almost miniscule.

Q. I just wondered how important that was to get more rim protection or if you had more ground?
COACH SELF: I mean, what’s the difference in last year? I mean, Cliff (Alexander) was here. Cliff didn’t play so many minutes that it totally changed our defense, but we don’t block any shots.

To me, and this isn’t being negative, but we don’t the shot blockers Kentucky has. No matter how you slice it. They’ve got Skal (Labissiere), and Poythress, Ulis. I mean that’s what they do.

It’s one thing when we talk about guarding the ball. It’s nice if you’ve got a guy when people penetrate they can’t see the rim like we had with Joel (Embiid) or some other guys. We don’t have that now. We talk about that and encourage that, and beg for activity, you know.

But that is important. That’s a big part of defense is having guys cover up mistakes and obviously we haven’t had that of late. We’ve got to get better at it. The only time we block shots is out of transition, it seems like, if Jamari or Wayne has a chance to come from behind. But we’re not blocking any shots in the paint in half-court defense at all.

Q. Could Cheick get more comfortable blocking shots?
COACH SELF: He could, possibly. There is no question he could. But he’s not doing it consistently either. It’s not like we have the answer to just put him in. It’s not like that at all. But I do think that Cheick and Hunter are our best shot blockers. Hunter and Cheick are our two best shot blockers and Landen is probably our third. But we need more activity from those big guys.

Cheick obviously tempted Poythress on the baseline. That didn’t turn out his way in the first half. But at least he went after it. But we need more guys going after it.

Q. Do K-State’s young guys surprise you at all with how consistent they’ve been so far in league play?
COACH SELF: I don’t know about surprise. I wasn’t familiar with all their guys when they were being recruited. (Dean) Wade, obviously, has had a really good freshman year, and we’re familiar with him being in state (St. John, Kansas) and everything. He was really well-coached in high school. So he’s made a nice, it seems like pretty seamless transition.

But I wasn’t familiar with a lot of their guys. But I will say this, they could have beaten North Carolina. They had the lead against North Carolina late. They’ve been right there to win a lot of games. So when you’re playing with that many young guys, I guess on paper you could say it’s a surprise, but I’m not sure it is. The way they play when you guard and make it difficult, and you make your opponent play badly, you always put yourself in a position to win.

Q. Are you happy with your team’s rebounding against Kentucky at plus-11? They’re a good rebounding team.
COACH SELF: Well, they got six (boards) back, and one of them was with one second left in the game — in 45 minutes total. So you get five back in 45 minutes against a team that rebounds like that, but on the flip side, they also shot 52 percent, so there are not as many opportunities to offensively rebound. But our guys did a good job in that area. Offensively, rebounding, I don’t know that we rebounded it great. But we stole a lot of key possessions. That play that Jamari made late and Perry made a big play late, those were game-changing plays. But I do think that hasn’t been our problem, defensive rebounding, though, knock on wood, of late. We’ve actually done a better job with that.

Q. Talk about those guys making plays late. I don’t know how much of it has to do with playing at home. But did they show you anything from a poise standpoint, like making shots, making plays, late in that game?
COACH SELF: Yeah, we did better. Maybe some of it is playing at home. In the three games that we lost in league, none of them were close games. When I think of a close game, I’m thinking the balance of the game is decided in the last two or three minutes, those games aren’t. So we can talk about poise and this and that, but the poise that we lost at Iowa State was at the 10-minute mark, it wasn’t in late-game situations.

So I think that you say — show me things. These guys have won a lot of games. They’ve shown me plenty in overtime, so I don’t think that’s different the other day.

Q. Did you rib Perry at all about that technical free throw?
COACH SELF: I did. I can’t believe he missed it left. [Laughter] Missing it short would almost be understandable. But missing it a foot and a half left too? I don’t know what it was. It’s almost like somebody had bet him that he didn’t have the courage to do it, and he said, “I’ll prove you wrong.” I don’t know if that’s ever happened that you have your best free-throw shooter go shoot your free throw. You’ve got to pick your best. Then he goes and misses short and left.

What was really amazing was he came back and made the next one. So I knew if he had made the next one, it wouldn’t mess with his mind. So he showed some guts making the second one. But I doubt that ever happens again.

Q. Talk about the game Devonte’ had and what you want to see from him?
COACH SELF: We’re talking a lot about the other night. We’ve got another game Wednesday. But I think Devonte’ was solid. He didn’t score the ball a lot, but he made some great plays. The play he made when we got the steal, he comes down full speed in transition, throws the ball back to Wayne, and he gets to two free throws. That was a huge play.

But Devonte’ is a good guard. He’s certainly capable of playing at a high level, and I thought he did the other day. He and Frank just didn’t make shots, but I thought they both played well, offensively, especially.

Q. How much do you enjoy playing K-State and the rivalry?
COACH SELF: We will. We’ll get a great effort from them. We know that. Our guys know the rivalry. We’ve got three guys that weren’t here last year, but they’re the only three. They’ll be educated. We know it’s a big game to people in the state and certainly to our fan base and their fan base and the players as well. So we’ll look forward to playing.

Q. With the Big 12/SEC Challenge out of the way, does this feel like a restart now?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think it’s kind of rebooted the conference season. It does for me. We’re a game out of where we probably hoped we would have been going into conference play. We played a hard schedule. Other teams have too. You look (at the scheduled), and it’s going to be hard moving forward, too.

But there are a lot of good teams. I don’t think you can get hung up on negative outcomes too much, because it’s such a long grind. We’re eight games in and we’re a little behind where we hoped we would be, and the only way to catch up is make sure we take care of business away from home. It does feel a little bit like a reboot to me. I think the players will probably feel the same thing too.

Q. Saturday night, did you notice the little guy dressed up like James Naismith?
COACH SELF: I didn’t notice it until after the game, but everybody told me he stole the show. Apparently he was here for “Gameday”. So the little fella had to be worn out by the end of the day, because I guess he was carrying a basket and a ball. I get tired just coaching at two hours of practice, let alone walking around like that. So I thought it was really classy.

Getting back to the other night, it was unbelievable atmosphere. We got, obviously, a ton of people squeezed in and then you have the rules, which I heard was very, very classy. Then you had the young fellow walking around (dressed up) like that, and you have the horns playing the National Anthem. I mean, it was about as classy as it gets from a competitive standpoint. But I hear the little fella added a lot to it though.

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