Self Talks TCU at Weekly Presser
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A hard-fought game at TCU last month has the eighth-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team prepared to host the Horned Frogs in Lawrence. During his weekly press conference, head coach Bill Self talked about the keys to playing TCU the second time around, his post player depth and crunch time in the Big 12 Conference race.
No. 8/8 Kansas (21-5, 10-3) returns home to host TCU (16-10, 3-10) on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m., on ESPN2. Kansas will play its final of four ESPN Big Monday appearances in 2015 when it travels to Kansas State on Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. (Central).
Q. Do you watch the teams you’re going to be playing or do you approach it as if you take care of business, everything will play out?
COACH SELF: If we take care of business, everything will play out fine. I’d say both. I’ll be honest; I thought last night would have been a great opportunity for my alma mater (Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State) to play really well, I’m not going to lie about that.
Iowa State and Oklahoma are both playing really well. West Virginia, they obviously just beat us. We have a one-game lead on Iowa State with five to go for both teams. We are a couple of games up in the loss column on OU and West Virginia, if I’m not mistaken.
The ball’s in our court. We need to play well, hold serve at home, play better on the road than what we’ve been playing.
Q. Talk a little bit about rebounding during the Big 12 Conference season. What did you see when you watched the film of the West Virginia game?
COACH SELF: Long shots mean long rebounds. We don’t have a good defensive rebounding team, per se, from a size standpoint. So if you’re not big, you’ve got to get balls outside of your area or (get to) 50/50 balls because of length. You need to do some things from a physical standpoint to put you in better position to get those rebounds.
You’ve got to get somebody in position, your rotating position has to be better. We’re not going to win a lot of jump balls with our standing height with our bigs.
If you don’t put a body on physical guys, then obviously they control you. One shove, not necessarily a foul, but one hard move that creates contact can displace you and all of a sudden it becomes jump balls. We’re not good enough or big enough to do that.
And our guards have to clean up. Frank (Mason III), Wayne (Selden, Jr.), Kelly (Oubre, Jr.), Brannen (Greene) and Devonte’ (Graham) are all doing a poor job. Kelly is the best of the five. But they are all doing a poor job of running down rebounds and cleaning up.
Q. Do you think that rebounding will be an area of focus, especially with what TCU did on the offensive glass in Fort Worth?
COACH SELF: Yes. Sometimes offensive rebounds are a little bit misleading because so much of it is based on your shooting percentages. If you shoot 50 percent, take 40 shots, make 20 of them, get 10 of them back, that’s really poor rebounding.
If you shoot 60 shots and make 20 and get 15 back, that’s much better rebounding than the 10 from a percentage standpoint.
Look at our percentages in securing defensive boards. We’ve gone from first to fifth or sixth in the league in the last two or three weeks.
Obviously, TCU is playing much better. They were terrific last night. But a lot of times their best offense is going and getting it off the glass. We’ve got to do a much better job. We were really poor in Fort Worth with that.
Q. Talk about how the team has played away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
COACH SELF: To be honest, I think we’ve played pretty well. You go to Morgantown, you have the ball, make a free throw, make a layup, whatever, and you’re going to win that game. They made the plays late and we didn’t.
But winning on the road against top-25 teams isn’t the easiest task. I think the Kentucky game and the Temple game were bad. Other than that, (we were) down four with 30 seconds left in Ames. We had Oklahoma State down 12, but didn’t close. We had West Virginia down three or four with under three minutes to play.
That’s not poor play. We just didn’t finish. Other teams try hard, too, and they have good players. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Q. The last play of the West Virginia game, guys were telling Perry Ellis to hold his head up the way it ended.
COACH SELF: I think everybody was. One play doesn’t decide a game even though everything is magnified. Coach (Eddie) Sutton used to say that. All phases of the game are the most important, but the last five minutes by far is the most important because you don’t have time to recover from mistakes.
There’s a lot more teams losing games than winning games. That’s the way it works. You see more losing plays than winning plays. That’s the way it’s always going to be.
In that particular game, Perry played great. I was so pleased with Perry’s play. Not knowing the time (left on the clock), it’s hard to know the time in a situation like that. He probably rushed a little bit, but was probably also a little off balance.
We had numerous opportunities to secure rebounds and handle pressure better the first half to put us in a position where it wouldn’t come down to one play.
I know Perry was down about that, but he’s had time to recover. He’ll be fine.
Q. Is that a sign of maturity that Perry put himself in a position like to that make that play?
COACH SELF: You can say yes, but (anyone) has to make the play. The whole deal is you get it out, you throw it long and whoever is nearest runs. It wasn’t a complicated situation.
I don’t know if that’s maturity or whatever. But I would hope any player would react that way to put himself in a position with three seconds left in a ballgame down one to at least be aggressive.
I’m not going to say it’s because of maturity. But I could tell you maybe it’s because of intellect or IQ to put himself in that position.
Q. What’s the game plan to contain TCU’s Kyan Anderson?
COACH SELF: I think he had 23 on us in the first half last year and we didn’t do a good job with him at all. Frank (Mason III) and Devonte’ (Graham) have to be good. Our ball screen defense has to be better. Of course, we’ve got to keep him out of the paint. I mean that even from a running start, from an offensive rebounding standpoint.
We need to make sure we keep him away from the basket as much as possible, which we didn’t do a very good job of the first time at all. He’s a nice player. He controls their team. I don’t know how many he had last night, but I don’t think he scored a lot last night, if I’m not mistaken. I know at one point it wasn’t like he was scoring, but he totally controlled the game with the pace. He’s a good player.
Q. Did a close game with TCU in Fort Worth make this game even more serious to the players?
COACH SELF: I’ve always said that. If you’re going to play somebody twice, you want to win. But if you make a perfect scenario, make the first game a hard game. That was what was happening.
I think obviously what happened with Oklahoma State (TCU won), with what happened with Kansas State (TCU won), then what happened with us down there, are three good reminders that this team’s very capable of playing with anybody.
Q. Do you use the Big 12 race now to get your team fired up even more? Is it crunch time?
COACH SELF: Yeah, it’s crunch time. We’re in the last two and a half weeks. We talked yesterday, I could be off base, but there’s 17 days left in the regular season.
Obviously, it’s down to crunch time. But that’s what I told our guys. That’s the way you want it. That’s the way it should be. You should have to play well to win a league. Certainly we put ourselves in a position that if we’re successful, we’ll put ourselves in a great spot.
I’m not banking on anybody behind us losing. I’m going to bank on everybody winning. That obviously puts pressure and motivation on us to continue to do so, as well.
Q. How is Frank’s stamina holding up at the end of games?
COACH SELF: He’s done great. He got so tired the other night. Most of the time if you bring the ball up, you have to go full speed because you’ve got two guys running at you.
He chased (WVU’s Juwan) Staten around. Something else that’s really tiring, when you give up second or third shots, you’re not playing defense for 30 seconds, you’re playing defense for a minute.
So, yeah, he got tired. You can’t take him out in the last five minutes, but he was certainly fatigued down the stretch.
Q. What’s one thing you’ve seen in TCU that they’ve changed since they won their last two games?
COACH SELF: Their offense; they’re making more shots and they look more confident to me. I always thought they were a good defensive team, a good rebounding team. To me, they’re playing to win, playing with purpose, playing with confidence.
Last night in the first half (vs. K-State), they were really, really good. The second half against Oklahoma State, they were really good. They were really good against us the second half for the most part.
Trent (Johnson, TCU head coach) and his staff have done a good job. Their guys seem more confident. It looks like they’re having more fun playing.
Q. Was TCU’s Karviar Shepherd a guy you went after when recruiting?
COACH SELF: Yeah. He can shoot and face a jumper about as well as any big in our league.
Q. You’ve obviously got the Big 12 race to focus on. At this time of year you’ve been at it for four or five months. Is it the time of year when guys tend to lose focus a little bit? Is it hard to keep them totally motivated?
COACH SELF: I don’t know. I think in Major League Baseball, if August are the ‘dog days’, then in college basketball you would say February would be the ‘dog days’.
Everybody is going to get their breath for the stretch run. But this is probably a key time to make sure you’re at your best, or as close to your best, as you can possibly be.
I don’t know that keeping guys motivated is going to play into it. But I do think fatigue can play into it. When guys’ bodies get tired, their brains get a little bit tired. This is the time of year when I think teams start getting a little bit tired.
Q. Do you roll it back in practice as far as physicality this time of year?
COACH SELF: We haven’t practiced long. I’m not a long practice guy once we start the season.
Today we’ll go hard. We’ll go for an hour and 15 minutes. But I used to be a guy that we were going to go until we got it right. Sometimes that would take two, two and a half, three hours. I don’t think you can do that. I think it’s more important to have fresh legs and minds than it is to continue to drill them during practice.
We’ll have our points of emphasis. Yesterday we practiced for about an hour and 20 minutes on a lot of situational stuff. Our hard practice today will probably be about 75 minutes.
Q. You have four guys averaging double figures since conference play began. Do you like the balanced scoring of this team?
COACH SELF: Well, I don’t think we score enough points, but I do like the balance we have.
To me, how you get to 80 or whatever the number is, it’s almost irrelevant; whether it be one guy getting 22 or your leading scorer averaging 13. I know the hardest teams we’ve had to guard here are the teams that can score from all five spots, without question. Those have been the most successful offensive teams that we’ve had.
This team is getting better at that. We still don’t have consistent low-post scoring at all. But certainly, I think we’re more balanced than we were earlier in the year.
Q. Is Devonte’ Graham giving you what you want?
COACH SELF: Well, he’s a good player. But I didn’t think he was his best in Morgantown. I do think we need a little bit more from him. That’s not being critical at all. That’s just factual, in large part, because if he gives us a little bit more, then Frank (Mason III) doesn’t play as many minutes, too.
It was hard to take Frank out of the game in Morgantown when things went bad because Devonte’ had three quick turnovers. But we needed to get Frank back in there.
I think Devonte’ can do some more positive things. He’s certainly shown us he can.
Q. Anything that Landen Lucas has done recently that sets him apart from other big men in practice? He’s played well in the last couple games.
COACH SELF: He has played well in games, there’s no question about that. But the last two games, it was easier for him to play well than it is Cliff (Alexander). Without being critical, Landen is much better against the zone, especially distorted zone. He has a feel on gaps. He’s much better in pressure handling the ball and passing the ball than Cliff. It was easier for him to look better in the last two games than Cliff.
But I’m pleased with Landen. Even the free throw he missed the other day, (he shot it) soft, it just didn’t go in. But he’s played well and he’s certainly given us much more depth back there.
Q. Cliff Alexander had the back issue for a little bit. He’s had the chest thing. How is his body? Is he holding up pretty well?
COACH SELF: I think Cliff’s body probably feels more beat up than it ever has in his life. I think he’s holding up fine. A bruised sternum isn’t fun. If you have a bruised sternum, every time you get hit, it hurts. Then he has had some other things.
But you know what? Everybody’s got something, especially this time of year. To me, when people don’t feel good, obviously you want them to feel better and that stuff, but you also have got to will yourself, ‘Hey, I’m fine.’ As soon as you start believing something’s wrong with you, your brain will tell your body that it is.
He doesn’t have anything that should remotely keep him from playing at a high level.
Q. You have a stretch run coming up. Is there an area of focus that you would like to get better at?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, our first-shot defense has gotten so much better. I would hope we could get better rebounding the ball, stealing extra possessions that way. To me, that’s about as important a thing as we can do.
We’ve said all along we want to score the ball more on the block. That really hasn’t happened. But there are ways I think we’ve done some things to get the ball to the block and actually score close to the basket without actually saying, ‘You’ve got to post it to score close to the basket.’ So I think that’s positive.
I think the biggest thing is tightening up our defense, tightening up our rebounding, and certainly offensively just do what we do, execute the few things we do. We’re not asking our guys to make great plays. All we’re doing is asking them to carry out assignments.
I do believe if we could get our bigs posting stronger, doing some things, we could get to the free-throw line more and things like that.
If you’ve followed us, we’re not shooting any free throws. Going into conference play, we had made a ton more free throws against a quality schedule than our opponents have even attempted. It’s not even close to that. We’re not shooting very many free throws at all.
What were we, 7-of-11 against West Virginia? Their opponents probably on average are shooting 25, at least. So we’ve got to do a better job of attacking, getting to the free-throw line and making officials call something. I think that’s what people are doing to us.
Q. A lot of fans have taken to social media lately, talking about the role of the intro videos at the Fieldhouse. What do you think the role is?
COACH SELF: There’s been some pretty cool pregame deals, but none of them rival what our people do. I mean, it’s the best.
One thing about our atmosphere which is absolutely the best, it also gets your opponents more excited to play in an atmosphere that’s the best. That’s the reality of it.
I think it just makes for more atmosphere, for more energy in the building. I think that helps us, but I think it also raises the level of the opponents, too, which is good. That’s what you want, you want good ball.
It’s great. Mike (Lickert) and his Rock Chalk Video staff do a great job, and it’s awesome. I love watching it every time. I know exactly what’s going to happen. I know Paul Pierce is going to go baseline and dunk it. I know Mario (Chalmers) is going to get a pitch-back and make a three. Then you obviously get a chance to hear the Bob Davis voice-over. That’s what gets me excited.
But it’s great. I still get excited every time I watch it. I know exactly what’s going to happen.
Q. It pumps you up before the game?
COACH SELF: Yes. But who cares if it pumps me up? That doesn’t have anything to do with us winning or not. But I think it pumps our players up, for sure, helps our guys get going.
To me, whether or not I’m jacked from a song or from a video has a lot of input on actual play during the game. But I do think it has a lot of input on our players.
Q. Do you get a kick out of it when your team misses four straight layups and a fan will scream, “C’mon, Self.”
COACH SELF: I didn’t know fans screamed that. [Laughter] It’s happened a lot where we missed some shots in a row or made some bad plays.
That’s the one thing about ball (basketball), or any sport. If you watched the North Carolina at Duke game last night, a 90-percent free throw shooter goes to the line and shoots it short. That gave Duke a chance to win. You do everything right, the right guy is on the line. Landen (Lucas), (who is) 16-of-18 from the line –so you have your best free throw shooter statistically, better than Brannen Greene — shooting the free throw against West Virginia. It doesn’t happen, doesn’t work out.
So I would imagine when Landen or Cliff, when they fan that ball out and it goes in the third row, which we’ve done several times the last couple games, I can see everybody saying that’s the coach’s fault. Obviously, why would you let them pass it? That’s the nature of the business. That’s okay.
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