Self Previews College GameDay in Weekly Presser

Player Interviews

LAWRENCE, Kan. – ESPN College GameDay will make its “Kansas Road Trip” this Saturday when the crew travels from Wichita State’s campus to Lawrence to showcase the Texas at Kansas contest. As head coach Bill Self prepares for the visiting Longhorns, he met with the media to discuss College GameDay, the premier point guard play in the Big 12 Conference and past meetings with former Longhorn Kevin Durant.
No. 8/9 Kansas returns home to host Texas on Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. (Central) on ESPN. ESPN College GameDay will conduct an hour pregame show from 3-4 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas’ senior night, with Christian Garrett being the lone KU senior on the roster, will be Tuesday, March 3, against West Virginia on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
Q.  Last night’s Baylor at Iowa State game, were you taking notes, or did you watch as a fan?
COACH SELF:  I didn’t watch one play last night.  I watched Duke and Virginia Tech.  There was one other game on that I watched a little bit of, but I can’t even remember which game it was.  Because if I watch it (Baylor/Iowa State), I’ll be nervous and all that stuff. 
I think Kurtis (Townsend, assistant coach) watched it.  I think Jerrance (Howard, assistant coach) and Norm (Roberts, assistant coach) may have watched it.  Jerrance didn’t watch it, but Norm did.
Q.  What did you think when you heard the final result?
COACH SELF:  Well, I followed the score (laughter).  If I’m not mistaken, Iowa State was playing very well and got up 8 or 10.  Based on what I was told, Baylor went on a run and made five threes in a row, or something like that. It was two good teams playing.  Of course, we know how good Baylor is because they gave us all we wanted twice.  Iowa State is as talented as anybody.
It doesn’t matter unless we take care of business ourselves moving forward.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that last night I was definitely a Baylor Bears fan.
Q.  I’m guessing your guys were down or frustrated after Monday.  With a result like last night (Baylor at Iowa State), do you think that gives your team a little bit of energy?
COACH SELF:  I think so.  Our league, it’s hard.  You’ve got four teams, going into the last eight days of the season, that can all win the league.
If West Virginia wins out, they win the league.  If Oklahoma wins out, they win the league.  Iowa State would be the only team that potentially wouldn’t win the league if they won out, but that would mean we’d have to run the table.
It’s pretty high drama.  Certainly, it’s a great league.  I could be wrong on this, but the most wins any team has on the road (in Big 12 play) is four, if I’m not mistaken.  I think that West Virginia has four and we have four, maybe OU has four.
It’s a tough league.  Certainly, it deserves to come down to the wire based on how tough it’s been all year long.
Q.  The last couple of years you had the obvious go-to guy.  How much has Perry Ellis turned into that guy the last week and a half?
COACH SELF:  It’s probably been longer than a week and a half.  He’s played really well.  I said a couple weeks ago that he’s probably playing as close to his ceiling as he has since he’s been here.  I think he’s playing a lot better now than what he even was a couple weeks ago.
I don’t know what he’s averaging the last five or six games, but it’s got to be close to 20 (points per game).  He’s rebounding the ball.  He’s playing tough and (he’s being) physical.  I’m really pleased with him.  He’s on a serious uptick right now.
Q.  After the game on Monday, some of your guys talked about ‘finding something’ that works on offense.  What was the idea the last couple days?
COACH SELF:  We didn’t practice on Tuesday obviously, (it was our) mandatory day off.  We practiced yesterday.
When you don’t shoot the ball well, you’ve got to be able to get to the free throw line or throw the ball inside and at least get fouled, be a threat to score.
We actually did a pretty good job.  K-State is a pretty good defensive basketball team.  Actually, for 31-32 minutes, we did a pretty nice job offensively.  I think we made two field goals in the last 12 or 13 attempts, something like that.  They kind of locked us up.  We didn’t do a good job on the other end.
But our spacing was bad late.  Our screening has been poor the whole year, but our screening wasn’t very good.  We said it many times, but Perry (Ellis) has been our only offensive threat inside.  If you’re going to play a big with Perry, obviously it makes it more of a crowded house for Perry because you don’t have to guard the big away from the basket.
It would be nice to be able to throw the ball to the big or have him get fouled or score because he’s going to be isolated down there by himself more than Perry would ever get an opportunity to, because the other big would be in his way.
I still think we have good enough players to deliver in that five spot.  The big thing is, Frank (Mason III) has got to get to the paint.  Our guards have to drive to pass.  There’s a lot of things we didn’t do very well down the stretch, but there were also a lot of things we did do pretty well until the last nine minutes or so.
Q.  A game like K-State, especially with some extra postgame pieces to it, how much do you visit that with the players?  Is it a game that you dump and move on?
COACH SELF:  I didn’t mention it to our players after the court (storming) deal.  I mentioned it to Jamari (Traylor).  I thought he handled it better than most would.  We haven’t talked about that one time since the game was over.  I think in the locker room afterwards I said, ‘We let that happen.’
I’m not going to address that with the players.  I thought our guys handled it well.  But that’s the end of the discussion.  That’s on somebody else to handle it, not for us to keep talking about it.  We’ve had enough talk about it.  We need to move on.
To me, when you keep talking about that, you sound like a little whiny brat.  It happened.  We can’t change that it happened.  If we’d have played better, not allowed it to happen, it would never have occurred.  That’s kind of how I look at it more so than the other way.
Q.  Seems like Texas’ Myles Turner has turned the corner maybe.
COACH SELF:  He’s playing great, yeah.  Texas, they’re a team that’s a lot like us in that when they play well, they’re terrific, and when they don’t play well, they take a step back, a noticeable step back, which obviously we do the same thing.
They’ve been a little bit inconsistent, as we have, as well.  When he’s playing well, which he is right now, I think he went through a stretch over a three- or four-game period, I could be off a little bit, he’s averaging 19 (points), 10 (rebounds) and 5 (blocks).  He’s playing a lot of minutes, but he’s not playing 30 minutes either.  He’s getting a lot out of his minutes.
He’s playing closer to the basket maybe than what he was the first time we played him.  He’s hard to guard in there because he gets his shot off so quick, it’s too quick that you can’t trap it.
He’s playing well.  And they still have as imposing of a team or front line as anybody in America with maybe the exception of Kentucky.  So I like their team.  They need to play well down the stretch, obviously.  That’s not me saying anything other than the obvious.  But they’re so capable of beating anybody.
Q.  What does Cliff Alexander need to do to take the next step and produce for the team?
COACH SELF:  The other day he really didn’t get a big chance to play because of quick fouls.  I’m not even remotely hinting that we’re going to change starting lineups, because I’m not feeling that at all.  But he was certainly more effective coming off the bench than what he has been as a starter.  Get a quick foul or two, totally takes aggression away.
But the other day, the fouls were unlucky fouls.  They weren’t like him making bad plays.  They were unlucky fouls.  But I think keeping him out of foul trouble where he can play with more of a reckless abandon would be something that would help him a lot.
Q.  K-State looked like they double-teamed Perry Ellis the last 10 minutes.
COACH SELF:  They double-teamed Perry.  They started out trapping the post some, but without question, we were able to still get the ball to him through pretty good ball movement.
Down the stretch, when it became a grind-it-out slugfest kind of game, it was pretty much a crowded house whenever he tried to catch it on the post.  We have to do things to get him to the post without him starting on the post.
We’ve been pretty good at that for the most part all year long, but hopefully we can do some things to help him a little bit more.
Q.  Make a comment on the spotlight on the state of Kansas with double “GameDay” on Saturday.  
COACH SELF:  Those are two terrific teams playing (Northern Iowa at Wichita State, Saturday at 1 p.m.).  I don’t know when the last time is that The Valley (Missouri Valley Conference), if I’m not mistaken, two teams that would be in the top 10 playing for the highest stakes the last game of the season.  That will be as big a conference game as The Valley has seen, who knows, in maybe decades.  You have two top teams playing with the winner taking all.  That place (Wichita State’s Koch Arena) will be jumping.  That will be great for “GameDay” to be there.
You would think that our situation would be pretty festive, as well, with the things that we have in front of us that could potentially take place if we play well.  It will be great for our state.
The play in the Big 12 Conference has brought a lot of positive recognition to our league nationally.  This will be a chance to bring it to our state, which I think will be a big, big, big bonus not only for our program, but Wichita State’s, as well.
Q.  You mentioned how this place could be festive on Saturday.  Texas had atmosphere when you went down there to play.  What kind of things are the players looking forward to?
COACH SELF:  I don’t even know if our players know they’re wearing throwback jerseys.  Some of the stuff you (the media) talk about doesn’t even register with me.  I know we’re wearing commemorative uniforms based on it being the 60th anniversary of our building (Allen Fieldhouse).  I asked, ‘If it’s our 60th anniversary, why aren’t we wearing the uniforms they were wearing 60 years ago?’  Adidas didn’t want to do that.
So we’ll wear a throwback to the mid-to-late ’80s uniform, which is fine.  The players like putting on a new uniform, but it’s not that big a deal.
But having “GameDay” here and playing Texas, knowing what’s potentially at stake, I think everybody should be pretty excited.
Q.  If adidas wanted to do a throwback to the short-shorts era, would you keep that from happening?
COACH SELF:  I actually have stepped in and not done some of the stuff that adidas wanted to do. But I don’t think the 1970’s short look will be something that will come back into style at any point in time.  I think if you had those shorts, you got rid of them.  You won’t be wishing you kept them because I don’t think they’re going to come back into play.
Q.  We received an email this morning about your postseason uniforms. Do you do a lot of thinking about what you’re going to wear in the postseason?
COACH SELF:  Yeah, we think about it.  I lay awake at night thinking about that stuff a lot (laughter).
It is the same thing with (all) the shoe companies, they have to do something to get one step on the other ones.  Nike will do something with their schools, Under Armour will do something.  Every school that wears adidas in the postseason will have a different look.
If you followed us in the past, we’ve worn it (the postseason uniforms) for one game and we put it away, then wear what we normally wear, because I haven’t liked them,
If we like them, we may continue to wear them.  I don’t know.  There are a lot of reasons why people do what they do.  If you stop and look at it, there’s been some uniforms that looked pretty cool that we wore one game.  That was for a special reason that the shoe company comes up with, which they do for other schools, too.  Then they get an opportunity to sell them in the bookstore, too.  It’s a merchandising and marketing deal.
I really don’t remember what our postseason uniforms look like because we picked them out last year, probably before the season was over. We’ll pick out next year’s postseason uniforms probably by the end of this month.
I don’t remember what they look like, but we will wear them.  I don’t know how many times yet though.
Q.  This league has a bunch of guards that are good at getting in the paint.  How key is it to keep Texas’ Isaiah Taylor covered?
COACH SELF:  It’s a big key.  What did he have down there the first time, 23 (points) or something?  You stop and think about our league, if there’s a position that’s dominant in our league, it’s the point guard position, without question.  You have obviously Frank (Mason III); Monte’ Morris (Iowa State), who has All-American type talk; Juwan Staten (West Virginia), pre-season Player of the Year; Kenny Chery (Baylor) that’s been a Jayhawk killer and played very, very well.  Of course, Isaiah Taylor.  When he’s on, he can get in the paint as well as anybody in the country.  The two guards from the Oklahoma schools, (Oklahoma’s Jordan) Woodard and Hickey (Oklahoma State’s Anthony Hickey, Jr.).  They both had great seasons.  Kyan Anderson (TCU) is a terrific player.
This is a point guard league right now.  Taylor and Staten, the two we play next, are probably the two best guards at getting inside of you and forcing help.  We have got to do a great job with ball screen defense and keeping Isaiah out of the paint because he’s hurt us every time he’s touched it off the bounce.
Q.  Is working on ball screens all about focus?
COACH SELF:  It’s not just that.  Because if you down screen a big into a ball screen, that creates separation.  So now with separation, when a guy comes off with a head of steam, even if you force him into the ball screen, the big isn’t in a position to be a real helper on the screen. He’s in a position to be a helper after he comes off the screen.  Now you’re asking a big to guard a guard one-on-one.
Those are the kind of things you can do with ball screens that can create problems.  Whereas if you want to hedge them hard, it’s hard to hedge them hard if they back screen into a ball screen.  You have to back up to help on the back screen.  By the time the ball screen is set, it’s hard to hard hedge, and now that becomes a flat hedge.
There’s things people try to do to keep you from defending the ball screen the way you want to do it.  Texas is really clever and does a really good job with that.
Q.  Is that a key to the league being so good this year, because it’s a point guard-driven league?
COACH SELF:  They say guards win.  I say there’s less number of big guys in our league maybe than what there has been in years past.  You stop and think about LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas), (Kevin) Durant (Texas), all the big guys Baylor has had, Michael Beasley (K-State), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma).  Joel (Embiid, Kansas) goes into that mix, so does Marcus (Morris), Markieff (Morris) and Cole (Aldrich).  You have so many talented bigs that this year when you stop and think about it, the dominant players in our league, for the most part, have been guards, whether it’s Buddy (Hield, Oklahoma), whoever it’s been.  Or under-sized bigs, whether it be Perry, Georges (Niang, Iowa State), whatnot.
I would say that’s probably a strong reason why the league has been good, because without the good guard play, I’m not sure that our bigs would be the type of bigs that would carry a league nationally.  There’s no (Duke’s Jahlil) Okafor, something like that.  There’s so many guards, we haven’t missed that because everybody has a guard that can really, really play.  Several teams have multiple guards.
I don’t know if that made any sense at all.
Q.  You mentioned Kevin Durant.  What do you remember about the couple of games you had to play against him?
COACH SELF:  I think he had like 25 or 26 (points) at our place in the first half.  Danny (Manning, former Kansas assistant coach and All-American), who was a good player here, I asked, ‘What do you think?’
(Danny answered) ‘He’s the baddest man that ever played on this floor.’
Danny was pretty good.  Wilt (Chamberlain) wasn’t bad either.
Then we played them (at the Big 12 Championship) in Kansas City.  They had us down 32-10 with eight minutes left in the first half.  Durant had 22 of them.  So Durant had us down 22-10 himself.  Yeah, he was amazing.
You know, we’ve had some unbelievable performances against us, and none better than obviously him.  But even Beasley, we box-and-one’d him the whole game and he got 39 (points).  There’s been some really good bigs come through here. Texas with Kevin, with LaMarcus, Tristan Thompson.  There’s been some great, great players.
Texas, they got unlucky when they had that great run of players there a couple years ago.  I’m sure the staff knew they could leave, but (then) all of them left after one year.  I’m not sure their staff would think they would all be one-and-done type guys, they’d be two-and-done.  Now, they have (Cameron) Ridley and (Myles) Turner and those guys.  They can really play.
Q.  Are you surprised by their conference record this year?
COACH SELF:  Probably, yeah.  I mean, there’s so many close games in our league and games that can go either way, I don’t know that you can really be surprised or shocked by anything that happens in our league.
Texas goes to West Virginia its last game.  Hey, they play terrific.  They got behind just like we did at West Virginia, but (Texas) came back, had a chance in the last two minutes.  West Virginia is playing really well right now. They’ll (Texas will) be hungry playing us for high stakes on Saturday.
Q.  What did the tape show of the last 10 minutes on offense of the K-State game?
COACH SELF:  I think it showed that we –‘panicked’ is not the right word — certainly did not play with poise down the stretch offensively.  Defensively, we didn’t get stops.  They made every play.
But sometimes your offense looks worse than it is when you don’t make shots, which it probably looked worse than it was.  Sometimes it looks better than it is just because you make shots.
The last 10 minutes was a combination of poor ball and body movement, their (K-State’s) pressure bothered us and then, of course, we’ve got to play through our two best players in late-game situations.  Frank wasn’t a factor, and they were able to negate Perry for the most part down the stretch.
Certainly, we’ve got to improve.  If one or two shots go down, it looks totally different.  But they defended us very well. 
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