Self Previews Battle 4 Atlantis at Weekly Press Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Preparing to travel to the Bahamas to face Wake Forest in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Kansas head coach Bill Self held his weekly press conference Monday afternoon.
Q. Have you heard that this is an unusual court setup with the ballroom and everything?
COACH SELF:  Well, I’ve heard it’s in a big ballroom. I think it seats like 3,800 or 4,000 people.  But we’ve played in small venues before, so I don’t think it’ll be awkward. I got a picture of the court today, and it looked pretty cool. Maybe the ceiling is a little lower than what we’re used to. But I don’t think it’ll have much of an effect on whether or not we shoot the ball in the hole or not.
Q.  Frank Mason, coming in as a freshman and playing the point would be a tough transition. Mentally, is there something different about him that makes him ready for this?
COACH SELF: Well, he never played point. He’s a point guard size and people can list him as a point, but he’s never played point. He’s just getting it, too. But I think he’s a little different because he’s a sponge, he’s so unselfish. For a guy who’s so used to scoring the ball, he cares nothing personally about scoring even though we do want him in attack mode because he can get in the paint and attack the basket about as well as anybody we have.

He’s done a nice job. Duke is really the only game we’ve played so far where time, score and momentum actually mattered, and he was really good in that particular game.
Q.  What do you think of the field of this tournament?
COACH SELF: The field is good. Wake Forest is 5 0, and they’re much better, and of course USC and Villanova; I know that USC I believe is missing maybe their leading scorer if I’m not mistaken, but Villanova is definitely a tournament team and they pounded Towson the other day. On the other side, I’m maybe going to leave somebody out; Tennessee is definitely a tournament team, Iowa is definitely a tournament team, Xavier should be a tournament team and I think I’m leaving out somebody.
It’s a good field. I saw where somebody ranks it as either the first or second-best field of all the preseason tournaments. It’ll be fun and it’ll certainly be good to play three good teams in three days and see how we react and go from there.
Q.  Wake Forest, do they look similar at all to the Colorado teams that (Jeff Bzdelik) coached?
COACH SELF: No, they really don’t.  They are playing totally different.  Jeff (Bzdelik), at Colorado, ran a lot of the Princeton stuff and he’s not doing that near as much now. (They are) probably playing a little bit more conventional offensively and defensively, they switch a lot and do some different things.
At least that’s what we’ve seen so far in their five games. It’s just Monday, and we don’t play until Thursday, so I’ve got to watch some more tape on them. But certainly, we feel like we’ve got a pretty good book on them and we know they can score and they’re not shooting a ton of threes, whereas Colorado’s team shot more threes. They’re shooting about as many as we do, because we’re not shooting that many at all. But I’d say (Bzdelik’s Villanova team is) much more conventional than what we’re used to with his teams at Colorado.
Q.  You mentioned the team has shot so much better this year than any other years.  What do you think the big factors are?
COACH SELF: Well, we haven’t shot as many threes. You’re going to shoot a better percentage, even though it’s an adjusted field goal percentage when you shoot threes. But we haven’t shot nearly as many threes, and we’ve gotten the ball in tighter. For the most part, this is not saying that we’re great at it, but for the most part our shot selection has been good. We haven’t taken that many guarded looks unless it’s being challenged inside. So those are all positive things.
Q.  Is passing better, as well?
      COACH SELF: Two guys has been very good.  Well, really three. If you look at our passing from Frank (Mason) and Naadir (Tharpe) and Joel (Embiid) and Wayne (Selden, Jr.) would be thrown in there, too, but those would be the four best passers on our team so far, so I think they’ve all done a good job.
Q.  The amount of three point shooting that you’ve gotten, is that just kind of the way you guys are going to play?
COACH SELF: No, I think we’re going to need to improve that. But you know what? We haven’t been very aggressive shooting them.  You’re talking about guys shooting one or two or three per game. When you can get other things, I can understand why they haven’t, and we’ve done a pretty good job of tackling the lane and we’ve been pretty good in transition. But historically we’ve probably never shot as many threes as our opponents. But I know there’s going to be games where people zone us and play us tight, and we’re going to have to step up and make shots.
Q.  Is that where some of the guys that come off the bench maybe separate themselves?
COACH SELF: Could be. Yeah, you know, I think that Naadir and Andrew (White III) and Wayne can all make shots. The way that we play, we’re really just going to have, at the most, three three point shooters in a game. Perry (Ellis) can step out and make one every now and then, but our bigs, that’s not what they do. A lot of teams play stretch four, so you have to guard further out because you’ve got more guys shooting them.
I think all our guys are capable of making them, but if you were just going to have a three point shooting contest, you could say that Andrew White and Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp may be the three best we have. But if you play all those guys, that means that the other guys aren’t in the game, and you want to play your most talented guys. I think that in spurts those guys will be very important to give us instant offense off the bench.
Q. The defensive rebounding for you guys, what allows this team to be so good at that?
COACH SELF: Well, I don’t know that we are so good, but we have been good so far.  Statistically we are good. I watch us in practice and in games, and it’s not like we’re the most disciplined block out team we’ve ever had, but either the ball is falling right so far or we’ve done a good job of going after it. But there are a lot of reasons. I think some people, and there’s nothing wrong with this, are nervous about us in transition so they don’t attack the boards as hard, and that’s one thing that if you can get really good at that, then that can hopefully help with your defensive rebounding.

Just like against Duke, we were so concerned with them running, so we got more guys back, and therefore fortunately we shot a good percentage because we didn’t do a good job on the offensive glass at all. Those are some things that may contribute to our defensive rebounding.  Obviously, that would be consistent with anybody across America. If you allow teams to send four to the glass and you don’t make them pay, then you’re probably not going to be near as good a defensive rebounding team.
Q.  Can Towson help you with that?  They’ve had four for a while.
COACH SELF: Towson, on paper, is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, and we actually did    they still got 20 percent of their misses back or whatever it was, 25 percent. But during the teeth of a game, we actually did a really good job defensive rebounding.
Q.  When you’re looking at individual defensive performances, how do you grade a guy if he’s an individual defender, how good he is?  On offense you can look at numbers and stuff, but on defense what do you look at?
COACH SELF: Well, I think if you don’t look strictly at stats, which the guy’s guarding and what he does, I think you look at it from a total perspective. Does he play to the scouting report?  Is his length such that he can allow to play contain a little bit and still contest shots? That’s where Andrew (Wiggins) is really good.
Mario Chalmers was not ever a great on the ball defender. Everybody thought he was. He wasn’t. He would just go steal everybody else’s ball when his man didn’t have it. Some guys are good that way. Some guys don’t anticipate that way and some guys are just better just locking in on your man, like Travis (Releford).
But I think Andrew maybe can become that when he gets a little bit more aware of how to take shortcuts and play angles and maybe get a little bit more physical. I think he can become a guy that we could put on the other team’s best player the last 10 minutes, regardless of position.
Q.  What do you think of depth in this tournament?
COACH SELF: I hope it’ll play a factor. If it plays a factor, hopefully that’ll help us because we’ll probably be about as deep as any team over there. I think depth can be a little bit overrated unless you have foul problems or injuries. But in this particular case, playing three games in three days, (would be) just like we would approach the Big 12 Tournament and I do think depth can play quite a role.
I also think it’s so early in the season that guys are fresh now, too. I think the depth would probably be more of a factor in February and March, during Big 12 Tournament play, than it would be now just because of wear and tear on the guys throughout the year.
Q.  You challenged the team to play more toward its athleticism. Was that first half kind of more what you were looking for?
COACH SELF: Yeah, we didn’t steal the ball much, but it’s still by far the most aggressive we’ve been. And a lot of that may be my fault; you’re telling somebody that this is what they should do, but are you really promoting that type of activity and that would be probably what I would have done defensively. I probably haven’t put them in situations to trap as much and to extend as much.
Hopefully that helped us, and hopefully that’ll be a constant from this point forward. But second half, it wasn’t. Of course, the game was not in question, but still, mature guys are able to think that the score is 0 0 and go out and try to dominate the second half and we probably didn’t do that the other day like we should have.
Q.  Is that the new rule of the new team? Are you still kind of tinkering what this team’s strengths are?
COACH SELF: I really don’t know what I would say our strengths are. I don’t think we’re great individual defenders. We don’t have a lockdown post defender and we don’t have a lockdown perimeter defender yet. It doesn’t mean we can’t get there. I don’t think we’re a great defensive team. We can help the helper a little bit, but I don’t think we’re close to the point where we can help the helper’s helper, where great teams can really do that. We’ve had a lot of really good defensive teams here.
     I think there are some things that we do well, but I would say jack of all trades, master of none, so to speak. I don’t know if there’s anything we can really hang our hat on yet.
Q.  Tomorrow night is going to be volleyball night; is that right? They’re going to turn Allen Fieldhouse into a volleyball court tomorrow night?
      COACH SELF: Yes, it’s going to be great.  (Kansas volleyball head coach) Ray (Bechard) and his staff, the young ladies — what a year they’ve had. The last time they did that (played in the Fieldhouse), I think they got about 8,000 or 10,000 people in here, so hopefully that’ll be the case again tomorrow.
Q.  With fans singing the National Anthem at the beginning of the game, before the game starts, and they say home of the Chiefs, the home of the Brave. What do you think of that?
COACH SELF: Well, that might have been a topic that was asked on my radio show the other day. I don’t think it’s anything that the students have done that is meant to be in any way, shape or form disrespectful. I assume that’s what they do at the Chiefs games. But you know, we’re not the Chiefs and they have their own deal that we do.  So from our standpoint – or from my standpoint – and this probably falls on deaf ears, I think out of respect for what it really stands for and the men and women that have sacrificed so much, I think that we should stay true to what it is.
     I’m not being negative with our students because there are a lot of things that I’ve done in the past that I thought we do it because this is how it’s been done as opposed to really thinking about it. I hope we can eliminate that. I think we called attention to it a couple years ago and actually did.  I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of it than what it is, but I would think everybody in the military that has sacrificed so much, I think they would appreciate it if we handled it differently than maybe what we have here recently.
Q.  How much free time does the team get?
      COACH SELF: I don’t know. We had a parent email us and ask, hey, let us know when the kid’s free time is so we can get with our kids, and I emailed them back, and I said, this is a business trip, there’s no free time. You have the free time, not us. We’ll give them some time on Wednesday and we’ll give them some time on Sunday, but other than that    well Tuesday night when we get there, they can hang out and stuff, but we’re not concerned about anything other than trying to win games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and eat good Thursday night.
Q.  Going somewhere like Hawai’i, is it different than going to Kansas City?
COACH SELF:  Oh, yeah.
Q.  What are the positives?
COACH SELF:  You’ve never been outside of Kansas? (Laughter.) I’d say it’s a little different.
Q.  From a basketball standpoint?
COACH SELF: If it’s not, I’ve got some beachfront property I’d love to show you.
     I think that warm weather is always good when you don’t have it where you’re living presently, and of course it’s been    seems like unseasonably colder right now than what it normally is. But I think there’s something about going to a place that’s nice and everything, where guys are walking around in shorts and you don’t have to bundle up to go outside and basically stay within a 300 yard radius and have as much fun as you can have outside of playing the game.
     I think it’ll be good. I don’t know if the climate really has a lot to do with becoming a team, but I do know this: I’ve been to the tournament in Fairbanks. I’m trying to think of it — I think it was called the ‘Can You Score Tournament’ in Fairbanks, and we hung 10 on Gonzaga the first half, so the obvious answer was no. But I’ve been to that tournament when you’ve got two hours of sunlight a day, and we did go visit Santa Claus’s house and we did a lot of fun things like that, but I don’t think it’s going to have the same impact of being somewhere tropical.
Q.  What do you hope by the end of the season to hang your hat on?
COACH SELF: I would say my philosophy is every time that the other team has the ball, we give up one or less shots, just that in general, and then once you start breaking that down, how do you accomplish that? I would say field goal percentage defense; obviously, not allowing extra possessions. From that standpoint, that’s what I think that our team has to hang its aon because all the teams that win big in the end, they all hang their hat on that.
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