Self Addresses Media at Weekly Presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night when the No. 13/14 Jayhawks host Kent State in a non-conference matchup. Head coach Bill Self discussed the game with the Golden Flashes as well as his team’s recent performance at Temple during his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. 
Kansas (9-2) and Kent State (8-3) will meet Tuesday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. (Central) on the Jayhawk Television Network/ESPN3/Full Court.
COACH SELF: (Kent State is) Another tough opponent.  We watched tape, you know, and they are good.  They are 8-3.  They almost won at UTEP (12/22, 75-78 loss).  That was a one-possession game.  UTEP, obviously, could have easily had Arizona the other night (12/19, 55-60 loss). 
So they have a good team.  They are very, very, very quick on the perimeter, very athletic, and they play around a big guy that can score facing with his back to the basket.  Rob (Senderoff, Kent State head coach) has a really nice team.
Q.  Can you talk about how Frank Mason III has played for you this season and how his role has changed as the season has gone along?
COACH SELF:  I think Frank’s been, obviously, our best player to date.  (He’s been the) Most consistent, without question.  But I still don’t think he’s played like he’s capable of playing.  His stats are good.
But I think he can do more things to create havoc offensively by getting in the paint and certainly defensively because he’s probably our best perimeter defender.  But he’s played so many minutes; I don’t think he’s as turned up as what he can be every possession.
But I’m really pleased with Frank.  He’s really trying to become more of a point guard even though he’s probably more of a scoring point or a combo guard. He’s played tough.  He’s been good down the stretch in most games.
Q.  It seems like the team was able to learn a lot from Indy — do you feel that you might be able to take a lot from Philly too?
COACH SELF:  Yeah, losses suck, unless you learn from them and get better from them.  And then, you know, I think the first loss (to Kentucky) obviously was a beat down, and I do think we got better from it.  And this loss (at Temple) was a beat down, too, maybe for different reasons.  We were totally outplayed.  But also in Indy, we came ready to play.  We just got whacked.
This one (at Temple) we didn’t come ready to play.  We played tired and it’s very evident what happens when you play good teams, good players, when you’re not quite on point or at that “magic level” so to speak.
I think there’s a lot of things that we can learn from it, but the score differential obviously wasn’t great, because they put us away there midway through the second half.  But the thing that I think is very evident, that shouldn’t surprise anybody, (is that) when you play good people and you’re not at that level and they are, you’re going to get beat, especially away from home.  It’s that way in all sports, regardless of what level you play and that was certainly the case with us.
Q.  In your experience, how does the week coming up (final week of non-conference play) help for the rest of the season?
COACH SELF:  Well, maybe from preparation, but it’s a little bit different than it used to be.  We used to play maybe a cupcake after Christmas.  You know, before you go into your conference play.
We haven’t done that the last couple of years; we played San Diego State, and it was a two-seed.  Before that, we played Michigan State one year going into conference play and another year we played Villanova.
So it’s not probably the same formula that a lot of people have used, and when you make out the schedule, we probably thought it would be nice after playing a hard schedule that maybe you could catch your breath a little bit and we obviously don’t have that luxury.
I don’t think in December, late December or even the first game in January, you can determine this is going to be the springboard to the rest of our season.  I think it’s early to do that.  But certainly what it can do is give you some momentum going into what hopefully springboards games soon after that.
We need to be good, no question.  We need to be good the next couple of non-conference games to set up what is obviously a more important season than your non-conference season, but these last two non-conference games are very important.
Q. What about Cliff Alexander over the last few games offensively? He didn’t score as much.
COACH SELF:  I don’t think he’s been active at all.  I think he’s been bothered — he’s turned his ankle and he’s got a bone bruise on his shin.  He has not been as explosive or as active and I think a lot of it’s health-related.
I don’t think he’s quite 100 percent, and of course when you’re not, you don’t feel as good and you usually don’t play as active.  But I think his activity level has been lacking some.  I think a lot of it is just because of his health. But he needs to be able to score off of other people’s misses.  That’s something that he should be really good at, and I don’t think that he’s been as good at that as he was early in the season.
Q.  He’s (Alexander) not limited at all in practice?
COACH SELF:  No, he’s not limited.  But it does bother him. 
Q.  Having a guy that you can go to inside — do you think by the end of the year Cliff Alexander could be that guy?
COACH SELF:  I do.  I think Perry (Ellis) can be that guy, too.  We can look at a lot of different things.  There has not been any consistent inside player here lately — we won a lot of games without being very consistent.
So I think that all of them can be better at that, and hopefully we’ve done a couple things to try to encourage them all, going to them and playing through them.  The bottom line is that we have good guards, but our guards are not going to carry us through our league.  No guards are in this league.
But you have to be able to throw it to somebody and get fouled and get to the free throw line.  So we have got to play through those guys.  We have got to get those guys where they are consistently doing things, and our guards have to do a better job of getting the ball to them, and certainly they have to deliver better.
Against Temple, we’re so much better than that; but we scored two baskets on the block, and one of them was when Jamari (Traylor) caught the ball at 18 feet and drove it there.  That’s it.  There were no other baskets.  The other one was when Wayne (Selden, Jr.) drives it, forces help and goes to Perry, who makes a shot.  It didn’t have anything to do with us throwing the ball into the block.  So basically, with our back to the basket, we scored zero points against Temple.  And a lot of it’s guards.  A lot of it’s bigs.  Maybe a lot of it is what we’re doing.  We’re not doing a good job of putting them in positions to get the ball.
So hopefully we are going to be able to correct some of those things.  But in all the years that we have been here, or been at other places, we have always played inside out.  You play inside out and you deliver no baskets, that’s not very positive.
So we have got to do some things to improve that.  Now I also think that’s an anomaly.  I don’t think that’s who we are, but that’s how it all kind of came together that particular night.
Q.  You talk about things not working. What are some of the things that haven’t been working when you guys run your setup?
COACH SELF:  Basketball is a very uncomplicated game from this standpoint.  So I like football.  You can throw a screen pass to a running back, and if he’s slow, you’re going to gain three yards; if he’s a jet he can make people miss and go the distance.  That’s what it is.
It’s about players; you run stuff, and hopefully put them in places where they can take advantage of their skill set.  Still, though, you make a guarded shot on one end and miss an unguarded shot on the other; you get the ball here but the ball is not delivered on time, on target.  It’s just so many little things, and I think our timing can become better with that.
We can tweak some things though to put us in position to make more plays, but when you’re talking about the Temple game only — if you have to coach enthusiasm and passion and energy, then it doesn’t matter what you run.  It’s the same way in every sport.  And we are talking about the Temple game only.
I don’t know, what are we, No. 2 in the RPI?  [Confirmed] We are No. 2 in the RPI, and we played a great schedule.  So it’s not like it’s totally busted, but the last game was broke without question, and I think that it isn’t as much what we do as having the passion and the energy.
Jim Harbaugh spoke to our team last year and he gave a great statement, and I’m sure every football coach does this:  Energy always finds the ball.  Energy finds the ball.
So it doesn’t make any difference how you guard a ball screen or the angle you set a screen or this, this and that.  That’s all important after you play with great energy and passion.  Until you do that, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to do those things in order to give yourself a chance, and that’s why teams cannot be a great team and that’s why teams can play poorly and still win, because they are turned up all the time.  Because energy finds a way to cover up mistakes, and that’s what we didn’t do against Temple.  Now, we are talking about one game.
You can go back to (when we played) Florida, Michigan State, Utah, Georgetown — you don’t play well, but energy can make up for some things, and that’s what I think that we didn’t have the other day (at Temple).  We played like a bunch of duds, and then they were really good.
Q.  On the number of minutes played by Frank Mason III at Temple (40).
COACH SELF:  Well, that was just a statement to my other guys, be real candid.  I could have taken him out but I would rather leave him in and take the other guys out.  That was a statement to the rest of my guys; the difference — I thought — in his play and everybody else’s play.  So that won’t happen again where he plays 40 (minutes).  But that was my way of telling them what I thought.
But I do think we can eliminate that and I think Wayne is going to have to play the point.  I think we have to play Wayne and Frank less minutes together so that way Wayne can replace Frank and hopefully Devonte’ (Graham), we can get some positive news on Devonte’ in the next week or so that may allow him to get back in there at some point in time in the near future.
Q.  Can you talk about Kelly Oubre, Jr.? He seems to be a little bit unique as a wing as far as what he can do for you.
COACH SELF:  Yes, he is. He’s very unique in that he’s extremely long, I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and I think he can become very good defensively.  He’s not yet, but I think he can get there. He’s more confident.
Kelly plays with a swagger even when he’s not playing extremely well shooting the ball.  He plays with a swagger and personality, and obviously, we need him to continue to improve because he should be as good of a wing offensive rebounder as there is in the country.  He’s not yet, but he could be and he needs to work on that.  He could be as long a perimeter defender as there is around, and get his hands on more balls, and he’s actually very good at that.
I think that leads to confidence, which allows you to shoot the ball better on the other end.  So I’m pleased with Kelly.  We’ve been really good since he’s been back and I’m very pleased with that.
Q.  Can Devonte’ Graham do anything?
COACH SELF:  He can’t do anything.  He can’t even ride a bike.  So he’s basically on the same workout plan that I’m on right now.  But he can’t really do anything until the doctors look at him again, which will be this week.  He’ll see a doctor this week.
Q.  You mentioned the energy.  Do you have to coach it or does this team have enough?
COACH SELF:  For those of you that have been around sports a long time, I think it can be coached.  But if it has to be coached – there are going to be days where you can’t coach it.
It’s like a good pregame talk.  You can give a good pregame talk but if you try to give a good pregame talk every game, trust me, they are not going to listen to you when you need to have a good pregame talk, especially when you are doing 40 of them.  There needs to be something that we do as a staff to promote that, that energy and that passion, without question.
But there’s also something they have to do as a group, come in ready to practice every day; understanding the first 15 minutes of practice is the first five minutes of the game, and put themselves in that same situation.
The Temple game — I don’t think that’s who we are at all.  I think that was one of those games that for whatever reason, we were tired.  Of course we played Lafayette on Saturday and then played a game on Monday.  I think that’s my fault.  I don’t think that we should have done that.
And then with the travel and everything, I just don’t feel like we didn’t react very well in that situation.  And then you play a team that obviously needed the feather in their cap and they were hungry and thirsty.  It was just a bad night all the way around for us, and it was perfect for them.  We missed front ends; they made both free throws.  That’s kind of how the game went.
The thing that bothers me as much as anything was that they are no bigger than we were, and they blocked eight shots and we blocked two.  There wasn’t that activity to go make a play athletically and so that’s something that I think that we have to do a better job coaching them for.
I’ve got to do a better job coaching them but I also think they can become a little bit more hungry.  If you look at the Utah game, (we were) off to a big lead.  I mean, what are we up, 21 in the first half against Utah?  Against Florida, (we were) down 20 in the first half.  The Kentucky game was awful, but it was also a 10-point game at halftime.  We were in position (at Temple) but came out and laid an egg to start the second half the first four minutes and the game was over.  And game wasn’t over at halftime against Kentucky.  It was over at the 16-minute mark.  We just go through stretches.
The bottom line is, we’ve got talented kids but we are ridiculously young. We are young in a lot of ways; in mind, in experience, more so than just our years.  But you get off to a rough start and it’s 11-2 and we are not quite as focused, like fouling three-point shooters and doing some things like that. You get off to a rough start and now do we have the toughness to come back without a home crowd?
The Florida game, we showed some toughness there.  But let’s be real:  the crowd helped win the game, and so when there’s no crowd and you’re looking at Perry or Wayne or Frank or whoever it is to be your leader and you have a 17-year-old coming in off the bench and now we put him in a situation to go make plays for us.
That’s not the most comforting feeling.  We didn’t do it as a unit; we tried to do it as individuals, and individuals aren’t going to beat a team any day of the week.  There are a lot of things we can do to become better at it, and I can certainly coach it better, but I also think some responsibility falls on them to get themselves ready before they get to the gym.
Q.  What’s the freshmen class’ psyche like after the Temple game?
COACH SELF:  That’s one great thing about youth.  They don’t know.  They can’t remember.  So trust me, if you were to ask them about the Temple game, that was a long time ago.  But coaches don’t forget because that’s what they do.  They have been home for Christmas and hung out and done all that, so I think that they are fine.  I don’t see any problem with that.
Q.  Do like coaching young teams?  The last couple years you’ve been really young.  Do you feel that you’re coaching a young team and does it add to your stress level?
COACH SELF:  I think I’ve got to do a lot better.  I would say that my stress level has probably been a little higher this year.  But it’s really not fair to the kids; it’s really my problem more than theirs.  Last year we had (a high) stress level but had the No. 1 pick (Andrew Wiggins) and the No. 3 pick (Joel Embiid) in the draft that were part of our problems.  If you think about it, those are pretty good problems.  And they are so young.
We don’t have that this year.  I need to obviously enjoy the process and not worry about what the expectations are of our team, because I’ve never understood this from a media standpoint or from a poll standpoint.  When you’re preseason predicted to be something, is that where you should be at that moment? Or is that where you should finish?
And the whole deal is, from the process, try to get just a little bit better each and every day.  When we do that, we’ll have a chance to live up to, or be what we think we could have been or what other people thought we could be.  But based on today, we’re not close.  Based on today, we’re not close, and that’s not their fault.  That’s just us being a product of being very young and us having to go through some pains.
If we’d have played a different schedule, I don’t think that we would probably be having this conversation.  But I also don’t think it could have exposed us where we would be prepared for the league either, which is far more important than non-conference.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Kansas will close out non-conference play when it hosts UNLV on Sunday, Jan. 4, at 3:30 p.m. (Central), on CBS. KU, 10-time defending Big 12 regular-season champion, will open conference play at Baylor on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m., on ESPNU.