Bill Self Previews Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship
Q. What do you think of being Big 12 Coach of the Year from the Associated Press?
COACH SELF: You know, it’s nice. Certainly I understand that all that it is a reflection of having a good team and the guys win, and certainly nobody’s had better players than we’ve had. But it is nice. Certainly appreciate it.
Q. What do you appreciate most about this year’s team?
COACH SELF: I would probably never give my teams that much credit for being pretty tough, but I think this team is pretty tough in crucial situations. I think that they usually, not always, usually rise to the level of what needs to be done at that particular moment, and you know, they like each other.
I’m proud of the fact that they seem to be very unselfish and care more about their teammates than they appear to care about themselves. You know, a lot of clichés that go along with that. But I do believe that holds true with this team.
Q. What made you think of gathering the four primary starters for a heart-to-heart talk during a rough patch earlier in the season?
COACH SELF: We were just struggling. We were laboring and I really didn’t know what direction we needed to go as far as who would be our fifth starter. To me, starting is overrated. It’s more important who finishes than who starts. We were in a situation that Landen was basically finishing the majority of the games but playing as much throughout the game.
And you know, the guys felt more comfortable, not taking anything away from anybody else, but they said, coach, this gives us the best chance. We all feel this gives us the best chance. They had input on what we did next and certainly it has paid off. They were right. I wish everybody could play more minutes and all those things, but especially when you have as much balance as we have inside. But our team certainly has performed better with Landen being in the starting lineup.
Q. You were kind of giving up control there. You were saying, you guys come and tell me?
COACH SELF: Well, I think coaches are really good at giving up control, and then if they don’t like the answers that they get, they take control back. So I think that’s kind of how it works. I thought it was more important for them to take ownership than it was for me to basically give the appearance because of being in control over that one situation, because as a staff, [the starting lineup] varied every day. He’s better this situation; he’s better in that situation.
In basketball, I think it’s hard to go through a season, and we tried to do it, where scouting reports may depend on who plays and that kind of stuff. And so I wanted the guys to take ownership and I thought if they took ownership over what they said, then they would have more of a responsibility to make sure it worked out.
Q. Looking back, do you think that was a turning point where everybody could kind of fill in their roles after that?
COACH SELF: I don’t know if that moment was a turning point but I do think for the betterment of our team, I think inserting Landen Lucas and having him in the lineup, and letting him play more and play through mistakes and those sorts of things, when really basically no big guy had had that opportunity yet. I do think that was a turning point for our team.
Q. The big goals are Big 12 regular season title and the NCAA title. A lot of teams don’t have a ton at stake in the Big 12 tournament, but it seems like teams compete really hard anyway. Is that just the environment or being close to the big distance?
COACH SELF: [The Big 12 tournament has] got to be as good a postseason conference tournament as there is in the country. I think the competitive nature of it, everybody wants to show that they are the best. I think that drives it. Also the fact that at least in our situation, it’s been this way for a while.
Even when we tied for the Conference regular season title, whether it be K-State or Texas or whoever, we’ve always said, ‘well, now we’ll to the tournament and figure out who the best team is.’ I always think our guys got motivation from that.
And lastly, I think there’s motivation to validate what’s already transpired to put an exclamation point on what’s already transpired.
So I think that that’s important. But is it as important as the following week? No. Will we play injured guys to try to win? Absolutely not. But it is something that our guys will take seriously and know how important it is.
We’ve left over there early enough times to know that it’s a lot more fun playing than it is to not play. And I think it’s certainly, and if you get to the finals, then you’ve got to win. If you don’t get to the finals and win, you’re almost better off not getting to the finals, get an extra day of rest. So if you get to the finals, you’ve got to win, and we didn’t do that last year.
It is important, but by no means will I take — by no means will I take away anything — I will not take away the importance of it to our team, but deep down in my core, I know it’s not as important as being prepared to play the next week.
Q. You talked just a second ago about your pieces fitting together really well. In general, do teams like that do better in the postseason or teams with like a star or two stars?
COACH SELF: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always thought that when things went bad in a postseason, it’s nice to have one guy that can kind of carry you through it.
Unfortunately for us, we haven’t had that the last couple years. You know, Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) was our leading scorer as a freshman, and he gets two (fouls) against Stanford I think. And last year, Perry (Ellis) is our leading scorer and he is half of himself because of injury.
I think what with you look back at teams over time, you need to have somebody that can carry you. We were one of the few teams in 2008 that has not been like that. You know, Kentucky last year was one of the few teams that although they didn’t win it, it was one of the few teams that hasn’t been like that.
But historically, whether it be Wisconsin last year when (Sam) Dekker got on a roll, (Frank) Kaminsky was great the whole year but Dekker got on a roll. I think you’ve got to have good enough players where one or two guys can carry us and that’s one thing that I feel optimistic about.
I think we’ve shown that we have four different players that can carry us, and play as well as anybody in that game on that particular night. Whereas, you know, some teams, if you look at Michigan State or if you look at OU or some of the other — North Carolina, you’ve got that bona-fide Bryce Johnson (North Carolina) or Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) or Denzel (Valentine, Michigan State) or Iowa State with Georges (Niang). You’ve got some guys that you know if they are on top of their game, that one guy is good enough to get you through to the next round.
With us, I feel like that’s some with Perry, but I also feel like Perry is not his best, then those other three can carry us. I don’t know what the answer is, but since we are the way we are, I’m going to say, the way we do it is by far the best way going into the tournament.
Q. Seems like Devonte’ Graham is kind of developing a knack for making big plays and shots down the stretch. I know there was a point earlier in the season where maybe he had a little trouble, he wanted to defer to some of the older guys. Is he getting more confident now?
COACH SELF: Oh, yeah, there’s no deferring with him. No, he’s confident. I really — he’s had some great games for us, but I really think the OU game down there, that gave him confidence to know that he doesn’t need to hunt it, but if it comes to him, he needs to take it and he’s certainly done that.
Q. How optimistic are you in that this team is healthier than your last few teams entering the postseason?
COACH SELF: Oh, no, we are definitely healthier. You look at last year, Perry Ellis — we didn’t tell everybody, but Perry wasn’t even close to being himself. And you look at the year before, and we didn’t have Cliff last year.
That’s our starting four and five last year that we probably got 25 percent combined of what we were capable of. And the year before, we didn’t have Joel (Embiid). And that’s not making an excuse, because injuries are obviously part of the game and we probably benefitted over time as much as anybody for being for the most part healthy. And there’s nothing that can be said that something that something won’t happen this weekend or in practice today and all that stuff, but I do feel good about our health. I think our health gives us confidence going into the tournament, the postseason.
Q. Do you treat healthy guys any different in the Big 12 tournament? Like you said, you know it’s not the most important.
COACH SELF: I would like to — we want to win, but I like to not wear them out.
You know, the thing about it is, whoever wins, whoever plays Saturday, doesn’t matter if you win or not. Whoever plays Saturday, you’re going to be off Sunday, obviously. And that means you play three days in a row, or four days in a row for some teams, but three days in a row, off one day, and that’s an emotional day because selection show and all that stuff; and then be ready to hit it on Monday and leave on Tuesday.
So really, Monday and Tuesday are really your only prep days to get ready for the NCAA tournament because Wednesday is a screwed-up day because of all the media obligations and open practice and all that kind of stuff.
I think that, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever plays Saturday gives them Sunday and Monday off, and that just gives you one day to basically prepare for the team you’re playing and that doesn’t even count in the preparation you’ve got to prepare for the next game.
I’m not going to say we’re cutting minutes back, I’m not going to say that. But the ideal role if we could be successful would be to certainly not tax our guys 100 percent.
Q. Looks like maybe top to bottom, in years, a lot of teams have a lot to gain or a lot to lose but maybe not so much —
COACH SELF: I think (Texas) Tech is in, regardless, and I certainly think that the other six are safe. I think seeding, obviously lines could be affected and maybe ours could be, too.
This is probably the most confident I’ve been going into the tournament that if we perform well, then we’ll be a 1-seed. I feel confident about that. And there’s been years where I haven’t felt that way and there’s been years where we won the tournament and we didn’t get to be a 1-seed, or I don’t know if you remember when we beat Texas in the tournament the last time, I think the winner of that game would have been a 1-seed.
I think there was so much at stake from that regard, but I don’t sense that this time. I sense that we put ourselves in a pretty good position, and I know a lot of things can happen, but going into the tournament, I don’t know if we’ve been on this solid of footing, at least with what I feel our seed will be going in.
Q. How important is it to you to be a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament?
COACH SELF: It’s really not. It’s more important, matchup, I think going into it than anything else. Being a 1-seed comes with extra attention, extra scrutiny, extra pressure sometimes, than not being a 1-seed. But I don’t really think it makes that much difference.
Q. Are you worried about free throws with your team?
COACH SELF: That would be a — yes. We shot them miserably against Texas. And we shot them miserably — we were 1-for-5 the other day in the first half and shot them miserably against Iowa State. Made some late — Brannen (Greene) made some late.
But we’ve got to make them. You know what, we’ve been a good free throw shooting team when it counted. We haven’t been a very good free throw shooting it seems like to me when it didn’t count, so maybe that’s a positive sign. But certainly that could bite us. You don’t make free throws in the postseason, the chances are of you advancing against a comparable team is not very good. You don’t make them here at home — you know, you’ve got the home crowd. If you don’t make them on the road but you’re up 15, you’re still safe. But in the tournament, yeah, that could be disaster.
Q. Is it sort of like putting, the more attention you pay to it, it can feed on itself and get worse?
COACH SELF: This is coming from a guy that is a 32-handicap that’s never had a good run in putting. But yeah, so if you have seven 3-putts every 18, then yes, I guess it could kind of get in your head. [Laughter]
But I do think that’s right and I won’t call attention to it. I’ll say something but not to the point where it’s ingrained in our mind that, hey, that’s something wrong with us. I won’t do that.
Q. What do you think of your potential opponents in the first round of the Big 12 tournament?
COACH SELF: Well, it’s going to be K-State or Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State has already beaten us by 19 points. In the second game, they cut it to six late in the game, so we haven’t been great against them.
K-State is a tie game with 12 minutes left at our place and then it’s a three-point game at their place with three minutes left. So yeah, it will be a tough game regardless.
Q. Is Frank healthier than he was maybe a month ago?
COACH SELF: You know, maybe. Frank is one of those guys that he won’t call attention to anybody except the neck. I don’t know if you remember; he called attention to his neck a lot in the course of one game.
But he won’t call attention to it. And if you ask him — you just assume not ask him. And I’m not one like — I’m not one of those guys to ever ask them what’s wrong, because if you ask them, then you give them the opening to actually tell you, and sometimes I’d rather them think I don’t know.
But he seems fine to me. He seems fine, and he seems to have more energy than what he’s had.
Q. Frank Mason III has been on a good run…
COACH SELF: He’s been on a really good run. And he played better the other day than what I probably thought going into watching the game live. I thought he was — I thought he did a really good job defensively, and he got the ball where he needed to get it. But he’s got to look to score. To me, he’s still not looking to shoot the ball from deep as much as he should.
Q. Did you watch the Florida Gulf Coast game? [FGCU is coached by former Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley.]
COACH SELF: I watched every possession. Yeah, really happy for Joe. That was one of those games where free throws could have kept him from going to the NCAA tournament but they overcame it, and the course of play, that freshman made at the end was spectacular, and really, really happy for Joe.
Q. Can you talk about potentially entering the NCAA tournament with a 14-game win streak?
COACH SELF: Yeah, you know what, I don’t know if — I think it’s important to have positive momentum going in. But in basketball, you could be a dud and go to the Big 12 tournament and play good there and you’ve got positive momentum going in.
I don’t think it takes that much to turn it. I just know the longer you go — the longer you can extend your momentum is obviously best for your team, and the shorter you can stop negative momentum, obviously makes it easier and is best for your team.
But if I’m not mistaken, we went over there to the tournament, and Baylor beat us up pretty good in the second round, and that team goes on to the finals. So I don’t know if there’s a true correlation between the appearance of being hot at the end and actually that extending.
I know there’s a gift of having teams play their best at this time of year, and hopefully we prepared ourselves to play the best because of some of the success we had. But I don’t know that — I still don’t think we’re playing as well as we can play. I think there’s a big room for improvement. I think our defense is average at times and our rebounding has been average at best at times. I think there’s so many things we can tighten up. But for the most part, I think every team in the country can say the same thing.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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