Self previews Big 12 Championship at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self discussed the upcoming Big 12 Championship in Kansas City at his weekly press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse Monday. Self previewed the quarterfinal match-up against the Texas Longhorns while also talking on what his team will need to do in order to make a deep run later this week inside Sprint Center.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On if he’s surprised that Texas’ Kerwin Roach III is back:
“No, but I wouldn’t be not be surprised if he wasn’t. I have no idea what’s going on with the other (Big 12 Conference) programs. Certainly, he’s a good player and he’s been out for how many games, four or five probably? So, no, it doesn’t surprise me, nor would it surprise me if he wasn’t. I can’t stand when other people act like they know what’s going on with other programs so I have no feelings about that other than the fact that we’re going to go against them (Texas) at their best.”

On if it feels different playing as a three seed this year instead of a one seed:
“My first year here, we were a two or three (seed); I think we may have been a three. So it’s been a while since we’ve played the last game at night (of the Thursday night session). But I don’t think it’s going to be that much different. I think that, if anything, it gives our fans an opportunity to see the night session because Iowa State and K-State will be in the other session, if I’m not mistaken, if it goes as scheduled or whatnot. Hopefully it’ll be a little bit of an advantage for us from a crowd standpoint.”

On Dedric Lawson’s changing roles throughout the season and how challenging that’s been for him:
“I don’t know, C.J. (Moore, The Athletic). To me, players make adjustments and that’s not as big of a deal as what other people (think). It’s not like we said, ‘Ok, you’re going to become a guard or we’re going to play you at a different spot,’ but we have asked him to do some different things and certainly carry our team in different ways, but I think Dedric is just a player. He’s a guy who could get 20 (points) a game or get 10 (points) a game, whatever is best for the team. It’s just, obviously, best for our team if he produces numbers. He’s done a really good job, he’s had a tremendous year – there’s no question about that. Hopefully an All-American-type year, as that stuff starts coming out in the next couple, or three, weeks. It’s probably been a little bit of an adjustment for him, but I don’t think he’d say it’s weighed on him at all. I think he just plays, and adjusts on what the situation dictates him to.”

On if there have been any other recent players who’ve had to shoulder as much of the load as Dedric Lawson has this season:
“Well, Thomas Robinson did. But since Thomas, I don’t think we’ve had anyone like that, who’s had to do as much. I think Thomas averaged 18 and 12 and it seemed like, to me, that we set up a play for him to shoot every possession, just about. And we don’t do that as much for Dedric as we did for Thomas. He’s the last one and maybe before that, Wayne (Simien). Although different type players, but I don’t think we’ve had too many guys that we’ve counted on to produce, to get numbers, like we have with … [Matt Tait, Lawrence- Journal World] Would Sherron (Collins) be one? [Self] Maybe a little bit, I think Sherron averaged 18 (points) one year, but Sherron could get his different ways. Sherron could get his by not throwing the ball to him. Dedric has to get his by someone passing the ball to him. Sherron may have been in that group, but maybe the only guard we’ve ever had to have deliver like that.”

On what he has learned this season about where Dedric Lawson plays best and how he and his staff have made those adjustments:
“I think it makes a big difference when Dok (Udoka Azubuike) is not in the game. It can become a crowded house when Mitch (Lightfoot) and David (McCormack) are in the game. When he’s not in the game, it’s an easy double down low for others. So, yeah, we’ve tried to move him around and do some different things and tried to play him probably more as a face up 60 percent of the time and (with his) back to the basket 40 percent of the time. Where, before, when we were playing four guards, it was probably 80-20 (percent of the time) the other way.”

On how Dedric Lawson reacted to the physical demands put upon him Saturday vs. Baylor:
“I thought he rebounded the ball as well Saturday; I thought he really had to fight to get a lot of those rebounds. I don’t think his teammates helped him with that fight nearly as much as they could have, but I think he’s handled it pretty well. He’s not a physical guy. That’s not who he is. But he’s played pretty physical; getting 14 (rebounds) in that game, I think he could have had 18, but those are still pretty good numbers.”

On if having the league tournament in Kansas City gives the Jayhawks any type of edge:
“We’ve played really well in neutral-site venue (games) this season. We’ve been probably better in those than we have been at home. If you really look at it, some of the best games we played were to start the season in Barclays in Brooklyn or in Indy (Indianapolis). I think we should have some confidence going over there (to Kansas City’s Sprint Center) from a neutral-site standpoint. If it was a road game, maybe we wouldn’t have as much confidence, just because we haven’t fared nearly as well on the road this year as we have in years past. But from a neutral-site standpoint, we should approach that like it being a home game for us.”

How does the work with Strength & Conditioning Coach Andrea Hudy prepare the team for going to possibly play three games in three days? 
“The Saturday to Monday turnaround – you know, we were actually 4-0 in those games – on Big Mondays. Of course, whoever you play has a Saturday to Monday turnaround too, but we have more than everybody else – not everyone else has played four of them. I thought we reacted pretty well on a short day of prep (preparation). Getting into the strength and conditioning, I don’t know if that plays a huge factor at this time of year and moving forward. So much of it is maintenance. So much of it is stretching. Most of it (practice) is very, very light. I don’t know that we’re going to accomplish a lot other than trying to get our bodies back and prepared as quickly (as possible) for the next day. You can do that through multiple things: massages, a lot of different things we can do and we’ll take someone with us to work on that, which is something we’ve done for the past several years and I think is an advantage in those quick turnaround-games types of situations.”

On Texas’ “parts” maybe not fitting together quite like it’d like yet:
“I think, without question, Texas is one of the more talented teams in our league. They have arguably the best prospect in our league in Jaxson Hayes, from an NBA standpoint. Then, of course, they’ve got two other big that are both guys who have given us problems: Jericho (Sims) is probably as good of an athlete as there is in the league. (Dylan) Osetkowski is a guy who really hurt us last time. He basically won the game down there for them, as far as numbers and what he was able to accomplish. They are good up front. But, if you look at it, the thing that concerns me is when those four or five guards they’re playing, when you add Roach to the mix, they are really good. (Courtney) Ramey has become one of the better guards in our league, not just one of the better freshmen, the way he’s been playing. I think they pose a threat for whomever they may be playing. They didn’t have their best game the last game of the season, so they’ll be turned up against us, which is the way it should be when it’s a one-and-done type of situation. We’ll be turned up as well. I do think, potentially, that Texas could beat anyone in our league on any given night. I do think they’re very capable of doing that, and playing at the highest level, or they wouldn’t have beat (North) Carolina and some other teams earlier in the season.”

On what is needed from David McCormack versus Texas, since he’s now playing a bigger role on the team:
“I watched the second game where we played Texas and we were awful offensively. Awful. But we also tried to play four guards the vast majority of the time and we weren’t getting really great production in what we were trying to do. I think we have been better since we’ve been playing two bigs and certainly, with David, although he’s scored the ball – I think he’s had 30 (points) the last two games – and Mitch has also scored the ball better, even though his numbers aren’t quite as high. I do think that we need to have them (our bigs) giving their bigs something to guard. I don’t think we did that at all the second time we played them. I think they had free traps, they didn’t make them pay for trapping, a lot of things that allowed them to be rim protectors when we didn’t get them away from the goal. There’s a lot of things we didn’t do very well that hopefully we’ll be able to do quite a bit better this time around.”

On what David McCormack needs to do to be a better rebounder:
“I think balance is part of it. If you guys watch David, he’s so active sometimes, but I don’t think balance is one of his stronger suits. That’s where Andrea (Hudy) is going to become a key player in his development moving forward, with his lower body strength. Even though he’s a big guy, he’s big up top, he’s not big down low from a muscular standpoint. So I think balance would be a big part of it; reaction time maybe a little bit; but he’s done great. He’s done far more than what we thought he’d be asked to do as a freshman. So I’m proud of David. But if you want to be critical, I would say is what he is is a rebounder and he’s just got to be a little bit more effective on that end, gathering up 50-50 type of balls for us.”

On if David has talked to, learned from, Silvio De Sousa this season, having been in similar playing situations their first years on the team:
“Silvio was so good in the Big 12 Tournament last year, he was so good. Well, he was so good really, down the stretch for us, period, in both tournaments. I think Silvio will certainly offer anything he can to help David, because he loves David. Silvio is an unbelievable teammate. We can say we can draw from certain things, but I think everything is a little bit different. If anything, I think Silvio’s success last year is something that could help David moving forward.”
On what Kansas will have to do to make a deep run in the Big 12 Tournament:
“I think we have to make shots. I think we have to defensive rebound. I think we have to grow up and play beyond our years a little bit. You say, ‘how do you do it?’. How did we do it in other particular games this season? We have been bad away from home, on the road. But the other 20 games of the season we haven’t been that bad. We’ve played some bad home games where we still eeked it out – Stanford or New Mexico State – but with what our ceiling is. I watched the game against Baylor the other day and I originally didn’t think we played well at all, and I go back and watch the game and I saw that we got pretty much any shot we wanted, we just didn’t make it. I do think that we’re capable of playing at that high level, but the team that will advance will be the one like our team last year. Malik (Newman) got hot and Devonte’ (Graham) got hot and Svi (Mykhailiuk) got hot. We made shots. That’s what needs to happen. We need to have some guys step up and make some shots. We’ve shown we’re capable of doing that. We’ve had multiple games where we’ve had double-figure threes, but we’ve had too many games where people have had career nights against us shooting the ball. That’s what we need to eliminate. We’ve got to make other people play poorly.”
On if there is added urgency among his players after failing to win the regular-season Big 12 title:
“You would think so. We didn’t practice yesterday. Yesterday was a day off to rest, so today (Monday) will be the first time I’ve talked to the guys since the game Saturday. I do think there will be a sense of urgency. I texted some of them last night and I think they’ll be very excited to a part of this and go roll the dice. I’ve actually thought that we have been always motivated to go over there (Big 12 Tournament) to win but it’s been a mature motivation. It hasn’t been a ‘rah, rah’ motivation at all because deep down in our guys’ core, what we’re trying to do is validate what we’ve already done. We’re playing for a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed line. So it’s different this year. I would think that would be motivation. It’s amazing to me, we could be the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and also be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but we have to go play. Certainly, our seed line in the NCAA Tournament could be effected more this year than it has been in past years. Maybe one line in the past but this year it could be two or three lines. I think that we’ll definitely be motivated. The other thing is, I’m not sure the young kids really understand what the seeds and all that stuff really means and how it all plays out. I’m not sure it’s important that they do. I think if you’ve been through it, and we’ve only had two guys currently playing that have been through out, then you probably can help coach the young guys a little bit. But we haven’t had many guys go through it. Marcus (Garrett) and Mitch (Lightfoot) are the only two that have been through it and they haven’t played prominent roles like what they are this year so it’s going to be a little bit different for everybody.”
On Marcus Garrett:
“I love Marcus Garrett’s game. I think it’s sad that he’s playing on one leg out there. No one really knows it, but he is. He’s not healthy. If you saw the other day when he had the breakaway and he shy’d out of jumping and they fouled him. He can’t lift off it. But we do think that this is an important week for him to try to get closer to where he can be 90 percent for the tournament. Because his 90 percent defensively is pretty darn good. I do think that some of the effectiveness that he’s had earlier in the year scoring the ball, teams have tried to take that away. Now teams are daring him to shoot, let’s just call it like it is, they’re daring him to shoot. At Oklahoma he goes 0-for-5 from three, but I told him after the game, ‘that’s what you need to do. You’ve got to take what they give you, or we’re not going to advance by playing four against five.’ I like where Marcus is from a mindset standpoint. I just don’t think his health is near as good as what we’d hoped this far into the season.”
On if Garrett could get to 100 percent this season:
“I don’t know. Even (head athletic trainer) Bill (Cowgill) doesn’t know. By NCAA Tournament time, we don’t know. But we hope he’s much close than what he has been.”
On his assessment of his team’s defensive status heading into the post season:
“I think that we can be a good defensive team and I think we can be an awful defensive team. I think we’ve shown potential to be both. I think so much of it, when we’re good, is an energy, turned-up standpoint and we’re in attack mode as opposed to being on our heels so to speak. We’ve had other teams, really good teams, that have done that. Even some of the other teams we’ve had in the past that weren’t turned up all the time, which is impossible to be all the time; the soundness, the fundamentals, the ability to cover for eachother, is still prevalent. So other teams wouldn’t get easy looks because of that. This year’s team, when we’re not turned up, we’re not sound enough or old enough or mature enough yet to say, ‘okay this is we guard every action.’ I think potentially we can be really, really effective defensively, but I also think so much of it is just being turned up. When you’re turned up your mistakes aren’t amplified, but when you’re not, they are. And we make too many mistakes not to be turned up. The other thing defensively we haven’t done very well at all this year is – how many times has a team scored with two seconds on the shot clock. It’s unbelievable. We don’t finish possessions. So you play great for 27 (seconds) and then a breakdown. That’s what we can’t have moving forward.”
On if any players can finish the season like Malik Newman did last season:
“I hope so. I hope any of our guys could. Malik was MVP of the Big 12 Tournament and MVP of the Midwest Region. He was the hottest player in the country. So I’m hoping somebody can become that. What I see though is more of a collective effort than an individual effort.”
On playing close to home for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament:
“People have said that we may not be playing close. To be honest, I don’t care. But if you’re a No. 3 seed, we’re going to be playing close. If you’re a No. 4 seed, the chances are you’re probably going play close. ‘Close’ meaning Des Moines or Tulsa, but it’s not a definite. If you’re a No. 1 or No. 2 (seed), it’s a lock. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We could certainly fall out of favor with that. Our league is basically the No. 1 league in the country top to bottom, even though people won’t say that, that’s what all the numbers say – even the modern numbers that we’re starting to use this year. You look at a situation where we’ve played the hardest schedule in the country, we have more quadrant one wins then anybody, we have an opportunity to get three more quadrant one wins this week – so does everyone else in the country. It would be hard to put us too far down if we’re leading the country in quadrant one wins and have played the hardest schedule. I don’t really care, but I don’t buy in that we’re probably travelling. I think whether or not we travel will be determined on how we play this week.”
On how important it is to get a NCAA Tournament bid in the Midwest Region and in Kansas City:
“We’ve been to the Sweet 16 in Kansas City and have gotten beat in the Elite Eight. Would I like that? Absolutely. But the reality of that happening, that probably won’t be. You wouldn’t want to put us as a No. 4 seed in Kansas City where there’s a No. 1 seed, potentially. That wouldn’t be fair to the No. 1 seed. I get that that’s probably not going to happen. We’ll see. Who knows?”
On if there are any updates on the roster this week:
“No. There’s no movement and it’s not going to move back. There’s really no reason to ask anymore. Enough time has passed where we won’t have any roster changes moving forward.”



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