Self previews contest with Mountaineers at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self discussed his team’s upcoming match up with the West Virginia Mountaineers at his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. Self also talked about his team’s improvement over the break between semesters, as well as the areas he believes the Jayhawks still need to address.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On if he watched Iowa State’s win over Texas Tech:
“I did not watch one play. I saw the ticker and said I would follow it on the ticker. I didn’t watch one possession. It’s too early in the season to be hopeful on something happening. I really thought (Texas) Tech was a team that would be hard for anybody to beat them anywhere, so that win that Iowa State had was the most impressive win so far in our league.”
On West Virginia’s defensive pressure and if it has regressed since last season:
“Look who they lost. They lost (Sagaba) Konate, who’s the best shot blocker, maybe in the country. And then (Jevon) Carter and (Daxter) Miles were probably the two best on-pressure ball defenders on the same team than anyone in the country. I don’t know about Konate’s status but he’s been hurt. It’s not the same personnel pressing but they are still doing different things; picking up full (court) almost every possession. But it’s not as much of an attack-type pressure as what it was in the past years. Pressure that has given up problems over times, especially at their place.”
On freshmen deferring to veterans in his program:
“I would say that happens quite a bit. Everybody says they want the pressure, at least initially. But when you actually experience the pressure it’s nice to have some veterans that you can lean on, shoulder for you. I do think that happens a lot. I think it’s sorted out by the players without me or the staff educating them on exactly how to sort it out. They kind of figure it out, who’s best in certain situations and this is what the coaches want. Or this is where he can really take over. I will say this, we have encouraged our freshmen this year and other players have to, to be much more aggressive in certain situations.”
On holiday break progress:
“I think it’s been a little bit different this year. I think we’ve gotten better but I also think the first part of it we thought we had Udoka (Azubuike) and now the last part we know we haven’t. The NCAA rules have changed so much with practice. We started playing games earlier. We played our first conference game on January second. Usually that’s not until January fifth or seventh, so you could have more practice days in there. Once you start playing games this time of year, we’re practicing for an hour and a half a day. At least we do and that may be long, especially when you are playing certain guys a lot of minutes. An hour and a half a day when you still have to give them a required day off, where there can be nothing basketball related, you don’t have as much time as what you think you can spend. I guess you can have more time in the film room. Keeping them off their feet is something you have to do for the betterment of your team and then you are eliminating a day and your starting conference games sooner. So basically you are getting two days to prepare for conference games on average and that’s not an easy thing to do to put in a lot of new stuff. I think we’ve gotten better but I don’t think we’ve had the same intensity during the holidays as what we’ve had the past years.”
On if he has tempered his expectations for improvement given practice restrictions over break:
“Not really. Yesterday we practiced for 45 minutes because we have three or four guys playing a ton of minutes and we know we have a Saturday-Monday deal again. So we went light yesterday and obviously we’ve got to get what we need to get in for West Virginia and then today and tomorrow will be our hard days. I don’t think expectations have changed but the amount of time that we can put in has been altered a little bit because of rules and the conference season starting sooner.”
On expectations from where he thinks the team can get better:
“Where we’ve got to get better, defensive rebounding. That’s an obvious. We’ve been so good at taking care of the ball at times and poor other times, I think inconsistency as much as anything. Closing out games is something we’ve got to get better at. Have we had a lot of time to practice on those particular things, not as much as we would like.”
On how this team ranks with past teams on getting to the rim and drawing fouls:
“It’s hard to be better at it than Frank (Mason). He shot more free throws than all the guards combined. It would be hard to be better than him. I think Devon has been good all year at it. Marcus Garrett is the difference as far as getting downhill. Lagerald (Vick) is shooting more free throws even though it’s just two or three a game than he was earlier in the season. Q (Quentin Grimes), obviously, we’d like to see him do it more. We’re getting better at it. But I wouldn’t say we are terrific (at it) by any stretch.”
On how his team is defending the 3-point shot:
“I think we have actually done a good job with that. There are certain things you can do like with Texas. They obviously made eight the first half, but they didn’t get anything inside. If you look at percentages, they are shooting 32% as a team and if you are going to give up something, give up that as opposed to making runs to the rim where they throw it up like they tried to do in the second half. I thought we did a pretty good job clogging the lane. I think we can get to shooters a little bit better but a lot of that is also scouting report. Close out short or close out with no space and we didn’t do a good job with number 13. But the other guys weren’t that poor. If they make them they make them. I thought our defense was actually better, but Texas played really well.”
On Grimes as a second ball handler:
“Yeah he needs to be better at that. That is something I think he is capable of with his big body. Marcus Garret is our second-best driver. If you look at Quentin, he is a lot like Malik (Newman) last year. Nobody really felt Malik was a driver and more a stationary shooter. But when he started playing well he became unbelievable at attacking the rim for us. I think he is capable of that.”
On the severity of injuries to starters in the Big 12:
“I don’t know that I make much about it. It is disappointing for the league. But up until this point, if you take (WVU’s Sagoba) Konate, (Baylor’s Tristen) Clark and Doke (Udoka Azubuike) out of the way of their respective teams. That may be three of the best five big guys in our leagues and that changes those teams dramatically. It’s unfortunate. Injuries are a part of it but in basketball, if you take a guy out and replace him, there is just not that many replaceable guys like that. Without Doke, we have very little rim protection. It just changes the whole complexion of the team. Certainly, with Doke’s situation, it was a freaky deal and I can’t believe it’s anything more than having some unfortunate things happen.”
On West Virginia being more dangerous than their record:
“Oh yeah, they are more dangerous than their record (8-9, 0-5 Big 12). TCU took them down the other night. They could have won every game so far in league. They could have beat Tech and they obviously could have won at Texas. They had K-State down 21 at half. They could easily be 3-2 in the league, which is more probable than 0-5. Forget about records and everything, we know they are capable and hungry. (WVU head coach) Bob (Huggins) is too good not to be playing at a peak level against us.”
On if Dedric Lawson’s ball handling skills could be help against West Virginia’s pressure:
“It could. Pressure release guy, absolutely. They will still try to pressure every guy. But having a big guy like that could help. How we have really hurt West Virginia in the past is throwing it to a big guy when they are spread out like that. He has to be a low post presence for us too.”
On if the win in Morgantown last season could benefit this team:
“The one thing you can learn is that the game is never over. You can play every possession because they control the game until the six minute mark but we just hung in there. If you look at Texas Tech, they just hung in there down 21-12 in the first half and couldn’t score. Obviously, you want to get off to a good start but the lesson you want your guys to learn is it is never over and with West Virginia, we have had so many wild finishes to games and you could probably anticipate this being another one I would think.
On improving from the free throw line:
“Yeah I told them need to start shooting better free throws. What do you do on that in one day? Okay, well you’re going to shoot more. We shot more yesterday. We should be a much better free throw shooting team. Without Doke (Azubuike) you would think it (free throw percentage) would go up. The game we lost to Arizona State we were 15-16. But we need to do a better job of shooting free throws.”
On not having any dunks against Texas:
“It doesn’t matter. But it matters how many athletic plays and easy baskets you have. If you’re playing above the rim, then you have more opportunities to have offensive rebounds and keeping balls alive. We don’t have a team that really does that. That’s okay but we have to become better in other areas. We haven’t had very many teams that we can’t throw the ball up to. That’s why I was so excited about Ochai (Agbaji) because he would be the best candidate for that. Those are plays that happen randomly. They aren’t set plays. If you transition two on one you naturally just throw it up and we haven’t been very good at that.”
On having the team practicing against eight or nine players on the court vs. the normal five:
“I don’t think we’ve ever gone nine, just eight. [Media: Devon told us nine.] Oh, Devon? Maybe there was nine out there, or maybe he didn’t learn at an early age to count that high (Laughter). I thought it was only eight, but he may have felt like there were nine or 10 out there. Yeah, we have the managers step in on those particular possessions.”

On where he picked up that practice method:
“It was UAB, because it was before Mike (Anderson) went to Missouri. Every time we played against Missouri or played against Mike, we played against eight (in practice). And it always looked like crap. But it’s a lot easier playing against five after you’ve been playing against eight; or at least it should be, in theory.

“It’s just something we decided to do, I can’t remember. You can’t simulate how good their (West Virginia) press is playing against five, so, obviously, you put more (defense) out there to offset maybe not having a Carter or Miles in the backcourt.”

On being 12th in the NCAA NET rankings:
“If we take care of our business, we know we’ll get a good seed. I did check this out: our conference league is still rated the best conference by The NET. If you look at RPI, which I know people don’t look at it as much anymore, it’ll still be somewhat looked at, even though it’s not the measuring stick, like it has been in the past, because there’s such a discrepancy in the RPI and The Net. Who knows which is better? The Net, I hope it plays out to be better, because it’s obviously what we decided to do. So I hope it is better. But we’re still No. 1 in the RPI by a pretty substantial margin.”

On what it will take to limit the turnovers against West Virginia:
“We’re not going to have four turnovers against West Virginia (4 vs. Texas on Jan. 14). Well, we will, I just hope it’s not in the first three minutes. I think the big thing is that we obviously to be sound and be strong with the ball, those sorts of things. But we also need to not commit live-ball turnovers; that’s something that they’ve (West Virginia) always been good at against us, is cashing in when we commit live-ball turnovers. If you throw it out of bounds, that’s one thing, at least you can set your defense. But we don’t need to give them more opportunities to get easy baskets.”

On West Virginia freshman forward Derek Culver:
“He doesn’t start, but he’s playing a starter’s minutes – he’s playing like 27 minutes a game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do start him. He’s a guy who can score in tight. He’s got some skill too, he can make 15-footers. He puts pressure on you; because he’s so aggressive, he makes it hard not to foul him. He shot 26 free throws, I believe, in the first five games, which is quite a bit of free throws (to shoot) for anybody. He’s a load. He’s going to be a load moving forward too. He’ll be one of the better players in our league for a while.”

On the team’s post defense:
“I didn’t think (ours against) Texas was poor, but Texas didn’t try to score inside much. But that’s something that we have to continue to work on and get better (at).”

On if he’s seen any evidence of defensive improvement:
“I think our defense, as a whole, has gotten better. I think stats would prove out that, except for defensive rebounding. I think we’ve gotten better at it, but the last two games, Texas we jammed the lane quite a bit, so they didn’t throw it inside much and Baylor didn’t have Clark. So it’s probably hard to tell (if there’s been improvement) until we play against some guys who play inside-out.”

On the team’s most difficult matchup right now, whether it be a skilled big who can attack and score inside or another player/position:
“Anytime that you have a skilled big who can attack and score inside is probably going to be a hard matchup. But I would say a powerful big that could really post Dedric deep would probably be something that could certainly give us some issues. No question.”

On if there is any news on Silvo De Sousa:
“I don’t have any Silvio news as of today. None.”



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