Self previews Sooners, Big 12 play at weekly presser
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self discussed the Big 12 and the what it will take for his team to claim its 15th-consecutive league title at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse. Self also previewed the Jayhawks’ conference opener against the Oklahoma Sooners, set for Wednesday night in Lawrence.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
Head Coach Bill Self
How much do you emphasize a fast start to Big 12 play:
“We haven’t talked like that. We haven’t really talked about the conference season except a little bit after Christmas, before we played Eastern Michigan and a little bit after the game and I didn’t see them yesterday.
I don’t know if you talk about the league race getting off to a fast start. You just talk about playing well early. It’s such a long grind, 18 games is a long time. You don’t want to put too much emphasis on one game but in the big picture it certainly behooves you to get off to a good start.”
On practices during the breaks:
“We really haven’t had the chance to get into that as much as you would think. We had a week of practice before Arizona State, well, almost a week, we had South Dakota in there but we really didn’t add anything. Since we’ve been back, we’ve added a little bit. The majority of the practice sessions come from this point forward. We don’t start school until the (January) 22nd. The first couple practices getting back are review, get back in shape, review what you already know. Really, you still by NCAA rules, have to give them off a day a week, even during the break time, which I don’t understand. The reality of it is, we are just now getting into the practice time. I think we’ll know a lot more in the next 10 to 12 days. That will be our best practice sessions, I hope.”
On Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson complementing each other:
“I think it would help a lot if we made some shots from the perimeter, so you can stretch the defense a little bit. I think Dedric can play around anybody. People will look at is and say ‘well he didn’t do much with Doke in the game’ but they (Eastern Michigan) played zone and we played him (Dedric) at the high post so he didn’t get as many chances to score underneath because he is so good in the high post area. Eastern Michigan (with the zone) doesn’t count. We’ll get to see more starting Wednesday (against Oklahoma) with those guys playing together. When you look at it and with Dedric’s production and whoever is playing that (No.) four spot, when Doke was out, even when Dedric was producing big time and you look at Doke and Dedric together, you’ll still see us being much better with both those guys in there together but you will also see Dedric’s numbers go down a little bit just because he won’t get as many opportunities in tight.”
On David McCormack:
“He’s really bright. I think he’s figuring it out how he can really contribute defensively and also playing more under control offensively. Against Arizona State he played really, really well and then he had one bad play in the second half which was big play when he runs down a loose ball and tries to go one against three and ends up getting (his shot) blocked which led to points for the other team.
I think he’s starting to figure that stuff out. We’re going to need his size and rebounding in there. We’re not a good rebounding team. If I was going to pick one area I wish we were better at, thinking we would be going into the season, would be rebounding. We’re only about plus-four, which isn’t a great number regardless who you are playing.”
On the winning the Big 12 regular-season title:
“The freshmen haven’t hit the wall yet. They’ll hit it here in late January or early February. They all do at some point in time. We’ll talk about those things and we actually did a little bit after the Eastern Michigan game. We haven’t talked to the group what it takes to win the league. We haven’t talked about that but we will certainly focus in on that, the things you have to do to be consistently good over a span of two and a half months, which isn’t easy to do. You need to be even keel. There will be peaks and valleys but they don’t need to be spikes. They don’t need to be like the December market. It needs to be something that you kind of grind through it but you can’t pass up opportunities to take advantage of good nights, good situations. I just looked at the OU game from last year when we played in Norman. We played great, had a nine point lead in the second half. You have to win that game and we didn’t. Those are the types of things, you have to take advantage of winning those close games when you get an opportunity to because there will be a lot of them.”
On veterans talking to the team on their own time about the Big 12 season:
“Lagerald (Vick) actually did some after the coaches left the room. Lagerald, Mitch (Lightfoot) and Doke (Udoka Azubuike) and I guess Marcus (Garrett) a little bit are the only guys we have that have participated in something like we are about to go through. I think they will do a good job helping. Charlie (Moore), K.J. (Lawson) and Dedric (Lawson) have seen it firsthand but they didn’t experience it. I think we will be understanding on what it takes to win. That doesn’t mean you are going to play well. There are certain possessions that are far more valuable than others. There’s also a different intensity level that you have to be prepared for and it is much harder to win away from home in conference play than in non-conference because the conference games mean more.”
On Devon Dotson:
“I think as good as he has done, I think he could get more assists. I think he could create easier baskets for Doke and Dedric than what he is doing right now. He’s done a good job getting downhill but I think simple plays – feeding the post, outside hand, or whatever – those will be things he’ll get better on as he continues to move forward.”
On Oklahoma being 11-1:
“Statistically, they are very good defensively. They are a very good rebounding team. They are bigger than what you think. When you can play (Brady) Manek at the four and (Jamuni) McNeace at the five, that’s as tall as anybody in our league. They’ve got big wings and a couple of guards that are new that create pace and are hard to pressure. They have a good team. Christian James has taken his game to the next level. As of right now, he would have to be the most improved player in our league, based on where he was. Even though he was a good player last year, he’s a terrific player. He’s definitely a first team all-leaguer.”
On what looks different about Christian James:
“Maybe confidence. Maybe freedom but certainly being able to go get his own on his own and every time he shoots the ball you think it’s going in. He looks awfully good to me and everybody else.”
On Quentin Grimes scoring late vs. Eastern Michigan and the value of that:
“I think so. He had 16 (points), seven in the first half. He made a couple threes, attacked the hole. I thought he did some good things. I do think there is value. You’re not going to expect a guy to come out and make every shot but he’s due to have one of those games where he gets on a little bit of a roll. The other night he played more minutes and he’s been practicing better. I see him having some confidence and positive momentum moving into the league.”
On how Udoka Azubuike responded from playing his first game since the ankle injury:
“I’m not going to approach it like there is anything wrong at all. He played and looked like he was close to 100 percent. This is 48 hours later so why wouldn’t he be even better.
I thought he did good. He made a lot of baskets in tight but that’s what he does. I didn’t think he jumped like he is capable of. He mistimed a couple of dunks that he’s normally make. I thought he did terrific. I thought he moved his feet well. The biggest concern with him is conditioning.”
On KU and OU playing tough schedules and does it help Oklahoma coming to Allen Fieldhouse:
“Sure. Oklahoma should have confidence. They won at Northwestern. They beat Notre Dame on a neutral floor in New York. They have other wins that are impressive. They beat USC on a neutral court. They played unbelievable against Wichita State, had them down 30 something. Even though it was in Oklahoma City, it was somewhat neutral. They should be on a serious uptick right now. And you could tell their guys are having fun playing with each other. They really share the ball well.”
On Lon Kruger:
“Lon is one of the most respected guys in our business. He can really coach and that has been evident everywhere he’s been – K-State, Pan American, Florida, Vegas (UNLV) and OU, an NBA head coach and NBA assistant coach in between. He’s one of the most liked, and he’s easy to like because he’s such a good dude, but he’s one of the best tacticians. I think he does a good job as anybody in playing mismatches. I think he and Jay Wright (Villanova) do about as good a job as anybody with that, playing to switches and mismatches. He’s good and OU will always be good. People say last year was a down year but heck they still went to the NCAA Tournament. It wasn’t a down year. Our league was good. He can really coach.”
On what record will win the Big 12 race:
“I’ll say what I say every year, 14-4 will win it outright, 13-5 will tie it. I think that’s what I always say.”
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