Self previews Tech, talks league race at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With his team’s two biggest games up to this point in the season coming up over the next four days, Kansas head coach Bill Self met with the media Thursday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse to discuss the upcoming stretch. Self discussed the rematch with Texas Tech on Saturday, the Big 12 race as the schedule heads into its final weeks, and the status of sophomore Marcus Garrett, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On if the Texas Tech game will have a ‘big game’ feel:
“I think it will for sure. It’s a huge game for both teams. It doesn’t necessarily put an exclamation point on where your season will finish based on the outcome, but it would certainly benefit the one (winner) greatly and put them in position to maybe play for something (a conference title). It is certainly a huge game. It’s probably fitting that both teams get a week off, so there are absolutely no excuses from anybody. Both teams have had ample time to prepare and everything. It’s going to be fun.”
On practices and noticing the importance of this game:
“I would say we had a good week of practice. I don’t know if I want them totally jacked on Monday for a Saturday game. We practiced Monday and Tuesday and yesterday was just film and we’ll practice hard today and tomorrow. We’ve had good workouts.”
On how expects the four freshman starters will handle the big-game atmosphere:
“I’m always hopeful for a good start. It will be a different feel for them. They’ve experienced some of that, at least Ochai (Agbaji), Quentin (Grimes) and Devon (Dotson) have. David (McCormack) hasn’t really had much experience in that starting. It will be a little bit different. It will be a great atmosphere, I’m sure. You come to places like this to play in big games and this is obviously one of the biggest games we’ve had in the regular season for a while and it will probably be the biggest game of our season until Monday (vs. Kansas State). That 48 hours is going to be really important for our program and this particular team.”
On the keys to surviving this two-game stretch at Texas Tech and vs. Kansas State:
“I don’t know if we will use the term survive. The key to having success is you worry about Saturday. You don’t even think about Monday. You worry about Saturday and after Saturday is complete, regardless of outcome, then you’ve got to totally retool them. We won’t get back here until probably two in the morning. And then you have a 30-minute prep day for K-State the next day. And we’ll start worrying about that whenever the horn sounds in Lubbock, but not until then.”
On what Texas Tech has done in winning its last four games:
“I think they’re just beating the crap out of people. They’re blowing people out. It appears to me they’re more aggressive on the offensive end as far as taking quick shots and more guys shooting threes. (Brandone) Francis has been on somewhat of a roll. They’re getting it from different people. (Matt) Mooney has been on fire since we played them. I think he was 5-for-5 one game from three. And they still boast probably the, he (Culver) or Jaxson Hayes (of Texas), the highest (NBA) drafted guys in our league if either one of them choose to come out. They have a good team, but defensively is what they hang their hat on and it seems like to me they have been really turned up the last few games.”
On how he plans to play disruptive defense against Texas Tech:
“We’ll just do what we’ve been doing. I actually thought we guarded them really well the first time. We did a good job in not letting them do what they want to do. Teams that run true motion are the easiest to prepare for and hardest to play because it’s hard to simulate reads. If a guy’s piggyback, you curl it. If he goes ball side, do you bump and fade it. It’s hard to simulate those type of deals in practice. So you think, we’re just going to guard motion. Motion is the hardest thing to guard if you really know what you’re doing. And they are getting better and better as the season goes on. They know what they are doing and that’s the staple of their program. The biggest thing is you can eliminate what you can eliminate. You can eliminate transition. You can eliminate second chance opportunities. You can play to scouting report. You can do a lot things that can put you in a better position, regardless of who you are playing. But it still comes down to you have to guard who you are playing and you’ve really got to communicate defensively.”
On the status of Marcus Garrett:
“He went probably 50 percent of practice at a very, very slow pace on Monday. Tuesday, he probably did 80 percent of practice at a better rate, but still not close to being ready to play in a game. Yesterday was off, so I am anxious to see how he does today. Hopefully he can have a good day today and trust it a little bit. Right now, I think it is as much trust as anything. It’s hard for him to be able to explode off his left ankle.”
On Garrett’s availability for Saturday vs. Texas Tech:
“I can tell you right now, my decision is that is he going to be available. Now whether or not I play him or not, I don’t know. It will be a game-time decision on his usage, but it won’t be a game-time decision on whether he suits up. At least that’s how I see it right now.”
On what he will be watching from Garrett over the next two days in practice:
“Playing off one foot. Some guys play off two feet and some play off one. He’s a one foot player and it’s his left foot. Him being able to play off that will be a determining sign and as of the day before yesterday, he could not.”
On last year’s game in Lubbock
“That’s when Devonte’ (Graham) locked up player of the year in the league. He was great. We win the game by four, or whatever it was, and the reality of it is he scored about eight or 10 points in the second half that were just him making unbelievable plays. We’re going to have to have somebody else do that as well. When you play really defense, you’ve got to rely on players to go make individual plays and Devonte’ did that for us last year.”
On if the success in the first KU-TTU match up this season can help his team in this game:
“Yeah, I hope so. I also know that they watched the first game, too. So they’ll make adjustments on how they want to do different things. It will be interesting to see how Chris (Beard) does that. We played four guards the entire time in that first game and we’re definitely going to try and play two bigs this game, so it will be a little bit different for both of us.”
On if Udoka Azubuike wearing warm-ups on the sideline Saturday hints at a possible return this season:
“I would say (the reason is) probably laundry. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘He’ll make a comeback, won’t he, this year?’ And I said ‘No. He’s out until June. He is out.’ I guess there’s probably some laziness. Not getting his laundry done. I don’t know. But there’s nothing with that concerning playing at all.”
On how midseason injuries can be demoralizing for teams with high expectations:
“I can’t speak to other situations, but from what I understand, those other situations (at Duke and Kentucky), and hopefully so, are short lived. So it’s not like that’s near as big of a deal as season-ending or 3-4 weeks. So let’s not try to confuse those two. For those particular moments, in those games, yes it can be demoralizing for a team, without question. But I can’t speak to whether it was or wasn’t. I didn’t even watch the game last night (Duke vs. North Carolina), but how he was injured (Duke’s Zion Williamson) is ridiculous. I’ve never seen that before. I don’t know if anybody has ever seen that before. That was a freakish and fluke-ish thing. I certainly hope that they’re both fine (Kentucky’s Reid Travis and Williamson). Nobody wishes that on anybody. But let’s not get them confused. One or two games is not season-ending. Certainly that’s a whole different deal.”
On if the win at TCU will help this team’s confidence heading into its next road game:
“I think we’ll be more confident there because we won at TCU. I would agree with that. Our road record stinks. We’re 2-6 on the year. Of course we’ve played some good road teams, but other teams in our league have played good road teams, too, and they’ve had more success. We need to go take our act on the road and play at a very high level. Even if you do that it doesn’t guarantee winning the game, but certainly it puts you in a position to win the game. That’s what we believe and hope the position that we’ll be in on Saturday.”
On the Big 12 race as it stands today:
“I think it’s crazy. I thought it was even crazier when Baylor went up and won at Ames. That’s the question right there: What if they would’ve had (Baylor’s Makai) Mason that last four games or last three games? That’s the question. They could easily be leading the league. I didn’t watch the game (Baylor at ISU) but I thought, obviously Baylor has a very good road record, I thought it was a tremendous win. It puts five teams in the mix that means they have a shot. Things will have to go perfect for teams to finish. But I think, four (losses) will win it. That’s obvious because even if K-State were to lose another game, they still tie for the championship so that’s a given. Four is a guarantee to win it, or at least tie for it. Five (losses) could be reality as well. You just don’t know. But certainly if five is a reality, then you have five teams with a chance to win it. But K-State is still way in the driver’s seat right now and they deserve to be. I think the play Baylor at home and of course they come here, but they’ve already played twice against Iowa State and Texas Tech. If you look at it, everybody in that top-five, each has two games left against each other. But that probably won’t determine it. What will determine it is how everyone does against everybody else. Because everybody else can be everyone, too.”
On how this teams has handled the pressure of continuing the Big 12 titles streak:
“I have not brought that up one time. Not one time this year. We have with more experienced teams. But I have not brought that up. I think all that would do would just add some pressure to them. Injuries are never excuses, they’re not. So let’s not get into that. But I think the young kids are doing pretty good considering who we’re not playing with. There’s no reason to add any pressure to what they’re already doing.”
On if his defensive philosophy has changed with the increase in 3-pointers in college basketball:
“We don’t do a great job of this, but I think you’ve got to do a better job in many ways of defending the three. A lot of it is philosophy and how you think things should be defended. My personal opinion is – I’m not as big on 3-point field goal percentage as I am on field goal percentage as a whole. But when you stop and break it down and your effective field goal percentage is probably the most important thing. If you go 2-for-6 and your 33 percent, that’s the same as going 50 percent from two. It’s obviously important. We’re a team that’s had more threes shot against us than most teams in the league, if I’m not mistaken. That’s not always something I’ve emphasized – Make them but the ball down (and drive) in large part because we don’t have shot blockers behind them. We like to pressure, don’t get me wrong. We’re still more of a containment type team, but I’ve never been comfortable just running at guys. Because I’ve always thought that puts your big guys at risk. As you continue to move forward, our team is probably doing more of that than we used to, and we should probably do more of that to be more aggressive in that regard. Three-point field goal percentage is also a little misleading defensively, because it depends on who you’re playing too. So when you look at 3-point field goal percentage – defense or offense – just look at conference games. Don’t look at nonconference. Nonconference skews it in a way that make it hard to compare apples and oranges. And we’ve now played enough conference games that you can get a true indication of where teams are on both ends.”
On if there is an update on Lagerald Vick’s status:
“No. No news to report on that front.”



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