Self talks matchup with Bears at weekly presser

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media Thursday for his weekly press conference to discuss his team’s final contest of the regular season, a matchup with the Baylor Bears on Saturday, March 9. Self talked about his team’s mindset moving forward after the streak of 14-straight conference titles was snapped, as well as how he feels Kansas stands in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee as it moves closer to postseason play.
A video of the press conference is available on ESPN+ and a full transcript is below.
On if this season has flown by:
“No (laughter). Some years do fly by. This one has had a little bit more, there have been some weeks I wish would have gone by a little faster than other weeks. It’s still been a fun year. There has been more going on this year. The last regular-season game is upon us and it has always gone by fast, but it seems like maybe this year maybe not as fast as some prior ones.”
On if this team has more to prove in the league tournament after coming up short of the regular-season title:
“I’ve always thought we were pretty motivated going into the (Big 12) tournament. I think the 14 times we’ve won the league, eight times we won the tournament. We’ve always said, ‘When you won the league now it’s time to go validate what you just did.’ We don’t get a chance to say that (this year). I think our guys will be as motivated as they ever have been, without question. But I’m not sure it will be more so than past years. We’ve had some pretty competitive teams in the past that loved to win no matter what the situation was. This team will be fired up. The one thing about tournaments that’s so good, is its new life for everybody. It’s a fresh start. Everybody has a chance. Everybody has an opportunity and people are playing for high stakes. We could be playing for a seed. Another team could be playing to validate. Another team could be playing for an entrance into the (NCAA) tournament or postseason. So everybody has something to play for at this time of year.”
On if Udoka Azubuike will be a better player from watching this year and simply observing?
“No. I don’t see how you could be better by just sitting and observing. Now, if he could do anything with his hand, guys, he still has the screw in his hand. He can’t even take his cast off when he walks to class as long as there is ice on the sidewalk because there is always a risk he could slip or do something. He has absolutely zero contact. As of today, the only thing he can do with his cast off is walk. I don’t see how guys could get better. He’s limited in the weight room. There’s so many things that he has been so limited on that it would be hard to get better. What you would be hoping for would be maintaining. He’ll be a better player next year than he would have been this year, not because of that, just because he’ll be a year older. He’s still real young. I doubt we’ll get a chance to witness that though.”
On if he has had discussions with some players about turning pro:
“No. I haven’t talked to one person about anything past this season at all. I will when the season is over, but there is no reason to do that right now, in my eyes.”
On what sets Allen Fieldhouse apart from other arenas:
“We get a lot of credit for having the best home court, and we do, and there are two reasons why we have the best home court. A: We are close (to) or at capacity every game and there is a history to that. And B: Everybody talks about a home court and it takes away from the fact that we’ve got really good players. The best home courts are the ones that have the best home players playing on it. The hardest places to win are when we go and the other team has a better five (players) than you. Those are the hardest places to win. I give our fans a ton of credit for being the sixth man and help pull us through, but we’ve had some pretty hard-rocking cats out there over the years as well. I don’t think it’s just the fact we are playing in Allen Fieldhouse on James Naismith Court. I think that’s part of it, but I also think we’ve has some pretty good players, too.”
On what it would mean for this team to have an undefeated home record:
“I think that is one thing we can look at for motivation, to be able to run the table at home. We lost three at home last year and that was a Final Four team. Lost three at home and the last home loss was to Oklahoma State. We are at 20 (wins). To think in one year we are fourth-longest winning streak at home is pretty good. Now, we’ve won 69-straight at home. We’ve had some pretty good runs, but for this team to run the table would be great. Baylor has been nipping at us pretty hard the last several games we’ve played them at home. They’ve always come ready to play. Scott (Drew) has done a great job this year. They had a tough loss last night but he’s done a marvelous job considering all the crap they’ve dealt with too. But, yes, that would mean a lot for this team to run the table at home.”
On if this conference season has been wilder than in past years:
“Yes, but it seems like to me it’s wild every year. I think it’s been a wild year. I also think that West Virginia is a heck of a lot better than its record. I think Oklahoma State could have easily won at (Texas) Tech, even though they played great to put it into overtime. They could have easily beat us in Stillwater. And that game last night (OSU def. Baylor) was the same game as the other two. They made all the plays down the stretch and everything. I think they are a good team. They’re a dangerous team. I don’t know how it plays out. The only thing that is not decided yet in the pairings for the (Big 12) tournament are the one and two seeds because you could still have that change, and then the nine and 10 (seeds). But other than that, it’s pretty well locked in. You stop and think about those teams playing that first day on Wednesday and, man, those are some good teams.
On David McCormack putting it together and maybe building into a Silvio De Sousa-type player
“I hope so. I get a kick out of you guys (media) when a guy makes two baskets, he’s really starting to put it together and on a roll. I thought that David played by far his best game offensively against OU. He scored 18 points. I thought they were real points, there wasn’t a lot of garbage to it. He played the way we hoped he would play. I do think he is on an uptick, without question.”
On Ochai Agbaji’s play as of late as compared to a month ago:
“I actually think that what he did at Oklahoma State, when he went 3-of-8 from 3-(point range) and hadn’t made a shot in a week and then, in Norman, although he was 1-of-7, they were all good looks, they were all shots we wanted him to take. I think his confidence is pretty high. I think he hadn’t shot the ball particularly well – what was he, 4-of-15 last week – which is nothing to write home about, but that’s pretty good for a young kid to get off 15 3s in two games. I think there’s some positives to that, that he’s playing the right away, even if the ball is not going in the basket as much.”

On the significance of winning at home on Senior Day:
“Well, it won’t have as much significance this year, obviously, since we don’t have a (senior) player – Lagerald (Vick) is not going to be with us on Saturday. So it won’t have as much significance. The thing about Senior Day, is, to me, that day everybody buys into it. You forget about your role, you forget about your own, personal expectations; you forget about all of that and you make Senior Day about the players who are playing their last (regular-season) home game. That’s what I’ve been telling them all along too. ‘Dedric, your job is to get 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] but your job is to make sure that he goes out in style. I’ve always said that, to all my teams. And everybody has bought into that, because that is their one special day. This year is obviously going to be different since we don’t have one (a senior) suiting up. But it’s great to win your last regular-season game. I guess we’ve done it the majority of the time at home, but we’ve also not done it when we’ve played at other people’s Senior Days. It’s a fun day, but this year will be different than what it has been in years past.”

Reflecting upon Lagerald Vick’s three-plus years as a Kansas men’s basketball player:
“We won three leagues and won 10 games in the NCAA Tournament in three years. There’s not too many players in the country who can say that and he’s played a role in that. Certainly, he got better over time. People should remember Lagerald in a very favorable way, no question. He’s going through some stuff right now, which I think he’s doing well. I think it’s good that he was able to take care of that and address it and he’s working through whatever personal things that he’s got going. I’m excited for him to be better, however that better’ is, and for him to take this as a foundation to still go on and do great things after he leaves from here. I think he graduates next week; I think he finishes his last class next week and he only needed one to graduate. So I’m excited for him for that as well.”

On if Vick became what the coaches thought he could be when they recruited him:
“I actually think that Lagerald became better than what we envisioned when we were recruiting him. A lot better. And then after he got real good, then my expectations of that changes and I think there were times when he did play to that very high level and times where he didn’t. But that’s pretty much the case with everybody; we’ve got good and not-so-good moments and he certainly had his share of good moments for us.”
On if Vick is ruled out for playing the rest of the season due to the late date:
“Uh, no, but you ask a good question, Gary (Bedore, The Kansas City Star). Based on the late date, we’re going on a month, so there’s not a lot of time to come back. And we’re pretty set in what we’re doing. I’m not going to make that decision right now, today, because I don’t know. But I would say that with each passing day, it’s less likely.”

On what he sees from the team’s offense, big-picture wise, right now:
“We haven’t shot it well as of late. I actually think that our offense against Oklahoma was better than the stats indicated because we were like 5-of-29 going into the last two or three minutes. We got a lot of good looks, we just didn’t make them. In order for us to run a good offense, we’re going to have to shoot a decent percentage from there (3-point arc) because that’s what teams are going to give us, because they’re going pack the paint. I think it’s been average. I didn’t think it was poor at all against Oklahoma State, I thought we got what we wanted. I would be much more concerned about the other end than the offensive end.”

On how the postseason factors into being a “fresh start” for all teams, including his own:
“I don’t know that it’s good, that it’s negative. I do think it helps when you have guys from the past that can talk to their guys about what’s getting ready to happen. We’ve only got two players that have experienced it and they weren’t in prominent-role-type situations in Mitch (Lightfoot) and Marcus (Garrett). I think it will be a good reset for us. I’m going to change my position on this because the Big 12 Tournament is important. It’s important for seeding for us. It’s not as important as what some people say it is. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to go win it and those things, but that pales in comparison to the importance of the following week, obviously.”

On any characteristics and/or weaknesses on this year’s team that kept it from getting to the regular-season champion level:
“Well, we haven’t played the tournament yet. But yeah, I think there’s some reasons: I think maturity is one, I think distractions is another and those are things that you don’t really change. The distractions we had, I’m not sure you can eliminate those. If it was distractions on judgment and things like that, then, yeah, that’s another thing you can eliminate. These are distractions, whether it be health; decisions made by a third party; obviously, some personal things; those things are hard to navigate and deal with. I think those are probably reasons why, as much as anything – guys, our margin for error isn’t what it used to be. Going to win on the road is a huge win. Like going to Morgantown, up six (points) with two (minutes) left; that’s what I’m going to look back on. If you watch Texas play at home or you watch K-State play at home or you watch (Texas) Tech play at home, or Iowa State play at home or Oklahoma; Oklahoma’s been like this. Even though they handled us the other night, they were a really good basketball team the other night. We would have had to play great to win that game, or even be in that game. We had to make them play poorly (in order to win). That’s what this team has not done. It’s not so much how we play, it’s how we make other teams play. That’s probably the reason why we didn’t have a better opportunity to win the league this year, to be quite candid.”
On Ochai Agbaji’s comment after the Oklahoma game that when things go badly for the team, players start trying to do more individually:
“All year long. But that’s not selfishness, that’s leadership. That’s intangibles. Who wouldn’t say It’s starting to fall apart with your business or whatever and who wouldn’t say I really care about this, I can fix this, and go try to help everybody else out. But when you go to help everybody else out that way, maybe it doesn’t complement what other people are trying to do. That’s more what it is. It’s relying on each other. That does happen quite often with experience. Some kids are more experienced than others. I look at our freshmen as no longer freshmen; they’ve played enough that they’re no longer freshmen. But, still yet, they’re going through some things that are firsts for most of them.”

On what it means that Ochai recognizes that is what is happening within his own team:
“I would say no (not all guys recognize that). But Och is a really bright kid. He’s probably tried to be as much of a leader as anyone can be. Without being remotely negative, you’ve got a guy who’s played 12 games this year, who came out of a redshirt (in the middle of the season) and who wasn’t highly recruited, saying, ‘OK, guys, come on Dedric (Lawson), follow me.’ That’s a little bit different, but he’s trying. Devon (Dotson) is trying to do it in his own way. Dedric, I think, is the best we’ve got, without question, from a positive and talking (standpoint) and everything. With that being said, and this isn’t being negative, Frank (Mason III) didn’t develop that overnight and neither did Devonte’ (Graham). But, certainly, we have potential to have one or two of those guys in our midst, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
On what makes Baylor such a good rebounding team:
“Mark Vital. He’s the best rebounder in our league. The best offensive rebounder, hands down, in our league. (Freddie) Gillespie has had a great year. Baylor has always been a great rebounding team, historically. But I do think they attack the ball about as well as anybody. When we played them down there, if I’m not mistaken, Vital had eight offensive rebounds. So that’s a guy that we know can hurt you in a lot of ways. He can do damage as one man on the glass as most teams do.”
On what seeds he believes are still in play for his team in the NCAA Tournament:
“If we finish strong – so that would be being successful Saturday (vs. Baylor) and having a good showing in Kansas City (Big 12 Tournament). I think the best would probably be a No. 3 (seed). I think we could certainly not be a three very easily if we don’t finish strong. Nor would we deserve to be, if we don’t finish strong. There are a lot of things going for us, if you look at it from a committee standpoint, at least I think there are. We’ve played 17 games against quadrant one, and we’re 10-7. That ties for the most quadrant one wins in the country. Even though our record is 22-8, we’ve played by far the hardest schedule in the country. They (the committee) always take that into account. I remember we played the hardest schedule in the country my second year here, and if you remember we kind of fizzled down the stretch. Keith (Langford) got hurt and we fizzled. We got a No. 3 seed that year, and to be honest with you, the reason we got a three was because of the schedule we played. I think that will probably help us, but if we don’t finish strong then that (No. 3 seed) is off the table. A No. 4 seed could be off the table if we don’t finish strong. But the reality of it is, the way I see this, you’re not competing for a No. 1 or a No. 2 and that’s always been the interest level for me going into the tournament – Will we be a one or a two? We’ve been a No. 1 eight of the last 12 years and three of those other years we were a two and that other year, we were a three. When you’re in the boat that we’re in with so many schools right now, I think you just try to finish the season as strong as possible and not hope for the best seed, hope for the best matchups.”
On if the wins that Kansas had Azubuike and Vick available should be taken into account on Selection Sunday:
“They’ve got to count. You don’t eliminate something. Michigan State lost to us. So if you eliminate that as a win for us, do you eliminate that as a loss for them? You can’t do both. I think that we’ll get credit for it but I also think they’ll look at what your team is today and how you have played with your team today. So that could certainly effect it as well.”
On if an NCAA Tournament site further from Lawrence might be a refreshing change:
“Yeah I think so. We should be talking about this next week, but the reality of it is – where they send us is good. If they send us close, fans, easier, all that stuff, that’s good. If they don’t, that’s fine too. Sometimes you’re better off being away from any potential distractions. Our people do a great job in eliminating the distractions the best they can regardless of where we play. To be candid with you, I’ve always looked at it as, wouldn’t it be great to go to Wichita, and move on from there. This year, Des Moines and Tulsa are the closest and it’d be great to be at either place, but if we’re not, welcome to the real world, because we’ve had it pretty good (in recent years).



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