Bill Self previews Oklahoma State
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self met with members of the media inside the Allen Fieldhouse media room for his weekly press conference, where he broke down this weekend’s opponent, Oklahoma State.
Q. The last few days, people have asked you about resting Frank Mason III. Is that something you’ve always done in the past with guys, or depending on the player or the length of the bench?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think a lot of it depends on the player. Like if he was a freshman or a sophomore and needed reps or whatnot, you’d probably need to get them. But I don’t think that’s any big news that you want to maybe cut back your practice time a little bit for a guy that’s playing 37 minutes a game.
And we can do that. We can do that. The way the schedule is set up, we play two games a week from here on out, and you’ve got to take one day off. And we’ll figure out a way to squeeze in another half day or a full day and cut our minutes back in practice.
So he won’t think he’s getting any favors. I mean, because he’s going to do the same thing basically everybody else does. But I do know that will probably benefit him over time.
Q. Is Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans one of the quicker guys on the team you’ll face?
COACH SELF: Yeah, (Evans) is one of the best players we’ll face, too. I’ve been watching tape, and so good coming off ball screens, especially going to his right. He’s a great off-balance shooter. He can get all the way to the hole. He didn’t beat us by himself last year. Their team collectively whipped us pretty good.
But he was by far the best player in the game when we played in Stillwater last year. You know, he can get 25 any night, he’s prove especially. He’s gotten 40 in a game. (Phil) Forte can get 25 in any night; he’s done that, and (Jeffrey) Carroll can get 25 in any night; he’s done that. They have got three guys in the perimeter that can really score the ball.
Q. Playing at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, on their home court, is that more difficult for you, in that it’s hard to get that edge?
COACH SELF: I think that coaches know. Like we knew going to Norman – that was going to be a really hard game. They are better than their record.
But on the flipside, they were also due to have a good stretch and they did. In the first half, I would best that’s probably the best half of basketball they have played this year, at least the last ten minutes of the half. Of course, how could you not say that; they outscored us 22-4.
But Oklahoma State is even a little more different than OU. Oklahoma State basically lost a one-possession game at Baylor. They beat Wichita State […] in Wichita. It was an away game and beat them by 15 or 18, whatever it was.
West Virginia got them pretty good, but when West Virginia plays well, they can knock anybody out. And the game last night, Iowa State, they led by four with six minutes left.
(Oklahoma State is) right there. They are better than their record. So those are the games that are most concerning is when players may look at something and they may see 0-4, but the reality of it is, they could easily be 2-2 or 3-1 very easily, and that’s with playing a very difficult schedule thus far. Everybody in our league plays a hard schedule, but there’s a couple of teams that have played harder schedules than everybody to date. I would think that Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have probably played the hardest schedules that anybody’s played.
Q. Getting a lot of offensive rebounds, scoring a lot of turnovers. How much are they like West Virginia and how are they different?
COACH SELF: I think that some ways they are alike. I don’t think they are going to press as much relentlessly. I think they will press some, where West Virginia, they will press after a miss. I mean, they will just go trap the ball wherever it is, and I don’t think Oklahoma State will probably do that as much. But Oklahoma State will probably pressure just as much as West Virginia in the halfcourt.
And offensively, they do something totally different. Brad (Underwood) is running, you know, the old Johnny Orr offense, Dana Altman perfected it at Creighton, and they are doing a great job. He ran it at Stephen F. Austin, and they are doing a great job with it in Stillwater. But it’s different if you’ve never seen it, which we haven’t. It could really trip you up.
So I’m glad we got a couple of days to prepare for them. But I think there are some similarities in philosophy: Pressure, turn people over, create extra possessions, those type of things. The way they go about it is a little bit different.
Q. What kind of an advantage is that to step in and have a guy like Jawun (Evans) waiting there?
COACH SELF: This is not – this is just a fact. Travis (Ford, former OSU head coach) drew a short straw last year with (Phil) Forte and (Jawun) Evans being out. You’ve got arguably the two leading scorers in the backcourt in the league and you don’t have either one of them.
And then Brad (Underwood) was able to inherit that, plus a kid, (Jeffrey) Carroll, who has really gotten much better this year with the new system or whatever the case would be.
So I think he benefitted from that without question. I think he’d be the first to tell you that. I know we won more games when I got here because (Wayne) Simien, (Keith) Langford and (Aaron) Miles were still here. That’s kind of how it goes sometimes.
But certainly, Evans, when he’s playing well — and you know, he’s been nicked-up just a little bit this year. But when he’s playing well, he’s as good as any point guard in the country. He’s really a good player.
Q. You went Tuesday without most of your bench, how important is it to get those guys going moving forward?
COACH SELF: Well, it is. It’s imperative. We should have seven starters. When you look at our team, instead of saying, we’re only playing seven, you should say, well, they have seven starters. That’s a way that you obviously would spin it as a positive, rather than a negative.
I mean, a lot of people would like to have seven starters. I think all those guys have shown over time that they could all easily be that. And when Dok (Udoka Azubuike) was (playing before his injury), we should have had eight starters.
But it is imperative that Lagerald (Vick) and Carlton (Bragg Jr.) produce.
Q. Where do you think Lagerald Vick is at right now in his development as a player?
COACH SELF: I think he’s doing fine. I don’t think he’s very active. He’s not rebounding, not creating extra possessions. I looked at the stats today, I looked at the stats today and the most amazing — everybody talks about Lagerald’s shooting stuff, he’s shooting — and I think he and Svi (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) are both shooting about 44 percent from three, which we would never have thought that.
But we were thinking in 405 minutes, he would have more than nine steals, a guy that athletic and active. So I’m not real good in math, but that’s about, what, a steal every 50 minutes; which a guy like that, that can’t be. So that tells you that the thing that he can improve in, as much as his activity — and we said this a lot, but it’s a fact.
He and Josh (Jackson) would be our best two offensive rebounders, and Josh is at times, but Lagerald hasn’t been, and of course he should be much more active on the defensive end. That’s not being mean, and that’s just a fact. If you want to know how he can get better, that would be an area that he can definitely get better at, and everybody’s got areas they can get better in.
Q. You talk a lot about guys focus on the right things and the rest falls into place, defense and then your offense comes. Is that hard for Carlton Bragg Jr.?
COACH SELF: Yeah, there’s no question. There’s no question C.B. may say that’s the way he thinks, but that’s not in his core. He’s always been a guy that scored the ball pretty easy and shot a lot of jumpers and those sorts of things, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But I do think, I thought Carlton, after watching the tape, played pretty actively at Norman.
Q. You said you like having a couple extra days to prepare for their offense. System-wise, what makes it difficult?
COACH SELF: Well, it’s just something you’ll see once a year, period. You’re not going to see it — no, you won’t. You’ll see it twice a year and maybe three times a year, but it will all be by Oklahoma State. You’re not going to play anybody else in America that does the things that they do the way that they do it. Oregon may run a version of it or whatnot, but they run it — it’s different, and certainly Frank (Martin) put it in at K-State the year we held (Jacob) Pullen to 38. So obviously we didn’t really guard it that well at that particular moment.
And I think Oklahoma State runs it better than what K-State did back then, at least the offensive part of it.
Q. Outside of foul trouble, have you given any thought to five guards out there?
COACH SELF: No, not really. No. We’ll have to do it some. I mean, at some point in time we’ll have to do it. Maybe late game when we’ve got to defend the three.
But Landen (Lucas) is hard to take out because Landen is such a good defender and a rebounder, he’s hard to take out, and he’s smart, too.
Q. What is Landen Lucas doing differently now that maybe he wasn’t doing a month ago?
COACH SELF: Well, A, Landen is a pretty tough guy, and he doesn’t complain much. But A) he’s healthy. I don’t know that he was ever healthy early.
And then when you want to start and you want it real bad and you’re in the 100 percent, you don’t really let on to anybody that you’re struggling because you don’t want the coach to say, well, hey, you take some time off then until you get well because you want to be out there all the time. He is feeling better physically.
And then B) he’s just playing to his size. He’s doing what he can do. He’s a great defensive rebounder. He’s an opportunistic offensive rebounder without question. Some of the best possessions we’ve had all year is because of Landen has kept balls alive and stolen us some extra possessions. He’s our best talker and he’s our best defender in the post area.
I don’t know that he’s doing anything exceptional offensively that’s a lot different than what he’s done in the past except just play to his strengths. He’s trying to score before he catches and he’s shooting a higher percentage from the free throw line. I think his confidence level is higher because he knows he’s going to be out there.
Q. Is the big kind of the key to having success when you go to four guards?
COACH SELF: Well, you could say that. The team that was the hardest to guard that I can remember in recent memory was Missouri when they had the great team, when they played (Ricardo) Ratliffe at the five. He was really a four-man playing at the five and played Kim English at the four and (Marcus) Denmon and (Michael) Dixon, I’m trying to think — oh, (Phil) Pressey. That’s a hard team to guard. You’ve got four guys that can all go make plays and all can shoot, and you’ve got a five man that never missed the bunny.
So to me, yes, in theory, I think that you’re right. But you know, just having four guys that can stretch you from all the spots that, would make it hard to guard for anybody.
Q. You went to over a little 50 percent in free throws and now you’re leading the Big 12, any reason for the turnaround?
COACH SELF: Yeah, really coached up free throws in the last four games. [Laughs]
We don’t talk about stuff much. You know, you guys break this down far more than we break it down. In film or in practice or whatnot: All right, everybody on the free throw line, we’re going to shoot for seven minutes; or when you’re not in the game, everybody is shooting free throws, or whatever it is. But it’s not something that we spend a lot of time dwelling on that.
Q. What would you like to see from Mitch Lightfoot or Dwight Colby that would make you use them more in Big 12 games?
COACH SELF: I would say just being able to carry out defensive assignments and play smarter. There are some things, like Mitch — I want to play Mitch, and he got in the game the other day. It’s not that it’s that complicated but we’re ball screen defense in we’re in what we call 32. You know, he forgot to hedge a ball screen. The (opponent) just went and made a lay-up. You know, you can’t have that. It’s an easy play. And I think it’s not that he can’t do it. It’s just that he gets excited right now and he’s trying too hard.
But he’ll do much better when I can put him out there and just keep him out there. He’ll do much better. You know, the other day, Carlton (Bragg) got two, and Landen (Lucas) had one, and so I said, well, let’s play — instead of Landen taking a chance on getting his second with seven minutes left in the half or six, let’s play somebody else to see if they could do it.
And in that little stretch there, it was a really bad stretch. And it wasn’t all on them but coincidentally they were in the game, so they didn’t get a chance to play as much.
You know, I say that; you can’t set moving screens. You’ve got to come to a jump stop before. Just little things like that, and you get out there and it doesn’t quite happen that way, and the next thing you know, you’ve got two turnovers in two minutes and gave up a layup and now let’s get Landen back in.
So I just like for him just to be solid defensively.
Q. What have you seen over the first few weeks, top to bottom, could this be the best Big 12 since you’ve been here?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I think it is. We’ve had some good years where the league’s been really good. I don’t think I can remember — last year, I think we were 1 for a while, OU was one for a while, Iowa State and West Virginia all got in the top-10 at some point in time. And maybe Baylor did, too. I can’t remember.
But we may have had five teams last year that worked their way at some point in time in the Top-10. That probably won’t happen this year but I do think that the league is as good as it’s been. And you look at it, I mean, TCU is much improved. They go to Texas and win. You know, Texas Tech is better. We saw that. And even though they were good last year.
Kansas State, they are two close games away from being 4-0. So the league is definitely better. I don’t know if we’re quite as top-heavy as we were last year but I think there’s more balance.
Q. Is the point guard position the best position in the Big 12?
COACH SELF: Yeah, I do. I watched (Monte) Morris last night, he was spectacular, and then you’ve got (Jawun) Evans who can go for huge numbers. Look at what (Kamau) Stokes is playing really, really well at K-State. And the transfer from Miami at Baylor (Manu Lecomte) is excellent. And West Virginia, they have got about three, but certainly (Jevon) Carter and (Daxter) Miles are playing at a high — I mean, there are some really good guards in our league.
Q. Brad Underwood he’s taken this from Frank Martin in that he plays a lot of guys, rotation — is that any easier or harder to do as a first-year coach?
COACH SELF: I don’t know. I don’t know. I would say if anything, it would probably be easier to do to put guys out there and let them go. Your first year, you’re kind of — you’ve got to win games, don’t get me wrong.
But I would say, sometimes when you go into a situation, you’re more open to doing some things that you think in your mind, are there other things you want to do than maybe after you’ve been at place and kind of set in your ways like I am here.
I would say it would probably be a little bit easier to play maybe that many guys early. I don’t know if anybody is playing more guys than what (Chris) Beard is playing at Texas Tech. I mean, he subbed three guys every dead ball it seemed like against us. Brad is going to sub a lot. Bob subs a lot. Maybe it’s just from certain coaching families that that’s a philosophy. But there is something to having fresh guys in there all the time.
Q. Do you work a lot on Carlton Bragg Jr.’s hands?
COACH SELF: You know what, that’s actually a good question. He has better hands than what he’s shown. But what we need to do is — we’ve done it in the past, throw bad passes, have guys catch the ball with tennis balls and do different things, which we’ve done.
We can get, I guess one of those football machines, and have guys practice a down and out and catch high and low passes or whatever. But for the most part, we probably haven’t done as much as what we should be doing in that area. I don’t think his hands are bad, but I just think he loses focus.
Q. Seemed like this time of year, a lot of times when you’re not coaching or working, you’re on the road trying to recruit. Balance, does it get tough this time of year?
COACH SELF: No, I actually prefer this time of year. I should spend more time on the road this time of year, and I don’t spend probably as much time as I should, because I like being here with the team. And I’m not going to miss practice to go recruit or anything like that.
But I actually prefer in-season, where you know where you’re going to be every day, as opposed to out of season. To me, this is much more relaxing from that standpoint than what it would be in the spring or the fall.
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