Bill Self previews Texas
Watch Press Conference
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Bill Self met with members of the media on Thursday as the Jayhawks (17-1, 6-0 Big 12) prepare for Saturday’s home game against Texas on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., CBS).
Kansas is looking for its 50th-straight win inside Allen Fieldhouse when playing host to the Longhorns this weekend. KU already has the longest home court winning streak in the country at 52 games, which includes three contests at Sprint Center that have been part of KU’s season ticket package.
Q. Texas is outshooting their opponent from the field on threes and even outrebounding. How are they 1-5 right now?
BILL SELF: Because everybody they’ve played has been good. That’s the way the league is. They’re much better than their record, obviously. One-possession game against West Virginia, and they’ve had a one-possession game against TCU, and a one-possession game at K-State. So there’s three games that in the last 30 seconds if it’s different, they’re 4-2 instead of 1-5.
But they’re young, extremely athletic, and extremely big in size. Probably the biggest team that we’ve played, at least that I can remember in quite some time. Maybe Stanford, but they play two traditional bigs, and then they bring in bigs off the bench. So we’ll have to defend them a little differently than what we have been.
Q. You mentioned the Stanford game. I think that’s the last time they really went off an opposing bigs against you guys. What ways do you think you’ll be able to change up the game plan?
BILL SELF: Well, you know, if I’m not mistaken, Reid (Travis of Stanford) shot 22 free throws (19-of-22). It would be nice if we could play without fouling, first of all. But (Texas) doesn’t play through their bigs like Stanford played through Travis. But certainly they give them plenty of opportunities to touch. And Shaq (Shaquille Cleare) is on a good roll right now, but Jarrett (Allen) is on a serious uptick. He’s played about as well as — you take (Baylor’s Johnathan) Motley out of the equation, and he got 32-20 against Texas, you know, Jarrett had, I think, 17-10 going against their bigs. He’s played very well of late.
Q. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Svi) had a good rebounding game for you guys against Iowa State. Do you see him becoming a more complete player?
BILL SELF: I do. I thought, I said this before, I thought the second half of OU showed some stuff. I thought he was pretty good against (Oklahoma) State. But that may be as complete a game as he’s played because of what he did. He got like six rebounds. But more importantly, what he did to defend Thomas. He made two baskets on him, and one of them was from 30 feet.
So I thought Svi played a really good game. He wants to be known for somebody more than just a shooter. And he’s doing a lot of different things right now.
Q. Not that you needed to get your team up for any game, but does it get your players attention when unranked Oklahoma goes into No. 7 West Virginia and beats them?
BILL SELF: I think so. I don’t know if we needed that to happen to get them up. But when we put together our tape of Texas and show our players, they’ll see their capabilities. Last year, you know, Texas came in here, I don’t know if you guys remember, but it was a tight game with five or six minutes left. We just kind of pulled away at the very end.
But, I think so. You know, my guys are hard to figure out, at least in my mind. But the fact that Josh (Jackson) coming out of the same class with Jarrett (Allen) and with Andrew (Jones) and things like that, I think the word is going to spread about how talented their young players are, and certainly whether it be — I don’t know what the situation is with (Tevin) Mack but whether it be (Kerwin) Roach or whoever from last year, our guys know how athletically dangerous they are.
Q. You said a while ago, you hoped Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are kind of the leaders of turning this thing around. How have you assessed their play and have they done that?
BILL SELF: Turnaround? I think the boat is pointed in the correct direction now, but I don’t know if I would say turn around. I think we’re guarding a little bit better than we have. So much of guarding is finishing the possession, and we’re rebounding it a little bit better.
But the teams that we have played against were smaller teams. Now we’re going to go against Texas that’s big, and whether or not we can do that playing small, I don’t know. It remains to be seen.
But I think that Frank is not — he is not the greatest team defender, but he’s a really good one-on-one defender. And Devonte’, I would say, is probably a better team defender. So collectively, I do think that they’re doing better, but I don’t think we’ve reached our potential on that end by any stretch.
Q. Do you feel like just having seven right now is kind of — it hurts their ability to be more aggressive on defense?
BILL SELF: I actually do, but I think more so than that, I would say the ability to pressure the way you play 35, it’s probably not as good as what it would be if you’re playing 28 and subbing more. So I do think the minutes has taken away some of the pressure. I actually do feel that way.
Q. When you watch last night like OU and West Virginia, teams that have success against West Virginia, is there a common denominator of what teams do well against those guys that allows them to survive, I guess?
BILL SELF: You know, I watched the game last night, and I thought OU did a tremendous job of not turning the ball over, but more importantly, you’re going to turn it over against West Virginia, we talk about that, but they can’t be live ball turnovers. You’d rather throw it out of bounds so your defense can get set rather than having numbers coming back at you.
And I thought OU made some really key plays. Offensively, they did not lead to their numbers or their scoring. Whereas, if you look at us against Iowa State, especially in the first half, our offense led to them scoring because we turned it over so much. So that was something I thought OU did a really nice job of.
Q. When you say it’s a tough team to figure out, is some of that from not having a loss in so long?
BILL SELF: Well, we have once, and they responded pretty well in that situation. But I think they would have responded regardless because we were playing the number one-ranked team in the country (after our first loss). So they would have been amped up no matter what. When I say trying to figure out, I think that we know our team fairly well, but we don’t know how they’re going to react to adversity as far as the loss column, which will happen. I hope it doesn’t, but certainly the odds are definitely great that it will, and that will be interesting to see how we react from that. But I think they’re competitive. So I think they would react in a favorable way.
When I say I don’t really — I’m still trying to figure it out. If you look at our games so far in league play, we haven’t played poorly, but we haven’t played great either. It’s one of those deals that I thought okay Oklahoma State played great here, and we were just good enough to get past it.
I thought TCU played great down there, and we were just good enough to get past them. I thought Iowa State was very efficient offensively, and we were just good enough to get past them. So that’s what I mean by figuring out. It’s hard for me to know how well we’re playing, because I don’t think we’ve played terrific yet. So I don’t know what our ceiling is consistently. But I do know that we haven’t played poorly by any stretch, but we certainly have got another year that we can go to.
Q. Can that be something that becomes sort of, I don’t know, a team’s identity, just finding a way?
BILL SELF: Oh, I think it is. You look across the country historically, and most teams that have pretty good records, they’ve had to win some games when they weren’t their best. I tell our guys all the time, if you want to divide the season up into 30 (games). For instance, there are going to be ten games where you stink. How many of those ten can you still win when you play bad? And there are going to be ten games where you’re average, and how many of those ten are you going to win when you’re average? And then there are going to be ten games where you play really well, and if you play really well, and you have really good players, you can probably guess what the record would be. And I think we’re in that mix right now.
I think we’ve played a lot of games where we’re in that middle category, but somehow being good enough and figured out a way.
Q. Do you think you’ve played two halves yet? I mean, a lot of good halves.
BILL SELF: You probably know better than me, or you wouldn’t ask the question. So I really, I don’t know. Off the top of my head, I don’t know that we’ve played two good halves. I think we’ve had some stretches in each half where we’ve looked really good. And the other thing about this team, and I’ve said this about other teams, we can be pretty average, especially at home. And you can have that four-minute period that creates enough separation where it can lead you to a win, and I think that’s happened several times.
Q. You talk about Lagerald Vick. Where is that right now? You’re pretty good at seeing the future on where he could be in a couple years?
BILL SELF: Oh, I think he could be a pro. I think Lagerald Vick could play in the NBA. I think he’s got the length, he’s got the ball handling. He’s got the body, he’s a natural athlete, all of these things. I think that he’s a little bit further along than what we anticipated early in the season, and I think now he’s probably where we anticipated him being at this point in time.
Because he hasn’t been quite as effective as he was early, but as you guys saw in the Iowa State game, he was pretty darn good, because he created extra possessions, got us some put backs, and ran through a pass to get us an easy basket, things like that.
So I think he’s right where we had hoped he would be, but after seeing how well he played early in the season, I think that there’s something in there that he will get that back. He’s on an uptick now, and I think he’ll get that back, playing at that very high level.
You know, Svi (Mykhailiuk) wouldn’t be starting. Lagerald was starting, and he was not going to lose that position, and at least if he kept performing the way he had, and then when Svi got it, Svi obviously is playing at a level where he’s not going to lose it if he keeps performing the way he has been. But I think the best way for me to put it with Lagerald and with Carlton, when they play well like they did against Iowa State, we’ve got seven starters. So it shouldn’t make any difference who is starting or who is coming off the bench, those guys are good enough to be starters just about anywhere.
Q. You guys played pretty fast. Even when the other team scores, it seems like you really push it, and you man the shot really quickly. I mean, is that more of an emphasis this year than it has been in the past?
BILL SELF: I think playing faster is definitely more of an emphasis. No question. I think I’m giving my guys a little more freedom to shoot it early, which I think sometimes is good and sometimes it’s not good. But the good thing is they’re playing with a freer mind.
You know, if we had Joel (Embiid), those would be bad shots. If you don’t have Joel, those are maybe okay shots. So I think our personnel dictates a little bit that we’re trying to score earlier.
Q. Do you almost think it is better that you’re the number two team in the country rather than taking that number one spot, from a competitive edge standpoint?
BILL SELF: Probably, I don’t know. I would say that I think our team is respected nationally, but I don’t think we’re thought of as highly as other teams. I think some people rank as high because our record’s good. Whereas, if you look at us, we haven’t done anything to really knock anyone’s socks off since the Duke game, because we haven’t had a chance to really do some things since the Duke game because of the schedule.
We played good teams, but we haven’t had a chance to play a Top 5 team again or Top 10 team again. Whereas Villanova goes and plays at Butler, and Villanova blows out Xavier, those type of things. So if I was the voter, I’m not disappointed at all where we are. I can certainly understand it. But I do think that we’ll have an opportunity here in the next two to three weeks to show whether or not we deserve to be there.
Q. What do you think of the style of play during the Iowa State game? You only had five free throws, but you had two to the last minute, I think. Do you like basketball when there are so few free throws?
BILL SELF: Well, it depends on the game. But they only shot ten, so, and we only shot two, because three of them were, you know, fouls because of the score and timed late. But I think it’s more fun to play and coach in a game where there’s less stoppages than the game before where we shot 45. But if we’re going to shoot 45 free throws and the other team shoots a low number, you know, you would definitely like your chances you wouldn’t like it reversed at all.
But I think the way that Iowa State and us played the other night – I actually thought the game was very well called. I didn’t see a lot of things going on that warranted whistles. Whereas you play Oklahoma State or teams like that that create pace, that create action, that make you have contact in order to get open, one pass away and things like that, you’re going to naturally have more fouls called.
Q. Even with the small number of fouls called, Josh Jackson still fouled out. After looking at the tape, was it a matter of shots just not going in that led to his struggles?
BILL SELF: Yeah, probably. He got a lay-up to start the second half, then he goes strong; got a couple shots blocked. Yeah, maybe so, maybe so. But he had five assists. It that’s pretty good for a 6-foot-8 guy. Him fouling out, he fouled out on the last possession or next to last possession, he wasn’t in foul trouble the entire night. I think he got two in the first half, I think, but we played him. But I do think the two in the first five minutes or six minutes, whatever it was, I do think that affects him mentally in the rest of the first half. I do, his aggressiveness.
Q. It may have been the match-up, but you weren’t comfortable throwing the ball into Landen Lucas, back to the basket? Being able to score a little bit better than maybe earlier this season?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he’s playing well. They switched ball screens a lot, so naturally, if he rolls the basket, he could get caught with a guard on him and stuff like that. We did a better job getting the ball inside, period, against Iowa State.
It may not be the same way against Texas, I don’t know. But certainly they’re small, so they tried to front some. So if you create an angle and throw over and things like that, you can get an easy basket or two.
Q. Can Udoka Azubuike do anything to stay in shape after his season-ending wrist injury?
BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah, he needs to. He got his sutures out, he’s got a regular cast now. So he’s able to do cardio and stuff now. So he’s back on the mend as far as working out and things, but he’s still going to have the cast on for another two months, I believe.
Q. Do you think transfer Sam Cunliffe will help practices?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he will. He helped yesterday. He’ll be good in practices, and that will definitely help our red team.