Self previews Syracuse at weekly press conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Prior to his team’s trip to the southeast this weekend, head coach Bill Self previewed the upcoming match-up with Syracuse in Miami during his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon. Self discussed Syracuse’s zone defense and the problems the Orange present, as well as his team’s balanced scoring efforts that have his team among the top-10 in the nation in points per game.

A video of the press conference can be seen on the Kansas Basketball Facebook Page and a full transcript is available below.

Q. Do you wish you’d seen more zone throughout the first six games heading into this one?
BILL SELF: Yeah, maybe. You know, going into it, Kentucky was playing all zone, mostly zone. Toledo has played a lot of zone. (I’m) Trying to think who else that has. But really, basically, nobody’s played it against us. Maybe it’s because we shot the ball particularly well. I don’t know.

Even if we played against zone, it’s not the same zone. We’ll try to attack this a little differently than what we would most conventional zones.

Q. Is it length?
BILL SELF: This is what they (the Syracuse team) do. They play to their scouting report off of zone offense, where most people play to it off of both man and zone. I mean, they know where the shooters are. They know how to tweak it if they’re doing something that’s hurting it.

I mean, Jim (Boeheim, Syracuse head coach) knows when they get the ball flat, if it hurts us, this is how we’ll adjust. If they get the ball to the high post, they’re hurting us, this is how we’ll adjust. He would make adjustments. It’s not going to stay the same shape.

Four minutes into the game, it may take a different shape than what it did to start the game.

Q. How far back do you go with Coach Boeheim?
BILL SELF: I don’t go that far back. I know the year (2005) that we lost to Bucknell, they lost to Vermont. I’ve always told them I thought Bucknell was a lot better than Vermont that particular year (smiling).

But we actually played Vermont that year, if I’m not mistaken, with (Taylor) Coppenrath, that group. But, to me, Jim is one of the brightest guys that we have in our game. E.F. Hutton would be giving him way more respect than what he probably should get (smiling).

In basketball coaches’ worlds, when he (Boeheim) says things, we usually listen. He’s been very good with the NABC board over time with ideas, beliefs. Of course, he’s been unbelievably good with USA Basketball over time. He’s one of the best talent evaluators I think that we’ve seen, as evidenced through that.

But he’s a good guy. I think I’ve only had a chance to play against his teams twice, if I’m not mistaken. I’m trying to think. They beat us, obviously, in the Sprint Center a few years ago, or several years ago. That may be the only time. I can’t remember. But we haven’t crossed paths that much in that regard.

Q. How do you weigh the lack of depth you have with your team going into this portion of your schedule, playing teams closer to your level?
BILL SELF: I think the lack of depth, obviously, is a huge factor if a guy gets injured or nicked up or foul trouble occurs. I think the big thing that we have to do is not put ourselves in a position where the latter becomes a factor, the foul situation, because we play smarter, maybe pay a little bit better attention to scouting reports. Knock on wood, we’ve actually done a pretty good job with that so far.

That doesn’t mean that Doke (Udoka Azubuike) can’t get two fouls in the first three minutes. I think we probably practice smart, probably practice shorter, get more done in a shorter amount of time, keep them off their feet as much as possible.

The reality of it is, if you look at our minutes, it’s not any different than it has been. So Devonte’ (Graham) is playing 32 (per game). He played more than 32 last year. It’s just that those seven guys are playing a lot of minutes. It’s not like one or two guys are playing more minutes than what they’re used to playing.

But moving forward, during this stretch, I guarantee those 32 will go to 35, 31 will go to 33, whatever. We need to keep them off their feet as much as possible.

Q. Were you happy with how Doke and Mitch are doing a better job of staying out of foul trouble?
BILL SELF: Yeah, they both got one real early. I thought they did a good job in the last game. It’s a little bit different competition playing against Syracuse’s bigs. That’s not any disrespect to Toledo at all, but certainly it’s a comparable size comparison where those guys, at least Doke, was quite a bit bigger.

Q. What can Doke do to become a better defensive rebounder?
BILL SELF: I think (he needs to be) thinking every rebound is his. I always heard the best rebounders are always the ones that want the ball the most. You can talk technique, you can talk a lot of things. The bottom line is (that) the guys who go after the ball get the majority of the rebounds.

I think that he is not nearly as aggressive doing that as what he should. I think we’re not asking him to block out, but we are asking him to at least check a guy or hit a guy before you release to go get (the ball). He’s not doing that very well. He can certainly improve that.

I think it’s a mindset. He can show flashes in practice where he thinks every ball is his. But there are times where I think he relies on Lagerald (Vick) or Marcus (Garrett) just as much as he relies on himself to clean up the boards. That’s not going to be good moving forward.

Q. Last year, did Landen Lucas have a good mindset in that regard?
BILL SELF: Landen is a better rebounder than Doke. I mean, today he would be a better rebounder than Udoka without question. That doesn’t mean that Udoka can’t be every bit as good or better by the end of the season, which we’re banking on him becoming that.

Q. What do you think of Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu?
BILL SELF: He’s good. He actually visited here with his host family, unofficially. Of course, he’s so long. What do they list him as, 7-foot-2? The guy from Texas Southern (Trayvon Reed) was similar (in size). The guy from Texas Southern got the best of us, I thought.

But certainly he can block shots. He can finish around the rim either off catching it, dump-offs, or basically off rebounding. They do a great job of forcing help, which creates rotation rebounding, which allows their bigs and long wings to take a run at the basket. A lot of times it’s a free run. He’s good at that. Certainly they all are.

Q. What do you expect to see in the matchup between him (Chukwu) and Udoka?
BILL SELF: Probably contrasting styles. He’s bigger than Doke height wise. Doke is obviously a lot thicker than he is. You’re probably going to have length, explosiveness in a lot of ways versus girth. Doke is going to have to do a good job of trying to catch the ball close to the basket, where maybe his length isn’t as much of a factor, as big of a factor.

Q. When it comes to attacking the zone, is there any advantage of having a four guard lineup?
BILL SELF: I do think there’s some advantages. I think that (there are also) some things that aren’t advantages. If you look at it, most people attack a zone with two guys inside. You keep a high post, a low post, short corner field. If you do that, you just took one of our best perimeter shooters off the perimeter. Could that be a disadvantage? Yeah, that could be a disadvantage. Instead of guarding four perimeter shooters, you’re guarding three.

We have to come up with some ways to take advantage of our strengths, which would be our perimeter shooting. Still, a big part of attacking the zone is attacking the high post area as well. We’ve got to do a good job where we force them to get to shooters, but at the same time, be able to attack inside of it.

With our matchups and lineups, we haven’t really experienced that yet because it’s been teams trying to guard four shooters. If you play a guy inside, you’ve only got to guard three. We’ve got to come up with some ways to take advantage of that.

Q. A lot of that is technique, right? Is there a mindset, mentality or philosophy that plays into why Syracuse’s zone works so well? Teams get timid, they don’t have that mindset?
BILL SELF: Maybe. When we played them in 2008, they had Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris, I think (Eric) Devendorf, they had a really good team. We played them in Kansas City. We actually did a really decent job, in ways, of attacking.

I think the way their zone is different now is that they’re playing higher on the floor now than what they did then. They actually went man (to-man defense) when we got up about 12 (points). They beat us playing man-to-man.

If you play Baylor’s zone, (it’s) not the same zone, but certainly the length is comparable. There’s been times in practice it looks like it’s easy. You get in a game, the same things you thought were open just don’t seem open. That’s difficult.

No matter how well we perform in practice, it will be a different look once you get in the game.

Q. Is James Sosinski still present with you guys? Is it way too early to know?
BILL SELF: We practiced once. We took off yesterday. He will be at practice today.

You guys get a little bit too giddy about certain things. This is no disrespect to James, but if he’s a guy that we have to rely on to help us, that doesn’t seem good. So we’re looking at him as a practice guy who can come in and be a big body in practice.

We haven’t even completed the tryout yet. I’m going to let him practice the next two days. We’ll decide next week if we want to keep moving forward with it. He seems like a really nice kid.

This is not a strategic move to add depth when you go on the road and play. That’s not it at all. We’re looking at it as a practice-type thing. If he can get to the point, like you said, (where he can) maybe a minute or two here or there, I guess that’s possible. It would be no different than putting Clay (Young) in or Chris (Teahan).

Q. How did that whole process come about? Who initiated the interest in James?
BILL SELF: I don’t know exactly who it was, if it was James or his father. I think Coach (Norm) Roberts saw him at a football game or after a football game or something. He said something like, “You know, my son averaged 19 and 11 (points and rebounds), whatever, in juco last year. Norm told me about it. I called David (Beaty, Kansas head football coach). David was great. He was totally open to him (James) coming out and doing that (trying out with the basketball team).

Q. As a basketball coach, have you ever — even somewhere else along the line — had to go to a football team to pick out somebody to help you out?
BILL SELF: We did it at Illinois. Illinois had a wide receiver who actually played in the NFL, a kid named Walter Young. He was a good high school player. For whatever reason, we were short on depth in practice, not in games. We went and got Walter. He came out and helped us for the rest of the year. We’ve done it before.

I don’t think it had anything to do with that he played football. I think we thought that was the best possibility on campus.

Q. You got about five guys that are averaging 16 points. You could argue they would be headed to some kind of honors if they continue this. You’ve had great balance before, but scoring-wise, having multiple options…
BILL SELF: I think this is good. We’re not going to score this many points. The points we’re scoring, you know, it’s inflated. Everybody scores more points in non-conference. You get into conference play, by the time you play somebody a second time, you’re trying to figure out a way to score instead of thinking about how many.

We’ve got five guys. You could say Mitch and Marcus. But the reality of it is, we’ve got five guys that I think are all easily capable of getting 20 any night. I think everybody has done that so far. Maybe Malik (Newman) got 19 one game or something. But Svi (Mykhailiuk) has, Devonte’ (Graham) has, Doke (Udoka Azubuike) has, Lagerald (Vick) has, maybe Malik has. I would say there are a few teams in America that have that many guys that can put up pretty big numbers.

I do like balance. But if we had a guy that was averaging 25 a game, I’d like that, too. Certainly I think balance is hard to guard.

Q. What does that say about the chemistry of this team to where people can distribute the ball and get it to various players on the floor?
BILL SELF: I do think our chemistry offensively has been pretty good. I do think they like each over. That sounds like coach speak, but that’s important. I think they like playing with each other.

Obviously if a guy feels like he’s being frozen out, then he’s not going to be near as willing to make the pass on time, on target to the next guy. I think all teams go through that throughout a season. Right now our chemistry seems to be pretty good, sharing the ball.

I think it’s good. But it’s also early. We’ll hope that the attitudes and the unselfishness continues. I think it will. Sometimes it’s not the unselfish play that gets you — not selfish play that gets you, it’s the selfish thoughts. When a kid or whatever starts thinking something that maybe is a little bit non-team centered, which would make it selfish, then even though it may not have the appearance on the court of affecting you, it’s does affect your chemistry. Right now I think everybody is playing pretty much with a free mind.

Q. In teams you see around the country, especially in the one-and-done era, do you see other teams suffering from that type of mentality?
BILL SELF: Maybe. It’s hard for coaches I think to ever say what other teams are suffering from or what’s bothering other teams if they’ve never been in their practices or don’t know the kids. It’s easy for fans to say those things.

As a coach, you got to respect it enough to know there’s so many different factors involved in something like that. The appearance is to me that it would be much more difficult to get one-and-done type guys to play totally unselfish, not because they’re selfish, but because they’re high school kids coming in and they’ve never been asked to play that way before.

If you look at us over time, I don’t think that’s ever been a major problem with us. I think our teams for the most part have always shared the ball. Now, we’ve had some teams that I didn’t think were as good of passing team, so the appearance may be that we didn’t share it as well. It wasn’t because of bad thoughts or selfishness. It’s because that skill set probably wasn’t as prevalent as what it is now.

Q. This early, three common opponents, is that positive, negative, irrelevant?
BILL SELF: Irrelevant. It’s because of the tournament (Hoophall Miami Invitational). This is a tournament, right, that we’re playing? Didn’t feel like the Maui Classic much. I’m thinking Jim (Boeheim) would agree with that.

I think that’s totally irrelevant though.

Q. What do you think of Syracuse’s point guard?
BILL SELF: Basically it’s the strength of their team. Their two guards, I could be off a little bit, averaging about 19 and 16. They can both go get their own shot. They both have great size. Certainly (Frank) Howard is a guy that can put pressure on you and get his own shot. (Tyus) Battle’s obviously a guy that can score. To me, they’re playing with two guards, two true guards that they’re very content with the ball in either one of their hands. But they look to score when they have it.

Q. Like to play the two bigs most of the time. With the success of the four guard lineup last year, the way this team is playing, have you changed your thoughts on that? Maybe you can do more of this in the future?
BILL SELF: I am. But I will say this, the four man needs to be 6’8″ or 6’9″, really can shoot and handle, then you can play any way you want to play.

But the reality of it is, we’re playing too small right now. It may be the way we play all year. It puts a lot of pressure on small guys to be able to defend without fouling and rebound the ball consistently. But it is hard for the other team to match up.

When you say it, Josh is different. We played four guards last year. Josh was 6’8″. I don’t know if he led our team in rebounding last year, but he played bigger than that, his activity level was so much better. I’m not sure that we’ve accomplished that yet with Lagerald or Svi.

I do think having guys behind the arc that can shoot it makes it hard to guard, especially with Udoka inside.

Q. As there been any movement on Bill Preston’s status?
BILL SELF: I don’t know. I haven’t talked to anybody today. Visited about it yesterday. When you say there’s no movement, that would probably be a false thing to say. If you just looked at it like it’s not like your car being towed and it’s just sitting over there. When you say there’s no movement, there’s no movement on a conclusion. There’s certainly a movement on trying to do everything to get a quicker conclusion.

I personally don’t see it happening in the next two days. We can be hopeful.

Q. During warmups, he (Preston) seems happy. Is he taking this well?
BILL SELF: No, he’s taking it very well. But there is something bothering him. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. He’s not excited this is happening by any stretch, nor are we. But we know we got to deal with it. He’s handled it very maturely. He’s been a good teammate.

I think there has been some positives from that regard. Sometimes, you know, people can say that they’re adjusting, have a great attitude, which he does, but that still doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Certainly that’s the case with him.




@KUHoops The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.