Self: Big 12 championship just the first step

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It’s probably fitting Kansas University’s basketball team wrapped up — and celebrated — the program’s eighth-straight Big 12 regular-season championship late Monday night at Oklahoma State.

According to ninth-year coach Bill Self ... it’s the Jayhawks’ performance on the road that’s annually separated his squad from the rest of the pack.

“Winning at home is great. You always want to win at home. We have an advantage to winning at home because we have great players, an unbelievable building and fan support,” said Self. His Jayhawks have compiled a 68-4 Big 12 record at home in the Self-era entering Saturday’s 8 p.m., regular-season finale versus Texas.

“Somebody told me today we’re 53-20 on the road in league play — 53-20 is pretty amazing,” added Self, whose Jayhawks actually are 54-19 on the road. “We went 7-2 on the road this year. For this team to go 7-2 on the road is pretty cool. It’s pretty special. The two games we lost (Iowa State and Missouri) ... we could have won either one of them.

“In the national championship year, the best we could do is 5-3. To win away from home like that is a tribute to how far these guys have come.”

Self made sure the Jayhawks did not take this eighth-straight title lightly following Monday’s 70-58 win at his alma mater, OSU.

He had the players place the league championship trophy on the floor of the locker room after accepting it from Big 12 associate commissioner John Underwood and had the Jayhawks do a bit of dancing around the hardware.

Self took part in the dancing.

“It was great. We were all dancing. I’ve done it four times now,” said red-shirt junior center Jeff Withey. “It’s always the same, a great feeling,” he added. “It’s really fun to be able to do that.”

The Big 12 coaches picked KU and Texas A&M as co-favorites to win the league. Others were more skeptical, figuring KU was in for a down year by the Jayhawks’ standards.

“How did we do it? We worked hard,” Withey said. “We have great coaches. People said this would be our off year, but we all took it to heart and worked hard. When you have the player of the year on your team, it definitely helps,” Withey added of Thomas Robinson.

Self was asked on his Hawk Talk radio show why he puts more emphasis on winning the league than other Big 12 coaches.

“I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. Every coach puts emphasis on winning the league because that’s who you compete against. If you are able to win the Big 12, you have a chance to be pretty good nationally,” Self said.

“Bragging rights means a lot to everybody,” Self added, while noting, “the postseason (NCAAs) trumps it. We are happy where our season is, but we shouldn’t be patting anybody on the back now. We did what we wanted to do. It’s the first stage. Hopefully there are bigger and better things out there for us. We can’t relax. It’s been a good year. Now you’ve got to make it a great year. The only way to do that is play well in the postseason.”

The seniors will start again: Self said starting guard Tyshawn Taylor would be joined by fellow senior reserves Conner Teahan and Jordan Juenemann in Saturday’s starting lineup versus Texas.

“The three seniors will start. We always do that,” Self said. “Jordan walked on, has been with us four years and has done a really good job. Conner has been with us about as long as (Brady) Morningstar it seems,” Self cracked of the fifth-year senior. “I’m proud of Conner. Boy did he come up big against Missouri (four threes). Of course Tyshawn ... I don’t know if I’ve been around many who have come as far as he has in so many ways.”

Self said junior Thomas Robinson would not give a speech after the game, but could be recognized in some way. Though no official announcement has been made, it’s a given he will be turning pro after the season.

“People have asked me about Thomas (on Senior Night). As much as I care for him and stuff, we do have a history and tradition. This is Senior Night, not Junior Night,” Self said on his radio show.

“I do think our fans would certainly pay a tribute to him. I’m sure we’ll be able to make that happen in some form or fashion for a guy who has given us so many thrills.”

Withey’s ankle OK: Seven-footer Withey, who sprained his left ankle early in Saturday’s victory over Missouri, scored six points and grabbed two rebounds in 16 foul-plagued minutes Monday at OSU.

“It felt good to be out there,” Withey said. “I’ve had a lot of treatment since the Missouri game. It’s still a little hard to cut. It’ll get a lot better. We have awhile before our next game. It’ll be fine.”

On Traylor, McLemore: KU senior Taylor commented on ineligible freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, who have practiced, but not played in games this semester.

“He’s for sure a pro,” Taylor said of the 6-5 McLemore Tuesday on SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball show. “He’s young, is long and is the best athlete in terms of getting off the floor.”

Of the 6-7 Traylor, Taylor said: “He’s like a 6-foot-7 T-Rob. He’s strong, real athletic and is a beast from Chicago. He plays hard every possession.”

No game against NU: The Omaha World-Herald says KU and Nebraska have talked about starting a series beginning next season. The paper said, “it would always be a road game for NU, but some games would be played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.”

“We never talked about anything but one game,” said KU schedule maker, Larry Keating. “It was so preliminary we didn’t even discuss it here. We talked a while back. Nothing is going to happen this year.”