Bill Self says he can never remember a No. 8-seeded team in a conference tournament as talented as 21-11 Oklahoma State.
“I had a national radio guy call me this morning,” Self, Kansas University’s 11th-year coach, said, entering storyteller mode. “He said, ‘Oklahoma State ... just think if you’re a 1-seed and you’re playing Oklahoma State and they’re on the 8- or 9-line. Just think what a tough draw that would be.’
“I said, ‘Just think if that happens in your conference tournament.’ He was talking about nationally (in NCAAs),” Self exclaimed.
Today, the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks do indeed take on the Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash-led Cowboys in a 2 p.m. Big 12 tournament quarterfinal in Sprint Center.
“Obviously that’s a tough draw because they are talented, very talented, and capable of beating anybody at any time, if they play well,” Self said. “But that’s good for us. I’d like to see us go play well against a real quality opponent.”
The Jayhawks, who will be without injured center Joel Embiid, should be full of fire in a third meeting between the teams. KU edged OSU, 80-78, on Jan. 18 in Allen Fieldhouse, then squandered a 10-point lead in the final 10:49 and fell to the Cowboys, 72-65, on March 1 in Stillwater, Okla.
“Certainly the last time they got us, so I think our guys will be excited to have a chance to go against a team that obviously played better than us, especially the last 10 minutes. They whipped us pretty good the last 10 minutes last time we played,” Self said.
Also, after the last meeting, OSU’s Smart caused quite a stir by saying one of the reasons he played so well against KU the second half (21 points) was his desire to keep the Jayhawks from cutting down the nets in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Before the game, the coaches showed us a quote of Bill Self saying he was coming here cutting down our nets, and he was gonna win it outright in Stillwater,” Smart said of the Big 12 regular-season title. “We couldn’t let that happen in our house, so I just knew I had to keep pushing until the end.”
Self denied making such a statement and coach Travis Ford said he never showed the Cowboys any quotes from Self prior to the game.
Ellis the X factor?: Perry Ellis’ performance in the 2013 Big 12 postseason tournament proved to be the highlight of his freshman season at KU. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound sophomore from Wichita — who scored eight points and grabbed seven boards in a quarterfinal rout of Texas Tech and tallied 12 points and six boards in a title game victory over Kansas State — exploded for a season-high 23 points in a semifinal victory over Iowa State.
“I started clicking late in the regular season of the Big 12. I remember coach telling me to be aggressive,” said Ellis, who was named to the all-tourney team with MVP Jeff Withey. “He’s telling me the same thing this year, to be aggressive,” added Ellis.
Ellis, who averaged 13.2 points and 6.4 boards during the regular season, is hoping for another strong postseason.
“It was an awesome feeling, showing I never gave up on the season,” Ellis said of his play in the Big 12s a year ago. “I had ups and downs, but never gave up. I kept working and good things started happening.”
Ellis, who practiced for 45 minutes in Sprint Center on Wednesday with the rest of his teammates, realizes he’ll be vital to KU’s postseason hopes with Embiid out this tournament and likely at least the first weekend of the NCAAs because of a bad back.
“I will have to get a lot more rebounds,” Ellis said. “I have to be a lot more aggressive in that aspect of my game. That’s the main role change for me, I think.”
This, that: The Jayhawks are expected to wear their adidas March Madness alternate uniforms today. ... A win today would mean a semifinal berth against either Iowa State or Kansas State at 6 p.m. Friday. KSU and ISU meet at 11:30 a.m. today. ... Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were named to the NABC All-District 8 first-team on Wednesday. Perry Ellis was named to the second team. ... KU is the defending champion and has won 14 conference tournament titles, including six of the last nine and nine of the 17 total Big 12 championships. ... Since the Big 12’s inception in 1997, KU is 16-1 in its first games, 15-2 in the quarterfinals, 10-5 in semifinals and 9-1 in championship games. ... KU leads the all-time series vs. OSU, 108-55. KU has won six of the last eight meetings and eight of 12. ... Bill Self is 12-9 all-time against his alma mater, including an 11-6 record at KU, while Travis Ford is 3-7 versus KU.