Thursday, February 14, 2019

Kansas coach Bill Self on the Big 12 race: ‘K-State is in the driver’s seat’

Kansas coach Bill Self yells to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Kentucky won 71-63. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kansas coach Bill Self yells to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Kentucky won 71-63. (AP Photo/James Crisp)


Ten days ago, after his team’s road loss at Kansas State, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was in no mood to talk about the Big 12 race and his team’s pursuit of a 15th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

Four days ago, after an overtime win at TCU, Self characterized the Jayhawks as being “way back” in the conference title race.

And on Thursday, during his weekly news conference at Allen Fieldhouse, Self doubled down on that stance, drawing a comparison between the position of Bruce Weber’s first-place Wildcats and some of Self’s teams of the past.

“They’re in as good a driver’s seat as maybe (any) that we’ve been in in the past with six games left,” Self said of K-State, which enters the weekend at 9-2 in Big 12 play, a game and a half up on second-place KU and Texas Tech, which sit tied at 8-4. “I mean, they’ve put themselves in a very favorable position and their schedule really tilts to their favor in many ways.”

The one area where the Wildcats could find trouble is in having to play one more game than Kansas the rest of the way. Twelve games into conference play, the Jayhawks (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) have just six regular season games remaining, three at home and three on the road.

The Wildcats, however, still have seven games remaining, which, in a Big 12 season that has delivered all kinds of improbable outcomes and wild upsets, simply means one more opportunity to lose.

Give the Wildcats (19-5, 9-2) credit for avoiding any slip-ups during the past six weeks. After dropping their first two conference games of the season to Texas and Texas Tech, the Cats have rattled off nine consecutive conference wins, with their only loss in the past 40 days coming at Texas A&M; in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in late January.

Beyond that, the way Self sees it, K-State actually added to its cushion at the top of the conference by winning a pair of road games — at Baylor and at Texas — with a pair of road wins in the past week.

“We just need to win games,” Self said. “But us winning one at home and us winning one on the road (last week), you know, that’s great for us, but if you look at the league race, Kansas State enhanced their position even more with their two wins because they were both away from home... K-State’s last two road wins put them in (control).”

Between now and the end of the regular season, the Wildcats still have home games against Iowa State (Saturday), Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma and will hit the road to face West Virginia, Kansas (Feb. 25) and TCU.

Kansas, meanwhile, gets Baylor, K-State and West Virginia at home and plays at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

Those seven K-State opponents combine for a winning percentage of .612 entering this weekend, while KU’s six remaining opponents have a winning percentage of .610.

“People could say that the schedule tilts to our favor, too,” Self admitted. “But, with us, there’s nothing that tilts to our favor, it seems like. You know, every game can be a one- or two-possession game for the most part. … We’re not in a very favorable position at all. K-State is in the driver’s seat. And Baylor and us and Iowa State and Texas Tech still control (our) own fate. But K-State has put themselves in a great position.”

That control-your-own-destiny thing is the one aspect of KU’s underdog position that is giving this still-young Kansas roster confidence that it can keep the Jayhawks’ 14-year Big 12 title streak alive.

“We always talk about it,” freshman center David McCormack said of the Big 12 race. “You always hear that in the back of your head; you don’t want to be the team that ends the streak. But we know if we take it one game at a time and we do what we know we’re supposed to do and handle our responsibilities, you know, we can get it done.”


Brad Watson 1 year ago

We have the best coach....focus one game and a time...bring the hungry mentality and the tremendous effort and we will be fine....I have complete faith in this team and our SUPERIOR COACH AND STAFF!!

Dane Pratt 1 year ago

K-State is pretty good. They have 3 seniors and 2 juniors as starters and that usually translates to good basketball. They can afford to lose to us when they come to AFH and still win the conference. If Wade had not gone down they could be undefeated but we could be too if we had not lost 3 of our starters. Give Weber credit.

Bryce Landon 1 year ago

The streak will end someday, and it may end this season. But, Good God, does it have to end at the hands of K-State????

Edward Daub 1 year ago

You will have to root for Iowa State Saturday? Ironic!

I sure hope you enjoyed the Steve Kerr temper tantrum.

Maybe by some miracle, WVU can upset KState Monday in MorganPit.

Bryce Landon 1 year ago

What I will root for is for a double forfeit of the game.

And yes, I heard about Steve Kerr's ejection. Anytime that left-wing @$$hole gets ejected or loses a game, America wins. MAGA!

Shannon Gustafson 1 year ago

Anybody who categorizes and judges people they don't know by their political affiliation is not only an @$$hole but also an idiot. This "us against them" mentality is ruining this great nation. We didn't need Bryce's comment above to know those things about him though, he's proven it multiple times a week for years on here.

[''] 1 year ago

Yes - He sounds like a pathetic MAGAt. (Someone explain to the knuckledragger Thumper what that joke is -- he won't get it.)

RJ King 1 year ago

Bryce - It's no secret that Steve Kerr has a deep friendship with Gregg Popovich. Connect the dots to KU if you will.

Kerr has been through unbelievable emotional and physical pain. But in your view, a brilliant guy with a far-reaching world view, who begs for compassion, understanding, and peace is to be hated. Your ignorance and insecurity is what makes us weak.

Len Shaffer 1 year ago

Well said, RJ, but sadly, people like Bryce are a lost cause, as shown by the constant 35-40% support for Trump no matter what he does. One of the few things Trump has said that was actually brilliant was when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and people would still support him.

Mike Riches 1 year ago

This is a great example of Self applying pressure on K-State. Truthfully it's hard to imagine them not losing at least one more game, other than at AFH. But it may be even more difficult to imagine them losing three of their last seven, which means we would have to win out to tie them at four losses. That's a tall order for this team, but Dotson hit it right on the head, take it one game at a time.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 1 year ago

if vick comes back happy and good with his family, garret comes back, we could do some good things. this is great that the bench is kabooming. we know mitch needs to be out there for rebounds. k.j. is reliable. charlie can give dotson some minutes rest.

Dirk Medema 1 year ago

Mike - If we win out we only need KSU to lose 2 of 7 to tie them.

Henry - At this point it is not about how good we can be. It is all about whether KSU can be bad enough. Our goodness can only get back 1 of the 2 game hole we dug.

Mike Riches 1 year ago

Sorry, that's what I was saying, but I didn't phrase it well. I think they will lose two, which means we would need to win out. It's hard to see them losing 3 of their last 7, which would give us one extra game to lose. Not to look past WV, but to me the big question mark is in Lubbock. We'd better be ready for a real fight.

I'm pulling for the Cyclones this Saturday.

Jesse Johnson 1 year ago

It's going to be a very tall order. Just to tie KSU, we would have to win out and they would have to lose another game besides losing to us at AFH. If we lose at TTU (very good probability) then they would have to lose three more games total, which seems unlikely the way they've been playing. The fact is, they won at ISU and Texas, which we couldn't, and that might be the difference in them winning the title.

Barry Weiss 1 year ago

I would feel better if we were only one game back in the loss column, which we would be if we had not frittered away that WV game. Now, from watching K-State, they do not appear to me like a team that will crumble down the stretch. My hopes were dashed when they won down in Austin this past week. Even if we win out, K-state still needs to lose a game. It looks bleak.

Glen Miller 1 year ago

The West Virginia game will come back to haunt us and I said that when the final buzzer sounded. No reason we should have lost that game, I'm sorry. Our biggest problem is the last 4 minutes. Other teams have out executed us in that span on the road. If we shore that one up, we could legitimately finish the season 6-0. Problem is that we still have to go to Texas Tech and our Kryptonite arena in Stillwater, OK. Those two games worry me the most, I really feel like we will take out K-State at home and might even do it somewhat convincingly.

Bj Cassady 1 year ago

I agree the last four minutes have sucked for us except for the TCU game. Maybe we have the right players now, the right chemistry. Maybe we are tougher. At this point in the season, we don't have freshmen anymore.

Brian Skelly 1 year ago

K-State has a veteran team. KU has about as raw and green of team as it's had in awhile. Bad luck has hit us for sure, but it hits everyone at some point.

We probably win the Big 12 if Doke doesn't get hurt, Vick is better and does not have issues, and we get Silvo to play. But none of that is happening.

Im not going to lose it if we don't win it this year. I'd just like to see us fight like #@!% to the end and try and force the issue.

Andy Godwin 1 year ago

Bill Self on the Big 12 race: "K-State is in the driver’s seat" - Big Duh. We KU basketball fans have been spoiled for a long time (for about as long as KU football fans have suffered). I thought Self had cost KU the Big 12 record of consecutive regular-season championships (still could have pending NCAA investigation) last year when he stockpiled three players (Moore, Lawson, Lawson) for the 2018-2019 season. Last year was Self's most impressive year of coaching - to get an undermanned team to win the Big 12 regular season and postseason and somehow advance to the final 4 was amazing. Fast forward to this year, when Self admitted to some that this was his most talented and deepest team (on paper). This look as close to a sure thing as any of his previous seasons, and most would agree since they were ranked #1. Then comes Udoka's injury, followed by the permanent suspension of De Sousa by the NCAA (I truly believe Self expected him to play this season); two of the best players in the Big 12. Next comes the inconsistent Vick (remember Self did not want him to come back), followed by a McDonalds All American guard who has struggled mightily (which was completely unexpected). What this all means for 2018-2019 is that an experienced KSU team who have been together for a long while continues to play great defense and provide just enough offense to beat everyone in the Big 12 during their nine games winning streak. I can't say with certainty who will win the Big 12, but I told my KSU colleagues before the season that this might be their year to compete for the championship and unless they struggle towards the end (winning at Texas was huge), they should win outright. Can't complain given KU's miraculous streak and dominance in the Big 12 conference since Self arrived, but this team's struggles on the road (losing to West Virginia was awful), terribly inconsistent play, and poor court awareness (23 turnovers at KSU) will ultimately be their downfall.

Layne Pierce 1 year ago

Let's get real, we are just playing to improve. Whatever happens in the Conference depends on KState. I watched them have just enough to win at Baylor and Texas, and they are tough.

Still, Iowa St, and KU, and TCU, could all very well be losses for them, and who knows, maybe even West Virginia, at Morgantown.

If we play tough and hard, and nasty, no stupid turnovers. Shoot and make good shots. We can beat anybody.

In a weird way the team is coming together under adversity in a way it never did under prosperity.


Brad Watson 1 year ago

This league is so good that K-State will stumble....they have a good team...but not elite and the game tomorrow..if they lose...could spiral them downward...this is a team that lost to Texas they are capable of flat performances....The important thing is we take care of our business..starting with Huggy Bear tomorrow.

Dane Pratt 1 year ago

I'm not betting against KU but it's hard to bet against K-State. They only have to lose one game for us to be in control of our own destiny but their toughest games are behind them.

Brad Watson 1 year ago

Dane...sometimes its those games that you expect to win.... is where you slip up...because your focus isn't there.... like it is for the big games...Example.....Texas Am....its a long season....with lots of obstacles and will be fun to see how it plays out.

Dane Pratt 1 year ago

Well what you know. From your lips to the hardwoods. We are now in control of our destiny.

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