5:15 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Final update from Arlington before we sign off on the live blog.
Mike Yoder has some good video of Ben McLemore talking about his slump and being excited to play in Cowboys Stadium. This video also gives a good look at just how huge the stadium/videoboard are.
And finally, Matt Tait and I go through our takeaways from Thursday's media day. Topics include whom KU coach Bill Self might have hinted will guard Michigan's Trey Burke, how McLemore looked at the open practice and the Michigan players' (perhaps not smart) plan of attack against Jeff Withey.
Thanks for checking out our live blog, and be sure to check back to KUsports.com for coverage of the Jayhawks in the NCAA Tournament.
4:24 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
A few more quotes I didn't get in earlier:
• Releford in the locker room, on if players notice when people pick against them:
Yeah. Everybody's watching. It's the biggest time of the year for college ball. Everybody's watching. We're watching. We see who's saying it, not picking us and stuff like that. We don't take it personal. That's just their opinions. But we use it as momentum going into the game.
• Michigan center Mitch McGary, on if he seriously considered coming to KU out of high school:
Yeah, I did. Coach Self and Joe Dooley and Danny Manning talked to me, I took an unofficial here after that Jayhawk Invitational tournament. It was a good unofficial visit, but it wasn't the best fit for me.
• Michigan point guard Trey Burke, on the toughest defender he's faced this year:
I would probably say the toughest overall defender would probably be Oladipo from Indiana. As far as on ball, I have to give it to (Ohio State's Aaron) Craft. Both of those guys are very deserving on the defensive end. They work so hard on defense.
• Burke, on if the man defending him or Withey has a bigger impact on his offensive game Friday:
I think Jeff Withey, just because our offense is set up on the guards getting into the paint. There's going to be times when we get into the paint. When we get into the paint when you have a 7-footer there, you have to make the right decision or you'll have a bad shot or a blocked shot. I think our biggest area tomorrow is just trying to make the right decision when we get to their front court, get into the paint, just making the right play. I think our offense will be successful as our decisions in the paint.
Last call for questions/topics for Matt and I to talk about in our video chat. Just post a comment below and we'll do our best to get to that topic.
4:15 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Matt Tait and I will be doing a live video chat at 4:40 p.m. If you have questions you want answered or specific topics discussed, put them in the comments section below and we'll do our best to answer them
3:59 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here are a few notable quotes from Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey from their time on the podium:
• Elijah Johnson, on team's defense and other teams "missing shots" against KU:
Well, our coaches do a great job of scout report. They know so much about other teams, you know, and we listen. I feel like we're real coachable. Even if we give people shots, it's not shots that they're used to taking. We try to get them in different spots or try to get them to go to a different rhythm or rotation or something that we know they're not 100 percent comfortable with. If you're going to get shots, we're not going to give you the shots you want.
• Jeff Withey, on going against Michigan's offense:
They're going to try attacking the paint, probably try getting me in foul trouble and stuff like that. We've been preparing for them. We know what their offense is like. We're going to do whatever we can to try to keep them away from the paint.
• Elijah Johnson, on Travis Releford's helping KU's defense:
I feel he's the key to all that, in my honest opinion, most of the time you make it hard for them to get that and when they get it, it's a tough shot. They know they worked for it, so they probably deserved it. I think Travis would agree with me, I know he probably don't want to toot his own horn, but I give all of that credit to Travis. He's the head for the guards on defense. He's talking to us and telling us constantly what's going on and what we shouldn't be giving up and what we should be paying attention to.
• Elijah Johnson, on Jeff Withey's defense:
I think that it's so much confidence having Jeff behind us, because we don't feel pressured into being back‑doored, you know. A lot of people fear being back‑doored, but when you back‑door, you're going with a head of steam. And you're going with a head of steam towards a brick wall.
• Travis Releford, on some analysts picking Michigan to win:
We take pride in people going against us. We get fuel for that. And we're just looking forward to playing this game.
• Elijah Johnson, on Ben McLemore's slump:
Yeah, we've been talking to him. But right now, I mean, I'm not an expert at this, but right now I feel like he's probably hearing a million things, different opinions from family, friends and the coaches. I feel like right now that's the coaches job to really get to him and help him calm down. The biggest thing that we've been saying to him constantly is we support you, no matter what. You've carried us a long way, you've helped us a lot. And we know you'll be there when we really need you. When you're struggling, we're not going to stray, so keep the confidence. And I think he has.
• Elijah Johnson, on carrying the thought that a loss would mean the end of the seniors' college careers:
I personally feel like you shouldn't think like that. What if I don't or this or that. You've just got to relax and play. And we've been preparing for this for four years now. So it's nothing too much different that we can do that we haven't prepared for. If it's meant to happen, it will happen. We've been preparing every day in practice, every practice, extra trips, extra talks, all the video sessions, everything, I think all that plays out right now. You sort of want it to happen right now in the last run, but you can't just wish for things to happen, you've got to kind of go make it happen.
3:35 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Nick Krug just added to his photo gallery. Here's a sample:
3:18 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Kansas center Jeff Withey had a different look on the podium in the locker room Friday.
Withey had a black right eye after taking an inadvertent elbow from North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo during Sunday's game in Kansas City, Mo.
Here's another photo from Nick Krug from today's practice day.
3:05 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Just posted the full audio from KU coach Bill Self and also KU players Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey during their time at the podium.
Be sure to also check out Matt Tait's video showing the setup at Cowboys Stadium along with some clips of KU's open practice.
2:45 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here's the Cliff's notes version from KU coach Bill Self's time at the podium.
• Michigan has good players offensively, and the coaches put those good players in good positions. John Beilein is a terrific coach. The Wolverines only turn it over nine times per game, and when a team like KU turns it over 14-15 times a game, that can allow Michigan to get 12-18 extra points a game. KU has to force UM to make mistakes, and it doesn't make many. KU also has to do a great job against Michigan's defense and not allow the Wolverines to get easy shots off offensive miscues. KU also has to steal extra possessions on the glass. A point guard like Trey Burke makes the game easier for a lot of other Michigan players.
• It took KU a while this year to develop an identity. Even when KU was 19-1, it was still developing an identity. KU's record exceeded the team's own expectations. Sometimes records are a little misleading, and Self says KU probably hasn't played as well as the record might indicate. KU finally has found what it hangs its hat on and bought into it an enjoyed playing that way. Self thinks that's happened the last month of the season.
• Self doesn't know if it's an advantage that his team has played in football stadiums. KU has four dome games under its belt, and Self said "what that means is absolutely nothing, but you never know." Self had never been in Cowboys Stadium. The players will be fired up as well. Self doesn't see how something that happened last year would have any relevance on this year.
• In the last month, KU has hung its hat on defense. It also has rebounded it better than early int he season. The offense has been inconsistent, but when it's been good, it's been very good. But the defense has been pretty constant. KU can score, but Self thinks if its mind-set is that it's going to outscore folks, the Jayhawks are going to get beat. KU has tried to make it so that, no matter the situation, it's not allowing opponents to play well and have rhythm. KU can't allow a team to be comfortable for the full 40 minutes.
• KU's core defensive philosophy is that it's going to give up one or fewer shots every possession and not allow easy baskets. KU talks about that every day. There's different ways to guard things and different ways to do scouting reports, but if the players believe in that core principle and have that mind-set, it makes the other things easier.
• Self says Travis Releford is, without question, KU's best on-ball defender. You could make the case for him being the best perimeter defender in the Big 12, just as you could make a case for others. Self doesn't think you could make a case for Jeff Withey not being the best interior defender in the Big 12. He blocks shots better than anybody in the Big 12 in recent memory. Withey deserves all the credit he gets, and Releford probably doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. If you look at the games where KU has been good defensively and the other team has a good perimeter player, the reason KU was good was because of Releford.
• The coaching staff is not going to allow Ben McLemore to have distractions. McLemore's basketball family has to continue to coach him. They're not going to leave him alone. It's not like a pitcher with a no-hitter in the seventh inning where nobody talks to the pitcher. McLemore is trying hard. He's going to play great this weekend, and he's going to play great against Michigan. Self believes that, and he thinks McLemore believes that. Everybody goes through phases where they don't play their best. McLemore doesn't have the ball in his hands when he's not playing best. That's not who he's been all year long. For KU to have the best chance to win, everybody has to play well, an he's a key part of that. McLemore needs to understand that he's good — really good. When he's really good, he's as good as there is.
• Michigan guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are terrific. Self believes Burke should be national player of the year. That's not coach-speak, and that's not because KU is playing Michigan. Self voted for Burke before the brackets came out. Self thinks he's terrific. KU has played Hardaway Jr. before. He's got size and can shoot over the top. He's an athlete. They're a great combination. Self hasn't seen a better backcourt this year than Michigan has. KU will have to guard them well individually and by committee. Then you forget about Nik Stauskus, who might be the best shooter Michigan has. The Wolverines have some nice pieces on the perimeter.
• Self says KU's coaches don't let players help with the decision process of who they're going to guard. The coaches talk about it as a staff. The way you play Michigan is similar to the way you play North Carolina, because Michigan plays four guards. Glenn Robinson III is a big, big guard, but he still has perimeter skills. It comes down not necessarily to how one guy guards one; it's how any of your guys guard that individual when he has the ball, because there could be a lot of switching involved. That's probably something that will happen.
2:08 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
KU coach Bill Self just finished up his time at the podium. We'll have audio and Cliff's notes shortly.
In the meantime, be sure to check out Nick Krug's photo gallery from Michigan's practice earlier today.
1:28 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here is the Cliff's notes version from Michigan coach John Beilein's comments at the podium today.
• Beilein says everything for KU starts with its defense. The team has four seniors out there. They have seen it all. He remembers KU's guys from playing the Jayhawks two and three years ago. KU's players won't remember Michigan's players because they weren't on the team then.
• Michigan point guard Trey Burke has seen taller defenders go against him like KU senior Travis Releford might. Indiana's Victor Oladipo is a good example, as he is 6 foot 4. Good competition brings out the best in Burke.
• Beilein says you can run a beautiful play, and a great shot-blocker like Jeff Withey can block the shot anyway to start a fast break opportunity. That can be deflating for a team, and Michigan has to not get deflated. KU has developed Withey in that he's playing taller offensively. He's not bringing the ball down as much now. He's a challenge on both ends.
• Beilein loves having 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 wings. Self has three of those guys out there as well. All have length, and all can shoot it. KU's four men get lost in the discussion sometimes. They're skilled. Kevin Young does a lot of the dirty work for the other guys.
• If Michigan plays defense, it plays much better offense, because the team likes to get out and run and has great shooters on the wing. Beilein has tinkered with things offensively and seems to have found something that has worked recently. Beilein thinks his team drives the ball well, shoots it well and grabs offensive rebounds well. Beilein thinks a key is to take care of the ball, as KU defends so well that you have to get a lot of shots.
• All players will go through tough shooting times. A lot of times, if you make one shot, you get going. KU guard Ben McLemore is a great player. Michigan needs to not give him open looks. Freshmen go through shooting slumps sometimes. But KU is a great team even when he's not shooting well.
• Beilein didn't see any difference in his team shooting in a dome during its practice today. He won't address it with his players. He doesn't see a reason to address it.
• To win at this level, everybody's got to play well. But when your guards and playing well and are experienced, you have an advantage. Point-guard play has been elevated in the last 10 years. If your point guard has a tough game, the rest of your guys have to have really good games. Beilein thinks, at the end of the KU-Michigan game, the contest will be decided by how the whole team plays.
12:50 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Welcome back to the NCAA Tournament blog, coming live to you from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Kansas will play Michigan in at around 6:37 p.m. Friday, and today is the main media session for all three teams in this Sweet 16 site.
Here's the interview schedule for today:
1-1:30 p.m. — Michigan
1:30-2 p.m. — Kansas
While we wait for the press conferences to start, I wanted to give you guys a few links that relate to both KU and Michigan.
• Here's a Ben McLemore highlight video that has been making it around the Internet:
• Can't recommend this one highly enough: Grantland.com's Jordan Conn was given all-access with South Dakota State before its NCAA Tournament game against Michigan, and he gives a lot of scouting info about Michigan from SDSU's coaches.
• For those who like the Five-minute Scout breakdowns, the excellent Michigan blog Mgoblog.com has a similar statistical breakdown of KU's offense, defense and individual players.
• Here's some additional Q&A discussion from Mgoblog.com about how Michigan's big men match up against KU center Jeff Withey.
• One more from Mgoblog.com, which shows how Nebraska had some success guarding Michigan's dangerous pick-and-roll by sagging its big man in the lane.
• SI.com's Luke Winn released his later Power Rankings, and KU is ninth out of the remaining teams. Winn also has discussion about how Travis Releford and Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. are two of the top transition scorers in the country.
Be sure to check back throughout the day as we keep you updated on the latest happenings here.
Cliff’s Notes: Roy Williams says he’ll never walk through tunnel as opposing coach at Allen Fieldhouse
7:26 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder's video with sights from Saturday and KU center Jeff Withey talking about the message delivered at a team meeting KU had Friday night.
6:06 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's a sample:
5:34 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
4:35 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the Cliff's notes version from Kansas coach Bill Self's comments at the podium during today's media session.
• KU guard Ben McLemore is young. This is his first time on a big stage. He didn't have his best game against Western Kentucky, but KU's much better when he's in there because he's so athletic and can open things up for others. He's a great shooter. Self is pleased with what he's done all year long.
• KU guard Elijah Johnson is a big of a key on the team for everybody playing well because he's the main distributor. Teams are going to guard McLemore a certain way to force him to do things that don't come as easy for him. He's capable of doing those things, though. He just has to enjoy the moment and play the game and not put pressure on himself. When he's aggressive, KU is much better. KU just has to get him to be more aggressive.
• KU senior Travis Releford is smart, strong, athletic and understands angles defensively. But more than anything, he's competitive. There was a long period of time when WKU's leading scorer T.J. Price didn't make a basket, and that was primarily because of Releford. Self hasn't seen anyone more competitive on the defensive end in college basketball this year than Releford.
• On recent teams, KU's guys enjoy playing for games that are the highest of stakes. But Friday night's game was for the highest of stakes, too. Self thinks KU was ready to play, but he thinks the team was tight. Self says the team isn't going to get up for playing against UNC coach Roy Williams. It will get up for playing North Carolina the team.
• KU center Jeff Withey has become better offensively with his back to the basket. Self is happy with him. His numbers don't jump off the page, but he's averaging about 14 points per game. Last year, Withey benefited from Thomas Robinson getting double-teamed. Now, teammates are benefiting because Withey is getting doubled.
• UNC doesn't run the same things as Iowa State, but personnel-wise, there might be some similarities. The difference is UNC has a 5 man in James Michael McAdoo. KU hasn't played a stretch 4-man all year like P.J. Hairston. That's different. The fact KU has played a team has played a team that can stretch it at four spots like ISU will be a benefit.
• KU had opportunities to dunk a couple balls after beating the press against WKU if it could just play catch. KU didn't do a good job against the press. UNC will try to pressure KU. It might not press, but it will pressure. KU has to be better at attacking pressure and scoring behind it.
• Self thinks everybody who has supported Kansas over time respects and appreciates what Williams did during his time in Lawrence. The people at KU were beneficiaries of his time at KU. Anybody who doesn't feel that way isn't real, Self says, because that's the reality of it. Self doesn't think Williams playing KU is as big of a deal after 10 years, though. Self joked he could go back to Champaign, Ill., and they might now know if he was in town there for a month. Williams playing KU might have been more of a storyline if it had happened earlier in time, but Self doesn't see it as much of a storyline now.
3:57 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the Cliff's notes version of North Carolina coach Roy Williams' comments at the podium during today's media session.
• Williams says his team is excited and confident, but it knows it has a big challenge ahead of it. UNC's game was frustrating for a while. Villanova got more aggressive and made a great run before the half. Williams took all five of his starters out not as much as because he was frustrated with them, but more because he wanted to tell the players to defend the post a different way. UNC went back to a big lineup in the second half against Villanova.
• UNC is not as good at running after opponent made shots this year as it has been in the past. Williams says his team still has been able to run effectively after opponents' missed shots.
• Williams says KU is good defensively because it's long, athletic and has a shot-blocker at the goal. KU center Jeff Withey was strong in last year's game against UNC. KU's guys on the perimeter do a good job of keeping opponents in front of them. KU's goal isn't always to steal the ball; it's go give the opponent one bad shot.
• Williams says his team is going to play the way his team has been playing all year. For 15 years, he's taught his players to take the ball right to the eyes of a shot-blocker, but his team doesn't have the kind of personnel to be able to do that this year. He's hoping to spread KU defensively to get good spacing. He also wants his guys to be smart against KU. If a 6-foot-3 guard gets an offensive rebound and tries to go over Withey on Sunday, Williams joked he'll soon have a 6-foot-3 assistant next to him on the bench.
• KU led the nation in defensive field-goal percentage for a reason, and it's not just because Withey blocks shots. KU has other good defensive pieces and also has length. Size helps you close out better, deflect more passes and bother more people's shots. Syracuse's zone under Jim Boeheim is effective because it has long players closing out on shots. KU recruits a certain type of player to play defense, and its defense is a huge reason for its success.
• Williams has changed a lineup mid-season, but he's never changed a style of play in the middle of a season. He's still not totally comfortable with it. But as a basketball coach, you have to try to get your five best basketball players on the floor if you're not successful. The players had to buy in. They're the ones that should get the credit. UNC's team has gotten better as the season has gone on.
• Williams joked that he's a wacko, and said that every day of a game while coach at KU, he ran by the tombstones of Phog Allen and James Naismith on his jog and asked them for advice. He loves the passion of KU fans. Some would tell him, "We've got a seven-hour drive back to Dodge City, but that was a great game." Both places (UNC and KU) have great passion for the game. Williams loved his time at KU. He loved every day there. He's loved his 10 years back at UNC. Williams says it's not immoral to love two institutions. Williams has said before if there's ever a time where he doesn't get goose bumps when walking into Allen Fieldhouse, he would quit. He gets the same feeling in the Smith Center. Somebody asked Williams the other day if he'd ever play a home-and-home with KU. He said the answer is no, and his athletic director understands that. He will never walk out of the opposing team's tunnel at Allen Fieldhouse.
• Williams doesn't worry about the times when he has to go to a knee on the sideline to collect himself when he's light-headed, which happened once against Villanova. Those spells started when he was 13 years old. It's not vertigo. He's had it checked out by doctors. It's just a rush of blood to the head. He's not worried about it.
• Time heals all wounds. Williams had friends that told him that. Some people were very disappointed when he left KU. They let him know about that. The people have been nice from KU during his time in Kansas City this week. People have been yelling at Williams on the street. Only one person yelled something at him that wasn't nice. Basketball is important around here.
• KU guard Ben McLemore can really shoot. He's an unbelievable scorer who does other things well. McLemore right now is one of the best wing players there is in college basketball.
WKU coach asked if he’s a fan by Sprint Center security; Elijah Johnson says experience will pay off for KU
7:55 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A few final notebook-y items I couldn't squeeze in earlier:
• After Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson said this morning that KU forward Justin Wesley was "his boy," here's what Wesley had to say about Henderson:
"He's a character. We went against each other my senior year in the basketball conference we play. ... He's been crazy since we were kids in middle school. He's a good player, though. He can really shoot."
• WKU coach Ray Harper said the key defensively against Jeff Withey was going to be to eliminates his easy baskets and also give him different looks.
Two other keys sees for his team: Taking care of the basketball and limiting KU's second-chance opportunities.
• Expect lots of shot from Henderson in Friday's 11:40 a.m. game against Wisconsin.
One of Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy's selling points to Henderson on a recruiting visit last year was telling the guard he would have a lot of freedom.
"Coach Kennedy was like, 'You will get to shoot any time you want to shoot. I might say some things to you sometimes if you take a crazy shot, but I don't care. That's my style of play,'" Henderson said. "I watched them, I was like, 'Good lord. This is a perfect fit.' Sure enough, perfect."
• There was a lot of talk today about Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz's signature red hair.
"If I could grow hair like that, I would rock it," Henderson said. "I want to, like, buy his hair and wear it on Halloween. That would be awesome."
KU forward Kevin Young was asked whose hair was better: his or Bruesewitz's.
"The guys always tease me, 'He's got a better fro than you.' It's pretty nice," Young said. "Right now, probably (he has a better fro). When mine's all picked out ... it's a pretty good battle right there."
With that, we're going to sign off our live coverage from Sprint Center. Be sure to check back Friday for all your pregame and postgame coverage as KU opens NCAA Tournament play against Western Kentucky.
7:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder loops some practice highlights into this video of KU guard Elijah Johnson, who says KU's experience will be valuable in March.
6:58 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
I noticed something interesting about KU forward Kevin Young when watching him answer questions in the locker room.
Notice what's buried in his hands? It's a Rubik's Cube ... and not only that, a solved Rubik's Cube.
I asked Young what the story was behind it.
"It's just something I like to do to keep my mind off of stuff," Young said. "It's a little thing I picked up a Barstow (Community College)."
The KU senior said a couple of guys were big into Rubik's Cubes on his team in California.
Young has turned into a pro at solving the puzzle, as he has a memorized pattern he repeats over and over. His best time solving one is two minutes, and he told me he'd just finished getting all the colors to match up a few minutes earlier.
Young says that particular Rubik's Cube also has significance because he got it at Barstow.
"I still remember that. I've come a long way from the middle nowhere in California and desert everywhere to snowy Kansas," Young said with a smile. "It's pretty awesome being able to come back here and get this opportunity to play in this tournament."
6:41 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Nick Krug has some great photos in his just-posted gallery.
Here are a few:
6:32 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Journal-World photographer Nick Krug related a funny story to me, as earlier today he walked into Sprint Center just in front of Western Kentucky's team.
Krug watched as Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper was stopped by security and asked if he was a fan.
One of the WKU sports information directors quickly came forward and said, in fact, Harper was WKU's coach.
Harper was asked about the incident at the podium a few minutes ago.
"I'm sure Bill Self didn't get asked the questions I got asked," he said with a smile. "They didn't know who the heck I was. I told them I was a fan, and I was here to enjoy some good basketball.
"They just stopped me. Fortunately, I had some people that I had with me that they actually believed that said, 'He coaches our basketball team.' So they allowed me to come on in.
"Hopefully, they'll let me in tomorrow night."
5:27 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the Cliff's notes version from KU coach Bill Self from his time at the podium. Full audio is in the 5:13 update if you're looking for that.
• Kevin Young's role doesn't change with Perry Ellis emerging. Young is a guy KU wants to play 25-27 minutes per game. That could go down with Ellis playing well. Young might be able to play harder in shorter spurts. When guys play well off the bench, that sometimes make starters focus better. Since Ellis has played well, Self thinks Young has played better.
• Ellis' role has been the same as it's been all year long. He'll be the first big off the bench. He'll play certain minutes if the ball goes in or not, and if the ball does go in and he plays well, those minutes can be extended. But KU won't switch its lineup or change Ellis' role at this point.
• KU has watched quite a bit of tape on Western Kentucky. WKU has an athletic team that is unconventional because it plays a post guy that can stretch it. WKU can score. Self likes WKU's team. Its players are scrappy, and it's a fun team to watch on tape.
• Ben McLemore was the best prospect in the gym last year, even with Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor on the team, and they'd be the first to tell you that. McLemore's had a unique path to get where he is. KU never wavered on how badly it wanted McLemore, even when his eligibility situation was shaky. KU knew he'd have a chance to be special, and it certainly turned out that way.
• Travis Releford is the foundation of KU's team. He's the guy that allows everybody to do what they do. He's KU's best perimeter defender. He's as competitive as anybody KU has. He's elevated his offensive game. And he's as well-liked as anyone in the program. Everyone wants to see him do well.
• Experience is great in the tournament, but talent will trump experience. Experienced talent is the best. The older guys at KU have been great with the younger guys and especially Ben McLemore.
• WKU coach Ray Harper has won the most championships of any coach in Kansas City this weekend (winning them at lower college levels). Self says Harper's a terrific coach. He's done a great job wherever he's been. The other coaches in KU's four-team field are really good as well (Villanova coach Jay Wright and UNC coach Roy Williams). Coaches don't play, but there are some heavyweight coaches in this regional.
5:13 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
4:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
North Carolina coach Roy Williams started his time at the press conference by joking that he knows he's old when he sees a former player in the seats and that guy looks older than him.
He was speaking about Kansas radio man and former Jayhawk Greg Gurley.
"You didn't know this was going to be a roast, did you?" Williams said to Gurley with a smile.
Here are some more notes from Williams' time at the podium:
• Williams said he's never been on the floor at Sprint Center. His first time will be when UNC practices in a few minutes.
• Williams says his four-guard look has been interesting, but it also has been scary. Most coaches have things they are comfortable with. He's still not comfortable with it. But your job as a coach is to do things that work. UNC decided to make the switch after getting blown out by Miami (Fla.). By going small, UNC has been able to spread the floor better, and opponents have turned it over more. UNC also hasn't rebounded as well since the switch either. The switch has been good for everybody, though, and that includes the coaching staff.
• Williams hasn't given any thought to the reception he'll receive Friday from fans. He gave KU 15 years of his life. He gave his heart, body and soul. A guy stopped Williams in the airport and said, "I'm a big Jayhawk fan." Williams said, "So am I." Williams says it's not immoral to love two different schools. KU is still his second-favorite school. Williams has enough to worry about not including whether he's going to be cheered or booed by fans.
• Guys leaving early for the pros has changed college basketball. It's difficult. UNC has lost 11 players early to the draft in the last eight years. The landscape has changed. You almost have to recruit like a juco and be happy if you get a guy for one season. It's sad to Williams because he's a college basketball fan and a college basketball guy. College basketball has become a bus stop for a lot of players and families on their way to the NBA.
• The positives with the four-guard lineup is that UNC, a lot of times, has three good three-point shooters on the floor at one time. That stretches the defense, which also helps UNC's drivers. UNC doesn't block any shots, though, and has struggled to rebound. So far, the coaches believe the positives outweigh the negatives. Coaching is putting together the puzzle pieces. The UNC coaches think this lineup puts the best players on the floor.
• Williams think his coaching philosophy has changed because players change. You hope to recruit guys to play the style you want, but sometimes guys change and sometimes guys get hurt. You can't be stubborn as a coach. Sometimes you have to be smart to make a change.
3:48 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson still remembers being a freshman at Utah — after his team failed to make the NCAA Tournament — and watching BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.
"I'm watching the tournament, watching Jimmer, and I'm just like, 'Gah, that man is so lucky. He got the opportunity to put himself in a position to do that, and he did it," Henderson said. "We've put ourselves in an opportunity, in a position to make a run here. We've just got to do it now."
Henderson knows that the NCAA Tournament can make superstars, naming off Fredette along with Davidson's Stephen Curry as players that greatly increased their stock in March.
The senior guard knows these next few weeks are vitally important for his own basketball future.
"I'm trying to get paid here soon, because I'm tired of doing all this stuff for free," Henderson said. "This is where you make your money: the NCAA Tournament is where you make a name for yourself. You can go down in history."
There's a balance, of course. Henderson can't help his own future if the Runnin' Rebels don't win.
"You've got to do it for the team. You've got to win. All you do is win," Henderson said. "Every team that makes the Final Four, every single player on their team is making money somewhere in the world."
A couple other tidbits from the entertaining Henderson:
On what he thinks of Kansas:
"I was at Texas Tech in the Big 12. I like Kansas. One of my guys goes to Kansas, Justin Wesley. I played a lot of ball with him in high school. North Carolina's out here, too. I'm not a big fan of North Carolina. I'm all about Duke, baby. Blue Devils."
On if he'd like his style of play if he was playing against himself:
"I just keep it real all the time. If there's someone doing that out there, I'm like, 'Man, that dude goes hard.' I'd probably like it. I think I would like myself."
3:07 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
One of the most fascinating — and, to me, cool — stories at this site is Wisconsin forward Ryan Evans.
The 6-foot-6 senior is the only Div. I player I know of that uses a jump shot on free throws.
The senior was a 74-percent free-throw shooter his sophomore year and a 73-percent shooter last year before hitting a mental block this season. In late February, he was stuck around 40 percent and had just fired up another airball from the stripe.
Evans knew it was time to make a change, and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan helped make it happen.
During a practice in late February, Wisconsin players were instructed to shoot 100 free throws. At the halfway point, Evans had made 20 of 50.
"Why don't you go ahead and try the jump shot?" Ryan asked Evans.
The senior did. And he made 45 of his next 50 attempts.
"I've never been someone who really worries about what other people think too much in my life," Evans said. "My job is to do what's best for me and what's best for my team at the end of the day. And that was a change that needed to be made."
Since that point, Evans is 11-for-19 from the line (58 percent).
Evans also has become an inspiration after NBA players like Shaquille O'Neal refused to change their free-throw styles despite poor results.
Evans has had three youth coaches tell him that their entire team now shoots jump-shot free throws.
He's also had some younger players contact him to say they've had the courage to jump on their free throws after he started doing it.
"I guess it's a trend-setter," Evans said with smile. "It is neat. It's something that's different. You can't be scared to be different in life."
2:14 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Just halfway through my tape, and there are too many quote Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson quotes to not share.
Henderson said he was at home Tuesday watching Kentucky's NIT game against Robert Morris:
"I'm laying on the couch watching the Kentucky, and the announcer's like, 'Oh, Kentucky's not ready for this atmosphere.' I'm like, 'Give me a freakin' break.' In my mind, I was like, 'They're ready for that atmosphere.' I'm like, 'I don't think they're ready to play.'
"I mean, who wants to play in the NIT? Especially if you're Kentucky. If you don't make the NCAA Tournament, obviously, you've failed with your season.
"I'm sitting there watching ESPNU, and all of a sudden they're talking about the game, and they're like, 'Oh, look what Marshall tweets.' I'm like, 'OK, that's weird.' It's cool, I guess. People tell me I need to watch what I say sometimes, but it's their choice to follow me."
Here's Marshall's view on some other topics:
Are you worried that your antics rub teammates the wrong way?
"I think I probably should have worried about that at the beginning of the season." (smiles)
On being Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz, whom he will go against Friday:
"I've watched Wisconsin a lot on TV. I've heard Bruesewitz gives some of those interviews, and he seems like a colorful guy. People will trash on him a lot when they go on the road and stuff. I obviously feel him on that. But he seems like a cool dude. I can't wait to actually meet him."
On whether the coaches not selecting him first-team All-SEC was meant to send him a message:
"I don't, but that was pretty dumb, because we won the tournament. It wasn't just for me, either. It was for (teammate) Murphy Holliday. (LSU's) Johnny O'Bryant better than Murphy Holliday? No way."
On the "land shark," another signal he broke out at the SEC tournament (see above photo) that started as a celebration for Ole Miss football players when they got a sack:
"I was making fun of (the Ole Miss defensive players). I was like, 'You all have been doing that land shark thing this whole time, and I'm the one that makes it famous.'"
1:02 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
I wanted to be sure to get here early to talk to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who has become the most controversial figure in college basketball because of his on-court antics and harsh off-court words about coaches and opponents. That included a Gator chomp down the sideline against Florida in last week's SEC championship game.
When I first walked in, this was the scene in the locker room around Henderson — one of the largest I've seen around a player in an opening-round NCAA site.
With an Ole Miss sports information director by his side, Henderson represented himself well. He was engaging, interesting, and definitely not afraid to speak his mind. I left wishing there were more college guys out there like him ... while understanding why coaches would be wary of letting players speak as openly as Henderson does.
I'll have more one-liners from Henderson later when I make it all the way through my tape, but in the meantime, here's Henderson saying he believes Ole Miss is as hot as an team entering the NCAA Tournament.
12:50 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Welcome back to the NCAA Tournament blog, coming live to you from Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas will play Western Kentucky in at around 8:50 p.m. Friday, and today is the main media session for all eight teams in this regional.
Here's the interview schedule for today:
11:20 a.m. — Ole Miss
12:05 p.m. — Villanova
12:50 p.m. — Wisconsin
1:35 p.m. — Kansas State
3:45 p.m. — North Carolina
4:30 p.m. — Kansas
5:15 p.m. — LaSalle
6:00 p.m. — Western Kentucky
Be sure to check back throughout the day as we keep you updated on the latest happenings here.
Blog from New Orleans: Photos, quotes from KU’s interviews, plus Calipari talks about his time with KU
7:23 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here's our end-of-day video giving our observations from today's media session.
With that, we're going to wrap up the live blog here from New Orleans.
Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for addition coverage of Monday's national championship game, including stories, blogs, videos, chats and more.
6:20 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Really interesting behind-the-scenes look at the KU players from Mike Yoder in this video ...
6 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
I was at a breakout session with Elijah Johnson when he was asked about playing Kentucky the first time.
At that point, he said he felt KU was playing like a "rec team."
"It was our first big game. It was so fast, so quick," Johnson said. "We weren't a team at all. I barely remember the game — just up and down and sloppy. It felt like an AAU game. It didn't really feel like a college basketball game at all."
When asked about Tyshawn Taylor providing most of the offense for KU that day, Johnson said the reason for that was Taylor was the only Jayhawk who had been in that kind of environment.
"We weren't men about situations like we are today," Johnson said. "Once we got down, I don't want to say we panicked, but we didn't know what to do back then. We know what to do now, and I think that's something we're all conscious of. I feel like we definitely learned from that game."
4:49 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
A few more interesting quotes from today's media session ...
Elijah Johnson, on his thoughts about Kansas being an underdog in the national championship:
“These are the two best teams in the country. Obviously, I feel like no one wants to be second. I don’t think Coach (John) Calipari wants to be the second best coach in the country, and I don’t think we do. With that being said, everybody is playing with house money. If you are go out there feeling like you’ve got to save something, you are going to come up short.”
Johnson on his thoughts about Kansas coach Bill Self:
“Coach is a funny man. If only I could tell you some of the stuff he says to us. He knows how to get us fired up. That’s one thing I like about Coach.
"Coming out of high school, one thing a lot of people said about me was I didn’t know how to play hard all the time. I relaxed a lot and you never get everything out of me. Then I heard when you go to Kansas you can. Coach knows how to get his boys going. I never realized it, but he really does. He gets us going. He says small stuff, whether it’s a joke or it’s yelling, he knows what he needs to do to get our attention."
Thomas Robinson, on his first game against Kentucky this year:
"The biggest part of why we lost that game is because I was kind of selfish and tried to do everything by myself. I can’t let that happen this game. In fact, I won’t let that happen this game.”
Robinson, on playing Kentucky again:
“Extra motivation. I want payback. I don’t want anyone to think they have the upper hand on me and I’ve thought that way all season about Kentucky, but I get to see them again."
Tyshawn Taylor, on overcoming his early season struggles and playing through criticism:
“It’s a huge difference. I think I had a nickname earlier in the season, ‘Tyshawn Turnover Taylor.' I had that nickname, but I haven’t heard that in a while, not because I haven’t been turning the ball over, but we’ve been winning and nobody cares. There’s a lot more positivity now. We’re in the national championship game. If you’re a fan, a true fan, how can you not respect that?”
4:25 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
I didn't get to Kansas senior walk-on Jordan Juenemann for as long in the locker room as I have the last few games, but I still wanted to share his breakdown of Kentucky before Monday's game.
Here's a transcript of our conversation:
Jesse Newell: What's the scouting report on Kentucky?
Jordan Juenemann: They get a lot of easy baskets off offensive rebounds and in transition. They shoot a high percentage. We've got to look to limit that. But just, 1 through 5, like we said about Ohio State, they're loaded. Even with Darius Miller, too. They have some guys that can size you up, too. They do some dribble handoffs and do a lot of dribble penetration to get to the rack and throw some lobs up for Anthony Davis, so it is hard. They really just get those easy chip baskets off offensive rebounds and transition.
JN: What makes it tough to go against their offense?
JJ: Their dribble penetration, we've got to stop that, as good as they are getting to the glass. Then offensive rebounds ... they get a lot of offensive rebounds. So that's hard to guard, but also, Anthony Davis is getting drives and they spread you out. He gets some drives, gets to the rim and finishes. So that makes it hard on the defense.
JN: What are the keys for you guys?
JJ: Obviously, limit transition and rebounding. Just play tough and do what we do and make them guard us. Hopefully, we can give them a run.
3:56 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here's the full photo gallery, along with a couple more highlights below.
3:30 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
A few more photos from our own Nick Krug and Mike Yoder ...
3:23 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here's the full press conference from KU coach Bill Self and the KU starters, for those wanting to hear from the Jayhawks at their media session today.
Also, here's a short story about Self winning the Naismith national coach of the year award.
1:58 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
KU coach Bill Self has just been named the Naismith national coach of the year.
More to come ...
1:53 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Tyshawn Taylor, on his three-point shooting (he's 0-for-20 this tournament):
"I think I'm definitely due. I think the basketball gods are with me," he said with a smile.
He went on to say that if he had an open shot, he would take it, but he wasn't gong to force anything.
1:49 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
• Self says defending and rebounding is this team's identity. Being tough is what KU does.
Oh, and here's a cool photo from Nick Krug.
1:46 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
• Self just said that Kentucky probably should be favored against KU on Monday. But Self has never seen a game on paper. He said that he hasn't seen anyone pick KU on TV, and he joked if ESPN's Digger Phelps did, it might be the kiss of death.
1:30 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Calipari's media hour at the podium just wrapped up a few minutes ago. Not surprisingly, most of the discussion centered around Cal's use of one-and-done players, the coach's history with KU and lessons learned from the 2008 NCAA championship game.
Though it's not in the audio I put up, the most testy moment came when reporter Bob Ryan asked Calipari if this championship more to him than his players, because Cal has grown up with the college game, while most of his players are just using it as a short pit-stop before the NBA. Calipari gave a long answer, which went back into some of his family's history — his grandparents came to the United States through Ellis Island, and both of his parents were only high-school graduates. Ryan felt Calipari was avoiding the question, so he angrily asked it again. Calipari said the game would mean a lot for the players, and that it probably meant more to them.
Whether he's telling the full truth or not, Calipari was adamant during the entire session that this game does not hold extra significance for him and his legacy, even though he has yet to win a national championship.
12:51 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
12:35 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here is a Cliff's notes version from Kentucky coach John Calipari's time at the podium this afternoon.
• Calipari said doesn't apologize for having one-and-dones. He says his team had a 3.0 grade-point average last year. The kids go to class and do what they're supposed to do. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both left college early, too.
• One reporter started to ask Calipari about the Kansas-Memphis NCAA championship game in 2008 and started rambling a bit trying to get his question out. "You're stuttering here," Calipari said with a smile. "I'm fine with that game."
So what did Calipari learn from that game?
"Make free throws," Calipari said emphatically with a smile. "That's what I learned."
• Calipari has fond memories of Kansas. He spent almost three years there. He met his wife at KU.
• Calipari said he enjoyed coaching in the 2008 national championship game. It's just everything down the stretch went wrong. The stars and moons and everything aligned for KU, and suddenly, the two teams were in overtime. Cal still thought his team played well.
• Calipari said Kentucky might play a 2-3 zone against KU on Monday. Kentucky hasn't played that very often, but Calipari says his team might do it. He says all his players know how good Thomas Robinson is. Robinson's a vicious competitor. He's great around the rim and can make top-of-the-key shots. He's become a better ball-handler, and he eats rebounds.
• Calipari saw some picture of the riots that happened in Kentucky after Saturday's game. Calipari says UK's fans are the classiest fans. They don't storm the court. They're not vicious to the opponent. The state of Kentucky is so connected to the program that sometimes crazy things happen, and those things Saturday probably involved alcohol.
• Calipari was a volunteer coach at KU under Ted Owens. When at KU, to make money, he served athletes peas and corn to KU athletes. Calipari said being a volunteer coach at KU was a great experience for him. He said he has great memories of Lawrence.
• Calipari says KU is the best post-up team in the country. The Jayhawks do the best job of getting their guys next to the rim. UK's shot-blocking might not have the same effect on KU because so many shots come on post-ups.
• Calipari has known KU coach Bill Self for a long time. Calipari said after 2008 that if any school and coach was going to beat his team then, he wanted it to be KU and Self, because of the respect he has for both.
• Calipari said there isn't pressure on him. He was dancing at breakfast this morning. He's fine. This isn't about Calipari. This is about his team. If Calipari's legacy is decided on one game, it won't be him doing that, it will be other people who do that.
• Memphis' Antonio Anderson is in town. Calipari has never looked at the tape of Mario Chalmers' three-point shot in the 2008 title game. He jokingly said he threw that tape out of the bus on the way to the plane. Some of Calipari's Memphis players have been texting him. He wishes they could all be with him.
11:55 a.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Welcome back to the NCAA Tournament blog, coming live to you from the Superdome in New Orleans, site of this year's Final Four.
Kansas will play Kentucky in Monday's national championship game, making this the last preview media session of this year's NCAA Tournament.
Here's the schedule for today:
12-1:05 p.m. — Kentucky coach John Calipari/athletes available to reporters
1:30-2:35 p.m. — Kansas coach Bill Self/athletes available to reporters
Both teams also will have closed practices, UK from 2-3:30 and KU from 3:35-5:05.
Be sure to check back throughout the day as we keep you updated on the latest happenings here.
Blog from New Orleans: Self, players speak at podium, plus videos, photos and panoramic views from the Superdome
5:45 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Really cool video here from Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder that highlights Friday's activities at the Final Four.
With that, we're going to wrap up the live blog here from New Orleans.
Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for more coverage, including the GameDay Cram Session and live-game blog Saturday as KU attempts to advance to the national championship game.
5 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Journal-World photographer Nick Krug just posted his photo gallery from today's festivities.
Here are a few of the photos:
4:21 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Kansas guard Elijah Johnson had the quote of the day again today. This is from the transcript of his time at the podium:
Q. "The court feels like you're up on a stage. Could you talk about the court."
ELIJAH JOHNSON: "No, I actually did feel like I stepped onto a stage. I felt like I was about to rap (smiling).
"I guess you could say the light's on. The floor felt good. I don't know, it felt like a make-believe court. I don't know if it was because it was elevated or what, but the court just seemed longer.
"But I like it so far. I plan on having fun up there."
4:08 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Obviously, I'm sure KU fans couldn't help but think back to 2008 when guard Rodrick Stewart was injured while attempting a highlight-reel slam at the end of the Jayhawks' open practice at the Final Four.
3:53 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
KU just wrapped up its time on the court. KU coach Bill Self never does too much in these open practices, and this was no exception. KU stretched and then just had a low-key shoot-around — a workout that was much lighter than Ohio State's.
Self ended the practice 15 minutes early, then was interviewed briefly by CBS's Jim Nantz.
When asked about this year's success, Self told Nantz, "All teams like each other, but this team takes it to a whole other level."
Also, when Nantz asked Self to give a pep talk to all the KU fans in attendance, Self joked, "If they expect us to bring our 'A' game, then I think they all should have curfew by midnight tonight to bring their 'A' game."
3:33 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Wonder what it's like to be in KU's locker room during the Final Four?
3:26 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
SI.com's Luke Winn just posted an interesting blog about KU's best lineup combinations.
The data shows just how important it is for Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey to stay on the court together. To do that against Ohio State: 1. Robinson has to be able to guard Deshaun Thomas on the perimeter, and 2. Withey needs to stay out of foul trouble.
3:22 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Just posted the audio press conferences from ...
KU coach Bill Self and ...
3:07 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
CBS's Jim Nantz just announced Purdue's Robbie Hummel as the winner of the Lowe's Senior CLAS award. Purdue coach Matt Painter is here as well.
Audio from KU on the way ...
2:36 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Some notes from Ohio State's time at the podium:
• Jared Sullinger said that Thomas Robinson plays hard and plays smart. In his eyes, Robinson is the college player of the year. If you look at his season, the way he took his team to top, you've just got to look at him being that guy. He deserves everything that's come his way, and he's a good guy.
• Sullinger said he would have hurt Ohio State's team if he'd have played in December against Kansas. Sullinger was very stiff. Sullinger thinks KU would have attacked him all day on ball screens or in the post, because he was tiptoeing that day. Ohio State would rather risk a game early in season than in the NCAAs. It was the smartest decision for the basketball team.
• Aaron Craft says Sullinger may or may not have had impact on the KU-Ohio State in December. The team can't think Sulllinger is an instant fix for beating the Jayhawks. KU is a good basketball team, and it has gotten better since December.
• Sullinger says by coming back this season, he wanted to make a statement that not everybody is using college basketball as a pit stop before the NBA. There's more than money and endorsements. There are championships to win at every level. Sullinger has won championships at every level from elementary school until now.
• Sullinger says he's cool with Robinson. He's a great guy off the court. Everybody expects this big strong man with tattoos to be ultra-aggressive off the court. He's cool. He's very chill. He wants to always handle his business. At summer camps, Sullinger and Robinson were helping each other out, suggesting post moves to each other for certain situations.
2:05 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
About to head into interviews for both Ohio State and Kansas, but before that, I wanted to post a short stop motion video from the Buckeyes' practice today.
In the video, you can see about 2 1/2 minutes of Ohio State's practice in 10 seconds.
Ohio State, by the way, went pretty hard in its open practice. Typically, these types of practices aren't taken that seriously, but the Buckeyes were going full speed.
1:20 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Also, here's a panorama I shot from the court on Thursday with my iPhone. It's not perfectly lined up, but I think it gives you a good idea of what it's like to be on the court here (be sure to scroll up on the panorama as well).
1:15 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Welcome back to the NCAA Tournament blog, coming live to you from the Superdome in New Orleans, site of this year's Final Four.
Here's the schedule for today:
1-1:50 p.m. — Ohio St. practice
2-2:15 p.m. — Coach Thad Matta interview
2:15-2:30 p.m. — Ohio State Student-Athlete interviews
2:30-2:45 p.m. — Kansas Student-Athletes interviews
2:45-3 p.m. — Coach Bill Self interview
3:10-4 p.m. — Kansas practice
That means Ohio State is practicing on the court in front of me right now:
A couple links to start off the blog:
• Nice column by Tom Keegan outlining why Thomas Robinson needs to step up his defense ...
• Five-minute statistical scouting report on Ohio State, if you haven't seen it yet.
We'll be back with updates throughout the day here, so be sure to keep checking back for more coverage from New Orleans.
Blog from New Orleans: Self says coaching changes won’t be a distraction, plus a cool Barry Hinson story
8:18 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
As promised, here's our wrap-up video from the Superdome.
For those who haven't listened yet, I wanted to point out a funny answer KU coach Bill Self gave to Jack Harry at the 6:33 mark of our audio press conference.
Harry, from NBC Action News in Kansas City, gave a rather famous prediction on KU this year ... one Self, evidently, is well aware of.
With that, we're going to wrap up today's live coverage from New Orleans. Be sure to check back for more coverage from the Final Fourt throughout the week.
7:12 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Working on a wrap-up video that Matt Tait and I just shot. Should be posted soon.
5:46 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Some great video here from Mike Yoder.
You can also see in this video why Tyshawn Taylor is a media favorite.
5:33 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Some breaking news ...
5:05 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Some miscellaneous quotes from Ohio State's time with reporters.
Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger on Kansas forward Thomas Robinson: "He's the player of the year in my eyes, without a doubt."
OSU small forward small forward William Buford on what stood out from the Buckeyes' last game against KU: "The loss. Us losing. That was the main thing. And not converting at the end of the game — not being able to make the plays at the end of the game when they were able to, and we weren't able to do that. That really cost us the game, too.
OSU forward Deshaun Thomas, on whether he thinks Thomas Robinson will guard him: "Probably for a little bit in the first half. I think they're going to switch to No. 40 (Kevin Young) holding me, to be quicker and longer and probably contain me more."
Thomas, on KU trying to have Young guard him in the first matchup: "They tried to make it more difficult, but like I said, we're a better team now. They are too, but we're going to try to make it difficult and run through our offense the same way and get great shots."
OSU point guard Aaron Craft, on Tyshawn Taylor in the teams' first game: "He was the catalyst. I think he was a very big reason why they won that game scoring the ball and distributing it to their shooters and their playmakers. He's a great player, and he's been through the battles, and he's a veteran. It's something that ... it's going to be a great challenge, and hopefully as a team, we can find a way to contain him and hopefully make some other people make some plays."
4:07 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Here are some highlights from Elijah Johnson's talk with reporters. Some interesting stuff in there:
Elijah, on being at the Final Four: "I've never felt like I've had a red carpet laid down for me ever in my life, so the experience is definitely fun, and something I've never been a part of."
Elijah, on Hinson and Manning taking head-coaching jobs: "I think if they have the opportunity, they should take it. I don't think it's something that they should overlook. Jayhawk nation will always love them. I think that shows you how winning, or how if you're doing the right thing, the pie's big enough for everybody. I never, ever thought that I would be able to help one of our coaches get a job. For us to be able to be part of the reason that happened, it makes me feel good. It makes me want to win even more."
On the games coming up: "I think it's going to get fun for us this weekend. I really do. I think that Saturday and Monday can be, probably, the most fun days of my life that I ever even imagined."
On the Final Four attention: "This weekend is bigger than I expected. Everything is on a higher pedestal. I'm conscious of it."
On playing a long time at KU: "Not that I do this, but I find myself not even having to listen to coach Self with a lot of stuff he says. He can start a sentence, and I know how the sentence is going to end, because I've been paying attention the whole year. I wanted to be a student of the game; I didn't just want to play it. I think that definitely just made my confidence shoot through the roof."
On Tyshawn Taylor's three-point shooting: "My personal opinion: Tyshawn's having fun with the whole statement of not being able to make shot in a dome. Tyshawn can make a shot in a dome. He will make a shot in a dome."
On Tyshawn's freedom this year: "Tyshawn needs to be let off the leash. You can't try to tame Tyshawn. You've got to let him have fun, and that's when you get the best from Ty. I think that Ty's having the most fun since he's had since he's been at Kansas right now, and I think it's showing in his game."
3:48 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Just posted the full audio press conference from KU coach Bill Self if you want to check it out.
Sorry, but you won't be able to hear most of the questions from reporters because of the setup here.
3:32 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Journal-World photographer Nick Krug has posted a photo gallery from today's festivities.
Here are a couple of the photos in there.
3:17 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
I stuck with KU guard Elijah Johnson during the breakout session and just posted the full audio from his time there.
I'll be putting a quick recap up from his comments shortly.
Also, KU coach Bill Self talked for 15 minutes. Most important from his time at the podium was his insistence that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson taking head-coaching jobs were not a distraction to the team. Self said he asked the schools to get everything done with by today so everyone could talk about it today and so the team could be done with it.
Self also said he kept his players up to date on Manning and Hinson through the whole process and informed them there was a good chance they both could take positions.
2:10 p.m.: Update by Jesse Newell
Welcome back to the NCAA Tournament blog, coming live to you from the Superdome in New Orleans, site of this year's Final Four.
Kansas players and coach Bill Self are preparing to speak with the media. Here's the schedule:
2:20-2:40 p.m. — Kansas Student-Athletes
2:40-2:55 p.m. — Kansas coach Bill Self
4:10-4:30 p.m. — Ohio State Student-Athletes
4:30-4:45 p.m. — Ohio State coach Thad Matta
Before I get to the interviews, I wanted to share a cool story from KU director of basketball operations Barry Hinson, who accepted the Southern Illinois head-coaching job Wednesday.
Hinson, who spoke with reporters outside the locker room a few minutes ago, said right after KU's win over North Carolina last week, he gave Self a hug to celebrate KU advancing to the Final Four.
During the embrace, Self leaned over.
"The only thing that could make this better," Self told him, "is if you get the job."
"That's the kind of guy I've worked for for the last four years," Hinson said. "There are a lot of stories out there about coaches, but for a guy to turn around and say that right after he knows he's going to the Final Four, I think that speaks volumes of what type of guy Bill Self is."
We'll be back with updates throughout the day here, so be sure to keep checking back for more coverage from New Orleans.
5:38 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
We're going to wrap up the live blog from here at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for additional coverage in the next day, which will include the Cram Session, a breakdown of NC State from KU walk-on Jordan Juenemann and additional stories from Gary Bedore, Tom Keegan and Matt Tait.
5:33 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Journal-World photographer Nick Krug just posted his photo gallery from today's practices.
Here are a few of the photos in the gallery:
5:26 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Travis Releford talked about potentially guarding NC State three-point specialist Scott Wood, who has made 42 percent of his threes this year (93 of 223).
"(Coach) hasn't really said who is going to be guarding who, but I'm sure I'll be switched up on (Wood) because of how we play defense," Withey said. " ... It's going to be real interesting, because they play two bigs at the same time, and we do too. Jeff (Withey) will be able to actually be in the game more because of the size (match-up)."
5:06 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's a quick video from Matt showing KU's practice today.
4 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
KU practice just completed here with a thunderous dunk from Justin Wesley.
I wanted to post a short audio clip of North Carolina coach Roy Williams talking about the possibility of playing KU on Sunday.
Williams, who was in good spirits today, also told a good story about meeting up with a KU fan on his walk this morning. Definitely something you'll want to listen to.
3:32 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
Just finished up in the NC State locker room about an hour ago and a couple of things were abundantly clear:
• When asked where he thought NC State might have an advantage over Kansas, Wolfpack big man Richard Howell said: "We think we're quicker than Kansas and we hope to use that in our favor."
• Lots of questions to the NC State players were about what they did differently during their run in the ACC & NCAA Tournaments ... The answer? Confidence. "We're a totally different team than we were during ACC ball," Howell said. "The only thing we're concerned about is what's ahead."
• One more note from Howell: "We don't feel like we've played a team yet like Kansas."
• One more point of emphasis ... A lot of people want to talk about the match up between KU & NC State big men, but there are a lot of Wolfpack players who believe the point guard match-up between KU's Tyshawn Taylor & NC State's Lorenzo Brown. Both are long, tall, athletic PGs who can both score and set the table.
3:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
And here's the audio from KU coach Bill Self from the podium today.
3:21 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's audio from Thomas Robinson and Travis Releford during their time at the podium today.
3:10 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Just back from the KU locker room, and we'll have some quotes later from Travis Releford and (back by popular demand) a scouting report of NC State from KU walk-on Jordan Juenemann.
Before that, though, I'll be posting some audio from KU coach Bill Self and players Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson at the podium. Look for those shortly.
2:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here are some notes from NC State coach Mark Gottfried:
• Gottfried says his team has kept getting better. It lost a lot of games against tough teams early. His team has defended better as of late.
• Gottfried says every time you watch Kansas, you gain more respect for its players. What Gottfried likes about KU is that it just finds ways to win. Gottfried thinks that's a trademark of Bill Self's teams.
• NC State's players already have great respect for Jeff Withey, because they have played North Carolina's John Henson, and Withey has more blocks than him. Thomas Robinson, meanwhile, is grown man. He's physical and can manhandle you for position. It's hard to get him off of where he wants to be. Teams in the Big 12 have tried nearly everything to slow him down. KU's big men will be a big challenge for NCSU.
2 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Some great stuff from Roy Williams at the podium, who appeared to be in a great mood. Here are some highlights.
• UNC coach Roy Williams says he really doesn't know if UNC point guard Kendall Marshall will play. He has a strong inclination that he won't play, though. Marshall can't brush his teeth yet. Williams said if Marshall comes into the room Friday and says he feels great and can do 10 one-handed push-ups without any pain, then Williams will probably play him.
Marshall, though, has not participated in one play, has not passed one ball and hasn't participated in practice (other than shooting one-handed shots on the side) since he was injured last weekend.
Only five people will make the decision on whether he'll play: him, his parents, the doctor and Williams, and the coach says it's probably in that order.
Williams said if Marshall can't go, Stillman White will play in his place. As long as White's heart doesn't pass out before he gets on the court, Williams joked that UNC will start with five guys on the court.
Williams isn't sure about Marshall for any game past Friday. Williams just does not know.
• Roy says he loves the University of Kansas. It's not immoral to love two institutions. Roy saw a guy on his walk this morning. The guy said, "Rock Chalk" to him. Roy responded with, "Go KU."
Roy's a Kansas fan, but right now, he's a North Carolina fan first. It was the other way around for 15 years.
Williams says he'd be ecstatic to meet KU in the Elite Eight, because that means his team would have made it there.
Though Williams said he'd like everything to be about basketball this weekend, he knows that isn't possible with the personal connections he has to KU and North Carolina State.
1:34 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller said UNC point guard Kendall Marshal tried some shooting at practice on Thursday, but the players were still unsure of whether or not he'll play Friday against Ohio.
1:32 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
North Carolina forward John Henson says his injured wrist feels a little better each day. He's resting it and icing it, but it's improving.
1:20 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Welcome to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, site of Kansas' Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State on Friday.
Today is media day, where each team has a meeting with reporters and also an open practice in front of the fans.
KU's schedule looks like this:
2:30-3 p.m. — Interviews with reporters
3:10-4 p.m. — Open practice
We'll keep the updates going throughout the day on the blog here. North Carolina coach Roy Williams will take the podium at 1:30 p.m., so I'll be interested to see what he says.
Right now, NC State is practicing in front of me. To give you a feel for the setup, here's a panoramic view of the Edwards Jones Dome from press row.
Be sure to check back for more updates throughout the day.
7 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
We're going to wrap up the blog from here at CenturyLink Center. Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for all your KU tournament coverage, which will include a Spodcasters episode later tonight and the GameDay Cram Session on Sunday.
6:11 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Two more videos from Yoder, one with Thomas Robinson talking about his birthday on Saturday and the other with Tyshawn Taylor talking about his consumption of Gatorade in the last day.
5:42 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Also, from Mike Yoder, here's some video of Purdue forward Robbie Hummel during a media interview today.
5:37 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here are a few of the photos ...
5:26 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here are a couple of the notable comments from Purdue's time at the podium:
Purdue forward Robbie Hummel, on Sunday's crowd in Omaha:
"We have played in tough environments and tomorrow is going to be no different. I'm sure we will have our 400 fans and Kansas will have the rest."
Purdue coach Matt Painter, on the possibility of playing "big" against KU:
"I think our interior guys are going to have to be ready to play, all of 'em. They throw so many — not really guys at you, with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, the way they come at you and how physical they are and how good they are in their high‑low offense, those guys are going to have to be ready to play."
4:48 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the one-on-one interview with Purdue's D.J. Byrd, who talks about how interesting it was to be next to Norfolk State's locker room on Friday.
4:40 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here is the Cliff's notes version from KU coach Bill Self at the podium:
• KU is excited to play Sunday. Friday was a long day and a late night, but Self thinks his team has its batteries recharged.
• The challenge for KU is to match up with Purdue. KU has to pull its natural bigs out to defend the three-point line. KU really has to do a good job of getting out to shooters. KU's big men will be responsible for a lot of that.
• Self said, as a coach, you can't burn energy on anything in the tournament that doesn't affect you, like other teams' upsets. Self has taken the approach that one team is going to wear a dark uniform and one's going to wear a light uniform, and you're going to have to beat a good team to advance.
• Season stats don't mean much to Self when evaluating an opponent. The KU coaches will look at conference stats. In the last 10 games, Purdue is 48 percent from three. Purdue shoots a lot of threes as well. True motion offense is hard to guard, especially when you have bigs that don't play as much on the perimeter.
• The KU coaches thought Thomas Robinson could be an all-league type guy early in his career. His freshman year, he was KU's fourth-best big man, and Jeff Withey was KU's fifth-best big man. For Robinson to do what he's done .. no one has predicted that. He tries really hard and cares a lot. He has had a remarkable year, because he's taken a tragic situation and used basketball as his outlet to spin something positive out of it. Everyone admires him from KU's camp because of that.
• Self doesn't think bench play is as important as many people think. KU looked nervous early in the Detroit game. KU had a lot of turnovers early, but after that, KU settled down and looked fine. It was good to get Kevin Young and Naadir Tharpe some minutes.
• The late game is a hard one to play, because 8:57 p.m. became 9:20 p.m. KU ate dinner about 12:45 a.m. and then went to bed. KU slept in this morning. The players might be fatigued today, but they'll bounce back and should be fine by Sunday.
• Self likes new KU football coach Charlie Weis. Self thinks his resume is pretty incredible when you study it. He's had good and bad experiences and talks about both. Self feels like for KU, it needs somebody that would draw enough interest that people would want to look at the newspaper to see what he says. Self thinks there will be an increase in ticket sales because of him.
• How can you not respect Robbie Hummel after what he's been through physically? After two ACL injuries, he's averaging 16 points per game. He's a stud. He's really a big guard. Self doesn't know who KU's played like that. He's bigger, but he's kind of like Missouri's Kim English. He's a challenge like that, which is a pretty good compliment.
• Self thinks when a guy is a really good player like Matt Painter was, then he cuts his teeth coaching on his own elsewhere and has success, it's no surprise to anyone that he's done well at Purdue. For an alum to step in and have a chance to coach at his school ... there's no surprise he's done well.
• Self thinks casual fans put all the emphasis on the NCAA Tournament. Season-ticket-holders probably put emphasis more on regular season, but still a lot on postseason. KU has experienced everything: highlights and first-round exits. If you coach long enough, you're probably going to experience a little bit of everything. Self thinks going the the Final Four now is as popular as winning a national championship was in the 1970s, in terms of hype. In order to have a special season, you have to play well in March.
• Self wants to see Tyshawn Taylor in practice today, but he thinks he's fine. He cramped in Hawaii, too. Friday, he said his calf was sore.
• Jeff Withey is playing about as well as he can. He's not going to be a go-to guy offensively, but he's going to have some nights where he can get 12-17 points. Self thought there was a stretch in the second half Friday when Withey was no doubt the best player in the game because of his defensive presence.
• Elijah Johnson played pretty well at point guard Friday. Detroit's pressure wasn't as good in the second half, which happens a lot in tournament games with the early emotion involved. Johnson's point-guard play was encouraging for Self, because Johnson hasn't had a chance to do that much this year.
• The more KU shares and relies on each other, the better it is. KU usually relies on Robinson and Taylor to set the tone for that.
4:04 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here is the Cliff's notes version from the KU players during their brief time at the podium:
KU guard Conner Teahan
• It's definitely a challenge to guard a team that plays small like Purdue. Missouri does some of the same things. Defensively, that can cause problems.
• Perimeter-wise, Teahan feels good about KU's defense. Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson do a good job of matching up against guys with their quickness.
• The way that Kevin Young and Naadir Tharpe came in against Detroit was a bright spot. Kevin played great. Conner could tell Kevin was nervous with his first NCAA game. It was good to see those guys come in and play well. It might also help with Sunday's game to have Tyshawn Taylor a little fresher.
• Conference pride is huge. Purdue played in a lot of big games already. A lot of guys on KU feel like Big 12 is up there as far as one of the best conferences in the country. Conner thinks head-to-toe, the Big 12 was as good as any conference.
KU small forward Travis Releford
• KU has guys that can match up with strength on the perimeter. KU's players just need to come out prepared for anything.
• KU knows Purdue is a great shooting team and can stretch the floor at positions 1-5.
3:45 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
KU coach Bill Self and a couple players will step to the podium in 10 minutes.
Afterwards, check back here for a Cliff's Notes version of their comments.
3:37 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Just finished up an interview with Purdue's D.J. Byrd that will be posted shortly. Byrd has emerged for the Boilermakers this year, earning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
Most of Purdue's players — Byrd included — seemed surprised by all the media attention that KU brings. I was barely able to escape the locker room with a three-deep row of cameras surrounding Robbie Hummel by the entrance.
3:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Welcome back to Omaha, Neb., where Kansas is a little more than 24 hours away from playing 10th-seeded Purdue in the Round of 32.
We'll be updating the blog with some highlights from today's media sessions. Purdue will talk at 3:10 p.m., while KU is set for 3:55 p.m.
While you wait, here are a few videos and links, just in case you missed them.
8:48 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
We're going to wrap up the blog from here in the CenturyLink Center.
Before we go, here's a podcast with Matt Tait where we discuss our observations from the day.
Be sure to check back to KUsports.com on Friday for all your NCAA Tournament coverage in the Jayhawks' first game.
7:54 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Earlier this week, Detroit forward Eli Holman made headlines after being quoted as saying, "(Thomas) Robinson? I can handle Robinson. He has to handle me."
Matt Tait caught up with Holman in the locker room today. There will be much more in Friday's story, but here's a quote from Holman about his previous soundbite.
"The comment kind of got blown up a little bit," Holman said. "So I'm gonna clear that up now. That wasn't exactly what I said. Thomas Robinson is a great player. He's projected as one of the top five picks in the (NBA) draft (in June) and the guy's a beast down low. But what I'm saying is Detroit's here too, now. And we're coming to play."
7:37 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
We talked about the athleticism of Detroit's Doug Anderson earlier. Here's another example of it from a video shot at practice earlier today by Tom Keegan ...
7:33 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Some interesting/funny responses from Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson when asked about Missouri earlier today:
Question: You guys won't have two play them but do you have any thoughts on Missouri being in town with you guys this weekend?
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: No, I don't got (any) thoughts on it.
ELIJAH JOHNSON: Not too many thoughts. They are close to home, too.
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: I hope they are enjoying the weather.
ELIJAH JOHNSON: Yeah.
Question: Are you going to root for them?
ELIJAH JOHNSON: I'll root for the Big 12 because I know that any win with help our conference.
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: They're not in the conference they're in the SEC now.
ELIJAH JOHNSON: You know what, Ty, you got a good point! (Chuckles.)
TYSHAWN TAYLOR: So it doesn't matter, really.
7:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
The last of our one-on-one interviews, this one with senior walk-on Jordan Juenemann. He talks about enjoying the food in Omaha and also doing everything he can to help prepare KU's starters for Detroit.
6:51 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the next one-on-one video interview with KU forward Justin Wesley. The sophomore talked about cheering for KU in the NCAA Tournament from his dorm room last year and also was honest in the evaluation of his own game.
6:36 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
KUsports.com photographer Nick Krug has a photo gallery up. Here are a few of the shots ...
6:26 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Here's the first of our one-on-one interviews, this one with KU guard Conner Teahan. The senior talks about memories from Omaha and areas where KU needs to improve defensively against Detroit.
5:19 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
5:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
5:05 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Just got back from the KU locker room and will have video interviews with Conner Teahan, Justin Wesley and Jordan Juenemann up shortly.
4:25 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Well, it looks like Syracuse is going to hold on. Looked for a while like UNC-Asheville might bust everyone's brackets.
Just a heads-up: We'll be with the Jayhawks during the entire 30 minutes they are available, so there might not be an update for a little while. After that, though, we should have quite a bit to talk about from here in Omaha.
4 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Welcome to the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., site of the Kansas men’s basketball team’s Round of 64 game Friday against Detroit.
Today is the pregame media session, meaning all eight teams at the Omaha site are here to talk to reporters about their upcoming games. KU’s players and coaches will talk to media members starting at 4:30, with open practice to follow at 5:10.
We’ll have updates throughout the day here, but I wanted to start with a couple videos/links in case you haven't seen them yet.
• Here's an interesting video that has interviews and footage from inside a Detroit practice earlier in the year. Gives some nice insight into what Ray McCallum's coaching style is.
• Here's shaky, videocam video from Detroit's Eli Holman showing the Titans' entrance into Omaha.
• When KU coach Bill Self talks about Detroit's athleticism, he's definitely talking about 6-foot-5 junior Doug Anderson. Here are a few of his dunks:
6 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Some final quick quotes from KU coach Bill Self, as the media shuttle is about to shut down service ...
On VCU's style: "They play, I don't want to say a unique style, but aggressive style. They're very scrappy. They'll press. They'll play straight man. They'll play zone. They've been in attack mode for their first four games of the NCAA Tournament and been very successful."
On the high stakes of the Elite Eight game: "The whole makeup of the marketing in the tournament is, 'Road to the Final Four.' And so even though it doesn't crown a champion, it does — in people's minds, the way it's set up — that is the goal to get there. ... (The Elite Eight) is a game with pressure and all those things. No reason to run from it. It definitely exists. The big key is playing loose and that kind of stuff."
On leadership this year versus last year: "Last year I think that — this isn't negative toward Sherron (Collins) — everything ran through one guy. Looking back now, I like it the way it is now. I like it being spread out. I like it being balanced. I like guys holding each other accountable in a way — like Sherron tried to hold everybody accountable. But maybe there wasn't anybody to hold him as accountable as much. Not that he needed it totally, but everybody needs it from time to time.
"And I really like how these guys do it with each other. They coach each other in practice. They get on each other and they applaud each other and they applaud each other and they jack around and have fun off the court. But I think it's more of a collection of — and maybe it's because the twins are so unselfish on the court — but it's more of a collection of we than me. And last year Sherron was the guy. I made him out to be that way. And I think this is much more effective this year."
On Brady Morningstar: "If we didn't have Brady, we wouldn't be here, bottom line. He's been our best perimeter defender for three years and out best post feeder for all three years and very, very smart."
On Morningstar red-shirting in 2008: "His parents, that was part of the deal when we recruited him, they wanted us to redshirt him. I think their goals was to have him be the oldest student in college athletics."
Thanks for checking out the blog today, and be sure to check back Sunday for extended coverage of KU's Elite Eight game against VCU.
5:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Three videos from Mike Yoder, including a must-see one where Marcus Morris talks about how he doesn't try to intimidate opposing players (though he doesn't get upset if he has the reputation of being an intimidating player).
5:07 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A couple funny quotes from the Morris twins:
Marcus, on VCU's players saying they won't let KU trash talk them: "That's fine. I don't trash talk. I don't know why people say I trash talk. I just say words. You've gotta YouTube guys like Kevin Garnett. That's trash talking. What he does and what Kobe (Bryant) does and what Carmelo (Anthony) and those guys do is trash talking. We just say some things that's all just in the emotion of the game. It's definitely not trash talking."
Marcus, on being safe if he ever visits Richmond, Va., if KU knocks out both Richmond and VCU: "I don't even know where Richmond is. I'll probably never go there anyways. I guess in case I do I'll have a little entourage with me to make sure everything is cool. Those guys are competitors. They wouldn't do anything, but the fans might. I saw a couple YouTube clips and their fans are a little crazy. We might have to watch our backs."
Markieff, on VCU's players saying they won't let KU bully them: "For them to say that means they already have us on their minds about doing it. That doesn't mean anything to us. We don't want to try to bully anybody, but that's good that they think that's what we're going to do."
Markieff, on Cinderella teams: "They're exciting teams. That's it. I don't remember the movie too much.
4:55 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A few quotes from KU's players today:
• Thomas Robinson on VCU: "They have definitely proved themselves as a quality team. They're a good team and they belong in the tournament. We have to play them tomorrow, so I don't want to do too much complimenting on them."
• Robinson, on KU's fan support: “It is amazing and beyond words on how good our fans are. I’ve been saying that all year. We have the best fan base in the country.”
• Josh Selby, on his team giving him a hard time about his botched play in the second half Friday night: "Coach came in and teased me. The players teased me. It was all in fun. The ball got stuck behind my back. I was trying to whip it around, but it wouldn’t go.”
• Brady Morningstar, on being close to the Final Four: "It's right there in front of you. It's like putting a piece of steak on a plate in front of a dog who's chained up. He's right there, but he's chained up. Hopefully, the next day you can let him loose."
• Tyshawn Taylor, on being the 'bad guys' against the Cinderella VCU: "In the tournament, I guess everybody roots for the Cinderella team, so I'm sure we're going to have a lot of people rooting against us, but it's been that way before, too. We're just going to come out and play. We know what we've got to do to win."
4:45 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Four more photos from Nick ...
4:32 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
More photos from Nick Krug. Full gallery also is now live.
4:20 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
I'll add some quotes from KU coaches and players here in a few minutes.
3:09 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A couple photos from Nick Krug ...
2:50 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Cliff's Notes version of VCU coach Shaka Smart's comments at the podium.
• Our guys never give up. We rarely play perfect basketball, but basketball is a game of mistakes. Even Kansas at 35-2 is going to make mistakes. The game is about what you do next.
• Smart says his name is the best thing that his dad ever did for him, as he was raised primarily by his mother. "Shaka" is an African name from a king who united hundred of thousands of people. There was a movie made about that Shaka.
• Smart told CBS's Gregg Doyle that he looked a lot younger looking in person. "So do you," Doyle replied. Smart said he likes this experience because he's met a lot of people he didn't know before.
• Smart became a coach because he wanted to be involved in basketball as long as he could. When he first started coaching, he noticed it wasn't nearly as fun as being a player. But he still wanted to be involved in the game. He coached his younger brother in kids' leagues and started to like it. He gave it a shot and loved it.
• Concerns send you home at this point. Excuses send you home. The teams that advance in the NCAA Tournament don't look at the glass half-empty. They don't look at the roadblocks. We've probably got the best team left in this tournament (KU) in our game Sunday.
• Smart was accepted to Harvard, Yale and Brown. It was a little intimidating when he visited there. He went to Kenyon College (in Gambier, Ohio) instead because of the relationship with the basketball coach there.
• Smart didn't have a curfew and didn't have to make his bed, but if he came home with a bad grade, he wasn't able to play basketball. Sometimes, a bad grade was a B. He didn't have a choice but to focus on his education. In college, he wanted to do well to make him mom happy. He found classes there that he loved, like social sciences and English and literature. Because of that, in college, he didn't need the drive that his mom instilled in him for education at a young age.
• We're 40 minutes away from the Final Four, and Kansas is who we play. We're not any different than anyone else. We're playing a phenomenal basketball team, but our guys believe we can win. I know we can win.
• Smart said his team didn't have a watch party for the NCAA Tournament because he didn't know if his team would get in. He didn't want his team's season to be defined by that night.
• Smart uses a quote list as inspiration for his players to try to inspire them.
• VCU felt like it was robbed to not get into the NIT last year. It played in the CBI instead. For the coaching staff, it was great preparation for a tournament setting.
• VCU is used to the short turnaround. After playing three games in five days last week, two games in three days this week is not an issue. Playing a great team like KU might be an issue.
• Recruits have called Smart back quicker after VCU's run in this tournament. The way to really make a splash recruiting-wise, though, is to sustain success.
• When Smart heard about Thomas Robinson's story, his heart went out to him. Robinson already has a lot on his plate as a student-athlete. It says a lot about Robinson's fortitude and mental toughness that he was able to come back in such a short time span. Smart hadn't seen Robinson since AAU ball, but he says Robinson's body is unbelievable. KU's strength coach should get a raise, because Robinson looks terrific, as do a lot of guys. If you look at his production in his minutes played, he's extremely productive.
• Smart's confidence is sky-high in his team. He knows what his team can do.
• For the Florida State game, VCU put together a tape of all the pundits' picks for the Florida State game. There's so many guys that make picks on TV, that the video is impressive. Jay Bilas (who Smart says jokingly is VCU's favorite) went on about Florida State's length bothering VCU.
• Smart plans on doing more of that type of motivation for his team before the KU game. One of his assistants already pointed out that according to KenPom, KU has a 44-percent chance of winning the title, while VCU has a 0.9-percent chance of winning the title. Smart says it's kind of like the movie, "Dumb and Dumber." "So you're saying we have a chance." We're not going to stop until that chance is zero.
• Smart set a calendar month of February on fire in practice on March 1. It symbolized that that month was over. His players watched it burn. Luckily nothing burned down.
• VCU guard Joey Rodriguez is stat-conscious. That's a good thing when you're looking at assists. He's the toughest player that Smart has been around.
• Everything in coaching is stolen. Smart says probably 0.01 percent of what he does is original ideas.
• If VCU had a month to prepare for KU, the challenges wouldn't change. It's not the short notice, it's finding ways to slow down their personnel and their great offensive system. Self does a good job of making you pay if you try to defend them certain ways. After watching the Richmond game, Smart saw that KU was the aggressor against Richmond. Smart votes in the coaches poll, and there were several times he voted for KU as the No. 1 team in the country.
• Smart's grandfather is in Hospice care. He's just trying to enjoy his final days in Chicago. Smart's grandfather was the best male influence growing up. He used to cut out every article that had to do with basketball and mailed them to Smart. Smart said he's going to miss those clippings. His grandfather started with nothing and made a great life for his family.
Also, here are some other quotes from VCU guard Joey Rodriguez at the podium.
• On Kansas: "They're impressive. ... They move the ball really well. It's going to be a great challenge, but we're not going to back down."
• On not worrying about ESPN's criticism: "It's not like we're in the game thinking about Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale and what they had to say."
• On play-in game: "I actually think the extra game kind of helped us. ... A lot of guys had never played in the NCAA Tournament. I think getting that first game under our belts and showing that we could play helped our guys."
1:48 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Welcome to the Alamodome in San Antonio, site of the Kansas men’s basketball team’s Elite Eight game Friday against VCU.
Today is the pregame media session for the game, meaning both teams are here to talk to reporters. KU’s players and coaches will talk to media members from 2:55 to 3:55 p.m., while VCU will talk from 1:55 to 2:55.
We’ll have updates throughout the day here, but I wanted to start with a video that surfaced from YouTube today showing a different angle of the KU and Richmond hallway scuffle before Friday's game.
To me, it doesn't look as bad as the CBS video, but I'll let you decide for yourself.
Keep checking back throughout the day for more updates.