Saturday observations as KU prepares for VCU
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.