Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self fielded questions from the media Thursday afternoon, before the No. 6 Jayhawks hit the road this weekend for a game at Colorado.
Here are some of the highlights:
On concern Jayhawks are too casual: Jayhawks don't play with the sense of urgency teams here have played with in the past. Veterans need to show the younger guys how to do that. UTEP game a great example. It's one thing to say you want to play harder. They need to think, and execute and get to a point where Self and coaches don't have to coach emotion, and those sorts of thing. Players need to take it up a notch.
UNC has beaten Louisville and Michigan State and lost to Belmont and UAB: Self saw them and noticed how young they were. He's not really an expert on other teams. But coaches sometimes take for granted how well things go when they have veterans. KU hasn't got there yet. The Duke game spoiled them a little. Guys were geeked up to play and that brought an adrenaline flow to that game.
KU's ball movement: Obviously Jayhawks haven't shot it well at all, yet. Teams aren't really guarding them hard out on the perimeter. Makes defense easier for opponents. KU has good wins, just bad three days in The Bahamas. It's not like everything is broken, Jayhawks just have to pay better attention to detail.
Andrew Wiggins sometimes swishes his jumpers, sometimes air-balls: “Pure” shooter is a stretch for anybody on this team. It's just youth and when the first shot is a tough one and doesn't fall, sometimes the confidence isn't there from that point on. When Self tells players to be aggressive, he doesn't mean forcing shots. Pure shooters at KU, under Self, include Conner Teahan, Tryel Reed and Brandon Rush.
Practices this week: Players have gone hard. Self warns his players the season is a marathon and that there will be games when they're not at their best. The reason he was disappointed at The Bahamas was because they didn't bring the same energy or passion.
Would Self have KU play zone defense?: Jayhawks practice it just about every day. But in Self's opinion, why would he bail the guys out and let them play zone when that's not the way they will need to play when the stakes are even higher and opponents more talented. “We ain't going zone.” That's the mindset he wants the kids to have. If it gets to January and they need to do something different they will. But Self would prefer Kansas to become great at man-to-man. In baseball, fastball is hardest pitch to hit. In Self's opinion, man-to-man is the hardest defense to beat. KU has been in top 10 field-goal percentage defense in nine of 10 seasons at KU and it was 12th the other year. The hardest thing to guard is the ball, and now there are guys who are 6-foot-7 who can do things with the ball only smaller players used to be able to do.
Newcomers and veterans: The thing Self found out is guys' personalities don't change when they step on the floor. Perry Ellis is never going to be as vocal as a Kevin Young. Andrew Wiggins kind of thinking too much right now. Of the guys that start, Wayne Selden Jr. might be the one who needs to be more vocal on the floor. And it is contagious once it starts happening. Self wants Selden to be that guy but it will take time. Self isn't a psychologist but the “studies” he has done with players makes him think social media and video games have taken away from situations where young people are forced to talk. But it's not that way with everybody. KU has just recruited some great players who happen to be quiet. Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers were quiet when they first arrived, too, but eventually the light came on.
Ready for hard road trip: Whoever did our scheduling, Self doesn't really understand it, he joked, being the one who did it. But it's probably not the wisest thing he has done. The coach hopes the upcoming road games at Colorado on Saturday and at Florida on Tuesday are a much better experience than the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Colorado's Coors Event Center won't be filled with Kansas fans like it used to. Self expects KU will have 1,000 fans as opposed to half the building, and that's a compliment to CU coach Tad Boyle. Boyle has a calming presence with his team, he doesn't get rattled and players respond to that.
Jayhawks will be away from Allen Fieldhouse until Dec. 21. Self thinks it's much easier to play at home because the crowd brings energy to the floor and players respond. Players should be able to use energy in opposing venues, too.
On Frank Mason: He's been great but he's not vocal. Mason had about as bad a two minutes against UTEP as a guy could have to end the game. One could make a case Mason has been the best overall player so far this season for KU (6-1).
This year's Colorado team: They lost a couple key players from a season ago, but have a low-post presence and the Buffs might have the best transition offense KU will see this season. Will be a tough, but fun game.
KU needs one of its perimeter players to step up. That would really help ball movement and half-court offense if that happens, in terms of effectiveness from behind the three-point arc, too.
On Big 12: Iowa State the surprise team, and has been really good. Oklahoma State is great. Big 12 might be the pleasant surprise of the season among the nation's conferences.
Big 12-SEC Challenge: It's a good thing, and the only thing he would change would be having all the games played in a three- or four-day window instead of spread out over a week or more.