Bill Self meets the press, talks Oklahoma State
Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self fielded questions from the media for about 30 minutes Thursday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
The No. 5 Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-2 Big 12) play at Oklahoma State (18-10, 6-9) at 8 p.m. Saturday night. Self commented on that game and much more, including the rise of Wichita State to national prominence and whether the Jayhawks could add the Shockers to their schedule.
Here are the highlights in bullet-point form:
• Winning the Big 12 outright is a small part of the motivation on Saturday. The big part is playing an Oklahoma State team Kansas has developed a little rivalry with lately, as well as playing on a national showcase in prime time on ESPN.
• Oklahoma State is different now that Marcus Smart is back. He can impact a game and not score. His defensive anticipation is as good as anyone who KU will play against, and not just this year. Smart has totally dominated the games since serving his suspension.
• OSU is playing better because Phil Forte is playing better. He thrives when Smart is on the floor. They're kind of like the Morris twins in the way they feed off of one another. You can't leave Forte open. That's what makes him hard to guard.
• Self thought this game at OSU would have conference title implications, as far as who would have the best shot to win it. It's nice to go down there with a tie already clinched, but the Jayhawks want to take care of business. KU needs to play well to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
• On Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor: They're a big part of why KU is better. They provide a needed energy presence, and give the Jayhawks a different look than the starting frontcourt players, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis.
• Kansas isn't in competing with Wichita State for a No. 1 seed, despite the arguments media or people want to have about it. Self thinks WSU deserves the No. 1 seed line if the Shockers keep on winning. It's hard to win on the road, especially when you're everybody's Super Bowl game. … Self isn't in the least bit concerned with anything but the teams on KU's schedule. The Jayhawks have a long way to go before they will be a No. 1 seed. It all depends on how they finish the season.
• Wichita State's success is great for the state. Iron sharpens iron. When others are good in your area, it makes you better. It's good for Kansas to have Wichita State and Kansas State playing well.
• On returning to Oklahoma State, where he played in college: The first time he coached KU down there, Self toured every place and talked with a lot of good friends. KU got rocked in that game. Now he approaches it as a business trip.
• Going into the NCAAs, you start thinking more about seeding and the tournament itself. It's too premature to give much thought to those things now.
• Kansas keeps making the NCAA Tournament despite turnover in the roster. That's because the players are good and the assistant coaches are good. Those are the constants, the jobs those assistants have done. KU has brought in talent and has been able to overcome inexperience.
• On the Big 12 player of the year coming from KU: Self would like to see Embiid as a candidate but numbers tend to drive that award and people might not include him despite the impact he has on the floor. Andrew Wiggins is a leading contender. People should wait to draw their conclusions until the Big 12 season is over.
• On KU assistant coaches: Self thought Barry Hinson was positive, but Fred Quartlebaum (director of student-athlete development in his first year at Kansas) makes Hinson look like a the sky is falling and the sun will never come up personality. Jerrance Howard is a younger coach, has more energy and fun to him than Self and Kurtis Townsend. One thing you can't undersell is having someone who has been in the fire. Norm Roberts was a head coach in New York for St. John's. KU has a nice blend on its staff, and has for a while. Different personalities on the staff offset each other, and that's a good thing.
• On highly-ranked recruits: The key with Kansas has been evaluating and projecting what they could become. You can look at players who are ranked in the top five or 10 and you know they will have a huge impact. But there isn't much difference between 11 and 50. Those recruiting services, though Self appreciates them, are overrated. KU coaches have done a good job of plugging in guys that fit the program.
• Wayne Selden is getting it. Embiid and Wiggins deserve the majority of the attention, but if KU didn't have those two, Selden would be a guy that would be in consideration for freshman of the year in the Big 12.
• Naadir Tharpe has given KU point guard play that has allowed the Jayhawks to do well in the Big 12. He has gotten better, but one area where he can get better is on the defensive end.
• Wiggins has learned to impact the game with his athletic ability. People line up and what to get a piece of him, because he got so much attention. He has had the best season of any player on the team to this point. Wiggins has been the most consistent. That's pretty good when you don't have upperclassmen to show you how to do it, plus all the expectations on him. He has been himself and not tried to be what he's not. No disrespect to Embiid, but it's easier when there is less pressure. Now Embiid is feeling the way Wiggins has all season.
Wiggins is so nice. He might be the most polite kid KU has ever had. Nice is OK, except for two and a half hours a day. Wiggins couldn't have handled it better with all the hype. He just plays. Some of the things that are said about him register for him and motivate him.
• Oklahoma State is capable of beating anybody, particularly when they're playing at home. OSU is right at the top of the Big 12 in terms of raw talent.
• Self wouldn't say Kansas would never play Wichita State. KU is pretty locked in schedule wise, and that wouldn't be a part of what they have planned right now. KU will schedule strictly on what the program thinks is best. It might be better for KU to play out in New York or Los Angeles or Philadelphia. You want to do what's best for the program. When Self was at Illinois, the program had a presence in a lot of metropolitan areas because they were in the Big 10. It doesn't hurt now that he's at KU to be able to go play at Georgetown or another major city.
• Self thought against Texas Kansas was at the level it needs to be defensively. They didn't carry that over to the Oklahoma game. Kansas needs to make other teams play poorly. That's what got the Jayhawks to the title game in 2012.
• Re-focusing after clinching a share of the Big 12 title. Whenever you win your league, that's a good year. But good years aren't good enough. The whole focus now is what are they going to give to make good become great, and can they become special. It's hard to take those steps. If they're not motivated by that, then there is a problem.
• As the road team for a College Game day game: It's not too different from another road game. Except when guys are laying around watching TV, there will be a lot of talk about the game, which should get the Jayhawks amped up.
• Self's parting shot: "This may have been the longest press conference I've ever done."
— Hear the complete press conference by clicking here: Bill Self discusses what lies ahead for KU
— Listen to a Q & A with guard Wayne Selden: Wayne Selden discusses learning as a freshman, the Big 12 title