Bill Self looking forward to Big 12 Tournament
The regular season is over, and the postseason begins Thursday for Kansas University's men's basketball team.
Coach Bill Self doesn't yet know whether his Jayhawks (23-8 overall, 14-4 Big 12) will face Oklahoma State or Texas Tech in their Big 12 Championship opener in the Kansa City, Mo. — those two teams play in the opening round Wednesday — but he was ready to talk about the postseason Monday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU has lost two of its last three games, and freshman center Joel Embiid's availability at the Big 12 Tournament remains up in the air due to his back issues, making the next week even more intriguing.
Here are some of the highlights from Self's press conference, in bullet-point form:
• Self doesn't see a scenario where Joel Embiid doesn't play in the postseason. He does see a scenario where Embiid might not be able to play in the Big 12 Tournament, though. … Embiid is a lot better, symptom-wise, than he was a week ago. If the doctors say it is fine to play him this weekend, they will. Playing three games in three days at Kansas City, Mo., could be challenging for Embiid, too. Rather than manage minutes, Self would rather have him more rested for the NCAAs if that's what is best for the freshman big man.
• Self's first year here, Keith Langford hurt his knee and didn't practice the last few weeks of the season. The next year Wayne Simien had a similar situation. This isn't new territory for Self. Still, no one on the coaching staff is an expert on how to bring Embiid along. They will rely on what the doctors say. … Embiid is pain-free now, but that could change if he took a hit or bump at practice or in a game. … Embiid about "threw a fit" the last time they told him he couldn't play against TCU. He wanted to play.
• Oklahoma State is the No. 8 seed in the Big 12 Tournament — that shows how tough the league is. KU could play the Cowboys Thursday. That's good for KU. Self would like to face a real quality opponent.
• After losing at West Virginia Saturday, Self wants to see KU play tougher. The Jayhawks need to have more pride in guarding the ball, and keeping guys from getting to the rim.
• On Kansas point guards: Frank Mason and Naadir Tharpe, as well as Conner Frankamp, are the guys in charge of making sure KU plays well. But, really, it's on Tharpe to make that happen more than anybody else. KU needs its guard play to be sound, and they need to be a little more aggressive on both ends of the floor than they were at WVU.
• Big 12 awards turned out about the way Self thought. He has never understood, though, why voters are able to cast votes before the regular season is over. … Self thought Iowa State's Melvin Ejim deserved Player of the Year. Andrew Wiggins could've and should've been right there. … Self thought Rick Barnes deserved the Coach of the Year, but Lon Kruger deserved it, too.
• Big 12 Tournaments have always been competitive. But this year, regardless of what seeds end up in the championship game, it shouldn't surprise anybody. No. 8 seed OSU was picked to win the league before the season began. "It's gonna be a pretty special weekend."
• The last time KU played OSU, the Jayhawks lost. The guys should be excited to play the Cowboys again, considering they got outplayed at OSU.
• On playing away from Allen Fieldhouse: He wishes the W-L record was better (5-6 away, 4-1 neutral) but the competition had a lot to do with it. Villanova (lone neutral site loss, at the Bahamas) could be a No. 1 seed.
• Wiggins keeps getting better. He was fantastic, not just because of 41 points at WVU, but because of his energy level. Wiggins has proven he can take over. Self told Wiggins yesterday he needs to play at the level he has proven he is capable of. … With KU playing form behind, there was no margin for error, but the basket does get bigger. You can't make too much of the comeback because of that.
• On playing a junk zone defense, such as a triangle-and-two: Situations and personnel on the other team determine when they do that. KU hasn't done it much this year. Kansas should be able to stop people, even without Embiid on the floor.
• On the possibility of being in the same bracket as Wichita State: Self would welcome whatever bracket the Jayhawks end up in. It doesn't matter who the other top seeds are in that region. They want to play the other top seeds, regardless of who they are.
• Playing well this weekend is the key. A No. 1 seed could still be in play if KU wins the Big 12 Championship. … Regardless of what sites KU gets in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas fans will travel well.
• Perry Ellis needs to play well defensively for KU to have its best chance. But he is capable.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self on dealing with Embiid's back issues, Big 12 Championship
After Self's session, KU sophomore power forward Perry Ellis came out to answer questions from the media.