Bill Self wants more out of Jayhawks in stretch run
Fully entrenched in the stretch run of the regular season, Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team has four games left to tweak and improve before the start of the Big 12 Tournament and the March Madness that follows.
The No. 8-ranked Jayhawks (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big 12) have a rematch with TCU (16-10, 3-10) Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, and KU only beat the Horned Frogs by three in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 28.
Self, with his team coming off a last-second loss at West Virginia and having lost two of its last four, discussed TCU, the Big 12 race and much more Thursday afternoon during his weekly press conference.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Kansas has to take care of business in the Big 12 race. But there are certain outcomes that obviously would help out. A victory by Oklahoma State, Self’s alma mater, against Iowa State Wednesday night sure would have been handy, but ISU prevailed on the road.
• If you’re not big and don’t get 50-50 balls because of length, you have to do things from a physical standpoint and strategically to come up with more rebounds. And the guards have to clean up. Kelly Oubre Jr. is doing the best, but none of the perimeter guys have been good enough at chasing down rebounds.
• Sometimes offensive rebounding numbers are misleading because so much of it is based on your shooting percentages. KU hasn’t done a good job of securing defensive boards of late, though. The Jayhawks were really poor in Fort Worth with that against TCU.
• Self thinks KU has actually played pretty well away from Allen Fieldhouse this season. Winning on the road against top 25 teams isn’t the easiest task. The Jayhawks have competed in their Big 12 road losses.
• The loss at WVU wasn’t about Perry Ellis missing in the final seconds. The ending of any game becomes more magnified because you don’t have time to recover from mistakes. You see more losing plays than winning plays at the end of games. In Ellis’s situation, it’s hard to know the time and he might have rushed it a little, but he was off balance.
Self said Ellis has had time to recover from that letdown, and he’ll be fine.
• Kyan Anderson of TCU has hurt KU in the past. Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham have to be good defending him. Anderson scored 17 vs. KU in the first meeting this season. He’s a nice player and he controls TCU’s team.
• If you’re going to play somebody twice, it’s easier to prep players for the rematch when you have a difficult time the first time around. It’s an easy reminder of how difficult it was to beat someone, which was the case at TCU.
• It’s now crunch time in the Big 12 race. Self isn’t banking on the teams behind KU losing. This time of year puts pressure and motivation on the Jayhawks to continue to play at a high level.
• Mason is holding up well, despite all the minutes he plays and bringing the ball up. He got tired at WVU and part of that was there were so many long possessions on defense for him, due to the Mountaineers getting so many offensive rebounds.
• TCU is playing to win, and playing with confidence in its past two games — home wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State. The Horned Frogs were really good in the second half vs. KU, too.
• February are the dog days in college basketball. Everybody is going to get their breaths for the stretch run. But in the meantime fatigue can become a factor. Players get tired, and their brains can get tired.
Self doesn’t practice long this time of the year. They’ll go hard for an hour and 15 minutes today. It’s more important to have fresh legs and minds.
• Self doesn’t think KU scores enough points. How you get to 80 points (KU averages 72.4 in the Big 12) almost is irrelevant. The best scoring teams for him at KU were the ones that could score from all five spots.
KU doesn’t have low-post scoring but the Jayhawks are better now than they were earlier in the year.
• It was hard to take Mason out of the game at WVU because Graham had three quick turnovers. The freshman is capable of playing a little better than he has.
• Landen Lucas is much better against zone defenses than freshman Cliff Alexander, and better against pressure. Self is pleased with Lucas. He has played well and given KU much more depth.
• Alexander might feel more beat up right now than it ever has in his life. A bruised sternum hurts, but he’s holding up well. Everybody’s got something, especially this time of year.
• For the stretch run, Self would hope KU could improve at rebounding the ball and stealing possessions.
The biggest thing is tightening up the defense and rebounding, and on offense “do what we do.” The coaches are just asking guys to carry out their assignments, not do something extraordinary on offense.
Also, KU isn’t shooting many free throws. The Jayhawks only shot 11 at WVU and that’s a team that allows opponents to get to the line a lot.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self: KU needs to take care of business in Big 12 race