Bill Self: KU has to take care of business in Big 12 race
With Kansas University back atop the Big 12 basketball standings and one of the league’s preseason favorites, Texas, coming to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, KU coach Bill Self had his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon.
The coach hit on KU’s loss at Kansas State this week, what Iowa State’s loss to Baylor means for the Jayhawks and just how good the Longhorns (17-11 overall, 6-9 Big 12) are, despite not living up to expectations — among other topics.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:
• Self didn’t watch the Iowa State-Baylor game Wednesday night. He watched Duke and Virginia Tech and another one. If he watched it, he’d be nervous and all of that. KU’s assistants watched it. … “I followed the score.”
ISU was playing well before Baylor went on a run, from what he heard. Kansas knows how good Baylor is — the Bears gave the Jayhawks all they wanted.
• All that matters in the next week-plus is KU (22-6, 11-4) taking care of business. But Self had to be a Baylor Bears fan on Wednesday night. Plus, that ISU loss probably gives the KU players a little bit of extra energy with the Jayhawks back atop the Big 12.
There should be high drama in the Big 12 to close the regular season, and it’s a great league. The race deserves to come down to the wire.
• Perry Ellis is probably playing as close to his ceiling as he has in his career and that has gone to an even higher level the past few games.
• KU’s offense fell off in the last 10 minutes at Kansas State. The spacing was bad and the screening was poor, as it has been al year. Ellis has been the only offensive threat inside. It would be nice to throw the ball to a big inside and have him get fouled or score.
KU still has players who need to deliver at center. Plus, Frank Mason III needs to drive to the paint.
• Self was really proud of how Jamari Tryalor handled the contact from a K-State fan amid the crowd storming after the game in Manhattan. He didn’t talk about that or the storming with players. They need to move on. When you keep talking about something like that you sound like a “whiny brat.”
• Texas freshman Myles Turner is playing great. The Longhorns are a lot like the Jayhawks. They can play terrific or take a noticeable step back. Turner is playing a lot of minutes, playing closer to the basket and he is hard to guard because he gets his shot off too quickly.
UT has an imposing a front line as any team in America, probably with the exception of Kentucky. They’re still capable of beating anybody.
• KU freshman big Cliff Alexander didn’t get a good chance to play at K-State because of quick fouls. He was probably more effective coming off the bench than he has been as a starter. He actually had some “unlucky” fouls at K-State. Keeping him out of foul trouble so he can play with reckless abandon would probably be his best-case situation.
• There will be a spotlight on the state of Kansas Saturday with Wichita State and Northern Iowa playing Saturday afternoon — two top-10 kind of teams playing with the league on the line.
And it will be festive at Allen Fieldhouse for KU and Texas. The GameDay crew will be at both games and that will be cool for the state of Kansas.
• The Big 12 has a lot of guards who can get to the paint, and Isaiah Taylor is one of the dominant point guards. There is Mason, Monté Morris, Juwan Staten, Kenny Chery and Taylor. This is a point guard league right now. Taylor and Staten — the two KU plays next — are probably the best at getting inside.
They say guards win. Self would say there are less marquee big guys in the Big 12 this season compared to year’s past. This year, the dominant players are guards, or undersized bigs, like Ellis and Georges Niang.
• Back when Kevin Durant played at Allen Fieldhouse for Texas, Self asked Danny Manning about him and the former KU great said, “That’s the baddest man that ever played on this floor.”
UT has had some greats, such as Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. Texas has recovered nicely since losing a bunch of guys in one season early, which probably was anticipated.
• KU assistant Jerrance Howard is happy to be back at work. They haven’t made a big deal about it.
• Panic isn’t the word, but KU didn’t play with poise the final 10 minutes at K-State. There was poor ball and body movement on offense from KU down the stretch. Mason wasn’t a factor and they were able to negate Ellis primarily. K-State defended them very well.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Big 12 race, Texas and more