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Bill Self: KU has to take care of business in Big 12 race

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Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. roars after Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dove out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. roars after Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dove out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

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.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

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.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shrugs off Texas defenders Demarcus Holland (2) and guard Kendal Yancy during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

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

Comments

Don Burgundy 7 years, 9 months ago

IMO KU playing with pressure is good for those guys. UK has been doing it all season. I would want us to embrace it instead of shying away from it. That's the only way we can play to our full potential.

Robert Brown 7 years, 9 months ago

It will be interesting to see how these guys respond. I have noi idea what their frame of mind will be. Do they come out with a chip on its shoulder and play well fueled by the crowd? Does the Iowa State loss allow them to play looser knowing that they can win out at home and do no worse than a tie.

I really have no idea as this is the most unpredictable team KU has had for years.

Eliott Reeder 7 years, 9 months ago

Indeed, I have no idea what to expect from this team on any given night. Maybe we'll lose our next three games, in the first round of the Big XII tourney, and then go on to take the national title. I could live with that... ;)

Michael Wattai 7 years, 9 months ago

KU lost 2 tough road games during Jerrance Howard's suspension. I was just wondering if it had any effect on KU's play with Howard not on the bench or not participating in practices? I thought that losing Danny Manning as the "bigs" coach would eventually be "big." Seems like it has had more of an effect this year than last.

Michael Leiker 7 years, 9 months ago

"Just how good the Longhorns are, despite not living up to expectations"...I'd love to see a count on how many times a league coach has said those exact words during the Rick Barnes era.

Allison Steen 7 years, 9 months ago

How many years has rick barnes been head coach at Texas? All those years then ;)

David Robinett 7 years, 9 months ago

Kiss of death if we all Assume that beating Texas is a given. Just like we all assumed jus would be a win.

Greg Lux 7 years, 9 months ago

What more important? Winning at home to keep our home court record undefeated or Winning the Big 12 title for the 11th year. Actually winning at home would guarantee at least a share of the title. For me keeping our AFH home court record intact is more important. Almost every KU fans knows AFH is the greatest home court advantage in college basketball. Keeping that record intact is more important to me right now. As it could turn out to be all the wins we will need to win the league, since a tie is assured with 2 more wins. Go gettem Jayhawks.

Robert Brock 7 years, 9 months ago

The game will be about Frank Mason. If he plays poorly again, the Jayhawks will lose again.

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