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March 7, 2013
Head coach Bill Self
On knowing Kansas State's outcome prior to tipoff against Baylor Saturday:
"I am going to say it will be good. I don't know if it will be or not though. I just want our guys to play with a free mind. They (KU players) are going to play fired up and be excited, but I don't want them to burn any energy worrying about K-State; all we need to do is burn energy worrying about us and Baylor. That is hard to do sometimes. You watch a game before you that definitely has implications on your season and it is hard not to get emotionally invested in a game like that. If I was picking one of the two (playing before K-State vs. after), I would rather play the first game than the second. I don't think it makes a difference."
On if he will allow his players to watch the Kansas State game prior to their own:
"I don't know yet. I have not given it a lot of thought. We will talk about that as a staff and decide what we think is best."
On his relationship with senior guard Elijah Johnson:
"He was the best athlete around when he first got here, as bouncy of an athlete as we recruited prior to Ben (McLemore). He was a good player when he got here, too. He was our backup-two, and backup-one, and had some great games for us. One game, when Tyshawn (Taylor) was out, he had 15 points against Oklahoma State his sophomore year. Elijah has had some good moments here (at Kansas). I have always liked Elijah. He is an unbelievably analytical guy which you may not realize unless you know him. He is a deep-thinker and really likes to rationalize everything in his head; maybe too much sometimes, as opposed to just going and playing. He has been a treat to coach. I love being around him. He is pumping energy into our team right now and that is his responsibility. I don't know if we have had a point guard do it any better than him and the way he is doing it right now."
On Johnson handling criticism throughout the 2012-13 season:
"We all catch flack, but if anybody is going to catch it, it deserves to be a senior starting point guard and the head coach. Elijah and I talked about this, and I said, `Hey Tyshawn (Taylor) took all of the heat last year, you didn't. You are shooting 30 percent from three-point range the majority of the season, and nobody was talking about that; they are talking about Tyshawn.' That was one thing that Tyshawn did, he took the pressure off of everybody else. Sherron (Collins) did that as well. Really good players do that. With this team, it has to be him (Johnson); it can't be anyone else. He knows that and he respects that. Also, I think some of the flack he caught, in my mind, was unwarranted. But when you play at Kansas, people are going to talk. He has not played as well as he could in many situations, and he is not going to make excuses because he is not healthy; that is not what guys do. You just have to accept that. I think he did a good job of accepting it and letting it roll off of his back. When he finally let it roll of his back, it made him a lot tougher and harder. I am not sure I would trade anything that he has gone through this year to give him the best chance to play his best ball moving forward. I think it has been in preparation for him to play great down the stretch."
On if winning the Big 12 Championship this year will be as gratifying as it has in years past:
"If we win Saturday, this will be as cool as any that we have won. A lot of people thought it was Kansas and everybody else for the league race. Those people that thought that really didn't get it, at least from our perspective. Our league is good and you know it is good; the Big 12 just did not have a good preseason, but teams have played better since we got into league play. I think for us to go through a tough stretch the way we did, I think a win Saturday will make this as gratifying as any league title we have won. We still have a lot of work to do before we get there, but I am excited for Saturday."
On getting teams to play their best ball in March:
"I don't think that you can be great for four-straight months very often. Even when Florida won their second straight championship (2006-07), I could be mistaken, but I think they lost four games in the league that year. They were, by far, the best team that college basketball had seen for a period of time. I think it is unknown, but usually the teams that play the best in the postseason are the teams that went through some crap during the (regular) season. It seems like it is always that way; it toughens them, hardens them. Nobody likes going through that stuff, but there is always a certain point in time in the season when you become a team, and we have just become a team here in the last three or four weeks. Hopefully, that will bode well for us. I have had some teams limp home, and we have had some teams that were fresh and ascending at the right time. I don't know if you can really plan it either way. If I were to pick the perfect scenario, we would not have lost three in a row but we needed to get that crap out of our system in early February. I don't know if this is the perfect scenario, but I think it has been good for us so far."
On if Baylor could get into the NCAA Tournament with a win over Kansas on Saturday:
"Yes, I think Baylor still has a shot to get in. I know the league's reputation doesn't get talked about a lot, but I've studied it some here, as of late. We wanted to get six teams in from our league, without question. I just don't want them (Baylor) to get in at our expense. But they probably need to play well from this point forward. They're playing at home and this (a victory over Kansas Saturday) would be a great feather in their cap. We know we'll get a great effort. It's one thing to say, `hey, we need to do this, (and) we need to do that,' but when it gets down to the final deal and this has to happen, usually the focus is the best it's been all year and I'm sure it will be for them."
On if the satisfaction level is different if it's a shared title or outright title:
"I don't think anybody likes sharing much. I think sharing's great if you're behind a game going into the last game, then that's the best you can do. I think K-State and us are both hopeful that each respective team plays well this Saturday but whether it's shared or outright or whatever, I know that you get a ring. And if you don't share it or don't win it outright, you don't (get a ring). There's plenty for our guys to play for."On what he does with all his conference championship rings:
"I've actually got a case in my office. A lot of people get rings for going to the NCAA Tournament, but we only get a ring for winning championships. Years where we finished second or got beat in the Big 12 Tournament, that's not worthy of a ring. We've had a pretty good run here of late and I believe we've won a championships in 12 of the last 13 years or maybe 14 of the last 15, something like that. We're proud of that and I've got a little box that they (the rings) sit in that guys can look at when they come in on a visit. It really doesn't serve much purpose other than that. I don't think I've ever put one on."
On how much Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Performance, Andrea Hudy, has helped senior center Jeff Withey:
"Andrea gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so. What she does with the guys isn't just from a weight gain (standpoint). It's from a confidence, it's from a flexibility, it's from a core strength (standpoint); things you can't see. He hasn't gained much weight. I think Jeff probably weighs 225 (pounds) now and his low point was probably just under 210 at some point in time during the season. She's done a great job with him, but that's her job; that's what she does and she should do a great job with him. But it's not limited to him (Withey); she's done an exceptional job with all our guys."
On how he sees the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year race playing out:
"I kind of look at it in a pro-Kansas way and I try to look at it from media members' or other coaches' (point of view). I personally think there are four guys that could be mentioned for Player of the Year and that would be (Oklahoma State freshman guard Marcus) Smart, (K-State senior guard Rodney) McGruder, (Kansas senior center Jeff) Withey and (Kansas redshirt freshman guard Ben) McLemore. The negative thing that comes into play sometimes is that McLemore and Withey split the vote. If they split the vote, then that could hurt both of them for their chances to be named Player of the Year. To me, I would not say who I think deserves it, I want to wait until the end of the season is here. You could make a strong case, if you look at statistics and all that stuff, that Ben or Jeff could be Big 12 Player of the Year. But could K-State only have three losses without McGruder having a big year? Or could Oklahoma State be ranked in the top-15 in the country without Marcus Smart having a big year? So you could spin it to whatever way you want to spin it. But I know, from my biased opinion, that it's one of my two. I can't remember who we've had going back, but I think you see this quite often in things, that guys can kind of split the vote. I hope that not the case in our situation. If you talk to one media member, they say Withey deserves it; you talk to another and they say that McLemore deserves it. Then, of course, if you're talking about Marcus or Rodney or their respective teams, there's no question who the leader of those teams are. There are four terrific players in our league that have had unbelievable years and there's going to be additional terrific players that are going to make first team. I really believe those four, based on team success and how they've performed individually thus far, all are worthy and I wouldn't be surprised if any of the four got it."
On how he sees the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year race playing out:
"I would vote for (Kansas State head coach) Bruce Weber. I think that he's had them be as consistent as anybody in the league. I think (Oklahoma State head coach) Travis Ford has done a tremendous job, (Oklahoma head coach) Lon Kruger has done a great job. But to me, I think the best job has been done this year, from a coaching standpoint, in Manhattan, Kansas. That's one guy's opinion and the thing about what K-State's done that I think is really, really good is that they've given themselves the best chance to have a great year because they've been able to find ways to win games that were maybe a coin-flip game. The win at Oklahoma was a big win. The win at West Virginia was a big win. The win at Baylor was a huge win. Of course, you could look at us and say we've won some games like that too. All teams would like to win games like that at the end of the season, if in fact, they've had good years and they've certainly had an exceptional year."
On what he thinks of a coach like Weber, who can go into a program and win with another coach's players:
"He's obviously a good coach. It's a gift to be able to do that. When I took over at Illinois, I took over a healthy program, a healthy team. I took over a team that hadn't quite done it, but had every potential to do it. They were bought in; that was a both-feet-in-the-circle team. Then the next year we were a number one seed. I think sometimes when you can take what they've been taught and then add some things to it and not totally get away from what they've been taught, I think sometimes that's the formula to have a great season. I think you see that quite often and obviously, their (K-State) staff has done a nice job in doing that."
On if a championship impacts Player of the Year or Coach of the Year voting:
"To me the Coach of the Year is different. To me, Coach of the Year is what is a team's ceiling? It's how the coach can get them playing as close to that ceiling as they possibly can, consistently. A lot of times a football Coach of the Year will go 5-7, but they were 1-11 the year before or something like that. I have seen that happen before with Pat Jones at Oklahoma State. He did a remarkable job, but it didn't translate to wins that much. I think in basketball it would be hard to give a Coach of the Year award out unless their team has done a nice job, but coaches know as they prepare who is the toughest to prepare for and what adjustments people make that maybe media or fans don't see as much. There are some really good coaches in our league, but I do believe that Bruce (Weber) and the staff at K-State have done the best job this year. When you go to Player of the Year, I think it is a bit different. We won the National Championship in 2008 and I think the media didn't vote one player on our team first team all-league. We won the National Championship and we weren't good enough to have one player that was a top-five player in the league. I think sometimes we get hung up on stats and (that year) our leading scorer averaged 13. I think Player of the Year should go to the best player, on at least one of the very best teams, in my opinion. It is so much easier putting up numbers if, in fact, you don't have as much help, but it is hard to win games. I do believe the best player needs to come from a winning team and be the best player on that respective team."
On Kansas senior guard Travis Releford:
"Travis Releford will be on one of the (all-conference) teams in some capacity. He will be on the All-Defensive Team, or he will be on the second team, or on honorable. In our league, (Romero) Osby has had an unbelievable year, Markel Brown has had an unbelievable year, Pierre Jackson has had an unbelievable year, (Jeff) Withey and (Ben) McLemore have been great, (Rodney) McGruder has been great, (Will) Clyburn has been great, (Melvin) Ejim has been great. There have been players on other teams that have been great too, so to get it narrowed down to the top-10 will be difficult for somebody like Travis. Usually the guys that get left out are the guys that don't put up numbers. They will go with the people who score the most or rebound the most."
On if there is Player of the Year favoritism for older guys:
"You guys are asking the wrong guy these questions. I would say no. (Kevin) Durant won it and he had only been with the team for nine months. That's a joke, he would have won player of the year in any league. I don't read into that at all."
On Baylor's talent level:
"I think they are right there at the very top. I picked them to win the league and I picked OSU second and K-State third if I remember correctly. Pierre Jackson is as talented as any guard in the country, period. The kid gets 20 (points) and seven (rebounds) every night and Isaiah Austin is a lottery pick. There are a lot of teams in America that don't have that."
On SMU vs. Tulsa:
"I just know the score. I know SMU won, but I don't really know much about the game; I was watching some other games last night. It was a great win for Coach (Larry) Brown and a bad one for Danny (Manning). It's not really fair to judge either of those games, because neither team is close to where they will be two or three years from now. They are going to continue to get better, because they both took over tough situations, but I don't pull one way or another in those particular outings. I guess it's fitting (that they split the season series) as people would say, but I don't read too much into that stuff."