Ottawa, Ontario A fierce competitor, Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self would rather win than lose three exhibition games in Canada this Labor Day weekend.
Yet the Jayhawks' sixth-year coach realizes the scores of today's twinbill against McGill University (10 a.m., Central time, Montpetit Hall) and Carleton University (6 p.m., Scotiabank Place) and Sunday's game against the University of Ottawa (6 p.m., Montpetit Hall) mean zip, zero, nada, nothing in the big scheme of things.
"We care any time we play, but this is not about the games. We do this for the practices," Self said, referring to nine days of practices leading up to the trip.
"The best thing this has done is given our guys an opportunity to learn how hard you have to work on a daily basis," added Self, who after the weekend, will next gather the Jayhawks for late-September, early-October Boot Camp, followed by the Oct. 17 Late Night in the Phog.
Self figures to mix and match combinations of players, especially today, considering some Jayhawks could be fatigued in playing a pair of games.
"We'll play everybody," Self said. "Everything is a work in progress right now."
Self said though he'd like his players to perform well, he won't be making any permanent personnel decisions based on the action North of the Border.
"I don't think we will (come up with a set lineup in Canada). I don't think so. I could care less, too," Self said.
"I don't care to have a mind-set that 'This will be our best lineup,' at all. All we wanted to do was practice since the start of school, not wear guys out, but on the flip side get a base. Trust me, if they allowed 30 days of practice we could use it going into this trip as opposed to 10."
KU's toughest competition is expected to come tonight.
Carleton University of Ottawa has won five national titles in the past six years. Coach Dave Smart has compiled a 213-24 record in nine seasons at the tradition-rich school.
"These are August games for everybody, meaning that we will play a lot of bodies and they (Jayhawks) will play a lot of bodies," Carleton coach Smart said. "It's a good opportunity for our guys to play high-caliber competition early in the year. This is not something you get too excited about and not something you panic over. You get a feel for where guys are."
Smart said despite the fact the games don't count in the standings, the Jayhawks should probably expect to get the best shot from the three Canadian teams.
"I think with Kansas we all have no choice but to play our best guys so we can make it a worthwhile experience for Kansas," Smart said. "It's one of those things, a Catch-22. We have played a lot of teams like UCLA, Louisville, Boston College in the past.
"When we play our best guys, sometimes it's a great game. When we get down, if we go to our bench it can get really ugly quick. I think all three teams will play their best guys against Kansas, try to keep their best guys on the floor. Hopefully we'll be similar to a first- or maybe a second-round (NCAA Tournament) opponent for them."
Anything's OK with Self, as long as it's good, hard, clean competition.
Tempers flared in one of KU's games in Canada four years ago, players and even opposing coaches yapping at each other because of physical play.
"We want to win," KU sophomore Brady Morningstar said, "but more importantly play as a team and see what type of team we are. Playing this early, we can see what we need to work on."
"This trip to Canada will help us out a lot in terms of chemistry, playing together, getting more reps. That will be the main thing for us," soph Tyrel Reed said. "It'll be a good opportunity for the younger guys, me included."
Of course, certain players would like to make a positive impression on Self.
"I am looking at it as if I get in there, I've got to show I can help in a pressure situation," KU sophomore Conner Teahan said. "It won't be a huge pressure situation up in Canada, but it will be a pressure situation we haven't experienced yet this year. I'll see how I react to that."
As far as the games ... Self stressed that whether KU goes 3-0 or even 0-3, the most important part of the trip was completed back in Lawrence.
"Part of the fun is trying to mold these guys into a team. I do think it'll happen. It certainly will not happen overnight," Self said.