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Recap: Bill Self talks West Virginia and much more
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self met with the media Friday afternoon to talk about the Jayhawks' upcoming home game against West Virginia, as well as a variety of other topics.
No. 8 KU (17-5 overall, 8-1 Big 12) plays host to the Mountaineers (14-9, 6-4) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Here are the highlights from Self's comments in bullet-point form:
- On West Virginia: They're obviously playing well (won three in a row, four of five), have some good wins (Oklahoma and Kansas State) and had close losses. They could've beat Oklahoma State twice. Probably have as good a pair of guards as there is in the league.
- On WVU junior guard Juwan Staten (18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds): He never comes out. It's hard to average more than 40 minutes a game. Strong for his size. He has a great opportunity to be first-team all-league.
- KU's defense: Self is more critical than most coaches might be about this team. He is used to better defense. KU didn't guard at Texas and did better at Baylor. He wouldn't put this team in the same group as past teams he has had at KU, but this group will get better.
- On Naadir Tharpe: He's shot the ball well and doing a better job of being more vocal and being a better leader on the team. He has improved 70 or 80 percent since early in the season when Self wasn't happy with him.
- The Big 12 race: A lot of times when you have everybody in the league with losses it gives a sense of mediocrity. But it's the same way in the Big 10… Sometimes when there are three teams in the top 10 of the rankings from the same league, it's because the bottom of the league isn't capable of beating the elite teams. That isn't the case in the Big 12 this season. The race is still wide open… Self didn't see there being this much balance before the season began. Oklahoma and West Virginia lost key players and have improved through the season. Texas lost a lot of players and got a lot better. That's what makes the Big 12 so good.
- On Joel Embiid: It's easy for him to pick up scouting reports and the feel for the game. He's a bright guy and he knows where everyone on the floor is supposed to be on a play. … He needs to get stronger, especially in his lower body. Sometimes Embiid defers too much on offense. He can improve in anything. He's just scratching the surface.
- Players leaving early or not: KU has had kids say one thing and end up doing something else. It shouldn't have any bearing on how the staff prepares from a recruiting standpoint. The coaches need to have players ready to bring in. Self likes all the guys they have that are coming back, regardless of who stays or doesn't stay. Coaches hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The one-and-done guys are the easiest to replace. The hard ones are the ones that come out of nowhere and end up leaving early, such as Ben McLemore last year. Self doesn't know if KU would've got Andrew Wiggins if McLemore came back. High-level guys know your roster.
- At this time of year, sometimes players start looking ahead. Self doesn't think it is the players as much as the people around them who are thinking about NBA potential at this point of the season. It doesn't help them make more money to be thinking about leaving early in January or February. It's important for the players to realize there is no reason to listen to that talk right now. The best thing possible is to focus on the season, what is going on.
- On Wayne Selden guarding Heslip at Baylor: He totally gave himself up for the betterment of the team. Looked a lot like Travis Releford. Self was proud of Selden.
- This time of year, guys should have a pretty good idea what Self wants defensively. It's not from a lack of trying, but sometimes they are less enthusiastic about doing that job.
- On Conner Frankamp: He's done fine. He and Brannen Greene kind of drew the short straw on minutes, been the odd men out. He's healthy.
- KU's confidence: Coming off a good road win, they're pretty confident. KU got in a situation where maybe the Jayhawks lost their edge a little bit at Texas. This is a team that Self wants them to believe they're good, but he might compliment them a little too much when things went well. He can't allow them to get soft by praising them too much. "We better get better or it's (the season) gonna end sad."
- The difficulty of going unbeaten in a regular season: To Self, that was never a realistic thing for any of his teams. With Wichita State and Syracuse, he wouldn't think about running the table. He'd think about winning the next game and where the team is at right now. In Self's opinion, it's hard to be great "unless you go through some crap." Still, a coach is going to coach every game to win, obviously.
- Scouting an opponent: The majority of the focus is "How do we stop them?" The second time you play a team in league play or again in conference tournament, it gets even tougher to execute against them because of the familiarity.
- West Virginia doesn't turn the ball over (9.8 giveaways a game in Big 12 play). They really added a lot of perimeter shooting since last year, too. They will be a real challenge to guard. WVU will pressure KU. Self thinks Bob Huggins will have his guys trying to create take-aways.
- Who is the best dunker Self ever coached? "Wiggs could be if he wanted to be. I'm not sure it interests him that much. It takes energy to do that." Probably Ben McLemore. JR Giddens was a great dunker. Those guys are probably the best, and McLemore liked to show off how athletic he was more than any other guy they've had. He'll do something funky in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend.
— For complete audio from the press conference, click here: Self press conference.
— Hear from sophomore Perry Ellis and freshman Frank Mason by clicking here: Player media session.