Beware the Airport Bet: Dangerous Times for Sports Bettors

Sportsbooks taking bitcoin are like weeds cropping up after a rain. Good news for bettors who like line variety. Bad news for bettors who know which sportsbooks are trustworthy. There is no Better Business Bureau for sportsbooks. While outstanding work is done over at Bitcointalk.org, there is still the inherent risk factor involved in sending hard-earned money to unknown, anonymous businesses on the internet.

This time of the year is especially dangerous for players at bitcoin sportsbooks. Football is king to American bettors, and (in theory) a cash cow for sportsbooks. And sadly for those bet makers and bet takers, football is almost over. Just three games remain, with the conference championship games taking place this weekend.

With the end of football comes the possibility of “airport bets”. Years ago, a sportsbook called Ace’s Gold found itself in trouble. Loose bonuses and poor bookmaking put the company on the brink. Desperate to survive, Aces’s Gold owner Charlie Therwhanger made one huge gamble. Therwhanger offered New England +14.5 in the 2002 Superbowl while the entire world was offering New England +14. Sharp bettors, always out to find the best line, hammered New England. Rams backers, on the other hand, bet elsewhere.

The inevitable happened. New England won the game outright. Therwhanger and Aces Gold vanished, screwing over his customers for up to $10 million.

Bitcoin has made such scenarios much easier to pull off. Thanks to the anonymity offered by the cryptocoin, a man living in his parent’s garage can set up his own sportsbook and quickly be in business. A player’s only defense is his own due diligence.

A key part of the due diligence involves the length time a sportsbook has been in business. The test of time will destroy fragile, poorly run sportsbooks. The ones that have already survived the ups and downs will be more likely to survive future hard times as well.

Betcoin.ag is one of these long-surviving sportsbooks. Betcoin opened up shop in 2013, a year that began with bitcoin priced at $12. It ended 2013 at $752, and has bounced between $175 and $1,100 since. A sportsbooks that can handle such swings has proven it is in the game for the long haul. Betcoin has shown that. Nitrogen is also in the same category, a book that has shown strength through the good times and the bad.

Yet due diligence is still needed. A player should limit the amount of bitcoin stored in offshore sportsbooks as the football season winds down. Keep just enough on hand to make that day’s bets. If you need more money in your account, it shouldn’t be a problem. It should take minutes for quality bitcoin books like Betcoin and Nitrogen to handle the deposit. Good sportsbooks make withdrawing and depositing quick and easy. Those that don’t, avoid.

Steelers-Patriots Injury List

While not as banged up as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots added six players to the injury report on Wednesday. Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Dont’a Hightower all were put on the injured list, despite being able to participate in practice yesterday. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell remained limited with a knee injury.

LIMITED
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DE Jabaal Sheard (knee)

The Steelers had a few more problems, in particular an illness making the rounds through the Steelers squad. Christ Boswell, BJ Finny, Darrius Heyward-Bay, and Zach Mettenberger all missed practice and were quarantined to prevent the illness from making its way to the rest of the team. Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger, banged up after a rough season, were given thh day off. The complete list:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Le’Veon Bell (Not Injury Related)
TE Ladarius Green (Concussion, Illness)
LB James Harrison (Shoulder, Triceps)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
LB Vince Williams (Shoulder)

FULL PARTICIPATION
K Chris Boswell (Illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (Ankle)
S Sean Davis (Shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (Illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (Ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (Illness)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (Concussion)

Injury Report for Packers-Falcons NFC Championship Game

The Packers are banged up, not so much the Falcons. Atlanta remains 4.5 favorites over Green Bay, with a total of 60.5 posted on the game.

Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams WR — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Geronimo Allison WR — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Morgan Burnett S — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Mason Crosby K — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Julius Peppers LB — Did Not Participate In Practice —
James Starks RB — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Joseph Tretter C — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Jayrone Elliott LB — Full Participation in Practice —
William Matthews LB — Full Participation in Practice —
Nicholas Perry LB — Full Participation in Practice —
Jeff Janis WR — Limited Participation in Practice —
Thomas Lang G — Limited Participation in Practice —
Jordy Nelson WR — Limited Participation in Practice —
Quinten Rollins CB — Limited Participation in Practice —

ATLANTA FALCONS INJURIES

Quintorris Jones WR — Did Not Participate In Practice —
Jonathan Babineaux DT — Limited Participation in Practice —
Taylor Gabriel WR — Limited Participation in Practice —
Keanu Neal S — Limited Participation in Practice —

New England Patriots Football: Bill Belichick’s Press Conference Transcript

The New England Patriots are 6 point favorites heading into the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Head Coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media yesterday about the game:

BB: It’s always an honor to be participating in the AFC Championship game. We have a great history and a great deal of respect for the Steelers, the organization, coach [Mike] Tomlin, their staff, their players. They’re a good football team, playing very well at the right time of the year now, the second half of the season. They have a good winning streak. They’re good at everything, good in all three phases of the game. [They’re] a very explosive and dynamic team, turn the ball over, score on offense pretty much from anywhere. [A] physical team, they play smart, good situational football. We’ve seen them do it throughout the course of the year and in the past. So, hopefully we can have a good week here and be at our best Sunday night. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re going to work toward. We know we have a lot to do, a lot to prepare for. I think the game earlier in the season is not really that relevant. I mean, it is, but it really isn’t. There’s a lot of water under the bridge since then. What the Steelers have done in the last two-and-a-half months is really what we’re probably going to see Sunday night, and that’s what we’ve got to be ready for. So, that’s where we’re at.

Q: What sets the tone for the Steelers’ offense? Is it the run game with Le’Veon Bell, or is it the passing game with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown?

BB: It’s everything. They’re good across the board. [They] have a good offensive line, the quarterback doesn’t get sacked much, they run the ball well, so I think it all starts up front. They have good skill players; they have a good quarterback, obviously Brown and Bell are dynamic players, tremendous with the ball in their hands. But, it’s not all them. Again, the offensive line does a good job of making everything go; the running game, the passing game, you name it. They’re solid, they’re well-balanced, well-coached, good all the way around.

Q: What has distinguished the Steelers over the last two-and-a-half months from the Steelers of the earlier part of the season? Particularly that defense?

BB: They’re, again, a solid defense. They made a couple of changes in the secondary; [Artie] Burns and [Sean] Davis have kind of taken over full-time. You know, [Ryan] Shazier came back for our game, but then he’s been full-time after that. They really don’t substitute any of those back end players; [William] Gay comes in in nickel, but that’s it. [Lawrence] Timmons and Shazier never really leave the field, four [defensive backs] that never really leave the field. And I’d say a lot of the guys on the front, they play through it too; [Stephon] Tuitt, he’s hardly ever out of there. [James] Harrison and [Bud] Dupree’s back. Dupree, Davis, and Burns, you know, Burns was playing anyway, but he’s kind of taken over for Gay. Gay has really just been the nickel player. They’ve kind of become full-time players. [Cameron] Heyward, of course was out, but [Javon] Hargrave has done a good job for them in there. Tuitt is a force. They’re playing good team defense. Again, it’s not one guy. There are 11 guys out there doing a good job.

Q: Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t been to a game here in two years. The reports yesterday were that he was going to be in Atlanta this weekend. Is that something that matters to you?

BB: I’m focused on the Steelers.

Q: Bill, the secondary has had several good games in a row. How important has their defense been in run support this year for this team, in terms of supporting the front seven?

BB: It’s always important. The front seven usually has their responsibility in the running game, but there are going to be times in every game and with every team when the ball gets through the front seven and the secondary has to be that next line of defense. And those are plays that could be five or six yards, or they could be 60 yards if not played properly, or tackled well by the safeties and the corners. So, corners and safeties are a big part of the perimeter game, but they’re also a big part of that secondary net that comes behind the front seven when the ball gets through there to do a good job of leveraging and tackling, and then keeping those runs to minimal gains. So, always critical.

Q: Coach, I know you always show your opponent the utmost respect publicly, but from a confidence-building standpoint, privately, do you ever say, ‘If we do this, this and this, we’ll kick their tails.’?

BB: We do whatever we think is best to try to win the game.

Q: Coach, any concerns with Tom Brady being on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Distraction? Bad luck? Or are you just not superstitious about that sort of thing?

BB: I’m focused on the Steelers.

Q: Obviously, this is a game that comes with a little more pomp and circumstance; the backdrop, these helmets, there’s a trophy there…

BB: I know, it’s so exciting (laughter)

Q: Would you regard this as a distraction at all?

BB: Like I said, it’s a great privilege to play in this game. It’s the two best teams in the AFC. You earn your way to this game. There’s no other way to get there. You’ve got to earn it, and you’ve got to earn it on the field. You’ve got to go out there and beat somebody – you’ve got to beat a lot of people to get to this game. Both teams have done that, so that’s the matchup. We’re glad to be in the game, proud to be playing in it. We earned it, they earned it, and we’ll play Sunday night and see how it comes out. Great to be part of this game.

Q: Are any of these trappings at all a distraction? All the things that come with games of this magnitude?

BB: That’s part of the game.

Q: Bill, there’s been so much focus on how they’ve been able to get to the quarterback in the second half of the year, and they’ve also been able to generate turnovers. I think they have five in their two playoff games. How much does your offense and Tom Brady have to be aware of not just the sacks, but ball security?

BB: We found that out on the first play of the game last time. It was an issue from the first play of the game. There’s nothing more important than taking care of the ball; it’s Number One on the hit parade.

Q: Coach, can you reflect for just a moment on what it means to be in this game for the sixth year in a row, and what it takes to get here every year?

BB: Again, we’ve talk about that before. All of that’s in the past. I don’t really care about that right now. We’ve got a few days left here to get ready for the Steelers Sunday night [and] that’s really what it’s all about. We can talk about that some other year or some other time.

Q: Coach, you had a player last week who had a historical performance in Dion Lewis. Do you expect a similar type of role for him this week, and how surprised were you that he had the performance that he did?

BB: I think everybody at this time of year wants to put their very best out there. Whether it’s last week or now it’s Sunday night. We’re in a one game season. We don’t have any more than Sunday night’s game unless we earn it. So, I expect everybody will put their best effort into doing the best they can Sunday night; myself, the coaching staff, all the players involved in the game, everybody involved in the game, all the support staff, everybody. This is what we play for. We’ve worked all year for this to get to this position. We’ll put everything we’ve got into it. I would expect that from everybody.

Q: Bill, I know you always say the best team wins, whoever plays better on the field. But, having the home field advantage and playing in front of your fans, how much does that help you?

BB: I don’t know. Go ask Dallas and Kansas City.

Q: But do your home fans give you a little extra support here?

BB: Yeah, of course, but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night.

Q: With three running backs who have three unique skills sets, how do you decide [their role]? At the beginning of the game, maybe at halftime, throughout the game, how do you decide which running backs to use at particular times?

BB: We do what we feel is best for the team based on whatever the circumstances are. We make out the game plan, we practice it, and then in-game decisions based on a multiple number of factors. With the running backs and everything else, we do what we feel is best for the team.

Q: Bill, with Ben Roethlisberger as big as he is and trying to bring him down if you get to him, how do you draw the line in practice with trying to bring him down versus maybe the referees are calling a penalty because you’re doing too much?

BB: Doing too much of what?

Q: Meaning because you’re always after him, trying to bring him down and sometimes he just doesn’t go down.

BB: We’re after every quarterback. I mean, what quarterback aren’t we after? The rules are the rules. It’s our responsibility whether it’s Ben Roethlisberger or Landry Jones or whoever it is. There is a target zone where you can legally hit the player and where we legally can’t. There are things we can do and there are things we can’t do. That’s the rusher’s responsibility to know that. For us, and for every team in the league, that’s no different. So, yeah, he’s a tough guy to get down. He’s very hard [and] we’ve got to be aggressive, but at the same time, we’ve got to play within the rules or it’s roughing the passer. It’s as simple as that.

Q: Bill, you mentioned Bud Dupree is a guy who has become a full-time player since the last time you played the Steelers. What’s made him an impactful guy for them since he came back, and I’m wondering if, from what you’ve seen, they’ll maybe take a guy who is typically classified as an edge guy and rush the passer from the inside?

BB: Yeah, they do occasionally move those guys inside. Really, to have kind of four linebackers on the field with [James] Harrison, [Bud] Dupree, [Ryan] Shazier and [Lawrence] Timmons. Or it could be [Jarvis] Jones or [Anthony] Chickillo, whoever those four guys are, with a couple of defensive linemen. So, they can put those guys in different spots, they mix them up and do different things in their third-down packages. So, yeah, Dupree is long, he’s athletic, runs well, but he’s got some length and he’s a hard guy to throw over. He does a good job working the edge on the pass rush. They have good depth at that position, the outside linebackers. As they have played those guys through the year, it’s been more Dupree and Harrison in the last, I’d say, second half of the season. But, those other players played, and Jones has done a good job for them in the kicking game. So, they’ve been able to get production out of all of those players.

Q: Bill, can you speak to the discipline required of your defensive tackles in your running game to two-gap and not get too far up the field and create space for a back like Le’Veon Bell?

BB: Well, just in general, defensively, we have to do a great job of playing team defense. That includes everybody. And Bell has great vision, patience, and they have a very good offensive line, and a good scheme, so they make it hard to penetrate. There are not many times when guys are running into the backfield against them. They do a good job of getting on the blocks, staying on them and eventually, Bell does a good job of creating space or finding space or making it look like he’s going to go to one spot and kind of enters in another gap. So, we’re going to have to do a good job across the board, and whatever the defensive tackle’s responsibility is … Is it a two-gap, is it a one-gap? Whatever it happens to be, then that’s what they’re going to need to do and everybody is going to have to do a good job. No one guy can stop the running game. You’ve got to have team defense and multiple players playing good technique, playing the right responsibility and then tackling is an issue. Even if you play well, you’ve still got to get him on the ground, and that’s hard.

Q: Bill, how important is it to get off the field on third-down? And how key will the play of the special teams be in this game?

BB: Third-down is always critical. If you look at the turnover plays themselves, because there is an exchange of possession depending on how third-down goes. And in the kicking game, field position and of course scoring opportunities, points, they’re always important. Field position is always important in a game like this – in every game – but particularly in a game like this with two good teams. The two best teams, being ready to play 60 minutes and being expected to go all the way that a few yards here or there – as we saw last weekend in a couple of the other playoff games – how a couple of yards can make the difference between field goal range and not field goal range. It’s kind of hidden yardage that can show up somewhere else; on a punt or on a punt return or on a kickoff or something like that. But then as the ball moves and those few yards become important, in terms of field goal range or percentage of accuracy in field goals, that can be critical. We saw a couple of big plays in our game, kicking the ball and punting the ball inside the 10-yard line, inside the 5-yard line, putting the opponent on a long field. Again, we saw that in multiple playoff games last weekend. So, those are big plays. Statistically, those are worth points. You’ve got to play defense, you’ve got to get the ball back, you’ve got to convert it, but statistically, those plays create scoring opportunities. So, yeah, sure that’ll be important

Indy Racing: Alexander Rossi Discusses Upcoming Season

Alexander Rossi, winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, will return back to the oval track this season. He spoke about the upcoming season at Media Days yesterday.

Q. Alex, we’ve been having drivers just kind of recap last season and then transition into this season, so if you could go into that for us.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yes. So ’16 was a lot of things. Most of it was a learning experience, from not only learning a new team, new car, new tracks, but a completely new organization in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and it was a very positive experience for most of that.

With that being said, the year aside from the month of May was pretty difficult, and we weren’t very happy with how it went in any way as a four-car effort.

Going into 2017 we have a lot higher expectations, and we’ve made a big push this off-season to rectify a lot of the things that didn’t go well. And so, you know, obviously I’m looking forward to going back to Indianapolis in May, but by the same token, I’m just as excited about all the other races because I feel like we have a pretty big point to prove, and road and street courses, which were supposed to be my strong suit coming into IndyCar, they were not, and ovals were.

You know, I personally feel that I have a lot to prove on road and street tracks and look forward to getting started.

Q. Talk about the team announcement that was made this morning.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yes, welcoming NAPA Auto Parts back to the No. 98 is an amazing thing for us, for the series, for the team, and it’s great to have such an iconic American auto brand be involved in the championship, and it just shows the growing strength of the Verizon IndyCar Series, and it was a very special relationship, obviously, that was formed pretty quickly between myself and Andretti Autosport and NAPA, and the fact that we’re able to continue that is very special, and we have a lot of work to do to ensure that we get good results.

Q. Just talk about the confidence and returning to the Indy 500 after winning it last year.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don’t know if confidence is the right word, just a better understanding of it. I don’t think confidence was ever something that was lacking there. But just now understanding how the month goes and appreciating kind of everything that goes into it I think is the thing that I’m mostly looking forward to because a lot of the event was over my head, just from a lack of knowledge standpoint, and I was relying a lot on the people around me, which obviously I will still continue to do, but hopefully there won’t be as many questions I guess is the easiest way to put it so we can just focus on solely developing the car and being at the front for those whole two weeks.

Q. I know one of the big hopes at Indy was to — when you signed NAPA was to get them to stay on for more races. It kind of took maybe a little bit longer to convince them of that. How important is that going to be, and once again, you’ve got to feel like you’ve got the best-looking car on the grid.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I absolutely do, yes. It’s a beautiful race car, and I don’t know if you saw the press release, but it’s a little bit different than the 500 livery, as well. It’s great, and it’s nothing but a positive thing.

You know, things like this when you’re dealing with corporations of that magnitude, obviously things take time, and the off-season coincides with the holidays a lot. We’ve always felt confident about it, but in racing and business, whatever, you’re never fully sure, so it’s great to get the announcement out and have them on board for seven races, and hopefully we can continue to develop that for the future.

Q. As an Indy 500 winner, are you getting your share of recognition from the fans, or do you have to go on the Dancing With the Stars for that?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I think Dancing With the Stars helps for sure. But yeah, I mean, I think the motorsport fan base, yes, my audience has undoubtedly grown, but the target for us, for all the drivers in the series, the series itself, is to grow the audience outside of motorsport fans, and I think Dancing With the Stars is a great thing for the series, and James is an awesome representation of that, and hopefully that’s a benefit for all of us.

Q. After having this time off since the end of the season, have you had a chance to kind of sit back and realize what you accomplished and let it all kind of sink in so you don’t have to look forward to the next race and the next race and the next race?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: No, because I’ve had to look forward to the next event and the next thing and the next obligation and everything, which is all super positive, but this off-season has not really been an off-season in any way. In some ways, that’s good, because I haven’t been sitting on the couch at home itching to get back into a race car because I haven’t frankly thought about it. It’s been all about kind of the next thing, but it’s been off track related.

You know, parts of it have sunk in more than others, but I don’t think the full magnitude of it has yet, and I don’t think it will until I stop moving for a couple weeks.

Q. There was one point when a few years ago you said I didn’t really want to do ovals, I wasn’t interested in ovals. What do you think it is about ovals or about your driving style that actually is suited to them very well?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don’t know if it’s necessarily me. I think just as a team we were strong on them. I think all four cars were way stronger than ovals than we were on road and street tracks. I don’t want to say it’s me. I just think that the Honda package combined with the effort that Andretti put into the 500 specifically in the off-season showed through, and all five of us were pretty much in the top 10 for the whole month. I think that’s more a team result than it is a personal driver result.

Q. The key to — you were disappointed because you wanted to win the championship last year. The key to a championship, how important is a fast start to the season going to be?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Oh, very important. Racing is momentum and confidence, and all of the adjectives that relate to those things. If you are on the back foot from day one, you’re always playing catch-up. We saw it a little bit with Will last year. He obviously is more than capable of winning championships but was always playing catch-up from St. Pete. It’s very important to come out of the box strong. Do you have to win, no, but I mean, you need to be fighting for the win at least and show that you’re competitive.

Q. And how do you feel about Brian moving over to work with Marco? Now you’re going to have a different voice in your ear?
ALEXANDER ROSSI: The replacement voice, if I’m going to have someone replace Brian, this is just as good. I’m not worried about it at all. Brian is still very involved in the No. 98 car and someone that I can call any day, and I still do, and talk to him and rely on him. It’s not too much of a change.

Kansas Jayhawks Basketball: Bill Self’s Press Conference Transcript

It hasn’t been easy for Kansas Basketball in Big 12 play so far this year, but Kansas is still surviving. KU remains unbeaten in Big 12 play, with Texas coming to Lawrence on Saturday. Bill Self talked about the season so far in his press conference yesterday.

Q. Any news on Frank? Is he okay?
BILL SELF: Yeah, just like what we said. He practiced yesterday, and he may be a little sore or stiff or whatnot, but structurally, he’s okay.

Q. Texas is outshooting their opponent from the field on threes and even on rebounds. How do they end up being 1 and 5?
BILL SELF: Because everybody they’ve played has been good. That’s the way the league is. They’re much better than their record, obviously. One-possession game against West Virginia, and they’ve had, obviously, a one-possession game against TCU, and a one-possession game at K-State. So there’s three games that in the last 30 seconds if it’s different, they’re 4-2 instead of 1-5.

But they’re young, extremely athletic, and extremely big in size. Probably the biggest team that we’ve played, at least that I can remember in quite some time. Maybe Stanford, but they play two traditional bigs, and then they bring in bigs off the bench. So we’ll have to defend them a little differently than what we have been.

Q. You mentioned the Stanford game. I think that’s the last time they really went off an opposing bigs against you guys. What ways do you think you’ll be able to change up the game plan?
BILL SELF: Well, you know, if I’m not mistaken, Reed shot like 22 free throws or 23 free throws. It would be nice if we could play without fouling, first of all. But they don’t play through their big like Stanford played through Travis. But certainly they give them plenty of opportunities to touch. And Shaq is on a good roll right now, but Jarrett’s on a serious uptick. He’s played about as well as — you take Motley out of the equation, and he got 32-20 against Texas, you know, Jarrett had, I think, 17-10 going against their bigs. He’s played very well of late.

Q. Svi had a good rebounding game for you guys against Iowa State. Do you see him becoming a more complete player?
BILL SELF: I do. I thought, I said this before, I thought the second half of OU showed some stuff. I thought he was pretty good against Oki State. But that may be as complete a game as he’s played because of what he did. He got like six rebounds. But more importantly, what he did to defend Thomas. He made two baskets on him, and one of them was from 30 feet.

So I thought Svi — or 28 or whatever — but I thought Svi played a really good game. He wants to be known for somebody more than just a shooter. And he’s doing a lot of different things right now.

Q. Not that you needed to get your team up for any game, but does it get your players attention when Oklahoma, which hasn’t won a lot yet, goes into West Virginia, which has won, and beats them?
BILL SELF: I think so. I don’t know if we needed that to happen to get them up. But when we put together our tape of Texas and show our players, they’ll see their capabilities. Last year, you know, Texas came in here, I don’t know if you guys remember, but it was a tight game with five or six minutes left. We just kind of pulled away at the very end.

But, I think so. You know, my guys are hard to figure out, at least in my mind. But the fact that Josh coming out of the same class with Jarrett and with Andrew and things like that, I think the word is going to spread about how talented their young players are, and certainly whether it be — I don’t know what the situation is with Mack but whether it be Roach or whoever from last year, our guys know how athletic dangerous they are.

Q. You said a while ago, you hoped Frank and Devonte’ are kind of the leaders of turning this thing around. How have you assessed their play and have they done that?
BILL SELF: Turnaround? I think the boat is pointed in the correct direction now, but I don’t know if I would say turn around. I think we’re guarding a little bit better than we have. So much of guarding is finishing the possession, and we’re rebounding it a little bit better.

But the teams that we have played against were smaller teams. Now we’re going to go against Texas that’s big, and whether or not we can do that playing small, I don’t know. It remains to be seen.

But I think that Frank is not — he is not the greatest team defender, but he’s a really good one-on-one defender. And Devonte’, I would say, is probably a better team defender. So collectively, I do think that they’re doing better, but I don’t think we’ve reached our potential on that end by any stretch.

Q. Do you feel like just having seven right now is kind of — it hurts their ability to be more aggressive on defense?
BILL SELF: I actually do, but I think more so than that, I would say the ability to pressure the way you play 35, it’s probably not as good as what it would be if you’re playing 28 and subbing more. So I do think the minutes has taken away some of the pressure. I actually do feel that way.

Q. When you watch last night like OU and West Virginia, teams that have success against West Virginia, is there a common denominator of what teams do well against those guys that allows them to survive, I guess?
BILL SELF: You know, I watched the game last night, and I thought OU did a tremendous job of not turning the ball over, but more importantly, you’re going to turn it over against West Virginia, we talk about that, but they can’t be live ball turnovers. You’d rather throw it out of bounds so your defense can get set rather than having numbers coming back at you.

And I thought OU made some really key plays. Offensively, they did not lead to their numbers or their scoring. Whereas, if you look at us against Iowa State, especially in the first half, our offense led to them scoring because we turned it over so much. So that was something I thought OU did a really nice job of.

Q. When you say it’s a tough thing to figure out, is some of that from not having a loss in so long? You haven’t seen this team rebound from an L for some time.
BILL SELF: Well, we have once, and they responded pretty well in that situation. But I think they would have responded regardless because we were playing the number one ranked team in the country. So they would have been amped up no matter what. When I say trying to figure out, I think that we know our team fairly well, but we don’t know how they’re going to react to adversity as far as the loss column, which will happen. I hope it doesn’t, but certainly the odds are definitely great that it will, and that will be interesting to see how we react from that. But I think they’re competitive. So I think they would react in a favorable way.

When I say I don’t really — I’m still trying to figure it out. If you look at our games so far in league play, we haven’t played poorly, but we haven’t played great either. It’s one of those deals that I thought okay Oklahoma State played great here, and we were just good enough to get past it.

I thought TCU played great down there, and we were just good enough to get past them. I thought Iowa State was very efficient offensively, and we were just good enough to get past them. So that’s what I mean by figuring out. It’s hard for me to know how well we’re playing, because I don’t think we’ve played terrific yet. So I don’t know what our ceiling is consistently. But I do know that we haven’t played poorly by any stretch, but we certainly have got another year that we can go to.

Q. Can that be something that becomes sort of, I don’t know, a team’s identity, just finding a way?
BILL SELF: Oh, I think it is. You look across the country historically, and most teams that have pretty good records, they’ve had to win some games when they weren’t their best. I tell our guys all the time, if you want to divide the season up into 30, let’s just say 30, for instance, there are going to be ten games where you stink. How many of those ten can you still win when you play bad? And there are going to be ten games where you’re average, and how many of those ten are you going to win when you’re average? And then there are going to be ten games where you play really well, and if you play really well, and you have really good players, you can probably guess what the record would be. And I think we’re in that mix right now.

I think we’ve played a lot of games where we’re in that middle category, but somehow being good enough and figured out a way.

Q. Do you think you’ve played two halves yet? I mean, a lot of good halves.
BILL SELF: You probably know better than me, or you wouldn’t ask the question. So I really, I don’t know. Off the top of my head, I don’t know that we’ve played two good halves. I think we’ve had some stretches in each half where we’ve looked really good. And the other thing about this team, and I’ve said this about other teams, we can be pretty average, especially at home. And you can have that four-minute period that creates enough separation where it can lead you to a win, and I think that’s happened several times.

Q. You talk about Lagerald. Where is that right now? You’re pretty good at seeing the future on where he could be in a couple years?
BILL SELF: Oh, I think he could be a pro. I think Lagerald Vick could play in the NBA. I think he’s got the length, he’s got the ball handling. He’s got the body, he’s a natural athlete, all of these things. I think that he’s a little bit further along than what we anticipated early in the season, and I think now he’s probably where we anticipated him being at this point in time.

Because he hasn’t been quite as effective as he was early, but as you guys saw in the Iowa State game, he was pretty darn good, because he created extra possessions, got us some putbacks, and ran through a pass to get us an easy basket, things like that.

So I think he’s right where we had hoped he would be, but after seeing how well he played early in the season, I think that there’s something in there that he will get that back. He’s on an uptick now, and I think he’ll get that back, playing at that very high level.

You know, Svi wouldn’t be starting. Lagerald was starting, and he was not going to lose that position, and at least if he kept performing the way he had, and then when Svi got it, Svi obviously is playing at a level where he’s not going to lose it if he keeps performing the way he has been. But I think the best way for me to put it with Lagerald and with Carlton, when they play well like they did against Iowa State, we’ve got seven starters. So it shouldn’t make any difference who is starting or who is coming off the bench, those guys are good enough to be starters just about anywhere.

Q. You guys played pretty fast. Even when the other team scores, it seems like you really push it, and you man the shot really quickly. I mean, is that more of an emphasis this year than it has been in the past?
BILL SELF: I think playing faster is definitely more of an emphasis. No question. I think I’m giving my guys a little more freedom to shoot it early, which I think sometimes is good and sometimes it’s not good. But the good thing is they’re playing with a freer mind.

You know, if we had Joel, those would be bad shots. If you don’t have Joel, those are maybe okay shots. So I think our personnels dictate a little bit that we’re trying to score earlier.

Q. Do you almost think it’s better than that you’re playing others the number two team in the country rather than taking that number one spot?
BILL SELF: Probably, I don’t know. I would say that I think our team is respected nationally, but I don’t think we’re thought of as highly as other teams. I think some people rank as high because our record’s good. Whereas, if you look at us, we haven’t done anything to really knock anyone’s socks off since the Duke game, because we haven’t had a chance to really do some things since the Duke game because of the schedule.

We played good teams, but we haven’t had a chance to play a Top 5 team again or Top 10 team again. Whereas Villanova goes and plays at Butler, and Villanova blows out Xavier, those type of things. So if I was the voter, I’m not disappointed at all where we are. I can certainly understand it. But I do think that we’ll have an opportunity here in the next two to three weeks to show whether or not we deserve to be there.

Q. What do you think of the last game’s style of play? You only had five free throws, but you had two to the last minute, I think? Do you like basketball when there are so few free throws?
BILL SELF: Well, it depends on the game. But they only shot ten, so, and we only shot two, because three of them were, you know, fouls because of the score and timed late. But I think it’s more fun to play and coach in a game where there’s less stoppages than the game before where we shot 45. But if we’re going to shoot 45 free throws and the other team shoots a low number, you know, you would definitely like your chances you wouldn’t like it reversed at all.

But I think the way that Iowa State and us played the other night, I actually thought the game was very well called. I didn’t see a lot of things going on that warranted whistles. Whereas you play Oklahoma State or teams like that that create pace, that create action, that make you have contact in order to get open, one pass away and things like that, you’re going to naturally have more fouls called.

Q. Even with the small number of fouls called, Josh still fouled out. After looking at the tape, was it a matter of shots just not going in?
BILL SELF: His shots not falling leading to his fouls?

Q. Well, leading to his struggles.
BILL SELF: Yeah, probably. He got a lay-up to start the second half, then he goes strong; got a couple shots blocked. Yeah, maybe so, maybe so. But he had five assists. It that’s pretty good for a 6’8″ guy. Him fouling out, he fouled out on the last possession or next to last possession, he wasn’t in foul trouble the entire night. I think he got two in the first half, I think, but we played him. But I do think the two in the first five minutes or six minutes, whatever it was, I do think that effects him mentally in the rest of the first half. I do, his aggressiveness.

Q. It may have been the match-up, but you weren’t comfortable throwing the ball into Landen, back to the basket? Being able to score a little bit better than maybe earlier this evening?
BILL SELF: You say were we more comfortable?

Q. Yeah, yeah.
BILL SELF: Yeah, he’s playing good. He’s playing well. They switched ball screens a lot, so naturally, if he rolls the basket, he could get caught with a guard on him and stuff like that. We did a better job getting the ball inside, period, against Iowa State.

It may not be the same way against Texas, I don’t know. But certainly they’re small, so they tried to front some. So if you create an angle and throw over and things like that, you can get an easy basket or two.

Q. Can Udoka do anything to stay in shape?
BILL SELF: Yeah, yeah, he needs to. He got his sutures out, he’s got a regular cast now. So he’s able to do cardio and stuff now. So he’s back on the mend as far as working out and things, but he’s still going to have the cast on for another two months, I believe.

Q. Do you think Sam will help practices?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he will. He helped yesterday. He’ll be good in practices, and that will definitely help our red team.