Q. AP, not that you care about rankings, have you 13, and the mock selection show had you as a No. 2 seed. Which one do you think is closer?
BILL SELF: I’ll be honest. I don’t know that we played to either one of them here in the last couple weeks. I mean, I would say right now, I should be probably happy with both of those, to be honest.
I think we have a chance to certainly solidify and maybe improve on at least our ranking. It would be hard to improve on a 2 seed. That’s not going to happen.
That’s the best we could probably hope for. We have also opportunity to definitely slide based on who our opponents are coming up.
I don’t think it means much. With the Selection Committee, and I haven’t studied what they did, but so much of that is taken with strength of schedule in mind, I’m sure. With the rankings, I think so much of that, even though it is taken with that, but more that’s based on wins and losses.
I don’t know which is more accurate or whatnot. I know right now we should be happy with both of those.
Q. They did the quadrants, quadrant one, quadrant two.
BILL SELF: I didn’t really study it. There’s four quadrants, right?
Q. Where you play, neutral, home, road.
BILL SELF: Are you talking about throughout the season?
Q. Yes. Is that something you look at?
BILL SELF: No, I haven’t really studied it. Let’s say you go by the RPI, which is fine. A top 50 win at home used to get you more Brownie points than a top 60 road win. They’ve skewed that now, which I think is a great idea. Maybe a top 75 road win is the equivalent of a top 40 home win. I think that’s what you’re talking about.
To kind of get a better understanding, there’s value placed on winning away from home.
Q. What is a harder matchup: West Virginia’s press, Baylor’s length?
BILL SELF: Obviously we haven’t been unbelievably great against either. Baylor just hurt us with their zone in Waco. We didn’t play very well. But West Virginia also has made us look pretty foolish with their pressure, too.
I think they’re different. Certainly both of them, if you’re not prepared, can give you a lot of problems. The one that probably sticks out to me the most is West Virginia’s pressure. So much of attacking is zone. You got to attack it right, you got to do some things, you need to make some shots. Length definitely affects that.
Baylor’s length is good, but it’s not like it used to be. They’re long, but they’re not near as long at 6’10” with Anthony Jones on the wing. They’re not that long now.
I still think, when you think of different styles in our league, the one that jumps out to everybody, is West Virginia.
Q. Talk about Cole’s development from his freshman year to when he left. When you recruited him, did you think this jersey retirement (indiscernible)?
BILL SELF: I promise you when we recruited him, I didn’t think about hanging a jersey or hanging his number in the rafters.
Cole got off to a slow start here. But he was playing behind Sasha, Darnell and Shady. Had his coming out party in the NCAA tournament, basically at the Final Four. From that point, I don’t know that we’ve ever had anybody improve more over a span of two years. He goes from that point, happy to get in a game, to being a Second Team All-American in less than 12 months. He had an unbelievable run here his sophomore and junior year. Of course, he was a defensive presence, as well. He did it right on and off the court, being an Academic All-American and everything.
Him getting his honor on Saturday, and Sherron getting it on Monday, those are two guys that I will take a ton of pride in this because I know how much they both love this place, I know how much this place changed them.
Q. Is there sort of a Batman and Robin?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think so. We were talking about that ’08 team. The second team on that had two guys that are getting their jerseys retired that didn’t play. Sherron played quite a bit, but he obviously didn’t start. Then of course Cole.
If you were to put others on there, Morningstar, Reed, Case, Stewart, whatnot, you could put together a pretty good team with that ’08 team.
I had seven NBA players on that particular team. They were kind of Batman and Robin. Cole won’t like hearing this, but if that’s the case, Sherron was definitely Batman and Cole was a sidekick (laughter). Sherron pretty much ran things here his last couple years.
Q. Did that have anything to do with putting their retirements so close together?
BILL SELF: No. Well, yeah, it did have something to do with it because they’re close. We’re honoring the ’08 team, the guys that can make it back. That’s the perfect time for Cole to come because it’s All-Star break, so he’s off. Then Sherron wanted to do it at a time where Cole could be there for his deal, too.
Cole and some of the guys will stick around to see Sherron’s, as well. That was the best way they could do it, to be honored by their teammates.
Q. You had a bunch of past stars come back. Do you think having the guys from ’08 visit, meet with the guys you have now, be a bit of a boost?
BILL SELF: Maybe. I don’t know. We haven’t set up a meeting time or anything like that. I doubt there will be an opportunity to before the game. Maybe after the game there could be.
Mario and Brandon and Darnell we don’t think are going to be able to make it back. Darnell is overseas. He doesn’t think he can make it. Mario I think is going to be out of the country. Brandon, I’m not sure exactly what the situation is. We haven’t got a final on him.
There will be some guys. Russell is playing in Macedonia, overseas. There will be some guys that can’t be here, but certainly the vast majority of them will be.
I don’t know if it will be an opportunity for them to sit down and talk with our players. I haven’t thought that through at all. I think sometimes we make a bigger deal out of some things.
Our players have all been around these guys that are coming bark, spent time with them in the summers. Tyrel Reed, three days a week, Sherron every game. It’s not like they don’t get an opportunity to see these guys.
Q. When you put Cole in the tournament game, were you confident he would do what he did?
BILL SELF: Yeah, I remember back to April 6, 2008, exactly what my thought process was. Hey, I want to give this guy some confidence right now (smiling).
Q. Were you confident he would do what he did?
BILL SELF: Yeah, he was going against Tyler Hansbrough, so obviously I was 100% confident he would out play the national Player of the Year, a guy that hadn’t played at all (laughter).
I don’t remember what I was thinking. But he obviously did a great job and was probably as good a big man as there was in the game that day.
Q. Were you surprised how he did perform?
BILL SELF: In that game?
BILL SELF: Yeah, probably. I mean, I guess. I haven’t watched that game film for at least two or three months now (smiling). No, I’m joking, I haven’t seen it in years.
He did play great. He did play great. I think he did, like, eight points and seven rebounds, something like that. He was great. But I certainly didn’t anticipate that going into the game, that we knew we could rely on that.
Q. Marcus obviously has some things he needs to work on offensively. Seems like your team has been better recently when he’s been in. What do you see from him?
BILL SELF: He made a play the other night that nobody’s played all year, nobody’s made all year for us. He’s guarding a good offensive player, but he knows exactly how far he should dive. He waited for him to bounce it, took it on the first bounce or second bounce.
He does some things like that nobody else has done, for the most part, except for Devonte’. Devonte’ will make plays like that.
I think it is comforting to know you can put a guy that’s not going to score a lot of points in the game, and your plus-minus is more positive than it is when he’s not in the game.
If anybody is making mistakes with Marcus, it’s me, because I don’t think I’m having him out there long enough spurts. He’s averaging about 20 a game. In a lot of those games he’s been one of our better performers.
Q. Playing with purpose and urgency, does that negate the need to play with desperation?
BILL SELF: Does it negate it? I don’t think we need to play with desperation. I think we need to play with urgency, purpose and focus, that stuff. It’s a long season. I don’t think you start playing with desperation in February. I could be wrong.
I don’t think that’s the way you want to play it. That makes people tight. Our guys should be focusing on enjoying each other, having fun, playing for each other, not worrying about being the 14th year in a row. They don’t need to worry about that.
They need to focus in on getting better, worrying about trying to win one for themselves this year, not worrying about trying to carry on a tradition for others.
Hopefully that will be the case. It may be the elephant in the room. Me visiting with these guys, I don’t feel it being the reason we play poorly at times because they have that stress. Now, there’s stress obviously. Usually when you stress, it’s from pressing. Our problems have been pressing at times, but when we haven’t played well recently, it’s been from the total opposite of that.
The lack of urgency or the lack of desperation is probably not the term I’d use. I guess every game there are desperation moments. I don’t think we played to that as well as we should.
Q. We asked you a lot about Devonte’ and his value, his minutes. What aspect of his season has impressed you most to this point?
BILL SELF: This is not a knock to our other guys. I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a team where a guy gets less help, but from a playing standpoint. I’m not putting down anybody. From talking, from ownership, from coaching others. He is doing it all. He has shown as much leadership this year to me as what anybody we’ve had here do. He’s Aaron Miles, but he’s getting 17 a game. That’s how I look at it.
That’s not a knock to the other guys’ playing ability. But if you look at it, Malik doesn’t speak, Svi doesn’t speak, Lagerald doesn’t speak, Doke doesn’t speak when they’re out there.
This is Devonte’s personality that’s basically getting us through the intangible things. Doesn’t mean he’s going to play well, but certainly from an intangible standpoint he’s as good as we’ve ever had here.
Q. When you host College Game Day, does is change routine, atmosphere or energy at all?
BILL SELF: It probably does, but we’ll hopefully not let it. To me, a lot of times teams get caught up in that, the all-day-long infomercial. You kind of get out of character of who you are. You probably spend too much energy in the day when you should be conserving it for later.
We won’t make a big deal out of it at all. There won’t be anything our players do, at least based on what I’ve been told, that’s any different from a normal routine on game day. We might do stuff on Friday that’s a little bit different. For the most part, if it’s anybody on game day, it will probably be on me.
Q. With Lagerald and Malik on an uptick, Silvio with some good minutes, Doke’s production, how do you feel about this team being able to push its ceiling up moving forward?
BILL SELF: I do think that. I think if you looked at us back in December, late November at times, you thought the team had a ridiculously high ceiling. I do not feel we have played to that. When we were playing to that, it’s primarily because our five starters were playing well, we were shooting the ball well.
If you look at it here of late, and you’re exactly right with Malik and Lagerald and Doke, but Svi and Devonte’ go 6 of 26 against Iowa State. Three of our four best shooters go 2 for 19 against Baylor.
You could see that the ceiling is still pretty high if we can get everybody on the same page and playing well. I mean, my thoughts have always been the same. We got a chance to be in every game. We got a chance to win every game. Why should we settle for anything less than that.
The reality is, I think there’s potential to play a lot better than we have in the last two or three weeks without question, if we can just get everybody playing well at the same time.
It’s amazing to me that we’ve won some games. If you said we were going to go to Ames, those two would go 6 of 26, we would have no shot, at least the thinking would be. It is some positives that when we don’t do some things well, other people have stepped up.
Q. Going to give Huggs anything to wear?
BILL SELF: No, nothing to wear. Maybe something to drink. Definitely nothing to wear.
No, I’m joking.
Q. When Zach does what he does the first 10 minutes, how does that affect the confidence of your players?
BILL SELF: We haven’t talked about that. They weren’t all smart plays, but that’s on me. I said, Hey, take it right at him every time. Of course, we did, and he blocked everything.
Still the mindset was to be aggressive. You’d much rather have a player be aggressive and maybe make a not very smart play than have a player be timid or tentative. I didn’t think we were, trying to go at him.
He has emerged as one of the best big guys in the country, not just in our league, probably has been as dominant as anybody from a defensive standpoint, him and (indiscernible). It’s very impressive how he’s improved.
Q. Has Malik become more dynamic offensively?
BILL SELF: Dynamic, yeah. He’s been more versatile I think in not settling to just shooting the ball. He is driving it more, without question, yeah. He’s doing a good job of taking contact and finger plays much better.
Q. You always talk about how he can always go and get a shot. Is that what you mean?
BILL SELF: Not really. When I thought about him going to get a shot, I thought of him usually off two feet. But he’s become a good guy getting to the hole in halfcourt offense. It hasn’t been as good in transition, as you guys can remember. But in halfcourt offense, he’s done a really good job of getting to the basket, really good, as good as anybody that we’ve had.
Q. That pitbull you got out of Chicago and brought to Kansas, what did he turn into, what did he mean to this program?
BILL SELF: Sherron, you could say maybe Josh, but I think Sherron is the best basketball player we’ve recruited since we’ve been here. You talk about a guy that can get his own, he can set anybody up, he thinks the game, his IQ is ridiculous, he’s tougher than anybody. I just thought he was a fabulous, fabulous guard.
Obviously his knees kind of failed him towards the end. He had a hard time keeping his weight off. But he worked at it so hard, to do that. But I don’t think we had recruited anybody, and still haven’t, that could make just basketball plays the way that he could, have the IQ and the intellect to go out and do that.
It’s kind of sad for him, but the best thing that happened to us was him getting hurt. It allowed Russell to start, then Sherron understood it was best for the team for Russell to keep starting when he came back.
It would be hard not to start a guy that is your leading scorer, second leading scorer, unless he had gotten injured. When he needed knee surgery, it kind of put Russell in the situation that, hey, I got an opportunity, I don’t want to mess it up. His play elevated, then Sherron, all he did was accept the role he had.
I always respect that about guys. When you talk about as talented a player that you recruited, it’s best for his team not to start till he was a junior, it would be hard for a lot of guys to stomach. But he handled it fine. He was terrific.