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February 18, 2016

Bill Self

Lawrence, Kansas

Q. You guys have already done your part, but are you surprised how fast the tide has turned the last couple weeks?
BILL SELF: Well, I don't know that it's turned totally in our favor, but we're in such a better shape than we were two or three weeks ago, so to answer your question, yes, you know, last night was at least on the surface, you would think that that would be a positive thing for our chances and things like that. But still, we have the hardest schedule left, and so I'm not going to put too much stock in it. As fast as it's turned the last two weeks, it can flip it and go the other way even faster with our schedule. We're in a much more favorable position than we were before, but certainly it could be a situation where we could certainly fall behind real fast because of the two games we have coming up in the next -- over, what is that, a 72-hour period, that will determine as much as anything else.

Q. Rebounding was an issue last time against the Wildcats. Is there anything that you're going to do from a schematic approach to address that, or is it just kind of -- do you think that was kind of an anomaly?
BILL SELF: No, I don't think that it was. I think their effort on the glass was far better than ours. 52 offensive rebounds if I'm not mistaken, but we did shoot a good percentage, and when you turn it over, you don't get as many chances to offensive rebound and things like that. But we've got to be much more active. Our activity level has got to increase dramatically going over to Manhattan, but schematically, I'm not sure that we'll do a lot of things different other than the fact to tell our guys to try a little harder and be a little bit more focused.

Q. You guys have lost two straight there. Do you think that does something for the juniors who have never won there?
BILL SELF: You know, I don't know. We'll talk about that, but I haven't visited with them about it yet. You know, they have handled us the last two times we played over there, and you know, if I'm not mistaken, Perry and Jamari, Landen, and there's just a handful of guys that have ever been part of a win over there, because we have a relatively young team still.

Yeah, it'll mean a lot to Wayne and Frank and our other juniors, I'm sure, to put ourselves in a position to have a different outcome.

Q. What are your thoughts overall on K-State's season so far?
BILL SELF: Well, I'm not an expert obviously on anybody else's team, but to me their record could be far better than what it is just because they've been in so many close games. I mean, just within our league -- I may be off on the record, 4-9 in the league, and that could easily be, you know, 8-5 or whatever, 7-6 and be a lock for the tournament because they've had so many close losses.

So I don't put -- they could have won in Austin if I'm not mistaken, they obviously could have won against West Virginia if I'm not mistaken, Baylor, they could have easily won that game, and then of course the Oklahoma State game, they could have easily won. So there's four games, and if you look -- if you flip those games or go 3-1 in those games, just those games, you're looking at a totally different record in the league and certainly an NCAA Tournament team. They've got a lot to play for still, we've got a lot to play for, so obviously it's a big game for both programs.

Q. Landen is not a prototypical shot blocker, rim protector, but you guys are still at the top of the Big 12 as far as two-point defense. How do you characterize what he brings defensively?
BILL SELF: Well, I think Landen is our smartest defender, and he's our heaviest defender, and he does the best job of guarding another team's heavy offensive player. He's had some good games where he's going against the other big for the other team that they haven't had a strength advantage over Landen, whereas with other guys in the game, they could have a strength advantage, and he's so bright, and he gets team and he gets individual and he gets scouting report for the most part. He's helped us. He's helped us become -- I'm not going to say we've become good defensively because I don't see it yet. I think that we've improved in some areas, but we're way -- we're up and down just like we are offensively. There's times that offensively we look like we score easy, and there's times it looks like we can't get a shot. I think it's that way for all teams across America.

But I think defensively we have gotten a little bit better, but we're not consistent, near consistent enough. Had some great performances defensively and had some where we didn't create anything, any activity or any good things off our defense, and certainly we've got to do that. Against K-State the first time, we were duds, but in the second half we really did a good job with activity, running through some passes, getting some deflections, which allowed us to basically move ahead of them in that particular game. We just have to be more consistent doing that throughout the course of a game.

Q. Wayne's numbers in conference, he scores pretty well at home and hasn't scored on the road. Do you notice any difference in his approach?
BILL SELF: No, I haven't, but now I'll look at it, thanks to you. I don't look at stuff near that much, but you know, he has had some big games for us at home, there's no question, and he's due to have some big games for us away from home. I don't really look at it home and away, though, as much. I guess if we had a bigger sample pool I probably would, but he's had some big games for us on the road, too, throughout his career.

Q. What have you thought about him the last few weeks, Wayne?
BILL SELF: Well, I think inconsistent would probably be the word. He's been the best guard in the country on a night, he's been very, very good on other nights, and he's been a guy that's labored on other nights, so I think inconsistent would probably be a fair word.

Q. Is that just a matter of shots not falling for him?
BILL SELF: I think it's -- I think it's more than that, but that's the biggest thing. To me shots falling gives anyone confidence so you're more aggressive and those sorts of things. I think Wayne could be a really good player and not make shots, and he's shown that over time, but probably just a -- we're just a little bit too inconsistent right now, and I'm not talking about just with him, I'm talking about our entire team, too.

Q. After Kentucky you were so pleased with the way he attacked and drove, and are teams taking that away from him?
BILL SELF: I don't know. I think, you know, teams do scout, and they know what they're doing, and so -- and they know tendencies and those sorts of things, so they probably do try to take away something. But a lot of the things that maybe where he's been inconsistent has been self-inflicted as much as anything else. And you know, when you look at it, you miss the same shots you made in another game. That's what it comes down to. And so many times in our sport you've got to be able to make shots. You've got to be able to make a shot with a guy running at you, and in some games he's done that and in some games we've been a little bit more inconsistent.

Q. Is Greene on an uptick right now?
BILL SELF: Well, I think he's been a positive, positive factor without question the last couple of games. I thought he was good against OU and I thought he was good against Oklahoma State, so yeah, I'm hopeful that he's on an uptick, but more importantly, I hope our team is.

Q. What is it about Bramlage that's kind of given you guys fits the last couple of years?
BILL SELF: You know, I don't know if it's -- it's a great crowd, obviously a great crowd, very active, loud, those things, but I don't know if it's -- I don't know if it's a building as much as it is the players that have been playing on it. I think their crowd gives their players a lot of confidence, a lot of energy, just like our crowd does, and I think we've caught them the last couple of years when they've been really good. I mean, they've been really good. They play very, very, very well and totally deserved the outcome that they got. What we have to do is we can talk about the crowd -- and the crowd is big factor, don't get me wrong, but the biggest thing is we've got to focus in on not letting them play well and doing something to keep them from playing well, and we can do that on both ends if we play well. If they take that away from us then they'll control the game.

I think so much of it is just us -- our approach and going into it with a mindset to attack them as opposed to letting the intangibles kind of be a factor in the game.

Q. Can you talk about Cheick? He obviously had a couple of turnovers but did block some shots and pulled down some rebounds.
BILL SELF: Yeah, in the last two games. I thought he played really well against Oklahoma. I think he got like four or five rebounds in his limited amount of time, and certainly against Oklahoma State he had some good moments there, too. He's been scoring the ball so much better in practice, and that hasn't translated to the game yet, but that will eventually. But he's doing fine. He's doing fine. You know, it's one of those things where we can talk about a lot of things and what we should do and what we shouldn't do, and I don't have all the answers to all those questions because I think it changes daily. But you know, Landen has done really, really, really well, and I think everybody would agree that our chances to win of late have been increased when Landen is playing well.

Well, when Landen is playing well, then somebody else doesn't get a chance to play, but it doesn't mean that they're playing poorly, it just means that at this particular time, this guy has played better and probably helped our team or given us a better chance. So a lot of people may equate, well, he's not playing as much, as a negative, when you could equate it, well, somebody else is just playing well. But I think Cheick is coming. I think he's coming.

I still believe what I said before; he's going to be a terrific player. He's still raw, but he's improved so much just in the last month. But we've got another guy in there that's playing pretty well right now, too.

Q. If this were the old days where players played four years, how pleased would you be with Bragg and Diallo in terms of what they can do for your program?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, I'd be giddy thinking that we could have those guys for three more years. The reality is you may not have them another year with the way everything is set up. It's more of a crap shoot recruiting than it ever has been before. You know, guys used to pick schools in large part because they wanted to get a degree from that school or they wanted to be a part of that university or this or that, and now highly recruited guys, they pick schools maybe in some part because of that, but the big thing is opportunity and how quick can I get to the next level and those sorts of things. We've had some guys that I think I remember Cole -- Cole turned out to be -- Cole was Second Team All-American as a sophomore, and there's no way in heck as a freshman he could have beat out those other three guys. There's no way. But when his number was called in the Final Four he was pretty darned good, and that's kind of the way it is.

Jeff Withey is going to play in the league a long time, and he was our sixth best big man. Forget about getting in the game. He started practice on the bench when we had two teams. And to think the improvement that he's had and all that stuff, it's amazing.

You know, it is one of those things that you want immediate gratification, but you also want those guys that have given their heart and soul to a program to also have a chance to develop, and then if they're good enough, they should play. It's not that complicated. The best players that give you the best chance to win should play, and you're always hopeful that it's young guys with a ceiling so high and all those things, but sometimes that ceiling is not reached until maybe year two or year three. We don't need to lose sight of that, because at the end of the day, at the end of the day, the big picture is what opportunities will provide you a chance to have the best life and the best chance to play after you leave here, not just to have a chance to maybe collect a check and then worry about if you're ever going to be on a roster.

So it's -- I'm real proud of Landen and what he's done, and I'm real proud of Cheick and Carlton's attitude, and I will tell you this: Those two will get the last laugh. But they're just going to have to be patient right now.

Q. There's no way of knowing, but in your opinion, if Cole and Withey had left after a year and just said I'm going to the pros, do you think they'd be doing something else for a living right now?
BILL SELF: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But they're both bright kids. They would have come back and both gotten their degree, but yeah, they would both be doing something else right now, or doing it in a different country. Maybe doing it in a different country.

Q. A few weeks ago that 5 spot was such a concern. Just what is Landen giving you and what has that done for your team to have that solidified in that spot?
BILL SELF: Well, he's our post defender, position defender, and he's smart, and he's our best offensive rebounder. That's been evident. I mean, he'd got 15 offensive rebounds or 16 the last three games, and he's probably our best defensive rebounder right now. I think that that -- and he goes after the ball with two hands in traffic. I think he's given us an element of toughness, too, being in there.

But you know, I'm happy with Landen. Don't get me wrong, but in the next game it could be somebody else. But I'm really happy with what Landen has done for us, and I hope he continues to get better and improve because I do see his confidence level rising.

Q. When you talk about that confidence level, it seems like over the past couple of weeks that rotation has been pretty steady, the same guys. Does that kind of resonate with the rest of the team? Does everybody kind of maybe get another comfort level knowing what their role is on a game-by-game basis?
BILL SELF: Oh, there's no question. I've got a guy, Bryndon Manzer, who I coached at Oklahoma State, and he's going to be the eighth man or seventh man, and if he knows when he's going to come in and what his job is, and he may play anywhere from seven minutes to 21 depending on if he's making shots or a foul problem. I think everybody feels comfortable knowing that, and we certainly went through a period of time where I don't think there was any comfort level in our bigs knowing that because I didn't know, but now hopefully getting more settled in.

Q. Has that created a lot of good practice competition still, people hungry and knowing that --
BILL SELF: Yeah, I think we've always had good practice competition. We're diving into something that's not quite as big a deal as what -- we practiced for 40 minutes yesterday, and 15 of it is shooting and five of it is getting loose, so during that 20 minutes it was pretty competitive. But it's not like it was during the preseason practices where you're going two and a half hours and that kind of stuff. But no, there's still competition. The guys -- our practices have been condensed and I think our guys are going harder and more competitive just because we're not going to be out there near as long.

Q. What is a typical practice like now compared to what it was a couple months ago?
BILL SELF: Well, a couple months ago, it would be do it until we get it right, whatever that is, and now it's more like, hey, guys, we're not going long, let's just go real hard right now, so that way we can get off our feet and spend time watching tape or shooting free throws or whatever we're doing.

It's been shortened. I don't think that you'll see us practice more than an hour and 15 minutes, hour and 20 minutes probably for the rest of the year, unless there's something that we're just not getting right. And I don't think that's all bad, either. I think that this league is a monster. I mean, it's a monster and all games are 40-minute games, and in our case it could be 45 or could be 55 or whatnot, and everybody is going through it, and fresh minds and fresh legs are probably more important than the angle of a screen that we emphasize so hard and certainly spend a lot of time on earlier in the season when we're a little fresher.

Q. Do you have more meetings?
BILL SELF: Maybe a little bit. Maybe a little bit. But not a ton. I think getting away from ball, also, is helpful. We took Tuesday off, obviously, and the whole thought was, well, let's take Wednesday off, also, and I couldn't do it, so I said instead of taking Wednesday off let's practice for 40 minutes and get everybody's head refocused so that way today is not a bad day after having two days off. But everybody has got a different philosophy in how they do things, but I think I have learned over the years, and we've been tired teams coming home a lot, and we've been fresh teams coming home a lot, and there's a lot of factors that go into being both of those. I think it's more important just to make sure our bodies are fresh.

Q. Do you feel like this team is fresher right now than it was even just two or three weeks ago?
BILL SELF: Yeah, we've got more legs now than we did a month ago or three weeks ago, without question. Everybody hits it. We hit ours a little prematurely. I hope that's the only time we hit it, but everybody hits it. I can't imagine the roles going through a regular season and somehow during the month of August it doesn't hit them a little bit. I can't imagine that. I think all teams go through that, and certainly I don't know that we've weathered it without any question because we were certainly very tired and duds from a personality standpoint as a team three or four weeks ago, but I think we've got that back a little bit.

Q. After last year with the storming of the court, do you anticipate any issues with sportsmanship?
BILL SELF: No. You know, I've actually thought about that quite a bit, not the court storming but just in general, and you watch so many things on TV, and this is a rival game, and during rival games, you know, I was a part of Bedlam for a long time, OU-OSU, and Illinois-Missouri and now Kansas-Missouri, and obviously Kansas-Kansas State. The reason they're rival games is because really people on both sides, and fans primarily, don't really like each other that much. There's a reason why it's a rival. It's because it means something to your group, and it means something to their group, and both of them have pride in who's the victorious one.

So things happen. Things happen sometimes that doesn't equate to poor sportsmanship. It equates to a lot of people who care, that get upset at inopportune moments or whatnot. That situation that happened last year is not a factor, and we've had situations where we didn't handle ourselves right. That's not a factor. You know, the factor is you've got hopefully 10 guys out there at a time competing against each other and keeping everything within the lines certainly. That's not going to be a point with us, and you know, it shouldn't be. If you don't want to get the court storm, you should play better, and certainly we haven't done that the last couple times over there.

Q. This is kind of an off-kilter question, but with the center and the rules being built, is there any plan to take any of the guys there to kind of go as a group and maybe tour it there?
BILL SELF: You're right, it is an off-the-wall question. We'll do that when the time is right, but you know, that's going to be our -- that's going to be where we eat all our meals as a team, so our guys will live over there, so there will be four days a week that our guys are over there every night for dinner. We may do something before it opens just to give the guys, let them know what's going on, but they're going to live over there, so it's not going to be something that is away from who we are or what we do. They're going to walk right by the rules every day to be able to eat dinner. So that'll be a very positive thing for us.

Q. It seems like guys are always back in the fieldhouse, guys from past teams. Do you feel this team has a really good connection with some of the past players?
BILL SELF: You know, I hope so. I don't know that we have -- I mean, you know, this year with the All-Star break following where it did, it wasn't good for us because we didn't play a home game, so even if guys came back, then we didn't get a chance to see them because we were gone. But you know, I think that there is -- I know the ex-players take a lot of pride in what goes on here, obviously, and I know our guys talk to guys all the time, but I don't know that Hinrich and Wayne are talking all the time because it's a different era, so to speak. But our most recent guys and our players, I think, converse quite often. I think that they're connected. I certainly hope they are. It certainly seems that they are.

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