Bill Self met with the media this afternoon to discuss Senior Night vs. Texas Tech. Listen to the press conference below or read the transcript.
Q. Can you talk about each of the seniors and what you’re going to remember most about them?
COACH SELF: Well, I think with Tarik, I think I’ll remember him being an unbelievable teammate and a great leader and certainly a guy that has impacted our ability to win, obviously. But he’s got something about him that I think every kid yearns for. He’s ultra‑positive; his attitude is very, very good; he’s got energy; and he’s always trying to make others better. I’ll remember that.
And of course Niko, I’ve known Niko the longest, obviously, and I think I even spanked Niko when he was about three or four years old a couple of times when we used to babysit him. But he’s awesome, and he’s part of our family and has been for a long time, and certainly real proud of him, what he’s done since he’s been here. Not just how much he’s helped us from a scout team and stuff like that standpoint, but he’s really been a great ambassador and certainly a great teammate, as well.
And Justin, I’ll probably‑‑ I think Justin is maybe the coolest kid on our team. You go from being your first big off the bench three years ago as a sophomore and playing in the national championship game and hasn’t played much at all since then, and his attitude is the same as it was back then. He’s going to get his degree and then of course certainly we’ve helped spearhead what could be a very, very wonderful acting career, as well.
I think that all three have played a role in how good we’ve been, and all three have played a role, to be honest, in my personal happiness because I’ve enjoyed being around all of them.
Q. When is the first time you ever had one of your former players actually pay the tuition for one of your current players? With Keith and Justin, is that kind of cool that Keith did that for him for a couple years?
COACH SELF: Yeah. If I’m not mistaken I think Justin has been on scholarship a couple of years and Keith paid a couple years. When Justin came, the deal was we don’t have a scholarship, but if you work hard and you do what you’re supposed to do, hopefully we’ll be able to put you on aid before you get out of here, and we were able to do that a couple years, and this last year he knew time and score without question. I mean, he knew that that wasn’t going to be a possibility if we signed our guys, and mom knew that, everybody was up front, and Keith knew that. I’m real appreciative of what Keith has done, the sacrifices he’s made to do that for Justin. I know Justin is, as well. It’s pretty cool.
Q. Will you meet with Tarik about his new role, at least for the next week?
COACH SELF: No, you guys, that’s something that we won’t make a big deal of at all. That’s kind of not how we do things. We’ll talk about, well, we don’t have Joe, but that is not the emphasis is what we don’t have; our emphasis is what we do have. We’re one of the very fortunate teams in the country that can lose a good player and have basically a three‑year major college starter step in and do that.
I’m not going to see that as‑‑ we’re not going to change. We may run a couple of different sets to try to do a different thing or two, but we’re not going to change, and certainly that’s what we’ve always talked about is when your number is called, be ready. You don’t talk about what you don’t have, you talk about what you do have, and certainly we still have a lot.
Q. How do you approach senior day with a guy who might not be back next year? Is it awkward almost?
COACH SELF: No, no. You know, I saw‑‑ I’ve seen where other schools, when guys are projected to leave, they make them part of their night, which I think is fine. I mean, every school should do it the way that they do it. But we’ve been a pretty tradition‑rich program for a long time, and there are certain traditions that I think are worth keeping, and this is not freshman night, it’s not sophomore night, it’s not junior night; it’s senior night. I think in the past we’ve acknowledged maybe, said something, but the bottom line is this night is about Justin, Niko and Tarik.
Other people may do it differently, but that’s not how we’re going to do it. I think our fan base, the majority would be disappointed if we did something that took away from what is one of the great traditions of our basketball season, and that is senior night.
Now, I’m not saying I may not recognize or do something, but certainly I don’t want the emphasis to ever get away from those kids that have actually exhausted their eligibility here. And in this case all three graduated, obviously.
Q. I was wondering when you do your non‑conference scheduling, do you put an eye towards the RPI ranking?
COACH SELF: Well, we put too keen an eye on it this year probably, but absolutely. And Larry Keating does a great job with our scheduling. Of course he runs everything by me, hey, you want to play them and this is where their RPI is, how many starters back, this kind of stuff. Yeah, we try to put together a schedule that would be a strong RPI schedule. And I could be mistaken, I think this year there was one team that we played that wasn’t in the top 200, and I think of the 29 games we’ve played so far, 20 have been in the top 100 or something like that, some ridiculous number.
He deserves some credit for us having a good RPI schedule ‑ and Larry, you walked in at the perfect time, okay‑ but also a lot of it’s also kind of luck the way it plays out.
I think our league is plenty good enough that we’d get us enough RPI points, so to speak, that we’d have a good strength of schedule, but this year was certainly one, and the only reason we wouldn’t be considered to be a No.1 seed was seven losses, and I’m not sure we are on the outside or inside or anything like that. We’ve still got a lot to prove and we’ve got to finish strong to even be seriously considered, but the only reason we are is because we played a monster schedule. That’s the reason, and so that is a very positive thing.
Q. What are your thoughts on Tech?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, they play everybody close, and they’ve had some tough losses. You know, going back to our game, that was a tough loss, and it’s a one‑possession game in Ames right before we played them, which was a tough loss. But certainly Tubby has done a great job. Their front line is probably about as good as we’ve‑‑ one of the better front lines in our league without question. Crockett is a hard match‑up, and they guard. They guard, and if you remember right, they milk the clock. They’ll try to score quick if they can, but if not, they’ll shoot it under seven on the shot clock many possessions, and we did a poor job of finishing the possessions, so we’ve got to be much better at that. Great, great offensive rebounding team.
Q. You mentioned other years having to kind of play catch‑up for the league crown. Is it any different now that you’ve wrapped it up with two to go and kind of dangling still another carrot for the team?
COACH SELF: I would say it’s a little bit different because our goal that we had, you know, throughout conference play is complete. We did win the league. We never made it a goal, hey, we want to win the league by three games or anything like that. We just wanted to win the league, and so we have completed that. Now just to be really very realistic, now what we’re playing for is basically potential seeding and having momentum playing our best ball now.
But the guys should be enjoying playing. I mean, there’s no question about that, and obviously they’ve played with passion and energy for the most part the entire conference season. I don’t see that changing. I don’t see why you have to be geeked up because of a conference race to have enthusiasm to go play. There’s a lot of teams out there that don’t have a chance to win a league race that play their butts off, and certainly I hope that we’re one of those teams that play just as hard moving forward as we ever did looking back.
Q. What do you think you need to do to get that No.1 seed? Do you have to win out?
COACH SELF: Oh, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know. I was asked that today on ESPN, and if you look at us and you see 22‑7, you know, that doesn’t do much for me. I don’t know what it‑‑ you’ve lost seven times, and then you look at the strength of schedule, and you say, well, there’s a lot of people that would have lost seven times. And then you say, well, how did you do in your league, and if you win your league by‑‑ if you’re up three games with two to play in maybe the best league in America, and it’s what other people are saying is the best league in America, then you’re saying, you must be pretty good if it’s the best league in America and you’re up three games with two to play.
I don’t know what we’d have to do because I think our total body of work would be good enough if you really evaluate and study it. I think the initial record look isn’t good enough. To me it’s irrelevant unless you play well from this point forward. If we don’t play well from this point forward, we don’t deserve to be in that conversation.
I think there are three teams that are locks to be No.1. I think Wichita State obviously is a lock; I think Arizona is a lock; and I think Florida is a lock. You’ve got seven, eight, ten schools probably fighting for that other No.1 seed, and you may say there’s not that many. No, there is that many. If you win out and go win your league tournament there’s that many. And it may be more than that.
We’re one of those teams, I think, but how we finish will determine whether or not we’ve got a shot.
Q. Speaking of seeding, I heard I don’t know if it was an analyst or whoever, suggest with Joel not playing these last couple games that the committee would actually factor that in.
COACH SELF: To help us or hurt us?
Q. To help you, that they wouldn’t look at these next couple of games. They’ve done that for injuries, but do you think they actually would in this case where he’s just out for a few games?
COACH SELF: I have no idea. They talked a lot about the suspension at Oklahoma State, how the committee would view that, so I don’t see how a committee would view an injury if it’s not a‑‑ if it’s temporary, how they’d view it much differently than something like that, if they take that into consideration, which I’ll be honest, I don’t know how much they take any of that stuff into consideration. They say they talk about it, but I don’t know.
If that’s the case, then Florida should be overwhelmingly the No.1 overall seed because they should be undefeated just about because one of the games they lost was when they didn’t have their complement of players. I think Scottie Wilbekin and maybe somebody else was hurt. You know, they could easily be undefeated if the committee takes that stuff into account. But I don’t know how much they do take that stuff into account.
But we’re not approaching it like that. We’ve got good enough guys to step in and do the job when he’s out.
Q. Have you guys celebrated at all in private yet?
COACH SELF: Winning the league? No. Well, we high‑fived each other after the Oklahoma game, but I told them we shouldn’t celebrate until we win it outright, and of course we won it outright and then we got our butts handed to us, so nobody was really in a celebratory mood, even though there was columnists from Kansas City that felt I should be, at least based on what I was told.
The situation is we haven’t, but if we’re successful tomorrow, we’ll definitely do something to celebrate. But it won’t be a net‑cutting ceremony. We’ve never been big on stuff like that.
Q. About four or five years ago you made a very prophetic statement at the postseason banquet. Travis Releford I think barely scored; you said he was going to be a 1,000‑point scorer, but he had 50 points, I think. Is there a guy that’s not getting to play much here that you see that kind of thing?
COACH SELF: Well, I would say there’s one kid on our team that hasn’t had a chance to play a lot, and a lot of it is because he’s young, and we’ve got a couple of guys maybe in front of him, and a lot of it is maybe he can ‑‑ maybe gets in his own way a little bit with me, which a lot of young kids do, and that’s not being a knock at all, but just trying to figure it out.
Brannen Greene is going to be an NBA player. I really believe that he could be that. He’s talented. He is talented.
Now, does he guard anybody yet, does he do some things that we think are important that he hasn’t quite bought into the same importance level? Probably not, but he is really a talented kid. He’s got a chance to be a really good player. So if I was going to make a statement about somebody being bold that would be kind of maybe one that you didn’t think about, he would probably be the one.
Q. How is Naadir doing?
COACH SELF: With his thumb? I saw him this morning. He seemed to be doing a lot better. He didn’t practice yesterday contact, he just shot, but he’ll practice full speed today.
Q. How would you rate his junior season?
COACH SELF: How would I rate Naadir’s junior season? I would say he’s played about as well as I probably would have hoped for. I don’t know if I’d give it a‑‑ I’m not a professor, but a B+ or an A‑ or something. I still think he can play better in some ways, but I think he’s been really good. I think he’s had some games where he hasn’t been his best, and when he hasn’t been his best, it seems like those are the games we probably struggle the most because I do think how he goes in large part probably dictates as much as anything on how we play, but that’s the way it should be with a point guard. Same with a quarterback. I don’t know very many times you would have a quarterback that goes 13 of 30 and throws three picks. The team probably doesn’t look quite as good. We’ve had some of those type of games, but I would say overall he’s had a really, really solid junior year. He probably is responsible for us winning the league as any individual.
Q. Do you have any thoughts at all about the Big 12 adding alcohol to the mix to an already pretty cool atmosphere in the tournament?
COACH SELF: Oh, we’re doing that at the Sprint Center?
Q. That’s what they say.
COACH SELF: I don’t know. Unless it’s available to the coaches it won’t affect me whatsoever. I probably could have used a little help the last 10 minutes of the Oklahoma State game (chuckling). I didn’t know they were doing that, but that wouldn’t affect us one way or another.