When the new polls are released early next week, Kansas could find itself atop the rankings. Is being ranked No. 1 a goal for Bill Self? Jayhawk Slant has the latest from Lawrence.
Head Coach Bill Self
On if he was surprised by the Texas Tech and Iowa State score last night
"Yeah, it surprised me. I actually watched the last five minutes or last 10 minutes of the game and Texas Tech played very well. Iowa State - from the looks of it, from what little bit I saw - didn't make some shots and do some things, but (that's) life on the road in our league. I think so many times we get hung up on maybe not looking great and winning on the road and people think that's a big deal. And really, any win on the road is a big deal.
"You look across America last night and what happened at different venues it was a pretty shocking night considering who you would have - the perceived favorites going into enemy ground and not having much success last night."
On if there's any other player during his 10 year tenure at KU that he thinks Ben McLemore compares to:
"Brandon (Rush) would be the only other guy that I think he compared to athletically. Brandon's stronger I think. Athletically they're very similar. Ben may be a little bit higher flyer. Brandon was a great athlete. But Ben may even be a little bit more athletic or freakish than Brandon. They both have a beautiful stroke, and I think Ben can do some things differently by putting the ball down and doing some things better than Brandon. But they're very similar. Brandon's a better defender."
On why he thinks talented players like McLemore and Rush don't look for their shot as much as they could:
"I think a lot of it is they're very unselfish people from a mindset standpoint. They want to fit in. They want to be liked. They want to be a good teammate. And sometimes, with that being said, you lose a little bit of the aggressiveness to go out and maybe do more than what may be in your mind that you think the team needs to do for it to be successful. Ben's getting better at it. We just got to do a better job of plugging him in.
"That's the coaches' responsibilities but also the players have got to do a better job of screening for him and understand we need him to shoot the ball. But that's not a terrible problem to have. If I was or were a great scorer, which I was not; everybody thought that I should be the guy shooting the ball every opportunity that I would have when the game was not in doubt.
"I would defer to make sure they knew that I was a team guy. Then when the game was on the line they'd never not throw it to me. That would be my mind. Danny (Manning) was like that. If it's a 20-point game why would he need to shoot? Let everybody else get their points because he needed them to throw him the ball in certain situations when he had to. So these guys who get all their points and are thirsty, so to speak, and blow out games, I don't think that's the most healthy thing for a team. And those two understood that."
On if he looks for that `type' of player when recruiting:
"It just happens. We're getting into it way too deep. No, we don't look for that. Give us some guys that can score and give us some guys that are aggressive and have mindset. I would tell you this; I wish Brandon and Ben were both different on that front. I wish they were a little thirstier in certain situations than what they are but he's (McLemore) doing great.
"He's the all-time leading freshman scorer at this stage in the history of this school. Of course, Wilt (Chamberlain) didn't play (as a freshman). I'm not in any way, shape or form trying to change his game or anything. I would like for his teammates to do a better job looking for him though."
On if the coaching staff encourages players to be more selfish
"I think what we've done is when guys who come in here as young kids they also come in here knowing that the teams or the team that played before when they got here had some success without them. And so a lot of times kids are trying to blend in as opposed to carry the load. And I think that mindset exists with our program."
On if he thinks McLemore is shooting too late in the shot clock, or if that's when he needs to be in attack mode:
"I think he could be in attack mode. I see it from a coach's perspective. It's easier to say that we should run something to get the ball to be in on certain situations and that kind of stuff. That is true. But to get something for being in certain situations then you've got to make passes to get it to him. A lot of times it's easier if you don't have to make a pass to get the guy to go make a play. Tyshawn (Taylor) was great at (that), Sherron (Collins) was great at (that), Mario (Chalmers) was great at (that).
"We've had some guys here that were great at that. I think Elijah's pretty good at it, too. He just hasn't made shots. So yes, Ben could be more aggressive driving the ball but we're splitting hairs here. He's doing fine. I'd like for him to average 25 a game but that's not who he is. And so we can't expect that."
On McLemore hitting his biggest shots late in closely-contested games:
"Oh, he likes the moment. He likes the moment; but in the Kansas State game, both the jumpers that he made were broken plays. They were off broken plays. They were off a second shot, rebound, gambling, miss, extra pass; they were broken plays but still, you've got to jump up and make them. We've got to do a better job of plugging him in by always looking to screen for him and look for him more to shoot the basketball."
Hypothetically, on how McLemore would have fit into last year's team if he would have been eligible:
"Yeah, I think that last year's team would have been a better team. There's no question if Ben and Jamari Traylor were both able to play, we'd of been deeper, we would have had better practices, we'd be better this year because they would have practiced last year. There'd be a lot of things that would have made us better but I'm not sure the end result - winning 32 games and playing the national championship game - that we could have done a lot better.
"It would have been fun running another couple of athletes out there against Kentucky to see if that would have helped us match up. Those kids last year did so well, the chemistry was so good, it's hard to see how someone else would have fit in. That's like saying would our national championship team of been better if Julian (Wright) would have stayed. You lose a lottery pick that you didn't expect to go; talent-wise we probably would have been, but the pieces fit good too. So you just never can tell."
On if it's a goal to be at the top of the polls during the season:
"No, no, no. We were on the bus, on the plane the other night and you had young kids that said `why couldn't we be number one when Louisville lost?' And you had a fifth-year guy, Travis Releford say, `hey guys, we're right where we need to be'. So I think that's fine to be where we're at. It would not disappoint me or thrill me either way to be really honest."
On what makes Lon Kruger and his teams consistently good:
"You said it, consistency. He's the same all the time, at least from the outside looking in. He is cool on the bench which I'm sure translates to practices. His players, I'm sure, know that he cares about them and he has a great way with people. And he's the same all the time. I followed him in Illinois so I know firsthand talking to those guys. So consistency should not be shocking with his programs and that they've been able to accomplish that because that's who he is. He's not an emotional roller coaster like I can be sometimes. He's pretty low-key and stable. I think he's not a good coach, I think he's a terrific coach."
On his interaction with Kruger over the years:
"I followed him at Illinois and I knew him before that and talked to him a lot. When he was with the (Atlanta) Hawks and I was coaching Illinois I talked to him a lot. He loved those kids. He was 100 percent supportive of us. He's very involved in Coaches vs. Cancer and has his own golf tournament in Vegas, which he's been trying to get me out to for a long time. I talk to Lon quite a bit. I just talked to him the other day - as a matter of fact - on the phone, but it's not like we're buddies or anything like that. But sure, I know Lon well."
On the culture of the Illinois team he coached after Kruger left:
"When I went to Illinois in 2000 they had only won two Big Ten titles, if I'm not mistaken, since the 1960's or early 70's. That was in '84 and '98. That was one of Lon's teams. He obviously did a great job there. And, the guys he left behind - let's just call it like it is: Marcus Griffin- McDonald's All American, Frank Williams - McDonald's All American, Sergio McClain - McDonald's All American, Brian Cook - McDonald's All American.
"Two of those guys were Big Ten Players of the Year for me. Then you throw in Robert Archibald - NBA player, Damir Krupaligi, Lucas Johnson, Sean Harrington. I mean he left us some guys. We were slow, but we were big and tough. He left us some guys and it was a perfectly-built Big Ten-type team and that's what they recruited too. I never once ever said a negative word about inheriting that situation at all because it was all positive."
On what OU is doing well to be 4-1 in Big 12 Conference play:
"The thing about OU that - and I'm still studying tape - impresses me most is three guys that started for them last year don't start; they come off the bench. So, they've recruited well. Guys that had given us fits, like (Andrew) Fitzgerald, is coming off the bench. They're more athletic, they're deeper, they're young and they've got energy and they really, really guard. They're very sound defensively."
On what Naadir Tharpe is providing in late-game situations that is getting him more playing time, especially in important, late-game situations:
"I think he may have been prepared. I think the Ohio State game, or right around there, probably playing well in that particular setting helped him a lot. We put him in to shoot free throws late. We took Kevin Young out and they happened to foul him. I don't know how much time was left, (maybe) a minute left because I was so nervous about their offensive rebounding and things like that. We maybe could have gone small, but we didn't do that until the very end of the game and of course he stepped up and made a couple of clutch ones. Naadir believes he belongs there.
"He believes he's good. I believe in him and I think he's good. He just needs to have some good things happen for him. The thing that he still does as well as anything is shoot. He just hasn't made shots consistently, but he can shoot the basketball."
On Tharpe's confidence level and not being afraid to shoot:
"No, he's definitely not afraid to shoot. Not only can he shoot, he will shoot. I think he's a good offensive threat for us. The one he made at the end of the (shot) clock (against Kansas State) was huge and of course the pull up he made with seven minutes left was huge too."
On if he believes his team can still play fast in low possession games:
"Sure you can. Everything is so distorted when you look at it statistically. I'm watching TV the other day and they're talking about how great Georgetown's offense is against Notre Dame. Great, hard to guard, and they scored 65 points. Then you talk about us, about how lame our offense is and we scored 65 points. So, the point is taken. You can run a great offense and score less points because of the length of possessions and the way the game goes.
"I think what happens with us is we are very opportunistic in transition, but we need to be able to run off of our defense. In the K-State game the other day, for instance, we were terrific on the defensive glass - terrific. But Jeff (Withey) doesn't block a shot, which blocked shots usually lead to transition for us and we don't turn them over. They're (Kansas State) not a team you turn over a lot. That right there has taken away two things that we can get six points a game off of. You look like you're a team that's flying around.
"We've got to do a better job of scoring off of our defense. The way we play; I love the rip and run and to play fast and do all those things, but it seems like to me that's sometimes not the best formula to win on the road because if those possessions go awry all it does is give the home team the advantage."
On if the team bonds after big road wins and impacts how they perform on the road:
"I think success on the road certainly gives you confidence, there's no question. And locker rooms are fun. No matter when you win, locker rooms are fun. But, the most fun locker rooms are always the ones away from home because sometimes at home you're supposed to do as much. Winning on the road is a great, great feeling."
On Mario Chalmers' jersey being retired:
" I'm fired up for him. We knew it was going to go up a long time ago, but I just called Rio (Mario Chalmers) a month or two ago and told him. We put that mandatory 'you've got to wait five years', which I think is good, on (jerseys being retired) now. It will mean more to him than if would if you just come in right after you've played your last game. So, I'm excited for Rio and Ronnie and Almeria (Chalmers, Mario's parents) and for his family to get here. They meant a lot to our program and Mario is so loved here, as you guys know.
"I've seen the shot more than you guys have, believe it or not. It still gives me goose bumps to see it. Mario is such a unique guy, in my opinion, because he was ornery as we've had. He was ornery but he smiled and he had that boyish grin. He was the perfect guy to coach because he loved the moment and he loved the competition and still he smiled the whole time. He loved it. I thought it was very fitting.
"You can ask Mario this; I bet you one of the thrills of his career was coming back for the Legends (of the Phog) game and making that shot in a game that didn't mean anything because he knew how much that meant to so many people around here in the fashion in which it was done. He's a special kid and we had so many special guys on that (2008 National Championship) team. He'll be the first one off that team that has his jersey retired and we'll see if there are any others after that. But I am certainly very proud of him."
On how good of a defender Chalmers was with all the steals he accumulated:
"I hope he's listening; I don't know if Mario is listening. He wasn't the best defender at all. He was the best stealer of the ball I've ever seen in my life. He would laugh if he heard me say that because I used to tell him all the time, 'you don't guard anybody. All you do is run around and steal the ball' - which really worked out pretty good for us. He was great defensively and he anticipated as well as anybody."
On if Chalmers was the best clutch player he's had:
"Absolutely. I would put Sherron (Collins) probably second. But as far as clutch players that I've coached here at Kansas, absolutely. Hopefully we can have somebody else step up and be like him in late game situations. He made a lot of big plays for us."
On fans going crazy every time Chalmers' shot plays on the pre-game video:
"Every game. Every game. I don't think they were cheering for me for calling the play. I think he probably is as liked or loved as anybody, in large part, because of who he is but also the shot obviously didn't hurt at all. There's a lot of guys out here I think that you could say fans feel a certain way about. The love that people showed Thomas (Robinson) throughout his last 18 months was absolutely remarkable and unique.
"I would have to say that he, more so than anybody because of the moment, probably is more recognized and we've had more dogs and first borns named 'Mario' or 'Rio' than probably anybody else we've had here."
On the advantage using a four-guard lineup late against Texas provided:
"Well, I don't know if it gave us a ton of advantages. It's hard to take Jeff Withey out of the game. When another team plays small - which K-State kind of did but we didn't go to it - but when another team plays small it allows Travis (Releford) to guard a four, which is fine. But against K-State I didn't want to take Travis off of (Rodney) McGruder. So, that would have made Ben (McLemore) guard the four. We could have done that, but we elected not to. I think it just gives us another shooter and another ball handler out there that hopefully can stretch the defense and maybe isolate Jeff on the post to drive the ball a little more."