Self knows this team is in a bit of a funk, but he's confident we'll get better, just like he was last year. Thoughts on his comments? On playing in Kansas City and at Kemper Arena: "I think our fans enjoy it, as long as the building is warm. We like going over there. We are 80-24 in the building and won a couple of very good games there. Kemper has been great to KU and there are a lot of great memories there. I think the largest crowd they ever had there was not for the Final Four, but for the shoot around on the Friday before a Final Four. They had to squeeze about 18,000 people in that day. There have been some very memorable things happen at Kemper for the University of Kansas. I'll also be real honest: I think everyone is excited about the chance to play at the Sprint Center in the coming years. Kemper has been great to Kansas and we certainly hope our last memory there will be positive."
On how the KU program might reactif it were to face the same tragedy that afflicted Toledo's: "I can't imagine, but it would certainly put everything into perspective. It's hard enough getting through losses and they don't even count when you look at the big picture of what life is really all about. You have to feel for any family member, team or program that loses a close family member or a loved one. That certainly would help put things in perspective for a group of young men getting ready to go out and face the world on their own. I am sure it has been tough on their coach, their staff and the players, but hopefully they have rallied around it."
On Mario Chalmers getting more involved in the offense: "I think he should be getting three or four more shots a game. Against USC, the way they face-guarded Mario and Brandon (Rush), really turned out to be wise move because with Darrell Arthur in foul trouble, it limited the number of options we could get the ball to. I don't know how many shots he's getting a game, but he should be averaging about 12 shots per game. I think a lot of it is us executing a lot better and knowing what we're looking for. We're not a good play-running team. We've run numerous quick-hitters and nobody would know we ran them. When we run our best offense, it's out of whatever we're trying to do. We're not a good execution team yet and weren't last year either. We were the year before that and that is how Wayne (Simien) got all his touches. No teams are great at everything and that is one thing we could get better as a team. The other night we played great offense, we just couldn't make a shot."
On Darrell Arthur's foul troubles early against USC: "The first foul he had the other night was a bad foul. It was a loose-ball foul and he didn't jump to the lose ball or anticipate his man jumping across his face. The second foul was a play when a Trojan got loose, went to the hole pretty hard and Arthur came over from the weak side to help. To me, that was a good block. I thought there were a couple of fouls that were called on him that could have gone the other way. Certainly I do not think he got the benefit of a few breaks from his foul situation. He is not doing as poor a job as the appearance is, but we have to keep him in the game longer."
On how his defense has played: "I thought our defense against USC was pretty good for the most part. They shot a good percentage, but they didn't get that many good looks. Lodrick (Stewart) made some hard shots. We're not going to be able to pressure the ball like we did against USC and get as many steals as we did against them. We were fortunate there because we were active with our hands. We certainly can get more sound, but our defense was good against the Trojans. Our advantage over them was our speed."
On Toledo's top three scorers: "I think they are pretty good. They are good because they play with an undersized post, which always creates mismatch problems because he can get you away from the basket. They play with an undersized four man who is a guard and who can really shoot threes. They are a little bit unconventional, but they are a very good offensive team. It's tough because we may end up having to use one of our guards on their bigs and they run a lot of ball screens which makes it hard to guard them the way we might conventionally guard them because they play four guards. We have a serious size advantage, but they have an advantage of having guys who can play away from the basket."
On whether playing in Kansas City helps with recruiting: "I don't think it hurts if we could utilize the game to get players and coaches to the games. I think it may be easier for city kids and coaches to go to a game there as opposed to coming over here. I think if we take full advantage of it, I think it could be an advantage for us. I'm not sure if it's the same as coaching in Champaign and playing in Chicago because it's a two and a half hour drive, and those [Chicago] kids couldn't get to Champaign. Most of the kids in Kansas City can get over here (Lawrence). So it's probably not a huge advantage. Once we play in the Sprint Center though, and you can start talking about potentially hosting the NCAA [Tournament] and Big 12 [Tournament], that can be an even bigger draw for the local kids."
On Brandon Rush's shooting: "The way he needs to get out of it is through repetition, and he's going to [get out of it]. There are a lot of reasons why we haven't looked as good offensively, and that is the one I'm the least concerned about. I believe in my heart [he's going to get out of it], and when it happens it will happen like it did last year, or even bigger. He's been in a little funk offensively, and that goes without saying; but against USC he was aggressive. He got off 14 shots and they were face-guarding him. I think that was a big step in the right direction. After struggling against DePaul, his being so aggressive against USC was a big positive for him. We need him to be aggressive all the time. He is defending pretty well and rebounding above average, but he just needs to understand that he needs to be a basketball player and not put so much pressure on himself to make shots and be our go-to-guy. Our go-to-guy right now is by committee. Against Florida, it was Arthur. I think Mario has the most poise during those situations. I defintely think that we need to have Brandon playing to his ability offensively and making shots because he makes us a much better team." On the team's energy and bench play against USC: "I thought the starters and bench brought more energy. I also thought Darnell Jackson played one of his best games since coming here. He was very active and wasn't worried about anything playing and winning. Sasha Kaun is starting to get going, but a lot of that is he worked so hard and came back sooner than expected. He is sore and can only practice every other day. He needs a little more reps to get confidence. He did give us important minutes because we were in foul trouble."
On the strength of the conference thus far: "I don't know if I would say I am surprised. I knew Oklahoma State was going to be good because they have great pieces. It appears to me that they are playing with a real purpose and are a very experienced team. Texas A&M struggled some last night, but they went to Baton Rouge and Joseph (Jones) and Acie (Law IV) weren't even part of the equation, yet they still played juiced up and playing well. Missouri has been the most pleasant surprise because they are playing well. They were very good against Arkansas. I think there have been some pleasant surprises but I wouldn't say there have been any major disappointments."
On the team's leadership: "I know it will improve. We have great personnel and great intangibles, but we don't have that one guy who leadership comes natural for. I would like for that guy to be Russell Robinson probably more so than anybody else. He's improved a ton in that area, but to become complete in that area, he still has some things he has to work on and I have to work with him so that he understands it. I am not at all displeased. We need more leadership, but a lot of teams need more leadership. We don't have a senior on the team, so now we are asking guys to step up and be leaders who are trying to be leaders the way they've been taught every day of their life. It is going to take time and maturation, but we will get there. Last year, we were a ship without a sail and we didn't have that leadership until guys got more comfortable. I compare it to quarterbacks because quarterbacks not only have to understand their responsibilities, they have to understand the responsibilities of every person on the field in every situation. We don't have guys with the instinctive trait that are not only comfortable with believing they understand what every person is responsible for on every possession. It will come when they are comfortable with themselves and understand that they have themselves figured out and now they need to worry about everyone else.
Kansas Player Quotes
Sophomore Guard Mario Chalmers On this Saturday's game against Toledo: "It is kind of a road game, just because we are not playing at the Fieldhouse, but Kemper Arena feels like our second home. We are going to go out there and just try and get the fans involved like we did last time we were there."
On the team offensively: "We need to prove that we are a better shooting team. We can shoot better than we did in the last game. We practiced shooting a lot yesterday in practice and hopefully that will carry over to the game on Saturday."
On the team defensively: "Our defense is getting better everyday. At practice we just work hard and try to focus in on what Coach is saying. We have to rely on our defense so that we can get easy points on the break and that helps us get confidence."
Sophomore Forward Julian Wright On Russell being the team leader: "He has been getting better at that, especially in practice as he provides the spark when things are not going great. He does a good job of grabbing players, pulling them off to the side and talking to them. He's definitely getting better at being more vocal."
On consistently playing as well as the team did against Florida: "That game feels like two years ago. We play so many games now. But I'm just trying to get better in practice through repetitions and hustle."
Junior Guard Russell Robinson On Brandon Rush's offensive struggles: "I just think he is thinking a little bit too much. We want to just keep getting him the ball because we know they will start to fall. There is a lot more of the season to be played, so I'm not worried."