As winners of the Big 12 Conference by four games, No. 1-ranked Kansas figures to be awarded one of four No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds on Selection Sunday regardless of how the Jayhawks fare in the league tournament this week at the Sprint Center.
“I do think it would be hard-pressed to say that we wouldn’t be a No. 1 seed,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday. His Jayhawks will take a 28-3 record into Thursday’s Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal against either Oklahoma or TCU around 2 p.m. at the Sprint Center. The Sooners (11-19) and Horned Frogs (17-14) will meet in a first-round game at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“I guess anything can happen and I’m not going to make bold predictions, but I don’t know that that one would be too bold,” Self added.
As far as possibly already having assured the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA field, Self said: “I don’t agree with the No. 1 overall (talk), nor do I think that’s important. I think we can be a 1 seed. Of course the next step would hopefully be a 1 seed in the Midwest (with first- and second-round games in Tulsa; Sweet 16 and Elite Eight at the Sprint Center). But a lot of things could happen.”
Such as …
“You could have Gonzaga (30-1) as a 1 and the winner of the Pac-12 as a 1 (UCLA is 28-3, Oregon and Arizona 27-4). If that’s the case, they’ve got to ship them (Pac-12 team) to a different region. Maybe they could go Midwest,” Self said. “If Carolina (26-6) is a 1 they’ll stay in their respective deal (South). Villanova is going to stay in the East in their respective deal. I guess it could happen (KU being No. 1 in Midwest) but we could probably solidify that by playing well this weekend, obviously.”
Self said he would give his players plenty of rest before Thursday’s game — the Jayhawks took two days off following Saturday’s regular-season-ending 90-85 victory at Oklahoma State — but would not limit minutes in Big 12 Tournament games.
“That’s not fair to our players,” Self said of cutting playing time in preparation for the NCAA Tournament. “You think you ask Frank (Mason) … ‘Hey Frank, we’re only going to play you 27 minutes today when you’re trying to win a game?’
“Why you even play me at all then, Coach?” Self added of Mason’s likely response to a minute reduction. “We’ll take yesterday and today off. You’ve got to trust that they’re going to come out and be fresh and enthused and know that Tuesday will be an average practice at best, and then Wednesday needs to be good. Based on my experiences giving guys days off, usually (they) don’t come back as good.”
Self would like his players to rest whenever they are not on the court or in the classroom.
“Hopefully the mindset does change in this regard: ‘Hey, guys, the finish line is near. You can see the end of the tunnel, and so now what are we going to do? Get our extra rest, take care of our bodes better, eliminate distractions,’” Self said. “To me, that needs to be the mindset, not so much what happens between the lines.”
Self feels for Anderson
Self is a friend of Kim Anderson, who has been fired as Missouri’s coach.
“I hate it. I’ve known Kim a long time and he was a great player at Missouri — player of the year in the league, and even a better guy. He was at the Big 12 (office as assistant commissioner) for a while. Did a great job at Central Missouri,” Self said. “He inherited from the outside looking in a pretty tough situation. I know some of his staff members and everybody works hard and nobody likes to see anybody lose their position.
“Certainly I feel bad for Kim and the staff. People do things and make choices that’s in the best interest of the university. It’s a business decision, I’m sure. I’m sure it’s not personal, because there is not a better guy out there than Kim.”
Self on Big 12 coach of year award
Self on Sunday was chosen Big 12 coach of the year by his coaching peers in the league. He won the Associated Press award Monday.
“It’s nice. (I) certainly appreciate it. You know as well as I do, if Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, Devonté Graham aren’t on your team, nobody is getting recognition for any coaching awards. So I mean, it’s very nice, but I think I had an advantage by having those guys on my team,” Self said.
Wake Forest on bubble?
Former KU player and assistant coach Danny Manning’s Wake Forest team will take an 18-12 record into the ACC Tournament.
“Danny … I don’t see how he’s on the bubble. I think he’s got to be in,” Self said of the NCAA Tournament. “Winning one more would solidify it. I think they play Boston College in the first game. Danny has done great. To win those high-pressure games, Louisville and Virginia Tech the last week, I think probably tipped the scale in their favor.”
Self said he’s congratulated former KU assistant Joe Dooley and his assistant, former KU guard Aaron Miles, for making the NCAA Tournament with Florida Gulf Coast, as well as Tim Jankovich, whose SMU Mustangs appear to have locked up a bid no matter how they fare in the American Athletic Conference tourney.
Self called first-team all-Big 12 player Josh Jackson a “model of consistency.”
“I think his mental makeup and maturity,” Self said of what sets Jackson apart from most players. “He’s beyond his years. He just turned 19 not too long ago, but he certainly doesn’t play like a 19-year-old or act like one. In crucial situations, he has a calmness about him.”
A media member remarked to Self: “Pretty much every year you have a guy like him. You only get one season with him.”
“Has he told you guys he’s leaving? Gosh, you ruined my day,” Self said with a smile, realizing Jackson is an almost-certain one-and-done player.
Jayhawks enjoy the moment
Self was asked to pinpoint the “identity” of this year’s team. Nine of KU’s 16 Big 12 victories were by six points or less. Fourteen of KU’s 31 victories have been by 10 points or less.
“I think it’s a pretty mentally tough team. Doesn’t mean you’re going to play well,” Self said. “It seems like to me they enjoy the harder moments more. Very rarely have I been around a team that actually enjoys it when it’s hard. Most teams would go into an opposing crowd and say, ‘OK now let’s figure out a way to take the crowd out of the game.’ They go in there saying, ‘No, give us what you got.’ This makes it more fun.
“So I think enjoying the competition may be an identity. Most teams it’s toughness, rebounding, defense. We’re good at that, but usually only in the last four or five minutes at the level we want to be good at. I don’t know what it is, but I think enjoying the moment would probably be as much as anything.”
Mason netting honors
KU senior guard Frank Mason on Sunday was chosen Big 12 player of the year. He also has been chosen as one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy point guard of the year award presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Other finalists: Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga), Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Lonzo Ball (UCLA) and Jalen Brunson (Villanova).
“It’s pretty cool to see my name alongside those great KU players, means a lot to me,” Mason said Monday, referring to Raef LaFrentz, Drew Gooden, Nick Collison,Wayne Simien, Marcus Morris and Thomas Robinson, who also won the Big 12’s top player honor. LaFrentz won it twice.
“Nothing would mean more than winning the national championship game. None of this would be possible without my teammates,” Mason added.
Mason — he averages 20.5 points and 5.1 assists a game — said his favorite moment this season, “probably would be the West Virginia game when we made the comeback.” KU beat the Mountaineers, 84-80, in overtime on Feb. 13 at Allen Fieldhouse after erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation. “Other than that, favorite play would probably be against Stanford the reverse layup,” he added of a highlight-reel bucket.
Self reiterated on Monday’s Hawk Talk radio show that Mason’s No. 0 jersey will hang in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters some day. He said the same thing a week ago on Hawk Talk.
“Yeah, his jersey’s going up there, there’s no doubt about it,” Self said. “One that has a chance to also go up there is Josh (Jackson), because the criteria … if you could be a consensus second-team All-American … there’s a lot of guys up there who were not consensus second-team All-Americans. Josh would have a shot as well. But Frank definitely is a guy who will be honored at some point in time in his young life by raising a banner for him.”
There are guidelines for jersey retirement, Self said recently, but no formal requirements that must be fulfilled.
Graham may enter draft
Self was asked on Hawk Talk who would replace Mason at guard next year.
“We are still trying to sign another guard which we hope will be a point. We are actively involved with one or two (Trevon Duval, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.; Mark Smith, Edwardsville, Ill.) that we think we are in the game with. Of course the competition is stiff,” Self said.
“We don’t know what Devonté’s situation is,” Self added of Devonté Graham, who may declare for the NBA Draft after his junior season. “I would not be surprised at all if Devonté looks at it, but who knows what he’ll do? He’s a bright kid. He’ll make the decision best for he and his family.”
KU has offered a scholarship to Shakur Juiston, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, Zagsblog.com reports. KU assistant Norm Roberts watched Juiston score 10 points and grab 14 rebounds Sunday in a 78-54 win over Independence.
Juiston averages 16.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game. The former Paterson (N.J.) Eastside player is also considering Illinois, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Arizona State, Rutgers, La Salle, UTEP, St. Joe’s, Mississippi and DePaul.
Self asked about incident
Self on Monday’s Big 12 teleconference was asked about KU women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert’s recent comments about an incident in which Josh Jackson was charged with misdemeanor property damage to her car. Self also was asked if he had “conversations with the athletic department or with the women’s basketball coach” as he decided on possible punishment for Jackson.
“First of all I won’t comment about anything that we did in-house and secondly I won’t comment about another student-athlete’s comments from another sport or a family member (Calvert’s dad has also commented publicly),” Self said. “I mean that’s not my role to do that. I’m not going to comment for the women’s basketball program. So I made my statement on that and certainly that’s enough.”