Bill Self envisions an electric atmosphere inside a sold-out Sprint Center on Sunday. In fact, he foresees unprecedented excitement surrounding a basketball game that won’t count in the standings.
“It’ll probably be the most anticipated exhibition game in the history of exhibition games,” Self, Kansas’ 15th-year coach, said of a 3 p.m., Border War get-together between KU and Missouri. The two programs met uninterrupted from 1907 to 2012, but the series was discontinued five years ago when MU left the Big 12 for the SEC.
“It’ll be fun,” Self added. “The biggest thing is to do it for the good cause and hopefully your team can get better and learn some things through it.”
Self met with the media on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse to discuss Sunday’s practice game in which all proceeds will benefit hurricane relief. Rules will be same as any other NCAA Div. I exhibition contest, except players, who will be decked out in their official school uniforms, will be allowed seven fouls instead of the usual five.
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“We didn’t think it would be in the best interest of the fans paying a lot of money to come and watch Udoka (Azubuike) or Michael Porter get three fouls in the first 7 minutes — maybe not Michael but their big guys,” Self said.
He warned the media well in advance of Sunday’s game that the play could get mighty sloppy at times.
“I saw the USA Today coaches poll came out today and we were third. If you watched us practice you would think third in your county let alone country,” Self cracked.
Despite his protestations, the Jayhawks were slotted No. 3 in the land, behind No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Michigan State and one slot ahead of No. 4 Kentucky. Coincidentally, those four teams will be playing in the Champions Classic on Nov. 14 in Chicago (KU vs. UK; Duke vs. MSU).
“I don’t think we play hard at all. I don’t think we’re very tough and I certainly don’t think we know how to compete,” Self said, noting that’s the same for all teams right now. “Certainly young kids don’t understand if they’ve never been through it,” he added, noting he might expect “10 or 15 good minutes” total considering KU will have had only about 15 practices heading into Sunday.
“It’s still three weeks until the start of the season, and here we are trying to play a game a week before we even play exhibition games,” Self stated.
Self said the Jayhawks — who meet Pittsburg State on Oct. 31 in the first exhibition on the actual 2017-18 schedule — would practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday in advance of the MU game. The Jayhawks will travel via bus to Sprint Center right before the contest on Sunday.
He’ll discuss Missouri’s personnel with the Jayhawk players, but won’t have them scour film of the Tigers, not even of freshman sensation Michael Porter.
“How do you scout somebody you haven’t seen play?” Self said. “We are not going to go back to high school tape or AAU tape and look at tendencies. I think he’s every bit as good as advertised. He would be the equivalent certainly of Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) coming to Kansas. He’s that good.
“(Yet) there won’t be any scouting from our standpoint done for this particular game. How do you scout if you are us if they have a new coach (former Cal coach Cuonzo Martin) and majority of new players? We’re not going to go back and watch California tape to see what they are going to run. How do you know that’s what they are going to do? It’s a real game but it’s not going to have real-game feel to it because obviously part of playing somebody is studying them and coming up with a gameplan. That won’t be the case in this situation.”
Self said the important thing to remember about Sunday is the day is for hurricane relief. He expects the two teams to raise “north of a million (dollars).”
“This thing was done to raise money so everybody in attendance would be proud that they are doing something for others as opposed to just coming and watching their school play what was considered to be without question their biggest rival,” Self said.
“I’ve got friends affected. People that I work with have told me about some struggles their families are going through. Cuonzo has people he knows. We both have students in our athletic department, even moreso, that attend the university that’s been affected by this is a big way. Why sit back and not do anything when you have an opportunity to do something that, even though people will think whatever they are going to think, the reason we are doing this is because of those in need. What you see is what you get on this one.”
Self said this benefit game has nothing to do with the budding excitement of rivals returning to the court to play each other.
“People have said Kansas is giving in because somebody has been snipping at their heels. This has nothing to do with anything. This won’t have anything to do with moving forward in that regard,” Self said, indicating the only way KU and MU could meet again in the future is the unconscionable thought of more natural disasters requiring additional money being raised.
“There’s nobody Missouri could have played and raised more money than Kansas. There’s nobody Kansas could have played and raised more money than Missouri. If your goal is to raise money why wouldn’t you try to raise as much as you possibly can?”
Self said he hoped more money would be raised by televising the exhibition.
He said he had anticipated something being announced regarding TV by Thursday’s meeting with the media.
“We said initially there was going to be no TV. If you say there’s going to be TV it may not sell out. After it’s sold out of course there’s been discussions about television,” Self said. “I know Kansas positively is willing to do whatever we can to make sure there is television, some form of television involved. I can’t speak for Missouri if they are willing to do the same thing. The way there will be television will be only if the proceeds go to the hurricane relief, not for advertisers to make money. That’s how we got it approved with the NCAA. That’s what they agreed to allow us to do when we made the proposal. We’re not going to deviate from that.”
Self’s enthusiasm about this benefit game has been noticed by his KU players.
“He hasn’t really spoken about how big the rivalry is or anything like that. Being at Kansas, once they announced the game, you can kind of tell how big it is” said sophomore Malik Newman, who indicated he’s chatted with former KU guard Sherron Collins about past KU-MU games. “He (Self) is very emotional about it. Even though it is an exhibition game for a good cause it still kind of has bragging rights to it. We’re going to go out and take it as a real game,” Newman added.