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January 8, 2013

Q&A with Bill Self



Ever wondered what Bill Self thinks about the job Nick Saban has done during his tenure at Alabama? On Tuesday afternoon, Self talked about Alabama's run to another national champion, along with other topics.

Self on players raising their shooting percentages throughout their careers and if it's caused by determining what makes a good shot or simply due to repetition

"I think it's probably both. You know, there are a lot of freshmen out there that shoot a pretty good percentage because they don't know any better. Then they start realizing this is important and you see some sophomore slumps and things like that. For the most part I think its repetition. You hear about NBA guys all the time. When they go to the league they say his shots are going to get better because he's going to have plenty of time to work on it. It's the same way in college. Whenever you get to school you start realizing the pace in which you need to practice or the repetitions that you need to get up and that kind of stuff. You can't help but become a better shooter more times than not. Usually if you are not a better shooter it is because it's between your ears, more so than it is a skill or a talent. Also understand that playing with the free mind has a ton to do with that, too, but - of course - that constitutes being between your ears."

Self on Travis Releford's shooting numbers as of late

"Outrageous. He is shooting the ball so well. He's still taking wide open good shots. That's a great thing. You're going to shoot a better percentage when you take good shots. He has taken great shots. I think he can become a little bit more aggressive in driving the ball and doing some different things because he's so good at it. The basket speaks to him right now and I hope that continues."

Self on if Releford has an unconventional shot that possibly fools the defender into thinking he's not a great shooter and maybe that affects their defense

"I don't think so. Maybe some coaches think like that, but we don't ever think like that. There are a lot of different ways to do it. He's got a great follow through, even though it's a little bit different than the way some look. I would say there is a certain technique every coach teaches his kids to shoot, or mother teaches her kids to shoot in the driveway. His may not follow it to a T, but still the most important thing is the release and the follow through. It's soft."

Self on predicting last year that Releford would shoot for such a high three-point percentage this season

"No, but I thought he could be mid-thirties. You guys know better than me. I have not looked at this at all. He's got to be 70 percent or 60 percent from three the last month, or something like that, since we played in Kansas City (Nov. 30). Is that about right? It's off the charts because he started so poorly. The thing about it is he has become more consistent. He's not as streaky as he used to be. You know, you shouldn't determine whether a kid's playing good or not only if the ball goes in the hole. You should be able to say he played well, he just didn't make shots, or he played well plus he made shots. Travis is a guy that we need to play well all the time in so many different areas. He is our glue guy."

Self on what concerns he has about Iowa State coming to Lawrence

"I do think this is very obvious and statistics back it up that they score easier than anybody in our league. They shoot a ton of threes. I don't know exactly what it is, sixth or eighth in the country in made threes per game. They are a terrific rebounding team, not good but terrific. They are +11 for the season, which is a huge number. The thing that's most concerning for them is that their top seven guys that play the most minutes, the least number of threes any one of them has taken is 21. You have got three big guys in their top seven that have all taken at least 21 threes. There really are no guys that you play off of. I think that statistic is accurate; I think I read that right. That puts pressure on your defense and other areas. They turn the floor inside out because they will play their bigs on the perimeter and (move) their post-feeders to the guards at post, with (senior guard Will) Clyburn and whatnot. That is a little bit different. You know, they are good offensively. They score easy in transition. They are probably the best offensive team in our league, I would say, watching tape."

Self on how that might affect what Jeff Withey does on defense as well as offensive opportunities

"Just because they shoot threes does not mean that they are not strong inside defensively. I'm not saying that at all. I don't think they're a huge team from a standing height standpoint, but they've got physical guys that can defend the post and things like that. The biggest key when I think of Jeff is that I think strictly from a defensive standpoint first. The biggest key is that they are going to try to get him away from the basket. With the way they play, that will be pretty natural for them. They're not going to change how they play in order to do that."

Self on his team's three-point defense

"I would say it started off miserably and it's gotten better. You know, anything under 30 percent to me would be considered very good in that area. We are just outside of that. Obviously it is not where it needs to be, but I think we are improving on it a little bit."

Self on Elijah Johnson scoring back-to-back layups to tie the game late against Temple and if it changes the team when he's in attack mode

"I think every team changes when you're in attack mode. Elijah has a tendency to wait until big moments in a game and then be more aggressive. I wish he was probably a little more aggressive the majority of the time and he knows that. He also wants to, in his mind, do what a point guard does and get others involved. The more he drives it, the more others will get involved. It is important for us to touch the paint off the bounce. He's getting better at that. We've got to get Ben (McLemore) and Travis (Releford) to be more consistent in doing that. Every team is better when you're in attack mode. There's no question. Sometimes it's easier being in attack mode when you're behind. You know, a lot of times it's easier to play when you're 20 (points) down than when you're 20 up. (When you're up 20 points) you get passive and cautious. At 20 down, you let it go. Guys need to have a mindset to be in that attack mode basically the entire game, until time and score are important in the last few minutes."

Self on being ready for the grind of conference play after having big spaces between games

"I think so. I am sure that Fred's team is fired up for league play to start. I really believe ours is, too. It was kind of neat watching tape yesterday. After we watched Temple tape, the guys were really excited about talking about what lies ahead in starting the second season. We are excited."

Self on chasing the ninth-straight Big 12 title and if he reflects on that being impressive

"It is pretty good. We're proud of it. We don't have nine, we've got eight. Number nine would be certainly as difficult to win as any of the others. If you want to talk impressive, watch what Alabama is doing in football. That humbles you a little bit. To win three (National Championships) in four years is a remarkable feat. No matter what we've done here locally, on the national scene there is a lot more to be done if we want to be considered elite like what they're doing in football right now."

Self on whether or not that can be done in basketball

"I think it's much harder. There is too much turnover (in basketball). In football, you are at least going to get your guys for three years. In basketball, to win it you have to have pros. Usually pros leave before their junior year. I think it will be much more difficult to do it in basketball. You're just not going to see that very often. To me, and I could be way off because I don't coach (football), but recruiting is a little different. If you've got a good sophomore running back you can still go and get a good freshman running back. In basketball you don't do that as much. You know, if you've got somebody that's plugged in and is supposed to be there, guys want to go where there's more of an immediate impact. In football you can play two running backs or whatever. It's harder to play two point guards in basketball. It's a little bit different from a recruiting standpoint. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I think it will be very difficult to have any basketball team do that moving forward; the same way that Alabama has done it in football, or Nebraska 15 years ago or whatnot."

Self on the opportunity for a ninth-straight conference crown, if he gets the sense that the team views it more as an opportunity or more of a responsibility to not be the team that breaks the cycle

"I hate to say this, but I think it's probably more of a responsibility. From a motivation standpoint, and everybody wants to motivate from an opportunity standpoint, we have an opportunity. We have a chance to do something special. I think that we all want to do that. There is also responsibility that we don't want to get our butts beaten and be the team that doesn't do it. I think we're motivated both ways, to be quite candid."

Self on how many conference victories it will take for a team to win the Big 12 this season

"I have no idea, between 11 and 16. You know, you're going to have to win a lot of games to win the league. Not everybody is going to go .500. You're going to have to probably win 14 or 15, I would think, to have a reasonable shot at it. We're 0-0, so we're getting way ahead of ourselves. We haven't played a game yet."

Self on the importance of the Temple game, despite the Owls being unranked

"The rankings are a little bit overrated in a lot of ways. Temple is an NCAA tournament team. They're going to do well in their league. I would guarantee it. They play with unbelievable poise. We had a chance to crack them and they weren't going to crack because they play with such great poise. Of course, we didn't play very well when we had an opportunity to distance ourselves. We played poorly. I thought it was good. I thought it was good that we had moments where we were really good. I thought it was good that we had moments where we were really bad. I thought it was good that we kind of hung in there when things weren't going well. I thought we showed good leadership down the stretch. We had some late-game situations that we hadn't had a chance to practice a lot or be in, with the games that we played so far. I want to play great every game. I thought it was about as good of a game for us as we could possibly have. The other thing is that you are not always going to play great. The other team tries hard, too. They scout. They've got good guys. You know, it's not always going to look great. You've got to figure out a way to get it done in the end. Our guys did. "

Self on what more he'd like to see out of Ben McLemore

"I want to see him score more. I want to see him drive it more. I want to see him plug himself in the game more. There are a lot of things. We get hung up on that. Ben scores like seven points in the first five minutes of the game, and I'm not sure if he scores again until we had three dunks to end it. I could be wrong. I think he got the lob off side out, then he had two dunks in transition to end it. He goes basically 34 or 33 minutes without making a basket, other than some easy ones for him. This is good. We want those easy ones. He's got to be able to do more too. That's our responsibility. I thought we did a bad job plugging him in. I thought he did a bad job moving without the ball and doing some things. That's why I think it's a great teaching tape. We can learn from those things."

Self on Jeff Withey being whistled for more fouls lately and how he's handled it

"He's fine. Jeff had a couple of really good fouls in the last game that didn't give them easy baskets or give up an and-one. One thing that we haven't done very well as a team is we don't foul very hard. We touch guys and give them the and-one. I thought it was nice to see Jeff actually get his money's worth a couple of times to make sure the other team didn't get the basket. That's important. Every coach will tell you that."


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