View Full Version : Mature Jayhawks say they know how to handle pressure

03-26-2008, 02:11 PM

The Kansas City Star

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Bill Self could smile with Brandon Rush during KU’s first-round game against Portland State. Self thinks facing intense pressure has been good.
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<!-- END /pubsys/production/story/story_assets.comp --> <table> </table> LAWRENCE | The last time Bill Self walked into a pregame locker room in Michigan, he knew something wasn’t right.He looked around the room at his Kansas team, a bunch of freshmen and sophomores who had won 15 of 16 games, and suddenly didn’t recognize them.
“It was a different pressure,” Self said. “They had been so loose, sneaking up on everybody, and guys were thinking everything was easy. Then they get in the tournament, start watching TV and people picking them to do this and that. It just had a different feel to it.”
Of course, the Baby Jayhawks of 2005-06 went out and lost that night to Bradley 77-73 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Just like that, it was over.
Two years later, the Jayhawks will return to Detroit as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional, boasting a 33-3 record and an Elite Eight appearance last year. On the surface, at least, it appears Kansas is all grown up.
“Oh, we’re definitely different than we were (in 2006),” KU guard Brandon Rush said. “We just know what we gotta do in those types of games. We gotta adjust to the way a team is playing us.”
The differences, of course, are bigger than that. For the past two seasons, the Jayhawks have spent most of their days ranked in the nation’s top five and have entered the NCAAs as a No. 1 seed. Every time they have stepped into an arena, there has been a bull’s-eye on their backs. Playing with those expectations would naturally age any team.
“It’s good being ranked high, it’s good being a one-seed,” Self said. “All those things are good. It puts subtle pressures on you all the time to perform. It gets guys used to playing under pressure, and (the 2005-06) team never had the opportunity. That group was under the radar. That group didn’t have any attention.”
This group certainly has everybody’s attention. And while most people around them want to talk San Antonio and Final Four, the Jayhawks are mature enough to know they can’t get ahead of themselves when Villanova and either Wisconsin or Davidson await.
“It doesn’t get to anybody, man,” KU guard Rodrick Stewart said. “We know you can’t overlook anybody. The moment you start overlooking people, that’s when you look up and realize that your season is over.”
Last year, the Jayhawks had no seniors. This year, they’ve got five.
“With the close games, that’s when experience comes in,” Stewart said. “A lot of the guys like Russ that have been in all the tight games like that, it goes a long way. The senior leadership goes a long way.”
KU has gone into this tournament with the philosophy that it is not six games, but three two-game tournaments. Championship teams often talk about staying in the moment, and breaking the tournament into phases has helped the Jayhawks do that. Last weekend in Omaha, KU felt as if it beat UNLV in the championship game of its first tournament.
“No nets at this tournament,” KU reserve Matt Kleinmann said after the game, referring to the practice of cutting down nets after winning a title. “But it still feels the same way.”
Two more tournaments await the veteran Jayhawks.
“We gotta prepare to go win a two-game tournament this weekend,” Self said. “You don’t look ahead, yet your preparation is to give yourself the best chance over a 48-hour period. That’s gotta be our guys’ mindset.”

To reach J. Brady McCollough, Kansas reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4363 or send e-mail to jmccollough@kcstar.com

03-26-2008, 03:55 PM
I think pressure is sometime used a little too much. In this case sense of urgency is more like it considering a good portion of this team/ or players who made some sort of impact outside of Kaun will be leaving after this season so it may be the one final last go around for those players. The bottom line is that KU and UNC primarily have HUGE targets on their backs and they're gonna get everyone's best shot. This is not the time to **** off on the court because now you won't be able to get away with it. Teams will be prepared and it is Self's job to not be a dumbass and get these players prepared and put them in positions to win. As Herm would say at the end of the day you have to go out and play. this is the deepest KU team since 2001-02. And I believe this team is tougher than that one, maybe not as talented. Lets hope to God Self won't choke in the elite 8 (if they even get there).

03-26-2008, 03:57 PM
KU may have some real tough games to make it to the final 4. If they "show up" and play hard they should be fine.

Mr. Laz
03-26-2008, 06:25 PM
handle pressure .......... maybe

stay focused for an entire game ......... not yet

03-26-2008, 06:28 PM
handle pressure .......... maybe

stay focused for an entire game ......... not yet

Man, ain't that the truth. They will NOT be able to get away with those 6 minute scoring/defensive lapses now.

03-26-2008, 07:05 PM
question is Wisconsin then, UNC level ready

03-26-2008, 07:22 PM
I read in Time that only one team in the final four has a graduating average that is over 50%.

03-26-2008, 07:25 PM
I read in time that only one team in the final four has a graduating average that is over 50%.that should be enough to revoke their title

Sam Hall
03-26-2008, 10:28 PM
They have to reach the Final Four. No excuses.

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03-27-2008, 12:18 AM
I read in Time that only one team in the final four has a graduating average that is over 50%.

Thats misleading simply because a lot of players from UNC and KU and UCLA could leave for the NBA before their Sr year. Teams shouldn't get punished for that.

03-27-2008, 07:51 AM
Thats misleading simply because a lot of players from UNC and KU and UCLA could leave for the NBA before their Sr year. Teams shouldn't get punished for that.
They don't.

03-27-2008, 08:46 AM
They don't.

They did get punished in a sense. That being that the Time article makes them look bad due to not accurately presenting all the facts. Or at least that is what I got from the comments here. I have not read the article.

03-27-2008, 09:21 AM
By Kevin Haskin <mcc byline2=""></mcc>The Capital-Journal
Published Thursday, March 27, 2008
<mcc story=""> </mcc>DETROIT — The coaching career of Bill Self won't be complete until he directs a team to the Final Four.
Writers pen it, broadcasters blast it, fans demand it.
<!-- side boxes go here --> <!-- these can be included in a single master-box or they can be individuals with css controlling float/clear --> <!-- CMS - tools are print, reply, email small icons --> <!-- print -->
<!-- pip code here -->And, no matter how much they try to block it out, his players at Kansas read it, hear it and know it.
"It's hard on him," said senior forward Darnell Jackson, "because losing in the first round two years in a row, he's had to hear about it every day from somebody, or in interviews. That's hard on a coach, and especially with him, because he hates to lose."
The fifth opportunity for Self to steer KU to the Final Four now winds through the Motor City. Among the teams remaining in the Midwest Regional, the Jayhawks look to be revving on all cylinders against an assortment of test models.
So naturally, the expectations for Kansas are enormous heading into Friday's game against 12th-seeded Villanova at Ford Field.
The bracket is set up to succeed and so is the roster. Three seniors regularly contribute in addition to four underclassmen routinely pointed— some more sharply than others — toward the NBA.
In the end, it's those players who will determine whether Self, 45, punctuates his career — some say validate it, despite a 345-137 record he's managed with a 136-32 bump at KU — with an elusive Final Four appearance.
Yet the Jayhawks can't be dragged into the conversation over Self worth ... Self presentation ... Self loathing — any of the catchy puns that fit so well into headlines.
For starters, there are more pressing issues to worry about. Like containing Villanova standout Scottie Reynolds.
In addition, the KU coach finds the Final Four theme can get a little too, uhh, Self-ish.
"It's a player thing," said sophomore guard Sherron Collins. "I think he wants it more for us than he wants it for himself."
Senior center Sasha Kaun agreed, conceding "it would be nice for coach Self to be in the Final Four, but I'm sure he'll be more happy for us if we make it there than for himself, because he has so many years to go."
For now, it's still like the angler who's never been on an ocean charter. Or a gambler who's never gawked at the Vegas strip. Or the baseball purist who's never watched a game at Fenway or Wrigley.
Yet for Self, it also happens to be part of the job description everyone spells out in March, including some KU fans who vent a different level of madness whenever the Jayhawks are eliminated.
Self contends he feels no pressure to play the NCAA Tournament through to the last weekend after guiding three different teams (Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas) to the Elite Eight four different times.
It makes no sense then for his players to accomplish that goal on behalf of their coach.
If there is a breakthrough, however, they will gauge his reaction.
"We all take pride in playing this game and we've all come a long ways. It would mean a lot to all of us, but it would be lovely to get there for our coach," said senior guard Russell Robinson.
"He may start crying. He's real sensitive about that sort of stuff. On Senior Night he broke down a little and he almost did when we beat A&M to share the (Big 12) title. He almost did again when we got the (Big 12) tournament championship against Texas. Imagine what would happen if we're able to cut down the nets in Detroit."
Kevin Haskin can be reached at (785) 295-1159 or kevin.haskin@cjonline.com.

03-27-2008, 10:11 AM

<mcc subhead=""></mcc> <mcc byline1=""></mcc>By Jon Marks
<mcc byline2=""></mcc>Special to The Capital-Journal
Published Thursday, March 27, 2008
<mcc story=""> </mcc>VILLANOVA, Pa. — "Who are these guys?" Villanova coach Jay Wright was asked as he spoke about his team's improbable run to Friday night's Sweet 16 date with Kansas in Detroit.
Wright pondered the question, then confessed he didn't have a clue.
<!-- side boxes go here --> <!-- these can be included in a single master-box or they can be individuals with css controlling float/clear --> "I don't know," he said sheepishly. "I ask my assistants, 'How do you describe us?' "We go into that first (tournament) game, we have one guy in double figures — one. We were looking at the stats and saying, 'What is Clemson thinking?' It's just been that kind of year — an unpredictable year.
"But it's worked to our advantage right now."
Indeed. As a stunned Clemson found out last weekend in Tampa, where the Wildcats rallied past the Tigers, 75-69, Villanova is a team that's much more than the sum of its parts. Other than point guard Scottie Reynolds (16.0 points) and power forward Dante Cunningham (10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds), the Wildcats aren't very experienced and they're small.
But the maturation of three freshmen — guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher, along with forward Antonio Pena — and the insertion of little-used junior Dwayne Anderson helped Villanova regroup from a five-game losing streak. Since losing to Saint Joseph's, 77-55, on Feb. 4 and falling to 13-8, the Wildcats went 7-4 through the Big East season, all the losses to top 20 teams.
Still, they had to hold their breath for hours on Selection Sunday before finding out they had barely made the field as the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region. They justified that by taking out ACC tournament runner-up Clemson and upstart Siena to set the stage for this weekend.
Yet despite their success, the Wildcats know no one thinks they have a prayer when they step onto Ford Field court to take on Kansas.
How can a team that doesn't go any bigger than 6-foot-8 figure to stand up against the assault the deep and powerful 33-3 Jayhawks will launch? What makes them think their Cinderella slipper will still fit by the time the clock strikes midnight in the Motor City?
"We could've thrown in the towel during that losing streak," Reynolds said, "but everyone believed we could still be a good team. It was just a matter of seeing if we could stick together."
Yes, if Villanova is fazed, you'd never know it. One thing about playing in a heavyweight conference like the Big East, it prepares you for anything, even a No. 1 seed like the Jayhawks.
"They're a combination of Pitt and UConn," said Wright, comparing the Jayhawks to two teams Villanova managed to beat. "Their length and athleticism up front is like UConn, and they have the toughness in the guards of Pitt."
Wright has one other thing going for him, even if none of his current players were around to see it. That would be Jan. 22, 2005, when Wright's Wildcats ran then-No. 2 and 14-0 Kansas out of the building into a blizzard that had paralyzed Philadelphia.
Three Jayhawks — Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun — were freshmen back then, a day where everything fell into place for Villanova in an 83-62 romp.
"We caught 'em at a good time," recalled Wright, whose 6-4 team went on a 31-6 tear to start the second half, triggering what would be a 24-8 season that nearly saw them take out eventual champ North Carolina in the Sweet 16. "They were coming off a tough game against Texas and had to travel into a blizzard.
"But we were out of our minds. We made shots we didn't make any other time of the year."
Three years later they're hoping for a repeat performance.
"We have more depth than we had three years ago, but our guards were very experienced," Wright said, referring to future pros Randy Foye, Allen Ray and Kyle Lowry. "They were men.
"Our guards now aren't men. They're good, but they're not men yet. If they can handle Kansas, they become men."