Quotable: Kansas coaches, players begin Michigan prep

Dylan Burkhardt

Kansas took a day off after its NCAA tournament round of 32 victory before diving into its preparation for Michigan. Michigan took a similar approach but was gifted an extra day of prep time by the NCAA tournament schedule which saw the Wolverines play Saturday instead of Sunday.

After taking Monday off, Kansas had yet to practice or scout the Wolverines before it met with the media on Tuesday afternoon. Bill Self and Travis Releford both faced the media to discuss the matchup and the upcoming trip to Dallas. While most of their remarks can be found in the embedded video above, we’ve also compiled a rundown of highlighted quotes from Self, Releford and other Kansas players about Friday’s upcoming game.

Self’s scouting report of the Wolverines was fairly spot on:

“They stretch you at four spots, they have arguably the best player in the country, an unbelievable backcourt, they are extremely well coached and well drilled. They only average nine turnovers per game, which is the best in the country, and they don’t beat themselves. When they’re playing well they are as good as anybody in the country. But on the flip side when we play well we can play as well as anybody. It should be a heck of a game without question.”

Self wasn’t ready to admit that he would use the prominent discussion of Michigan in the national media as a motivational tool for his team.

“I guess we can use it but I don’t think there’s really that type of motivation that we need to use to get our guys ready. But I hope everybody is talking about Michigan, that’s fine with me. We’re still a No. 1 seed and we need to play like a 1-seed – we haven’t done that yet – but they’re very capable of being a 1-seed. Two weeks ago or three weeks ago they were on the 1-seed line and there’s not a nickel’s worth of difference between our two teams. Whoever players better on Friday will win.”

The Kansas head coach also focused on McGary’s great play, heaping praise on Michigan’s freshman big man:

“Mitch is playing great. I think he is a great screener, he does some intangible things. He probably goes after the ball as hard as anyone we’ve played all year. He’s an unbelievable loose ball guy and he does some intangible things that as a coach you’re just so happy you have that on your team. As an opponent you have to somehow try to negate that.”

Self also told the Kansas City Star that he was impressed with Michigan’s talent:

“We’re playing a team that just demolished an unbelievable basketball team in VCU,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Michigan is talented as anybody. When they play good, they’re definitely a top-five team in the country. And they’re playing good right now.”

Players react

Travis Releford shut down North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock last week and could be a thorn in Michigan’s side defensively. Kansas hadn’t watched film of Michigan yet when he addressed the media but he gave a quick scouting report from what he’d seen on TV:

“They’re small, they can shoot it and they’ve got a really great point guard,” Releford explained. “But like I said we haven’t broke down the scouting report yet.”

That was more than other Jayhawks offered on Sunday night after their round of 32 victory, most were content to call Michigan a ‘great team’:

Perry Ellis:

“Michigan’s a great team, like North Carolina is a great team,” said freshman Perry Ellis, who scored three points with two boards in eight minutes. “It will be fun playing in the Sweet 16 for sure.”

Ben McLemore:

“It’s gonna be a great game,” Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore said. “They’re a great team.”

Slow starts

Much of the talk during Kansas’ media availability surrounded the Jayhawks slow starts. The Jayhawks have been outscored or tied after the first 10 minutes in their last five games: 14-9 vs. North Carolina, 14-14 against Western Kentucky, 11-10 against Kansas State, 13-13 against Iowa State. Kansas also trailed at halftime – 30-21 vs. UNC and 31-30 vs. Western Kentucky – in both of its NCAA tournament games.

“Just slow starts, we come out I think not prepared and ready to play and the second half we have a talk and we get it together,” Travis Releford remarked when attempting to explain the slow Jayhawk starts. “We know if we want to win the game then we have to come out and play a lot better.”

When a reporter joked that perhaps the Jayhawks should have a talk before games, Releford agreed.

“We do that too but obviously, that one doesn’t work as much as the half time talk. We definitely need to come out from the jump and be ready to play.”

Bill Self was unimpressed by the questions regarding slow starts.

“Well part of the strategy this time is going to be to tell our guys to actually try to make shots, rather than just throw it up there,” Self quipped. “I think the first two games we did get off to shaky starts without question … but we have a little momentum and they guys got some confidence from that. I do think there’s a little extra pressure being a 1-seed and playing in your backyard – sometimes you play not to lose rather than embrace the moment.

  • Ryan

    “…we come out I think not prepared and ready to play…” Good news for Michigan considering when they started to prepare for us.

    • michaeltheorignal

      Sorry to interject off topic, but I’m dying over here in Boston. Want to watch the game at a bar but need a Michigan friendly joint. I am likely to get more screens with Celtics, Bruins, and preseason Sox than i am with the tournament. Even then not sure i’ll get Michigan-Kansas over Louisville. Anybody know of Michigan friendly crowd/bar in Boston/Cambridge?

      • Boston Dude

        Yeah there are two. Sweet Caroline’s by Fenway is the hot route for UofM fans in Boston and Tavern on the Square in Porter square is where to go in Cambridge. Word.

  • Ironhawk62

    Guy’s I had to paste and copy this comment from a KU fan, who posted this on a Kansas website. It’s funny! “Its time to show the all the media talking heads that we are a number one seed for a reason.

    Lots of respect for Michigan and their coach, including mine, but thought I’d poke a little fun at the team that is going to lose Friday…

    Q. What does the average Michigan player get on his/her SAT? A. Drool.

    Q. Why doesn’t Ohio slide off into the Ohio River? A. Because Michigan SUCKS.

    Q. What do you tell the U of M cheerleader to pick her up after she smiles at you? A. Nice tooth, babe.

    Q. Why did they change the playing field at “The Big House” to cardboard? A. Because Michigan has always looked better on paper.

    Q. What do you say to a Michigan Wolverine in a three piece suit? A. Will the defendant please rise.

    A guy in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and says, “Wanna hear a Michigan joke?” The guy next to him replies, “Well before you tell that joke, you should know something. I’m 6′ tall, 200 lbs., and I am a Michigan alumnus. The guy sitting next to me is 6’2 tall, weighs 225, and he’s a Michigan alumnus. The fella next to him is 6’5 tall, weighs 250, and he’s a Michigan alumnus. Now, you still wanna tell that joke?” The first guy says, “Nah, not if I’m gonna have to explain it 3 times.”

    • michaeltheorignal

      Weak. I’m all for poking fun at ourselves, but this is neither funny nor relevant to U-M. The only one that gave me a baby chuckle was the “good on paper” joke (sadly its true). Otherwise it could be a cut and paste job for any university rival. And, of course, many of the jokes are poking fun at academic/intellect of U-M. On very shaky grounds here here my Jayhawk friends.

    • Mattski

      Tickled that we threaten you enough to incite you to post a bunch of very tired vaudeville jokes here. These would have tanked at one of my grandfather’s pinochle sessions back in Royal Oak in the 70s! And no, you still can’t be in the Big Ten.

    • ForeverBlue

      Seriously, Kansas fans are telling jokes about 1 tooth and SATs?

  • Ironhawk62

    This prepared talk is just talk, They will come out prepared and ready to play smash mouth basketball. I have seen Kansas come out tight and playing to fast which it does get them into trouble early on but they know the scouting reports on Michigan and will not take them lightly. The process during the game is the key to how Kansas plays and performs, which makes Kansas lethal starting with the sweet 16 games. KU has seen this before with the talking heads favorites, KU doesn’t get rattled, they alway’s know they have a chance to win even down to the last seconds, that’s Self coached basketball. Fans from other teams don’t realize the culture and how KU plays is woven into the fabric of how they process the game at game time and will beat a team like a red headed step child more often then not. I may sound like a homer for Kansas, I know I’ve seen these guy’s for a while now, but good luck because Michigan has great players and they will play hard but will come up short in the end.

    • Dyenimator

      When on the court, “culture” won’t matter.

  • gpsimms

    well, Kansas fans sure seem intelligent.

  • rlcBlue

    So today’s thought is that the game may hinge on the Burke-Withey matchup.

    “Ridiculous,” you cry, “the point guard and center don’t match up with each other!” Well, hear me out.

    KU will almost certainly take the same defensive approach as the B1G did against us: stay home on the shooters and make the pick-and-roll into a two-on-two game. So we will frequently see the scenario of Burke dribbling into the lane with Withey between him and the basket. Burke puts up a shot… and the outcome of the game rides on what happens next.

    Withey is a great shot-blocker, he excels at keeping the ball in play, KU gets possession of a huge number of his blocked shots, and their offense is much, much more effective in transition than in the half court. Withey block = big advantage KU.

    Burke is great at getting his shot off. He knows how to use his body how to initate contact while keeping the ball away and flipping it up in the basket. This is going to be tougher to do against KU than against any other team – their FG% allowed attests to this – but what I realized today is that it doesn’t matter if Burke’s shots go in.

    KU is a mediocre defensive rebounding team, in part because Withey always goes for the blocked shot. If the other three defenders are staying home on shooters, then Burke getting a shot off over Withey creates a battle for a rebound between a Kansas guard and McGary, whose national rank in collecting offensive rebounds is roughly the same as Withey’s rank in blocking shots. Burke shot = big advantage UM.

    So remember this when Burke goes 2-12 on 2 point shots – as long as those ten misses are getting to the backboard, it’s probably helping us.