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March 13, 2012

Kansas looking forward to NCAA opener

One day before boarding a bus for Omaha, Neb., Bill Self and several players met with the media to discuss Friday nights NCAA Tournament opener against Detroit.

Kansas head coach Bill Self

On facing Detroit in the NCAA Tournament

"I've watched quite a bit of tape. In coach speak; they're as athletic as anybody in our league. They have a terrific point guard and they have size up front. They make athletic plays, they pressure. They play man-to-man and they trap some out of it. They're really good."

On Kansas not always being great defensively

"I think sometimes it's mental. Sometimes it may be the way the other team plays that forces you to back off a little bit because they may have pressure releases that certain teams don't have. For the most part, if you're capable of being sound consistently, then you're capable of being sound all the time. Sometimes you can't force teams into bad plays, but you can make sure they don't have good plays. That's what we have to be much more consistent trying to do."

On where junior forward Thomas Robinson ranks with players he has coached

"He will rank right up there as one of the best that has played for me. Wayne (Simien) still averaged 22 (points) and 11 (rebounds) as a senior, but he (Robinson) is going to rank right up there at the top. I don't want to say he's going to be the best, but I will say that I think when you combine everything he's been through and his athletic performance, I don't know if I've ever had a kid I've coached that's grown more in both areas. I've had some kids that were great athletically, but never one that has endured as much as him and still maintained such a high level of excellence on the court. As for a place in the heart, he's going to be right at the top. It's not official yet, but if he's a first team All-American, he's going to get his number and name hung in the rafters, and he's going to be a lottery pick. He's impacted this place in a positive way and his legacy will be great forever. Those things are proud moments considering where he came as a recruited athlete, all the stuff he's endured as a man and how far he's progressed in both."

On Robinson avoiding foul trouble

"He's been better about it. I never talk to him about avoiding foul trouble because if you talk about not fouling, in his mind he might think of that as not guarding because the best way not to foul is to not get close to your man. Usually, the guys that try not to foul are the ones that commit the most careless fouls. Thomas' fouls, if you really study him, he's not getting his money's worth on his fouls. His fouls are ticky-tack even though he's not getting as many of them. I wish he was more aggressive and was playing his man more aggressively before he catches it, but he's done a good job in staying out of foul trouble. I truly believe aggressive guys commit less fouls."

On what Robinson will have to do to be successful against Detroit

"He has to guard and he has to play above the rim. He and Jeff (Withey) are both going to have to play above the rim, and Travis (Releford) is going to have to play to his athletic ability. You could make a highlight tape of Detroit and it's as good as Baylor's highlight tape. They are athletic. We haven't done a really good job lately of keeping people from getting easy baskets, so we have to do a much better job of blocking folks out."

On Detroit getting a No. 15 seed

"Their record is 22-13, but they went 4-6 without (Senior center/forward Eli) Holman. The Horizon is a good league. Butler has represented their conference in the National Championship game the last two years. I don't know what that really means in comparing this team (Detroit) and Butler's team, but there is an element of excellence in that league. For them to win at Valparaiso like they did is pretty impressive. Certainly, we didn't get any favors."

Junior center Jeff Withey

On Kansas' draw in the NCAA tournament

"I think that we got a pretty favorable bid and I'm real excited to go play. We're in the Midwest and that's always great. Omaha is only three hours away so we should have a lot of KU fans there."

On if he knows a lot about Detroit, Kansas' first round opponent

"I know a little bit. I don't know too much about them. I know they are athletic and block a lot of shots. It will be a fun game."

On if being able to drive to Omaha for the game is an advantage over flying

"It doesn't really matter. I think it's an advantage that we're so close and that a lot of the fans can come see us."

On how working with Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning has improved his footwork

"Everyday in practice we work on moves and stuff and so much of that is footwork. Coming into college I had a little bit of that, but definitely working with him and even (Kansas strength coach Andrea) Hudy. Before practice we do some things that help with footwork. Him and Hudy have helped me out a ton."

On if he knew how important good footwork was before coming to Kansas

"I definitely knew. Everybody hears about how important it is for big men to have good footwork so you don't travel and can move on the blocks. I knew a little bit, but working with Coach Manning has helped a bunch."

Junior forward Thomas Robinson

On being confident for Friday's game against Detroit

"I'm confident in my team. We've been practicing hard all week, and our loss last week kind of put us on a new track and focus. I'm pretty happy about it."

On what Assistant Coach Danny Manning has taught him

"Just slowing me down, and getting patience with my moves. We hear it's not about speed, but getting the move right and making sure it works. My whole thing is being more patient on the offensive end. Everything slowed down for me. With that came better footwork."

On playing with more purpose

"Just because of my situation, I feel like I have to have a deeper purpose to play for."

On F.O.E.

"The F.O.E. movement is what it says. It's 'Family Over Everything.' With us, blood is not always thicker than water. You can find somebody that's been a close friend to you and treated you better or been there better for you than your own family has. It's about being there together through thick and thin, no matter what the situation is."

Junior guard Travis Releford

On his feelings going into the NCAA tournament

"I'm just very excited to be able to be a part of the NCAA tournament and this year being able to play a bigger role than I have in the past. I'm just looking forward to it."

On if the team has scouted Detroit yet

"No, not really. The coaches have. Today, I'm sure we're going to go over a lot of their stuff and get familiar with it."

On the lessons learned from the Baylor game

"That game is behind us. We can't let that affect how we play here on out throughout the tournament."

On improving his defense for the tournament

"I feel like just knowing the scouting report and knowing the little details about opponents will get me over the hump. It just depends on who the player is."

On watching film for upcoming games

"Films on the team we play helps a lot because we can see the things that they like to do the most and guys they like to go to the most on offense. It helps out a lot."


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