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Bill Self admires Kentucky’s return to championship contender form

Kentucky’s return to form after the season-opening, soul-crushing loss to Duke is one of the most underrated storylines in college basketball, but Bill Self made a point to acknowledge it during today’s press conference. Like John Calipari, the Kansas coach knows the burden of coming into a season with high expectations — the Jayhawks were the preseason No. 1, followed by the Wildcats at No. 2 — and praised the job Cal has done getting his team back on track.

“Five in a row against good people too,” Self said of Kentucky’s five-game winning streak. “They’re playing well. They were really good the last 10 or 12 minutes against Mississippi State the other night. Yeah, they’re good. They’re big. They’ve got enough fouls to give that they should never have to play shorthanded up front. Hagans is developing into a premiere guard, maybe as good a defensive guard — he’s kind of their Marcus Garrett. And Herro and Keldon Johnson are having terrific years and on a roll right now.

“They’re good. They’re a team that can win a national championship. I know everybody thought that before the season and then you have one game where the tension shifts. And they’ve done it the right way. They’ve grinded their way back to be where they are right now and that’s being one of the best teams in the country.”

While Kentucky is gaining momentum, Kansas is trying to redefine itself after losing Udoka Azubuike for the season. The big man left a big void for the Jayhawks inside, forcing Self to go small. Right now, Kansas is starting four guards and the tallest player getting regular minutes is Dedric Lawson at 6’9″. Self knows size is a weakness on which Kentucky will capitalize.

“We were undefeated obviously with [Azubuike] in the lineup, which includes Tennessee, Marquette, and Villanova, so we’ve gotten very small,” Self said on the Big 12 Teleconference this morning. “Probably as small as we’ve ever played. It certainly has an impact and going against Kentucky’s bigs, it creates a situation that the vast majority of the time, you’ve got a 6’4” guy guarding a 6’9″ guy. We’re going to have to make some adjustments and certainly be much tougher on the glass.”

With each of Kentucky’s four bigs bringing something different to the table, it sounds like the opportunity is there for the Cats to own the middle.

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Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

18 Comments for Bill Self admires Kentucky’s return to championship contender form



  1. Chacosrule
    4:21 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    I’ll be at the uk/ku game. It will have huge tv ratings. Maybe we could get the crowd into a “Paid For Players! ” chant or something similar. The whole country would hear it.



    • bigbluebanana
      5:05 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

      Nah dude, that’s an I classy move and we are The University of Kentucky, not sone mid-major or someone like Iowa State. Our play and tradition speak for themselves, we don’t need to be a gym full of high schoolers calling out another blue blood for stuff the whole country knows any way. It’s not like anyone watching that game would find that stuff out for the first time due to a chant, nor would it push the needle in any way. Mark Emmert and the NCAA are t going to punish KU anyway. We’d just come off as a petty and immature fan base that needs a gimmick to try and help get in our opponent’s head. I’d rather we do it by Ashton having six steal and 11 assists, Herro dropping 25, and PJ dropping a 20/20 game. That’s how it should be done at UK. You think we should rush the court if we win too?



    • trumpetguy
      5:49 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

      Don’t think chants will help us, but seeing KU coach lamenting their lack of size….might do UK well to be prepared for some zone defenses, and maybe even some gimmick box/diamond and ones, etc. If we hear UK staff at halftime or after the game even mention KU zones, that is probably not a good sign.



    • J. Did
      6:01 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

      Uncool.



    • dismore
      9:19 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

      It would only be the upper arena. The lower sections think they are entitled.



    • ClutchCargo
      8:32 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

      That wouldn’t be a good look for our crowd. Rupp is known to have some of the classiest fans in the country, and we don’t need to resort to that kind of stuff, especially in what is not a huge rivalry game.



  2. oldcatsfan
    6:05 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    Very good point trumpetguy. Bill Self never hesitates to use a zone or gimmick defense. However, with the exception of the Vandy zone, I believe this years team has been better prepared for our opponents than any other Cal team. Hope that continues Saturday.



    • trumpetguy
      6:37 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

      Just inside FT line/logo area, plus mid-range wings are usually soft points and vulnerable. Attack there with shots aggressively, and we will be fine. Pass the ball on the perimeter with little player movement, then shot clock becomes a factor, not so good.



    • Nugget01
      2:56 pm January 25, 2019 Permalink

      Yes, absolutely. See 2017 when they last played in Rupp and Fox, Monk and Co jumped out to a big lead and total command of the game…then Self went to the zone and the Cats completely crumbled only to never recover and lose the game.



  3. 2thepoint
    6:07 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    Don’t think for one minute that Self doesn’t think they have this game. He is building them up so he can tear them down. I am sure Cal reminds them of the recent losses to them.



  4. michaelb
    7:42 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    I like it when people come with the humble approach hehe, cats by 45



  5. michaelb
    7:44 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    Scratch that – cats by 70



  6. dcforuk
    9:03 pm January 24, 2019 Permalink

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. The good coaches know this because they have been burned in the past. There can be a big difference between confidence and pride. Don’t think for a moment he won’t have those boys ready to play. If our boys stay humble and hungry, we should win by 5-8 points! Go CATS!



  7. CahillsCrossingNT
    6:08 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

    Kansas has three straight wins against Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. They’ve also won in Rupp two straight times, including without Wayne Simien in 2005. The only thing the Jayhawks haven’t done as well as the others is win titles. I hope UK can finally beat them, but I’m highly doubtful despite the fact that Udoka Azubuike won’t be available.



    • UK Big Board Update
      9:30 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

      You seem emotionally fragile. Hang in there, buddy. Everythings gonna be okay.



  8. Jiminy Crickets
    7:24 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

    Bill self and John Calipari are like brothers seoerated at birth. They look similar, their teams play similar, and their records since Cal has been here is virtually identical. Cals only NC came by beating Self, and Selfs only NC came by beating Calipari. Self is 2-1 against UK since Cal has been here, therefore the cosmic balance will restore after UK wins Saturday to even if at 2-2.



  9. Jiminy Crickets
    7:28 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

    I forgot about the 2015 beatdown, and a KU champions classic win. Sorry. Self is 3-2 against Cal. Ul wins to even at 3-3



    • Jiminy Crickets
      7:34 am January 25, 2019 Permalink

      Jesus, I’m drunk. Self/Cal are 3-3 in UK/KU series. I keep thinking the self win over Cal at Memphis was at UK. Carryon I’m sorry