Sports

Bill Self still reigns over the Big 12 room

This is what it looks like when Kansas coach Bill Self is surrounded by his peers, some of whom he's lorded over for the past six years:

To his left, there is Texas Tech coach Pat Knight. He talks about how Self has taken him under his wing and how he thinks that Self's situation at KU is unfair.

"I think the fans are too spoiled," Knight said. "Honest to God, you win this league, you should get a parade."

Kansas has won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title six times in a row. The last two have been outright championships. Yet, there has been only one parade in Lawrence since Self arrived, and it was not for winning the Big 12.

To Self's right, there is Texas coach Rick Barnes. He has not been winning league titles for the Longhorns at the rate he'd like, and he's talking about how the Big 12 going to an 18-game, round-robin schedule starting next season will help the conference name a "true champion."

Across the room, Kansas State coach Frank Martin is holding court. His Wildcats have been picked to finish first instead of Self's Jayhawks, but Martin says the title still goes through KU. Of course, how could Martin not say that? The Jayhawks beat the Wildcats three times last season, and both teams lost key contributors.

How do you really know this is Self's league? When Nebraska coach Doc Sadler is asked for a good Bill Self story, and this is what he says:

"I think probably the best thing Bill Self has got going for him is no question his wife Cindy," said Sadler, a longtime friend of Self's.

Then Sadler is as asked if Self overachieved in the love department by marrying Cindy, a former Oklahoma State cheerleader.

"No question," Sadler said, "he caught Cindy on a downer."

Sadler was just having a fun with Self, which is not likely to ever happen on the court with just two more scheduled meetings before the Cornhuskers take their act to the Big Ten. But Sadler's comments serve to address a fact: Among Big 12 coaches, Self is the one who seems to have it all — as Knight points out, that includes all of those unreasonable fans, too.

Self also has players who see the world from where he's standing. Other teams' players want to win the league. KU's players expect to win it.

"I do think that there becomes an expectation with your guys that, regardless of who the faces are, whoever is out there has to deliver," Self said. "That's just who you become. I'm really proud of our guys in that regard. I think there's been some times when we haven't had the most talented kids, but they believed they were, and that could be the case this year. Success breeds more success."

For Kansas players, Big 12 media day is not about comparing their talent to that of other teams. It's about walking into the Sprint Center wearing a big ol' Big 12 championship ring like junior forward Marcus Morris sported on Thursday.

"Oh, this little thing right here?" Morris said, his voice dripping with irony. "What's that, six straight Big 12 rings? I just had to wear it because this is a Big 12 venue. We have to show who owns the Big 12 right now."

Thing is, everybody knows it. While KU's players were surrounded by media, Texas Tech's sat alone.

"That's what you'd expect," Texas Tech forward D'Walyn Roberts said. "They won the conference last year."

And the year before that, and the year before that. . . .

"The whole thing to me is, who are we judged against?" Self said. "And it's the teams that you play every year. That's something we talk about on a daily basis, even if it's a quick reminder like (saying) 'Big 12 champs' when we break the huddle. It's something that's going to be engrained in those guys."

Even guys like Morris, who are from far away lands like Philadelphia and didn't grow up watching the Big 12. It didn't take long for him to understand what it meant to Self, and now he's got two rings. Of course, this being Kansas, he's hoping to own a different one soon.

"I'm very proud that I could be in that legacy with the guys that have been winning it," Morris said. "Hopefully before I leave I can get a national championship ring, too."

Surgery for Markieff — Kansas junior forward Markieff Morris will undergo hernia surgery today. Self said that the surgery is minor and that Morris should be back to full speed in about 10 days.

“During that time we take two days off, so you are talking about missing seven days of practice” Self said. “He should not miss any time during games. He’s going to get some time off here to give that a chance to heal.”

Markieff is expected to start alongside twin brother Marcus in the KU frontcourt.

No Nash — As expected, Dallas Lincoln small forward LeBryan Nash picked Oklahoma State over Kansas and Baylor on Thursday in front of a national audience on ESPNU.

Nash, who visited KU for "Late Night in the Phog," put on a gigantic orange foam Oklahoma State cowboy hat to indicate his decision.

Nash's half-brother, Byron Eaton, was a star point guard for the Cowboys during 2006-09.

Sellouts expected — Self was asked about there being 400 to 500 reserved season tickets remaining for this season's games at Allen Fieldhouse.

"It will be sold out," said Self, who has not coached a game at KU that wasn't sold out. "The games will be sold out. It has been our goal each and every year to sell out season tickets before the season even begins, with just limited tickets on a game-by-game basis after that. I don't see any problems in us selling those tickets game by game."

Self gave another reason why KU's 147 straight sell-out crowds are important.

"I do think it is something we have always sold from a recruiting standpoint," Self said.

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