Baylor certainly looked like a favorite to contend for the Big 12 men’s basketball championship after cruising to 17 victories in a row out of the gate. However, the Bears lost their second straight game over the weekend, falling at home to Missouri. They’ve now lost to Kansas and Mizzou, which now have to believe they could be locked in a two-team race to the finish.
Sure, it’s still early, but Missouri has already beaten Baylor and Iowa State — the only other two teams above .500 in league play — on the road and Kansas has yet to lose. There’s sure to be more intrigue, but first-year coach Frank Haith has his Tigers controlling their own destiny.
Frank Haith joined WHB in Kansas City with Between the Lines to discuss beating Baylor on the road, why the team has been so good on the road, having a team that can shoot this well, where this team ranks against others he’s coached, keeping the team in check mentally and the Big 12 race shaping up.
On beating Baylor on the road:
“I thought our guys did a great job. We had great focus all week preparing for those guys and I thought we went out and played with great toughness and tremendous poise down the stretch. It was really good to see and I’m sure from a fans standpoint it was a fun game.”
You took over a team that struggled on the road last year. Why the success this season?:
“They’re a year old, so that helps. The fact that we got taken out to the woodshed a couple weeks ago in Manhattan and I think our guys came back and regrouped and talked about it a little bit, talked about what it takes to win on the road and toughness was a key topic of conversation. … Our guys understand that we’re a good team, but we’ve got to play with great toughness in order to win on the road.”
On having a great shooting team:
“We’re taking good shots. That helps. We’re not going to shoot the ball great every night. We’ve got to find other ways to win games, too, and that’s being good defensively and rebounding. … We have found a way to understand great shots and they share the ball and I think that’s why we shoot a high percentage. We don’t hunt shots. I’ve stressed this to these guys, we should hardly ever have to shoot a contested shot because we’ve got such great ball skills and we have to play with unselfish play.”
Where does this team rank against others that you’ve coached?:
“Obviously I think in terms of this team and what we’re doing, keep in mind we won like six ACC games in a row and Duke was I think ranked second in the country and Wake was ranked like sixth in the country and we had a run there. And obviously we had a run at Texas where, with T.J., we got to the Final Four. I’ve told this team that we’re capable of doing great things. We are, because we’ve got the intangibles, chemistry, ball skills … and now we’ve started to show we’ve got a little toughness. … This team is very capable but it’s still a long year.”
How do you keep this team in check mentally?:
“I think that’s going to be on us. They’ll feel the sting a little bit and we’ll keep them on point as much as we can, but you always worry about that when you have success. … We always have a session in film that we go over after every game, the good, the bad and the ugly, and they’ll see things we’ve got to get better at. But I really believe if you enjoy the process as a player — enjoy the preparation and get focused on that — you’ll get yourself ready to play.”
How much are you starting to hear from fans about Kansas and the Big 12 race?:
“I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff other than I do know Kansas is playing outstanding. … You’ve got to think Bill’s done an outstanding job with probably a team that’s not typical, from a talent standpoint, that he’s had in the past. He’s still got this team right here undefeated in the Big 12. He’s done a great job and you’ve got a really good team that’s playing extremely hard. That’s down the road for us.”