News, notes and quotes on No. 16 Kansas' matchup against No. 21 San Diego State in Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS while wondering if the Jayhawks (9-3) will elevate their defensive intensity after allowing 83 points versus Toledo on Dec. 30.
SCOUTING SAN DIEGO STATE
San Diego State (11-1), which plays in the Mountain West Conference, has won 10 straight, marking just the fifth double-digit win streak in 93 seasons of Aztec basketball. SDSU, which has won its last two games against nationally ranked opponents (No. 20 Creighton on Nov. 29 and No. 25 Marquette on Dec. 1), is looking to win three-straight games against top-25 teams for the first time in school history.
The Aztecs' only loss came against current No. 1 Arizona at home on Nov. 14 (69-60), which was San Diego State's second game of the season.
Senior guard Xavier Thames leads the scoring attack at 16.3 points per game, while making a team-best 27 threes and also pacing the Aztecs with 30 assists and 24 steals. Sophomore forward Winston Shepard is next in scoring (13.3 ppg), followed by junior forward JJ O'Brien (9.5 ppg), senior forward Josh Davis (8.8 ppg, team-high 11.1 rpg) and junior forward Dwayne Polee II (8.6 ppg).
One of the best defensive teams in college hoops, the Aztecs will be facing a Kansas team which ranks fifth nationally with a 50.9 field goal percentage. San Diego State ranks first in defensive field goal percentage (34.2), first in defensive effective field goal percentage (38.3), second in scoring defense (53.3), sixth in defensive three-point field goal percentage (25.8), 26th in blocked shots per game (6.0) and 27th in turnovers forced per game (15.8).
San Diego State averages 76.7 points per game, boasts a +7.3 rebound margin, shoots 46.5 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from beyond the arc, and averages 8.8 steals per game.
Head coach Steve Fisher joins KU coach Bill Self as two of only 11 active head coaches who've won a national championship. Fisher is 292-172 in his 15th season at SDSU and 476-254 in his 23rd season overall.
SELF ON THE AZTECS
Self knows it will be a huge test Sunday.
"San Diego State is good," Self said. "Top 20 team and well-coached and well-drilled and certainly one of the premier defensive teams in the country right now. They can score the ball, but they hang their hat on stopping people. I'd be very surprised if it's a game like Toledo. I do think they'll play fast offensively, but they usually make you use the clock when they're on defense because they're not going to give up a lot of easy shots early on."
GOT TO DEFEND
KU is not playing defense like Self's past teams. The Jayhawks are holding opponents to 41.0 percent field goal shooting, which ranks just 94th nationally. Toledo's 83 points in Allen Fieldhouse last Monday were the most KU had surrendered in a nonconference home game since beating Siena, 91-84, in 2009. The Rockets also set Kansas opponent season highs for field goals (32) and three-point field goal percentage (.563).
The Jayhawks are certainly working hard in practice on defense.
"We've emphasized it all along, but probably put more of an emphasis on it the last several days," Self said. "It didn't really translate to looking that way against Toledo. Hopefully, it will look a little bit different on Sunday. But defense or offense, it's not something you say, ‘we're going to go over again or we're going to work at it real hard today and we're going to get good at it after one day.' It's something that takes time and developing habits and things like that, and we're certainly working towards that.
"I think we're actually in better (defensive) position that what I thought. I just don't think our mindset and our activity is what it needs to be, maybe make an opponent catch it a step further out or playing before he catches it, or being active with our hands. There's a lot of things I think are correctable that we can do, but I don't think it is as much from a positioning standpoint as it is from a reckless abandon-type standpoint."
This series dates back to 1978 and is tied at 1-1. The Aztecs won, 81-69, against No. 7 KU on Dec. 23, 1978 in San Diego, while No. 19 Kansas won the next season, 79-66, on Dec. 8, 1979 in Lawrence. The Aztecs' win over No. 7 Kansas in 1978 represented the highest-ranked foe SDSU had beaten in school history and is currently atop the chart with two others after the Aztecs beat No. 7 UTEP in 1984 and No. 7 BYU in 1988.
This game Sunday marks the beginning of a home-and-home series between the schools. KU will play at San Diego State at Viejas Arena in 2015-16.
SELF: PROPS TO FISHER
Self has great respect for Fisher. He won a national championship with Michigan in 1989 and also coached the Fab-Five Wolverines in the national title game in 1992 and 1993. In 23 seasons, Fisher has coached in 13 NCAA Tournaments and made 19 postseason appearances. He resurrected the San Diego State program after arriving in 1999, guiding the Aztecs to six NCAA Tournaments, including four straight with third-round appearances in two of the last three years.
In 2011, SDSU went 34-3 and earned a Sweet 16 berth.
While Fisher and Self have always had a "great relationship," the San Diego State coach was angry at Self in June 2011 for recruiting and landing Kevin Young, who had been committed to the Aztecs for eight months. But as Self again addressed Friday, he only recruited Young after he decommitted from San Diego State. Young joined the Jayhawks and became a key contributor for two seasons.
Self said what happened is part of recruiting, and did not affect his feelings for Fisher.
"We had a great relationship before and that does not in the least way, shape or form affect our relationship," Self said. "If it does, then obviously we didn't care much for each other to begin with. It certainly hasn't affected my thoughts of what I think of him because I think he's a first-class guy."
A "first-class guy" who's also a big winner.
"I don't know if there are very many coaches that's coached in three national championship games, and he coached in three national championship games in a span of about five years," Self said. "He's an unbelievable coach, and he's done an unbelievable job at San Diego State, and I'm not saying that at all because I'm trying to get back in good (graces) so to speak. It's a fact. The guy is good. He's been doing a great job for a long time."