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KU coach Bill Self: 'I can paint a pretty bleak picture sometimes; we're still 8-3'

Kansas head coach Bill Self congratulates his players and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) following the Jayhawks' 92-86 win over Texas don Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas head coach Bill Self congratulates his players and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) following the Jayhawks' 92-86 win over Texas don Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Most years, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is peppered with questions on a weekly basis about weaknesses, low points or obstacles to the Jayhawks being the supreme college basketball program in all the land.

And most years, it's Self's high demands and stringent coach's perspective on every detail of his team's performance that leads the questions that direction.

Throw in the fact that the Jayhawks have lost three games at Allen Fieldhouse already this season and are playing with a paper-thin bench and a group of players who, though talented, have not yet fully clicked for any kind of period of time, and it's easy to see how Self could, would and perhaps even should be hypercritical of everything involving his team right now.

But that was not the way things went down on Thursday afternoon, at his regularly scheduled news conference, where, between fielding questions about KU's progress and the individual strengths and weaknesses of nearly every player in KU's rotation, Self hit the pause button.

“I think we've had some guys individually get better,” Self began, when asked if the opportunity to play a team for the second time in a season — a la Baylor on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Waco, Texas — offered an opportunity to better assess progress. “Being a descendent of Tony Robbins, always being so positive all the time, I can paint a pretty bleak picture sometimes, (but) we're still 8-3.”

That's 8-3 in the Big 12. 19-5 overall. Both are records most coaches and programs would do anything for, and, at Kansas and with Self, those records spark a much different response.

“I had a text yesterday or this morning from one of my ex-players at Oklahoma State,” Self recalled. “He said, 'Coach, I know you're having a rough, rough season, but hang in there.' That is the mindset so much, in large part maybe because I help paint that in some ways. I'm not saying I'm happy by any stretch. I would just think that the tougher teams, the teams that can execute out of timeouts, the teams that understand the importance of getting two or three stops in a row at game point, those are the teams that will have a chance to finish strong and win the league.”

With seven games still to play — four on the road and three at home — Kansas has positioned itself to have that kind of finish.

Tied with Texas Tech for first place in the Big 12, the combined record of KU's final seven opponents is: 109-57 overall and 37-40 in Big 12 play compared to 114-53 and 39-38 for Texas Tech.

The two play each other again on Feb. 24 in Lubbock, Texas.

Who knows what will happen between now and then, or in the two conference games that remain after that one's over. Either way, record differential or not, it doesn't figure to be easy for either squad and likely will come down to the same thing that so many Big 12 games this season already have — stars and subs alike rising to the big moment.

“TCU, the first time we played them, our stuff worked, their stuff worked,” Self said. “The second time we played them, our stuff didn't work, their stuff didn't work. I think you probably have that in the NFL, the second time you play a team within your division. I think you'd have that wherever. In all honesty, the way you win more times than not (during) the second half (of the Big 12 schedule) is (with) guys making individual plays rather than scoring off your plays.”

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