LAWRENCE — While certainly reeling, Kansas basketball isn’t quite in uncharted territory, at least not yet.

Still, the No. 11-ranked Jayhawks are one defeat away from waters far choppier than those endured by most of head coach Bill Self’s previous 15 squads.

KU (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) has dropped five of its last 11 games, and with No. 16 Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3) likely no pushover in a pivotal 3 p.m. Saturday showdown at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks are at risk of losing a third straight game for only the third time since Self took the reins ahead of the 2003-04 campaign.

A defeat could also drop KU out of the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since Jan. 26, 2009.

With all that in mind, Self attempted to put his team’s skid into perspective when discussing whether the group’s struggles are as pronounced as some onlookers would believe.

“I think for a top-10 team in the country, we’ve played bad. For a team that’s a top-30 team in the country, we haven’t played that bad,” Self said Friday. “It’s just however you think we are.”

KU has seen its share of adversity over the last month.

Already playing without junior center Udoka Azubuike (season-ending hand injury), the team learned shortly after Self’s news conference Friday that withheld sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa will be ineligible through the 2019-20 season in a stiff penalty handed down by the NCAA. To make matters worse, sophomore guard Marcus Garrett suffered an ankle injury of an unknown severity during a subsequent practice and was scheduled for an X-ray later that evening, with his status in Saturday's game unknown.

Despite all of that, Self seems well aware that few fans will ever view KU as simply a top-30 program.

“To me, (that’s) the way a fan would say it — ‘God dang, they’ve lost two in a row. They’re awful,’ ” said Self, whose Jayhawks are coming off back-to-back defeats at then-No. 8 Kentucky and unranked Texas. “To me, get real. This is life. It’s sports. There were some times where maybe people doubted or questioned (us).”

One of those instances, Self recalled, was a stunning 62-55 defeat suffered at TCU on Feb. 6, 2013, one of only two Big 12 wins for the Horned Frogs that season. After that contest — the infamous “Topeka YMCA” game — Self lamented that he had just coached “the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. (James) Naismith was there.”

He’s not quite there with this squad just yet.

“I literally thought we were awful (in 2012-13), and we lost three in a row then, and we still ended up winning the league or getting a piece of it,” Self said. “There’s a lot of things we can certainly do better, but we’re not quite the same team that we were.

“I’ve always said, ‘Faces change; expectations don’t.’ We’re not going to change our expectations or lower them because we don’t have our full complement of guys. But the reality of it is, we know there’s a lot less margin for error, so we’ve got to be turned up on every possession in order to get ourselves to play at that really high level, and that hasn’t happened consistently.”

The days since Tuesday’s defeat at Texas have seen the Jayhawks tweak and tinker with their offense.

Self confirmed that freshman guard Ochai Agbaji will draw his second career start, but beyond that, the lineup will be set by whichever group the coaching staff believes can provide the right “mojo.” Whoever draws the lion’s share of minutes Saturday will be tasked with breaking through against a stout Red Raider defense that ranks No. 1 in the nation in both defensive efficiency (0.821) and opponent shooting percentage (36.1).

Needing instant offense, a return to the starting lineup could be in line for senior guard Lagerald Vick.

“We need Lagerald to be 'Good Lagerald,' without question, because he can do some things offensively that’s better than anyone else on our team,” Self said. “He can make hard shots. Certainly you’re not going to get a ton of wide-open shots against Tech, so that could be important, having guys that can make semi-guarded shots, because great shots are going to be few and far between.

“I think he’s done fine (since Tuesday). I think that he’ll have a big game tomorrow, I do. I’m excited for him and excited for us to get out there.”

Defensively, the Jayhawks have to match the Red Raiders' intensity, in particular against breakout sophomore guard Jarrett Culver. Averaging 18.5 points and 6.9 rebounds, Culver is in Self's mind the Big 12's most improved player and one of three the coach feels should receive consideration for the conference's player of the year award.

"I've talked to NBA people and they're very impressed because he's a true guard with size," Self said of Culver. "There's just not a ton of those out there."

Self doesn't believe a defeat would effectively end the Jayhawks’ chances of earning a 15th straight conference championship, but those odds could be “enhanced tremendously” with a victory.

If nothing else, Self’s gut is telling him his group is up to the task.

“As of yesterday I thought our confidence was good,” Self said, “and I think that we’ll be jacked to play tomorrow.”


Tipoff: 3 p.m. Saturday, Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence

Line: KU by 3½

TV/Radio: CBS/KWIC-FM (99.3)

Next: KU at Kansas State, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan


NO. 16 TEXAS TECH (17-4, 5-3 Big 12)

P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.

F Tariq Owens ... 6-10 ... Sr. ... 8.4 ... 5.1

C Norense Odiase ... 6-8 ... Sr. ... 3.9 ... 4.8

G Jarrett Culver ... 6-5 ... So. ... 18.5 ... 6.9

G Matt Mooney ... 6-3 ... Sr. ... 10.7 ... 2.9*

G Davide Moretti ... 6-2 ... So. ... 10.4 ... 2.3*

NO. 11 KANSAS (16-5, 5-3 Big 12)

P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.

F Dedric Lawson ... 6-9 ... Jr. ... 19.2 ... 10.9

G Lagerald Vick ... 6-5 ... Sr. ... 14.5 ... 3.9

G Ochai Agbaji ... 6-5 ... Fr. ... 8.6 ... 4.0

G Quentin Grimes ... 6-5 ... Fr. ... 8.2 ... 2.3

G Devon Dotson ... 6-2 ... Fr. ... 10.7 ... 3.4*

* — Assists