Every so often, Kansas coach Bill Self will choose to take all the fun out of a win. Usually, it happens after a game like KU's 76-55 victory over Colorado State on Saturday at the Sprint Center, which was significant only because it was played and watched live by thousands of people and ended up in the win column for the Jayhawks and the loss column for the Rams.
KU played sluggishly, finishing with more turnovers (17) than assists (13) for the second straight outing. And, more important than any numerical evidence, the Jayhawks just didn't look like a team with a 9-0 record that is likely headed for the top three in the polls.
"We were awful," Self said. "Let that be your headlines."
Now for some perspective to go along with Self's directive. Kansas keeps winning easily despite not playing well. The Jayhawks beat the Rams despite losing leading scorer Marcus Morris for 14 minutes of the first half due to a sprained right ankle. They held a Colorado State team that came in shooting 53 percent to 28 percent. Yet.æ.æ.æ.
"We as a team have gotten worse over the last two weeks," Self said.
In the last two weeks, the Jayhawks have beaten Arizona, UCLA, No. 13 Memphis and Colorado State. Not bad, right? And this latest win — to the KU fan base and possibly for the players — was basically a chore that had to be completed before the fun can really start. Suspended freshman guard Josh Selby is now unsuspended for all practical purposes and will make his college debut next Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse against Southern California.
"Josh should be a nice boost to us, but we shouldn't need a boost," Self said. "That concerns me."
Self does not like the Jayhawks' effort. He says they play hard but not hard enough. Selby, Rivals.com's No. 1 overall player in the 2010 class, is supposed to be able to do it all. He is projected as an NBA lottery pick before even playing a game at KU. He is now the story — or the headline — and that also is a potential worry for Self.
"How do guys who have been getting attention handle not getting the attention?" Self said. "The next few weeks are gonna be about Josh. He's gonna add a lot of energy and juice, but other people have to welcome that energy and juice. If we handle it right, I think he'll be a great asset for us."
The Jayhawks have many other assets, of course, and Morris is No. 1. KU has shown that it can win without Morris because of foul trouble in earlier games, and it was faced with that challenge again when Morris went down clutching his right leg after three minutes Saturday. Morris said he felt like he tore something.
"You're just thinking about the worst," Morris said. "I was just hoping it wasn't as (bad) as I thought it was."
Losing Morris, who should be a fitting inside partner for Selby, would have felt devastating for Kansas.
"Oh, I definitely was worried," KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "He's a tremendous part of our team."
Nobody was more worried than Marcus' twin brother, Markieff, who feels everything Marcus feels. Once he found out Marcus was going to be OK, he went about tallying a double-double 12 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus returned with less than three minutes left in the first half and finished with eight points and four rebounds.
The Jayhawks outrebounded Colorado State 50-30 on Saturday, which was their only impressive tangible accomplishment. Still, all Self could think about was how much his team needed the upcoming Christmas holidays to get better. This week will be bad for KU, and not just because of the pressure of finals.
"It won't be fun for them," Self said. "I'll have more fun than they will."