Kansas' Frank Mason III drives past Texas Tech's Keenan Evans during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lubbock, Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Zach Long)
Zach Long
February 13, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self earned a bachelor's degree in business and his master's in athletic administration during his playing days at Oklahoma State.

He might have been better off majoring in psychology.

Even though his eighth-ranked Jayhawks are clinging to a two-game lead in the Big 12 as they head toward a tough finishing stretch, they have proven to be a difficult bunch to understand. At times, Kansas resembles one of the nation's true elites, capable of beating just anybody. At other times, it looks like it could be knocked off by a bunch of weekend warriors at the YMCA.

Sometimes, the Jayhawks look like both in the very same game.

After one recent performance, Self described his team as having a ''split personality'' - though maybe the cliched ''Jekyll-and-Hyde'' description would be more apropos.

''I told our team, `Obviously, we can beat anybody in our league.' Best league in the country. But obviously we can look really bad against maybe some of the teams that aren't the best,'' Self said Thursday. ''We can play at the highest level and we can play at the lowest level.''

It's been that way most of the season, too.

In their second game way back on Nov. 18, the Jayhawks hung around with top-ranked Kentucky, trailing by 10 at halftime. They were outscored 34-12 in the second 20 minutes in a 72-40 defeat.

A couple weeks later against Florida, Kansas trailed by 15 at halftime before outscoring the Gators 47-26 in the second half. And a few days later against Utah, the Jayhawks rolled to a 39-21 halftime advantage before getting outscored 39-24 in the second half.

''I think a lot of that is youth,'' Self said, and there may be some truth to it. The Jayhawks start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, and have no seniors that regularly contribute.

Then again, Self likes to say that this late in the season, freshmen are no longer freshmen. They have nearly six months of workouts and practices behind them, and four months of games. So it stands to reason that any inconsistency caused by inexperience would be mitigated by now, as the pressure for a conference title and NCAA tournament seeding begins to really heat up.

Yet the pendulum of Kansas basketball continues to swing wildly from one half to the next.

In a game against rival Kansas State last week, the Jayhawks held the Wildcats to 17 first-half points. They gave up 40 in the second half, though the outcome was never really in doubt.

That wasn't the case a few days later against Oklahoma State, when the good-bad dichotomy struck again. They shot lights-out in the first half in building a 41-30 lead, then went to pieces in the second half, as the Cowboys outscored them 37-31 en route to a 67-62 victory.

''We've talked about that as a team,'' forward Landen Lucas said, ''and really it comes down to energy and attitude and how to approach games. And looking at that, it seems simple: Why would you choose the high? Be the better team all the time? And I think we're working on that. We realize it is such a small change we need to make. We're working on that every day in practice.''

This isn't like solving problems at the foul line by putting up hundreds of free throws in practice, or working on rebounding or breaking half-court traps. The solution isn't that simple - even though guard Wayne Selden Jr. put it in fairly simple terms.

''We need to stay on an even keel, stay humble,'' he said. ''When we're doing good, we don't try to get too high. When we're not doing good, we don't try to beat ourselves up.''

If it was that easy, though, you can bet Self would have engineered an answer long ago. Now, the Jayhawks (20-4, 9-2) are still trying to solve the riddle with No. 16 Baylor looming Saturday, and games still to come against Texas, Oklahoma and two games against West Virginia.

''We've preached the same thing all year is what we feel like this team needs to do to become more consistent, and certainly - hopefully - we're gaining on it. But it still can change from timeout to timeout almost,'' Self said. ''It's been a little bit frustrating. But on the flip side, when we're playing well, it's been very rewarding too.''

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