A season ago, Kansas took its undefeated record to Tennessee and wound up with a loss in its last nonconference game. The No. 3 Jayhawks avoided a repeat letdown Sunday with an overtime victory at Michigan, the final out-of-conference game before Big 12 play begins.
Coach Bill Self would like the team to learn from it just the same.
"The key to having a good season is winning average games," he said in Ann Arbor after escaping 67-60. "The key to having a great season is winning games when you don't play very well."
After the 2009 loss to the Volunteers that knocked them from No. 1, the Jayhawks won the next 13 and the Big 12 title.
Despite riding a 15-0 record as one of only five unbeaten teams in the nation, Self still sees room for improvement. The Jayhawks are relatively inexperienced compared with previous Kansas teams, and Self wants to avoid those comparisons.
Junior twins Marcus and Markieff Morris played key roles last season in the post, but plenty of others were role players on a team dominated by guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich.
Perhaps freshman guard Josh Selby can garner the most from the close game against Michigan.
He averaged 15 points through his first five games after serving an NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. In his debut on Dec. 18, he scored 21 points, including the winning 3-pointer to defeat USC.
Against Michigan, he was on the other end of the spectrum. Selby, the nation's top recruit last season, went 1 of 10 from the field, including 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, with four assists and three turnovers.
"I do feel like I'm playing catch-up," Selby said. "I'm still adjusting to it. I'm trying to get used to the game speed. What I took from this game is to just keep playing."
Self hopes Selby can learn to have a good game even if he's not scoring as the Jayhawks begin play in the Big 12 — an erratic conference lately — on Wednesday at Iowa State.
"For the most part he was just out there," Self said. "I wanted him to play through it. He's so far behind the other guys in terms of experience and time on the court. He'll learn from it. He really wants to be a good player."
Waiting game: While suspended guard Mario Little traveled with the Jayhawks to Michigan, Self said that doesn't necessarily mean it's a step toward him playing again.
Little is from Washington High in Chicago. He was arrested earlier this season on misdemeanor battery charges. The senior guard was averaging 6.2 points.
"I hope to get some finality on it soon," Self said. "He's a really good kid. He didn't use good judgment."
Climbing: While the Big East placed seven teams in the Top 25 with four in the top 10, the Mountain West is gaining some attention with two top-10 teams in the coaches' poll.
After an impressive 89-77 road win at UNLV, where Jimmer Fredette scored 39, BYU (16-1) was voted No. 10 in the coaches' poll and No. 11 in the Associated Press poll. San Diego State (17-0) remained at No. 6 in both.
There's some anticipation brewing for their meetings. The Aztecs are scheduled to visit Provo on Jan. 26, and the Cougars head to San Diego for a rematch on Feb. 26.
Games to watch: Tuesday: Wisconsin at Michigan State. This is the perfect opportunity for the Spartans to find their Final Four rhythm.
UNLV at San Diego State. Both teams are contenders for the Mountain West title.
Saturday: Missouri at Texas A&M. The Tigers need to rebound from a Big 12 opening loss to Colorado.
Illinois at Wisconsin. Needless to say, it's a big week for the Badgers.
Sunday: Purdue at West Virginia. This game looks a lot tougher after the Mountaineers beat Georgetown. West Virginia lost in West Lafayette, Ind., last season.