His players generally seem to agree, espousing a desire to be whatever they need to be in order for the team to get the win – be it starter or sixth man.
So it may not have any significance that sophomore Thomas Robinson's best performance of the season coincided with his first start. One thing is abundantly clear, however:
Whatever buttons Self and Co. are pushing with the athletic big man, they need to keep pushing them. His game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds lifted the Jayhawks to an 82-57 Wednesday night victory over the Mavericks of Texas-Arlington.
"We have a good team, so if Marcus (Morris) comes off the bench, or if I come off the bench, I feel like it is going to be the same result," Robinson said. "I just keep doing what coach asks of me for now, and let this play out."
Robinson was one of a trio of Jayhawks – including sophomore Elijah Johnson and freshman Josh Selby – inserted into the starting lineup Wednesday who, to this point, have seen the vast majority of their action of the bench.
While Selby struggled for the first time in his three-game college career, scoring just two points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field, the sophomore duo turned in stellar performances. While Robinson put in his work in the paint, Johnson scored 11 points on an efficient 4-of-5 from the floor, including a trio of three-pointers, and dished out five assists to just one turnover in 26 minutes.
Interestingly enough, after the game Self said their play highlighted on of the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks' biggest issues at the moment.
"Elijah Johnson, without question, tonight was one of our best players," he explained. "Thomas Robinson is playing better than any big guy right now. We don't even know who our best players are. That's frustrating because you need to have some rhythm and have roles to find and all that stuff."
Kansas came out of the gates hot, jumping to a 9-3 lead at the first media timeout on the strength of a flurry of dunks and a deep Tyrel Reed three-pointer.
They quickly stalled, however, and an aggressive UT-Arlington squad wasted no time taking advantage. Able to get to the rim seemingly at will, and contain to drain long periods of time off the shot clock, the Mavericks owned a three point lead at the 10 minute mark, and entered intermission down just eight.
"I thought our guys played about as well as we could have played in the first half," said Head Coach Scott Cross. "We really stuck to the game plan - we ran the clock down, we got good looks off of our flat ball screens, I was really proud of them."
The second half looked to be more of the same early, as the Mavericks cut the lead to five on two separate occasions. But Kansas' advantage in talent and depth was simply too great to overcome.
Slowly but surely the Jayhawks began to extend their lead, fueled by stretches of tough defense – UT-Arlington shot just 39-percent from the floor in the second half – and the turnovers it helped create, by the 10-minute mark the lead was at 15. Five minutes later it was up to 24, at 72-48, and the contest was no longer in doubt.
Now, Self said, it's time for his team to find a way to get better in a hurry during the remainder of the holiday break.
"There are so many things that are disappointing to me with our team because our team could be really good," he said. "But we don't have the mindset of playing a style that gives us the best chance to win against good competition. That has to change and that has to change fast."
With the victory, the Jayhawks move to 12-0 on the season, including a perfect 8-0 at home. The Mavericks drop to 5-6 and just 1-6 on the road.
Kansas next takes the court Sunday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, as Miami (OH) University comes to town.