Ten games are scheduled for Kansas before February.
By then, conference play will gain some definition at the halfway mark.
Yet at that point, the Jayhawks may only be approaching their top end because of changes Bill Self could make to his rotation.
With news that 6-foot-9 Silvio De Sousa will join the Jayhawks for practice on Tuesday, inside help for KU could materialize in time for the Big 12 opener at Texas as long as the late addition is certified by the NCAA.
Still, it’s not as if De Sousa can comfortably transition in KU’s system overnight — even though he will be asked to do just that, to provide another inside threat alongside Udoka Azubuike.
Remember that earlier this month Self said the addition of both De Sousa and 6-10 freshman Billy Preston would be essential “if we’re to have our full team, though we won’t be as good as we can be until February.’’
Trouble is, the Jayhawks may need to be as good as they can be in January to protect their streak of consecutive Big 12 championships and add a 14th straight title. Breaking in De Sousa could disrupt that particular quest if difficulties arise with his abrupt transition to the college level.
Especially since Azubuike has progressively developed in his role and teammates have adapted to feeding the 7-footer enough that he scored the Jayhawks’ first 10 points and dunked seven times in the recent rout of Stanford.
Understand too that the Big 12 not only looks good, but balanced.
All but one team, Iowa State, is ranked in the KenPom top 50, with league openers approaching on Friday.
KU did not exactly brace for the Big 12 grind with the toughest of nonconference schedules.
The one visit to an opposing atmosphere, with a rowdy crowd spurring on a host team, was at Nebraska. Good game by the Huskers, good effort to pull out a one-point win by the Jayhawks, but not an outcome that generated confidence in KU overcoming such hostilities within the Big 12.
Especially when the Jayhawks struggle getting to the line, which prevents them from cashing in on free points and getting opponents into foul trouble.
De Sousa could help in that regard, but really, what help he provides is a mystery for now.
Meanwhile, other elements to the Big 12 are real, though the lack of true road games played by practically all teams — a high-major entitlement, it seems — skews the glossy records so many teams boast.
A quick evaluation of the Big 12 at the holiday break:
Best player: Trae Young, Oklahoma. Everyone wants to anoint the Norman guard as the next Steph Curry. Maybe we should exercise a little more caution. But then you watch the nation’s leader in points and assists make a deft pass or casually swish a 30-footer and you’re fine with the comparison.
Best newcomer: Uhh, Young.
Best comeback: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas. Concerns over conditioning stemmed from the wrist injury that kept the sophomore center out for the bulk of last season. Concerns regarding KU’s depth, however, have often kept Azubuike on the floor and he continues to progress, mostly on offense.
Best turnaround: Oklahoma. Sure, credit Young. This is the kind of thing, however, that Lon Kruger has done quite often during his coaching career. He lets players play. The last six times one of Kruger’s teams failed to reach the postseason, five reached the NCAA Tournament the next year.
Best win: OU again. The 15-point cushion it built at halftime in a victory against then-No. 3 Wichita State was a dazzling show. The Sooners triumphed 91-83 before a full house in downtown Wichita, ending the Shockers’ bid to go 3-0 against the Big 12 in nonconference play.
Best recovery: West Virginia. The 11-1 Mountaineers stumbled out of the gate against Texas A&M, but carry an 11-game win streak into Big 12 play after beating Fordham on Saturday. Earlier this week, Bob Huggins was nominated for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Worthwhile choice.
Best record: TCU. The 12-0 Horned Frogs are the lone unbeaten remaining in the Big 12. A soft schedule, which included no true road games, raises questions, but the reigning NIT champions deserve credit for winning a school-record 17 straight. TCU’s first three Big 12 opponents are all ranked.
Best surprise: Oklahoma State. Little was expected after Brad Underwood departed for Illinois and an OSU assistant was implicated in an FBI probe that rocked college basketball. The 10-2 Pokes, picked last in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, won at Florida State, which was then ranked No. 19.
All this leads to the best question: Does a Big 12 team have what it takes to knock off Kansas as league champ? A 13-5 run could win it, though the Jayhawks prevailed the last time (2014-15) that mark was good enough for first place. That season, KU lost five Big 12 road games, but was perfect at home.
No Big 12 rival has ever swept one of Self’s KU teams in conference play. Frankly, that’s what it would take to unseat the Jayhawks.
Seems plausible this season, but I’ll still predict KU to repeat as champion because over time, that’s been the Big 12’s best no-brainer.
Contact Kevin Haskin at (785) 295-1159 or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.