LAWRENCE — Sporting the nation’s toughest strength of schedule, Kansas basketball nevertheless enters Big 12 play with just one defeat to its name, the fifth-ranked Jayhawks (11-1) having done nothing to cast doubt upon their preseason perch atop the Big 12 coaches poll.

That doesn’t, however, mean KU coach Bill Self views his team’s attempt at a national record-extending 15th consecutive regular-season league championship as a layup.

“This year appears we’ve had a much better nonconference than last year’s team had, but I’m probably more concerned this year because of the unknown,” Self said Saturday following his team’s 87-63 romp over Eastern Michigan at Allen Fieldhouse. “But I think we’ll be fine.”

Last year’s squad dropped back-to-back December contests against Washington and Arizona State, the latter a rare double-digit defeat at Allen Fieldhouse, before securing a 13-5 record in league play, a Big 12 Tournament championship and a Final Four berth. The only defeat for this year’s team was an 80-76 coin-flip outcome at Arizona State, but Self’s point about the unknown rings accurate — this group features three first-year Jayhawks in its starting lineup and just four total upperclassmen (senior guard Lagerald Vick, junior center Udoka Azubuike and junior forwards Dedric Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot).

Will these Jayhawks — led in the backcourt by true freshmen Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes — be able to navigate the choppy waters posed by ranked opponents and hostile road environments? The Jayhawks will get answers to both of those questions this week, with an 8 p.m. Wednesday tilt against No. 25 Oklahoma and a 4 p.m. Saturday showdown at Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum set to kick off the team’s league schedule.

“I do think the intensity will be ratcheted up, and guys gotta understand how hard it is to win a game, let alone a league, in our league,” Self said. “I don’t know that we totally respect that yet.”

KU enters Big 12 play with the league’s second-ranked scoring offense (81.7 points per game) and ninth-ranked scoring defense (69.8 points allowed per game), though Self has in the past stressed nonconference statistics are skewed by varying strengths of schedule and therefore shouldn’t be trusted. If nothing else, though, the Jayhawks’ victories over ranked foes Tennessee, Michigan State and Marquette should provide ample experience the team can pull from in future neck-and-neck affairs.

It’s a luxury few, if any, Big 12 counterparts can also enjoy.

“If we don’t play well, I don’t think it will be because of not being ready,” Self said. “It’ll be more because we didn’t play well or someone did some things better than we did that night.”

The Sooners (11-1) are one of three pleasant surprises Self listed in his postgame analysis of the Big 12, also naming No. 11 Texas Tech (10-1) and the Cyclones (10-2). ISU, Texas Tech and OU were picked sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, in the conference’s preseason poll, but Self admitted his view of the league has changed since the preseason.

“I think it’s this way every year though with me,” Self continued. “Going into our league, it seems like our league as much as any league in the country loses guys that were the best players and the most dominant players in our league and you think, ‘Well, how could your league be as good next year?’ ... (W)e have done a great job, our league, of recruiting guys that aren’t five-star names.

“When you don’t recruit those guys and everybody else is only talking about those five-star names nationally, it leads you to believe, well, is our league going to be down because you don’t have those same guys? And then by the end of nonconference play, you realize the guys those (coaches) have recruited are every bit as good as five-star guys.”

The Big 12 has gone 94-26 collectively in nonconference play, all while playing with the nation’s top rating percentage index (RPI) entering play Sunday.

“I think the league is actually better than I thought it would be,” Self said. “I thought it would be good, but I didn’t think it would be the top-ranked league in the country going into conference play.”