No. 8 Jayhawks nearing another Big 12 title

2/22/2014

LAWRENCE (AP) — This was supposed to be the season that the Jayhawks were finally challenged for conference supremacy. Oklahoma State returned a bevy of stars, including All-American Marcus Smart, and teams such as Baylor and Iowa State thought they had the makings of a championship contender.

LAWRENCE (AP) — This was supposed to be the season that the Jayhawks were finally challenged for conference supremacy. Oklahoma State returned a bevy of stars, including All-American Marcus Smart, and teams such as Baylor and Iowa State thought they had the makings of a championship contender.

Instead, Kansas has proven once more that the road to a title runs through Lawrence.

The Cowboys are struggling just to make the NCAA tournament during a miserable season that hit a low when Smart was suspended for entering the stands at Texas Tech. Baylor and Iowa State have both gone through plenty of lows with their highs, while teams such as Oklahoma and Kansas State have proven they can beat just about anybody — including the Jayhawks.

Kansas State pulled that trick last week. The problem for the rest of the league is that except for Texas, nobody else has been able to replicate it.

That means the Jayhawks (20-6) are 11-2 in the standings, while the Longhorns (20-6) are at 9-4. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Kansas State are stuck in a logjam at 8-5.

"The big thing is we can't talk about anything past Saturday," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "because if it doesn't happen Saturday, it's a one-game lead as opposed to a three-game lead."

Kansas has been in tight races before, of course.

Not all of those conference championships have been won in a walk.

Last season, the Jayhawks actually tied with Kansas State for the regular-season crown, only to beat the Wildcats in the league tournament. The four titles before that were won outright, but the Jayhawks were forced to share the championship with Texas in 2006 and '08.

The last time Kansas didn't win at least a share was 2004, when Oklahoma State won it.

To put that feat into perspective, the Division I record is held by John Wooden's UCLA teams that won 13 straight conference championships. Gonzaga had its streak of 11 consecutive West Coast Conference championships stopped in 2012, only to win it again last season.

"To me it's not even about the league race Saturday," Self said, "it's about playing Texas and playing a team that's already handled us once, and it's one of the residual effects is that it's big for the league race, but also it's just an opportunity for us to try to play better against a team that smacked us around pretty good."

The Longhorns beat the Jayhawks 81-69 on Feb. 1 in a game that was never really close. The lead was 15 points by halftime and remained that way most of the game.

"It's just about us. In a big game, we just weren't ready to play and we lost," Kansas center Joel Embiid said, "but we'll be ready on Saturday."

comments powered by Disqus
I commented on a story, but my comments aren't showing up. Why?
We provide a community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day.
Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. We expect civil dialogue.
Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome.
Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum.

If you don't see your comment, perhaps you ...
... called someone an idiot, a racist, a moron, etc. Name-calling or profanity (to include veiled profanity) will not be tolerated.
... rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
... included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
... accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
... made a comment in really poor taste.

MULTIMEDIA