With a home win Saturday, Kansas basketball can secure at least a share of its 12th straight regular-season Big 12 championship. The No. 2-ranked Jayhawks have won eight consecutive games entering the matinee against a hot Texas Tech team, which has won five in a row.
Your friendly reminder of how the Big 12 standings look as of Saturday morning:
Oklahoma 10-5 / West Virginia 10-5
Baylor 9-6 / Texas 9-6
Iowa State 8-7 / Texas Tech 8-7
Kansas State 4-11
Oklahoma State 3-12
Bill Self spoke a little this week at his press conference about the pride he’d take in this particular Big 12 title, should the Jayhawks, as expected, win the league for the 12th straight season.
“I’m not sure it's going to happen this year, so I'd probably be as proud as this team as any of them,” Self said. “I think each team is different, certainly a majority of them, it was expected. Not all of them we were picked to win but majority of them, it was expected.”
Self continued: “So I don't think I'll have one that stands out more than any others, at least in my mind, but I do think this one will be significant for our players and for me and our staff, because it's a year in which if we're able to do it, it's a year in which the conference was probably the best it's ever been, and it was as old as it's ever been. There's a lot of positives about our league that winning it this year, at least from our perspective, would probably be more of an accomplishment because you're not going through one or two teams. You've got to beat six or whatever. And so that to me is pretty significant, if we're fortunate enough to win.”
Self said winning the Big 12 is difficult every season and pointed to some big names at other schools during KU’s streak as one reason for that.
“Yeah, I think they are all tough. You've got Durant and Griffin and Beasley back-to-back to back,” Self said of NBA All-stars Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin and standout college one-and-done Michael Beasley. “There's never going to be players that good in our league, or consecutive. You've got the three best players in the country, three different guys playing in our league back-to-back to back years. I hope that happens again, but certainly that's not the norm in any league.
“But this is probably as good — I think there's more good teams,” Self added. “Last year there's a lot of good teams. I think there's more really, really good teams
Self also spoke at his presser this week about how KU hasn’t had the same kind of roster this season as it has in past years. There is no 2016 NBA lottery pick on this team.
“We don't have the great prospects that we've had in the past,” Self admitted. “We've had some pretty good prospects run through here, as evidenced by where they are drafted and stuff. But we have as many good players. And sometimes that creates a balance, creates a lot of things. That's actually fun to coach.”
Self also said he didn’t want to discredit how talented the players on this team are — even if there isn’t a guy who will go at the top of the draft at season’s end.
“I’m not doing that at all. I think we have really good players, a bunch of them,” Self said. “I just don't feel like we have the NBA-projected top lottery picks like we have in some of the years past.”
Self added that the players on this team care and there are a lot of intangibles for the coaches to work with.
“We can talk about whatever, but, hey, these kids care and they try real hard and they are competitive,” he said. “And we have also been fortunate, knock-on-wood, we've stayed away from major injuries. We've been able to win some close games that could go the other way.”
Self this week also discussed one of his favorite topics: toughness.
“I think there's times when we have not played tough,” Self said. “Against Baylor, we didn't play tough. We're up 6-0 on the boards to start the game. And then you look up and it's 26-15, because they had the stats there. I kind of like how they do that, they had the stats there so you could actually see it.
“If that's true, if the stats are true, they went on a 26-9 run against us rebounding the ball. I mean, so that's not tough,” Self continued. “But I do think when we got behind eight in the second half, I don't know how much time was left, I do think to go on an 11-2 run, to go down eight, to close the game out 11-2 or 13-2 or whatever it was, I think is a sign of toughness. Not necessarily physical toughness, but guys being pretty mentally tough.”
One of the stats tracked in KU’s official game notes is dunks on the season.
KU has 71 dunks, while its opponents have 37.
Perry Ellis is the team-leader with 18 slams. Wayne Selden Jr. is right behind him with 17.
Only other player in double figures is Landen Lucas, with 11 jams.
On the uniform front, gotta say these throwbacks today are pretty sick.
KU opens by running a play for Lucas in the paint. Don't see that every day.
Lucas, who drew a foul on his paint touch, hits both for a 2-0 KU lead.
Shot-clock violation for Tech to open its trip to AFH and the crowd loves it. Will it be a long day for the Red Raiders or will they look like the same competitive team that has made a nice run the past few weeks?
Landen Lucas 5, Tech 0. Lucas gets a put-back/and-1 in the paint.
KU going right at Tech big man Matthew Temple, who is a walk-on. Injury to Odiase forced Tubby Smith to start a guy who was playing for his frat last year.