Las Vegas offers propositions on just about any sports wager imaginable, but when an outcome is too predictable, it’s taken off the board. No way Vegas or any bookmaker elsewhere working illegally ever would offer odds on which of Kansas University’s 14 athletic teams that compete in the Big 12 will have the best conference finish in the 2011-2012 season.
The only answer, of course, is men’s basketball, which in 2010-11 won the conference with a 14-2 record, won the Big 12 tournament, advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tourney and finished 35-3.
Men’s track and field, which placed sixth at the conference championships, was the only other KU squad to finish in the top half of the league.
Men’s and women’s cross country finished seventh out of 12, and women’s track and field and volleyball were seventh among 11 teams.
More bad news: Women’s swimming and diving (fourth of six), women’s basketball (tied for eighth), men’s golf (ninth), women’s tennis (tied for ninth) and women’s golf (11th) all had forgettable seasons.
Wait, it gets worse. Four KU teams — football, women’s soccer, softball and baseball — all were dead last. KU’s crew team competes in Conference USA, but there was a Big 12 regatta for the four schools that put boats in the water. Kansas finished, you guessed it, fourth.
So it’s an extremely safe assumption that Bill Self’s basketball team, which returns just 29 percent of its scoring and 22 percent of its three-point field goals and does not have a single player who has averaged double-figures scoring for a season of college basketball, will be the school’s best next year with or without undecided recruit DeAndre Daniels.
The Jayhawks’ baseball team lost its final nine Big 12 games, getting swept by Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Kansas State. The 9-9 start in conference games was more surprising than the 0-9 finish, given the team’s shortage of experienced pitchers. KU surrendered at least 10 runs in each of its final six Big 12 games.
Sunday’s results, 13-9 and 10-6 losses to Kansas State in the final games played on KU’s campus in any sport during the 2010-2011 school year, were a pretty fair representation of how things went for all Jayhawks teams, except the franchise.
Why all the losing? Geography and facilities, more than ever, play a big role in success. A clever, hard-working coach used to be able to close the gap by finding hidden recruiting gems, but that’s more difficult to do because nearly every school has work-obsessed coaches now. Sleepers are tougher to find because the best athletes have so many more means for exposure.
Yet, in women’s basketball, the sleeping giant of the Kansas athletic program, neither explanation applies. The facilities are equal to those of the men. Geography? Two Kansas City-area players led Texas A&M; to the national championship. Danielle Adams and Tyra White, the Aggies’ two leading scorers, combined for 48 points in A&M;’s 76-70 victory against Notre Dame in the title game. That was a tough double-whammy for KU’s women’s basketball fans to absorb.
Oh well, at least the year has ended. Look at it this way: Next year can’t be any worse.