Statisticians armed with state-of-the-art calculators still were busy finding a definitive answer to Saturday night’s burning question when Bill Self shut the door on an amazing regular season.
Before getting to Self’s words, the burning question: During his Kansas basketball career, has Jordan Juenemann logged more minutes on the court playing in games or speaking after Saturday’s Senior Night game? The answer is a) playing. He has played 99 minutes, and the speech didn’t last quite that long. Honest.
Now, back to how Self closed the door on a regular season that ended with Kansas sporting a 26-5 overall record and 16-2 Big 12 mark.
“It’s been a great run, but we’ve had enough pats on the back about winning the league,” Self said. “That’s over.”
Considering Kansas lost just two games during the expanded Big 12 schedule despite having just one returning starter (Tyshawn Taylor), more back-patting was in order. Some of that arrived in the way of Big 12 honors revealed Sunday. Thomas Robinson was voted Player of the Year by the league’s coaches, Tyshawn Taylor first-team and Self co-coach of the year with Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.
Regionally, the three men most responsible for KU’s astonishing season have earned just recognition.
Nationally, only Robinson has earned enough praise. Self, a prisoner of his own success, seldom is mentioned in conversations about national coach of the year, and Taylor, despite outplaying a handful of the nation’s top point guards, doesn’t inspire first-team All-American talk.
Baker University coach Brett Ballard, whose Wildcats play tonight against MidAmerica Nazarene in the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament title game in the Cook Center in Olathe, doesn’t take either man’s contributions for granted.
Did he expect the Jayhawks to win the Big 12?
“I didn’t,” said Ballard, former KU point guard and assistant coach. “I didn’t. I watched them practice in October, and I know coach is a great coach, and I knew they’d get better, but I didn’t think there was any way they’d win the league. I didn’t see it.”
What made the Jayhawks overachieve?
“Jeff (Withey) has gotten better,” Ballard said. “Thomas (Robinson) has played great, but the guy who’s just blown me away and still isn’t getting enough credit is Tyshawn. I mean, it’s just unbelievable the level he’s playing at.”
Ballard said he thinks Self’s winning eight consecutive conference titles deserves more national attention.
“What an incredible feat that is,” Ballard said. “And I hope KU fans don’t take it for granted because I feel sorry for whoever the next coach at KU is going to be. I mean, there’s no way you can live up to those expectations. It’s incredible what he’s doing. Incredible.”