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Monday, January 2, 2017

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Two big roadblocks stand in way of 13th consecutive Big 12 title for Kansas

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) extends to defend against a shot from Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) extends to defend against a shot from Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

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So many years with so many false alarms have conditioned us all to think that giving any school other than Kansas a shot at winning an outright Big 12 basketball title rings hollow.

History has conditioned our brains. Remember, the best player in college basketball wore a Big 12 uniform for three consecutive seasons starting 10 years ago and not one of them experienced a Big 12 regular-season championship.

Kevin Durant swept the national honors with good reason, but Texas did no better than third, two games behind the Jayhawks, one game in back of Texas A & M.

In 2007-08, Kansas State’s Michael Beasley, unjustly beaten out for national player of the year honors by North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, finished in third place, three games behind co-champions Kansas and Texas.

The next season, Blake Griffin’s Oklahoma squad finished a game behind outright champion KU.

Somehow, Kansas always finds a way, so it becomes tougher to believe that anyone but the team that exploits its home-court advantage as no other school in the conference quite does will prevail.

But the truth is nothing rings hollow about Baylor, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press college basketball top 25 poll released today, and West Virginia, ranked No. 7.

One-18th into the Big 12 season, both schools already made loud road impressions, Baylor slamming Oklahoma in Norman, 76-50, West Virginia burying Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 92-75.

If that didn't make everybody realize what a close race appears to lay ahead, it caught the attention of Kansas coach Bill Self, who didn't need any convincing in the first place.

After praising Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa State for their play in conference-opening victories, Self said, “The two games that were most impressive to me were what Baylor did in Norman and what West Virginia did at Oklahoma State. We have always struggled at Oklahoma State and they go down there and control the game from start to finish.”

Baylor, which defeated four top 25 teams before conference play, took a 50-24 lead in Norman. Do-it-all, 6-foot-10 forward Johnathan Motley totaled 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in 22 minutes against the Sooners.

“It was an unbelievable start to their conference season,” Self said. “All it did was just prove what we already knew: league’s good, really good.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew has assembled a balanced roster as effective on the perimeter as it is inside, both offensively and defensively.

Mixing man-to-man and zone defenses, the Bears have limited opponents to .294 shooting on 3-pointers. Center Jo Lual-Acuil makes scoring near the hoop difficult as well. He leads the Big 12 with 3.8 blocks per game. Miami, Fla., transfer Manu Lecomte, a smart point guard armed with a soft touch from long distance, is just the steadying influence the Bears needed to add.

They didn’t just defeat four ranked opponents. They hammered them by an average of 12.5 points.

West Virginia’s strong start to the season, highlighted by a 32-point slaughter of Illinois on a neutral floor and a nine-point victory at Virginia, hasn’t taken anybody by surprise.

Experienced guards Tarik Phillip, Daxter Miles and especially Jevon Carter create perpetual chaos for opposing ballhandlers.

Plus, these Mountaineers shoot better (.490 overall, .369 on 3-pointers) than many of Bob Huggins’ previous teams. And as always, they attack the offensive boards relentlessly.

Beyond the three schools anticipated to fight for the crown, no Big 12 member is ranked in the top 25, but Kansas State checks in at No. 30, Iowa State tied for No. 31, based on votes received in the poll.

UCLA fell from second to fourth after losing at Oregon at the buzzer. Kansas remained third and Baylor went from fourth to second.

“I anticipated that,” Self said of Baylor leapfrogging KU. “I think they were (three) behind us going into this last weekend and they were far more impressive than we were so that doesn’t surprise me at all. They deserve where they’re at. If anything, that won’t be motivation for us against K-State, obviously, but that will get our guys riled up.”

Just in time for K-State, so in an indirect way, it certainly is motivation to do well against the Wildcats, no pushovers on any floor.

Self has talked for a while about how much he thinks K-State (12-1) has improved this season and did so again today.

It’s not a stretch to believe that every Big 12 school other than Oklahoma (6-6, 0-1) and Texas (6-7, 0-1) has the look of a team worthy of an NCAA tournament berth, although it will be difficult for eight to make it from a 10-team conference.

Human voters bunch the three top-tier schools closely, and so do computer rankings.

Kenpom.com has West Virginia fourth, Kansas fifth, Baylor sixth. Sagarin predictor has West Virginia first, Kansas fifth, Baylor ESPN’s BPI has West Virginia first, Kansas seventh and Baylor 10th.

Always one to get right to the point, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said at Big 12 Media Day what it would take to topple KU from the throne: Someone is going to have to defeat the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. More to the point, it likely will take either Baylor or West Virginia sweeping KU to deny the Jayhawks at least a share of their 13th-consecutive regular-season title.

Kansas takes a national-best, 49-game, home-court winning streak into Tuesday's 8 p.m. tipoff against K-State at Allen Fieldhouse, site of 47 of the games during the streak. KU has won its last 32 conference home games, all in Allen Fieldhouse.

Comments

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm more worried about Baylor's size and length than WV speed. But both are going to be epic challenges.

John Randall 1 year, 1 month ago

Everyone but our seniors played like coming out of a holiday hangover -- plus most of the others brought only half of their game (offense or defense). Survival was far from certain all night long – and it was a l o n g night.

There are maybe four or five more games this year where so many mediocre efforts would bring a victory. That means twelve or thirteen games hanging in the breeze.

KU will suffer at least two losses in AFH and we already know which two. Baylor falling apart in February won't be automatic, WVU can shoot the ball as well as deny the style and pace opponents try to impose in a game.

If BigXII champion(s) lose five games, as many predict, you have to admit Jayhawks aren't a betting man's choice.

Jay Scott 1 year, 1 month ago

John, are you a troll that hates Kansas or just a moron? None of what you posted made the tiniest bit of sense.

Gerry Butler 1 year, 1 month ago

Not really sure what Ol John's logic is, if he has any, KU is gonna lose 2 games in Allen? hmmmmmm. John if you think Baylor and West Virginia gonna walk in here and beat us at our house? - -umm ya ok just like 49 others thought the same thing lmao. I'll say this Baylor I think will be classic both times, West Virginia in Allen? - - -ummmm MAYBE NOT lmao. While understanding winning on the road at Okla St was a big win for WV - - HUGE difference between Gallagher and Allen. I'm not one of the oh so many as you say thinks the Big 12 champ is going to lose 5 games. I'm think more like 3. Plus ummm not sure what your thinking but ummm could very easily be a as you say a very long night for several Big 12 teams at TCU this year, Jamie Dixon is going to get that team turned around, already getting better players in there. If you were to Notice and or know, case in point Sheppard who has been a starter for TCU the whole time he has been there is NOW relegated to coming off the bench and very little PT at that because of better players by Dixon. I promise you there are going to be multiple Big 12 teams lose there this year. - -True our game lacked, less the stellar, BUT bottom line is ummmm We Won right? - -A win, is a win, is a win is a win. - - Very good teams find ways to win however their play, average teams find EXCUSES for losses. Winners keep on winning, losers looks for reasons. Bottom line - - - - we won - - -we won on the road, TCU IS NOT a automatic anymore, but hey thanks for trying and hope you come again lmao

Michael Leiker 1 year, 1 month ago

Pretty good TCU team down there. Top half of league.

Tom Jones 1 year, 1 month ago

The Jayhawks are actually every betting man's choice. It won't be easy (it rarely is), but it would be folly to bet against them at this point with their coach and their talent.

I reckon the champ will have 4-5 losses. The league is much better than most folks were thinking coming into the year. It could be another year where they have to share it, but I'd bet against that, too.

Gerry Butler 1 year, 1 month ago

agree the league is better BUT if you look at some of these other teams n0n-con's and they are an absolute joke - -K State for example, really Maryland is the only one of ANY kind of name attached to their schedule. K-State strength of Schedule like 318, it's called Save MY B- - - schedule by their coach, think you wee see the typical fold by some of these teams when in conference gets going full blast. Yes for sure there are some teams definitely better. Oklahoma St - - better, Baylor - - Better - -TCU - - -some better - - Texas Tech -- better- -K- State -- umm not so much

Andy Godwin 1 year, 1 month ago

“The two games that were most impressive to me were what Baylor did in Norman and what West Virginia did at Oklahoma State. We have always struggled at Oklahoma State and they go down there and control the game from start to finish.” I watched both games (at least most of the WV game - it was a train wreck watching Oklahoma State try to handle the constant pressure) and it is clear that Baylor is the most complete team in the conference. Their length inside will give KU fits. We all know it is a long Big XII season and key injuries can happen, but unless Scott Drew royally messes up his team and they implode, Baylor will be the most formable obstacle in the way of KU maintaining their streak.

Michael Leiker 1 year, 1 month ago

Nothing rings hollow about Baylor except the inside of Scott Drew's head with less than a minute to go in a close game...Hawks, easy money.

Erik Nelson 1 year, 1 month ago

Yup.. Self owns Drew after half.. Pretty much every game is the same, Baylor by 1 at the break, Ku wins by 9

West VIrginia will split home and home with us, and then they will lose a dumba$$ game or two at home to the likes of TCU or soemthing

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 1 month ago

I think we can cut John some slack. Let's face it. Every year there are some really close conference games in Allen. No reason to think that the Baylor and WVU games won't follow that pattern. A missed play here or there could be the difference. However, I'll take KU every time and see where the chips fall.

As a couple of you have inferred, KU's biggest asset could me the man on the end of the bench (actually, I guess he doesn't sit on the end and he is standing up most of the time). Bill Self has consistently outcoached Drew, so if someone is going to beat us in Allen, I predict that it will be West Virginia. Let's just make sure that it isn't tonight against "squeaky."

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

yep, we came close to one of those losses last night at home with K-state.

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