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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Jayhawks take 1-game lead, tons of confidence into Saturday clash with Texas Tech

The Kansas bench celebrates a dunk in the final minutes by Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe (3) during the second half of their 104-74 win against Oklahoma on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas bench celebrates a dunk in the final minutes by Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe (3) during the second half of their 104-74 win against Oklahoma on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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The stage is set. The game is here.

And thanks to Oklahoma State's upset victory over No. 6 Texas Tech Wednesday night in Stillwater, Okla., the 8th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will take a one-game lead into their showdown with the Red Raiders on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.

But don't think for a second that the Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12) or head coach Bill Self will be looking to relax now that they have their cushion back.

In fact, Saturday's clash of the top two teams in the Big 12 standings might actually be bigger now than it was before. The reason?

Instead of just playing for the lead in the conference race with two games to go, the Jayhawks now will be playing to clinch a share of an NCAA record 14th consecutive Big 12 Conference regular season title.

That makes Saturday's game by far the biggest thing on KU's plate and the Jayhawks are not even considering looking past that.

“We don't care about two weeks from now,” Self said. “We care about Saturday. And we'll play to win on Saturday and then we'll play to win on Monday (vs. Texas) and then we'll play to win the next Saturday (at Oklahoma State), regardless of the situation.”

The mere thought of taking it easy in any one of those games was baffling to Self.

“If somebody's injured, you're not going to play them now because you don't want to risk postseason,” said Self, seemingly stating the obvious. “But why would you work all year long and spend so much time drilling, conditioning, lifting and then you get to the teeth of the season and say, 'Well, let's prepare for three weeks from now,' when this counts a lot also.

“It's not as important as the third season (the NCAA Tournament), but it's pretty darn important to these guys.”

One of the biggest factors heading into Saturday's game is the health of Texas Tech star Keenan Evans. After missing the second half of Tech's loss at Baylor last weekend because of a toe injury, Evans started on Wednesday night but played just 25 minutes and scored two points while making one of the seven shots he attempted.

If he remains bothered by the toe, it's hard to see him matching up well with KU point guard Devonte' Graham, one of three players — along with Evans and Oklahoma sensation Trae Young — who has been talked about as a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate.

Regardless of who is or is not on the floor for the Red Raiders on Saturday, the Jayhawks will be fielding an awfully confident bunch. And Graham said KU's late-season confidence is a direct result of the way their head coach conducts business.

“I think just because of coach and just the pressure he puts on us in practice,” said Graham when asked why KU always seems to play its best basketball down the stretch. “Just watching film on our mistakes. Because you can't see it when you're playing. And then when we watch film and slow it down and we see how bad we look, it makes you get those reps and makes you just keep getting better.”

One area where Self believes this particular Kansas team still can get better is on the defensive end. But even he has been impressed by his team's past two victories over West Virginia and Oklahoma, which featured some of the best basketball and most intensity this team has displayed all season.

“I think we've played the last 47 minutes pretty good,” Self admitted. “But we're a better basketball team than we were three weeks ago. I do believe that. And we're going to have to be really good on Saturday to go down and have a chance to win a huge game. … It will be a good game. I think that we’ll be excited to be there. (ESPN's College) GameDay (will be there) and the place will be jumping. Hopefully we can have a maturity about ourselves this week and figure out how to defend and score some points against probably the most sound team in our league.”

Comments

Steve Corder 9 months, 3 weeks ago

You need to redefine “upset” in the B12.

Mike Kendall 9 months, 3 weeks ago

And just think, we have to go to Stillwater, where historically, we struggle. First things first--go out and take it to the Red Raiders, Jayhawks. Waiting to get my t-shirt that says, "14" on it. Rock Chalk!

Craig Carson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

If they beat TTU on Saturday, they'd only have to go 1-1 in the final 2 games to win the league outright..for all intent and purpose, if they win Saturday they will be Big 12 champs since TTU could only tie KU at the worst case scenerio

David Howell 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Jayhawks need a win bad ! I've been in Stillwater when they lost in 2014, 2015, and 2016. It's quite sad to see the better team show up and lay an egg. For whatever reason beating KU is OSU's super bowl so to speak.

We stayed away last year and KU won. We are staying away this year too ........

Steve Zimmerman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Boy oh boy, aren't we glad, even if we're not as successful in the Tourney, we still at least get to enjoy our team's hardwork, our coaching staff's superiority in B12 - and they are clean, most importantly. Look at Pitino, whom I have admired in the past...

"Louisville would have to vacate its wins from 2011 to 2015, including its 2013 title and its 2012 Final Four appearance. " tsk, tsk, tsk.. SMH..

Danny Hernandez 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm not smiling about what happened to Louisville, because on the court, imho, they still won the game, same with USC in football, the extra benefits Bush received didn't help him run any better or score more td's. The teams won on the field and their victories shouldn't be negated is how I feel. Punish them another way.

As for Kansas, I've said this before and I'll say it again, when the Big12 teams played us, we weren't at full strength and they sure didn't put an asterisk next to their wins, like Texas Tech when they played us without Billy because how much better would we have been if Billy hadn't been on the bench all those weeks? He was a 5 Star player that could have been great for Kansas.

We weren't full strength with Joel Embiid out and the teams we played didn't put an asterisk next to their wins against us like ISU in the tourney. I don't feel bad for Texas tech just because this is their first year being decent in basketball.

Craig Carson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

exactly..cause noone had pity on us when we had 1 freaking big man/

Brad Farha 9 months, 3 weeks ago

But would Reggie Bush or the other athletes have chosen USC or Louisville without the impermissible benefits? That's got to be part of the reason why the NCAA is so harsh on these infractions.

Brad Watson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes....Saturday night is a TITLE GAME.....it will take championship level basketball... to make it happen...I am very confident.... that the best coach in the country..... will have our incredibly talented team,.... playing at an intensity level so high.... that the lights in the arena will be flickering....this is a great group of young men and I look forward to watching this game very much...to the players.......do not forget to do your Jerod Haase homework...we love you guys and are behind you !00%.!!!!!

Kent Richardson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The NCAA basically told Louisville you have to erase any trace of history. Good Lord.

This year has been different as we have been on the fringe of the top core in college hoops. Dipping in and dipping out. In the Big XII OU was the team to beat and the darling of the realm. Then it was the Mountain of Huggy that loomed over us. Next it was Tech moving into the core and we had our nose pressed up against that window. Always on the edge and working hard for the candy thrown our way.

I was in doubt, and not alone. We were vexed about the home losses and proclaimed we just had been dealt a bad hand. Transfers, a car wreck, the Phog had lifted (crowd noise had diminished), and 5 point after 3 point after 1 point wins. No lead was enough where we could not cough up the turnover phlegm. the matador defense or become bunny missing brick layers.

Then came Game Day at Allen where the bullies from the hills. who thought we were soft, kept punching us in the head thinking we would give up our lunch money. We came into the second half with a PO'd tag team of Vick and the Svister. We punched back, knocked them down and they threw a fit and ran home crying that "it's was not a fair fight!"

We somehow jelled in that half. Then on a short turnaround we FINALLY, (ha), got that blow out win we had craved.

Now we are able to step back into the big time on Saturday. It hasn't been easy, with only Joe Lunardi staying in our corner.

If we win out, and it will be a beyotch of a task, we could get out of that nasty looking West region and into the Midwest along with WSU and Mizery for some real fun.

Marty Clark 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Reading this story gave me chills! Go get um Jayhawks!!!!!!!

Steve Corder 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Welcomed news from Stillwater, but not celebratory.

Michael Leiker 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Lubbock for the Ship! Good feeling boys are gonna be jacked!

Tony Bandle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Random Thoughts:

1] When was the last time a team has "swept" KU during a regular season and how many times has it happened in Bill's tenure? My guess it's been awhile and not too often.

2] TT caught us without an ever improving De Sousa and a much less intimidating Lightfoot.

3] Having played basketball and having had a toe injury, outside of an ankle or knee issue, a toe problem would be especially difficult on a point guard. TT has a big problem!

4] Even if KU runs the table [ 3 conf. wins/3 tourney wins = 28-6], it still will only translate as a high #2...which I think I would take in a heartbeat! NCAA, keep your #1 Pick.

5] Moore, Lawson, Lawson, Dok, Lightfoot, Se Sousa, McCormack, Garrett, Grimes, Dotson, Vick, the KC kid..... if Sam transfers and/or Newman goes pro, why isn't there room for Langford????

6] A loss Saturday keeps the title in our control. A win Saturday keeps the title in our trophy case. Gee...I wonder which one we are looking for. :}.

7] I guess when ESPN scheduled this game, they had no idea that it could be for the championship. Oh well, at least it will,give everybody about 14 hours to celebrate at The Wheel!!!!!!!

Tony Bandle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

PS. OOP...My Bad.....make that about 8 hours. :-\

Jonathan Allison 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm pretty sure that Devonte Graham missed significant time with a toe injury a couple years ago.

Also see Tom Keegan's Lunch Break for the regular season sweeps statistics that you're looking for.

Craig Carson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

1) I dont believe Self has ever suffered a season sweep..especially considering its only recently that they played a round robin schedule..before that only KSU and MU had KU twice on their schedule 2) DeSousa looked good, BUT OU doesnt play defense..I need one more game of him doing that before I assume he has made the jumpy and can be relied upon..but it was still great to see... 3)if i were a TTU fan, Id rather lose the BIg 12 and have a healthy Evans for the NCAA..imagine if they play him and he reinjures his tow and is sidelined for the rest of the year 4)if KU runs the table they are a lock for a 1 seed..BUT Id rather KU be a quiet #2 seed and let another team have the target on their back 5)Id rather not have Langford to be honest..I like our squad already..Dok should stay, but still not 100%..if he does, KU's front court will be unmatched by anyone in college next season..I think Newman is gone..his NBA draft stock wont be higher and he been in college 2 years longer than he probably thought..Vick isnt ready but he might test the waters..if he stays, he will probably start..I hope Cunliffe stays..he might not play a lot next season but Self might not bring in the same level recruiting class next year..having a junior 4* kid like Sam would be great 6)Id rather KU win Saturday and be done with it..I can stomach a loss at OSU as long as they win Saturday and on senior night 7) of all the teams I though would challenge KU for the Big 12 title, TTU wasnt one of them...TCU, WV were the 2 main threats

Jonathan Allison 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Texas Tech still has a chance to win a conference championship, but their opportunity to win it outright over KU just went to near zero.

If they had defeated OSU, I would think that they would want to push all-in trying to defeat KU and end the streak because it would have been THE story of college basketball this year. As it is, you are probably right in that they should protect Kennan Evans for the post-season. They can still win a trophy at the Sprint Center if he's healthy.

Tim Orel 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The one reason I don't want to lose again is not just beating TTU for the title outright, but winning Senior night AND beating OSU so that Self remains perfect in not being swept in the regular season. There will be things to play for each game from here on out.

Gary McCullough 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Nose bleed seats at United Spirit Arena are starting at $135. Court side seats are over a grand. The oilmen of West Texas are driving up the prices. Two years ago I got four tix for $25/each. PHOG tix are cheaper! I'm glad west Texans are coming to appreciate anything other than football, but did they have to price me out of the market?

Dillon Davis 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Even if we lose on Saturday, Tech has to turn around and go play at West Virginia on Monday while we host Texas. So if we don't clinch on Saturday, we surely could on Monday at home in front of our fans. But just to be safe, let's get this thing done on Saturday ;) Rock Chalk!

Alan Dickey 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Interestingly, the Monday KU at TT game and the TT at WV game both start simultaneously at 9pm (ET). I really hope we can find a way to win at TT first to end the drama early.

Tony, Tom Keegan wrote a couple of pieces yesterday answering your question about how many times has KU been swept under Bill Self: “Bill Self has lost the front end of a Big 12 home-and-home series 17 times in his 15 seasons at Kansas. Remarkably, Self holds a 17-0 record in revenge games. … Monday's game [defeating OU], by the way, completed Self’s 100th home-and-home Big 12 series. He has swept 69 of those, split 31 and has yet to be swept.” http://www2.kusports.com/news/2018/feb/21/tom-keegan-bill-self-17-0-big-12-payback-games-and/?mens_basketball

Never being swept in 100 home-and-home series and being 17-0 in the second game of those where KU lost the first is pretty amazing. We haven't played any non-con foes twice in a season; so, 17-0 should be the answer.

David Howell 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Alan, you got a little excited writing your comment ..........

We play TT Sat. at 3 pm and host Texas Monday night. TT cannot play two opponents at the same time on Saturday. If they can I want to see the Hawks play their "B" team !!

Matt Gauntt 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Hopefully our guys aren't TOO confident and/or excited about Evans' toe problem. TTU is still a really good team that has some really significant wins. We are going to their home turf. I want them confident, but knowing that either way this is going to be a game that will take everything they have.

After seeing this team go through some boneheaded games, it is really great to see them starting to click again. Hopefully they will stay humble and hungry all the way to San Antonio.

David Robinett 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Wait, where are all the Mr. Sunshines that already threw in the towel on the conference championship about three games ago?

David Robinett 9 months, 3 weeks ago

...Or who said coach Self was an idiot for leaving Dok in the game at Oklahoma?

Tony Bandle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

....crickets......:-). David, if I recall you never gave up on number 14, did you?

Corey Sparks 9 months, 3 weeks ago

To everyone saying we've never been swept during self's time at KU, we have...once that I know of. We lost to Kentucky in the champions classic in the 2012 season, and lost to Kentucky in the NC game.

Tony Bandle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks for bringing up that painful memory. Sometimes the truth hurts! Has anyone had more painful Championship losses than KU. Wilt loses in triple overtime in '57, we can't buy a foul shot against a Syracuse team we were dominating in '03, we miss two dunks and we lose a chance for a game winning three pointer against UK in '13.

Ooops...I'm guilty of just what I accused Cory of doing!!!

Aaron Paisley 9 months, 2 weeks ago

If you're using that logic, Michigan State swept KU in 2009. January in Lansing and again in the Sweet 16.

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