Epic OU victory no longer an excuse for KU's current struggles
Surely you've heard the chatter by now.
For a couple of weeks, one of the most common excuses tossed out to help explain why the Kansas University men's basketball team has struggled during the past six games dates back to KU's triple-overtime thriller over Oklahoma and how that victory took so much out of the Jayhawks that they've had trouble moving on.
It should be noted that none of the KU coaches or players themselves have said this — except maybe as a concern for the very next game, which they won — but it definitely has been one of the theories most used by frustrated fans.
A look at what the Sooners have accomplished since that night should tell you that. And, remember, Oklahoma LOST that game. So if either team should have had trouble moving on from that classic contest at Allen Fieldhouse, it's OU.
The Sooners were ranked second in the nation that night and had just one loss heading into the showdown with No. 1 Kansas.
Since then, OU has climbed into the No. 1 spot in the polls by winning five of six games, two on the road (at Oklahoma State and at Baylor), a tough home win over West Virginia and the only loss coming by five points at Iowa State.
Kansas, meanwhile, is 3-3 since the OU victory, with three consecutive losses on the road and lackluster wins over Texas Tech and TCU sprinkled in.
There may have been parts of other halves that looked good, but the only two complete halves of good basketball that KU has played since the OU win came in the second half against Texas last Saturday and the first half against Iowa State on Monday night.
For a team that looked so solid for nearly three halves against Oklahoma, that certainly has been a surprise.
That victory, back on Jan. 4, should have been a springboard for the Jayhawks, who looked so solid that night in just about every aspect. They shot well, played with confidence, were tough as nails, responded to adversity and closed.
I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but given the way things have gone since that night, it's quite possible to conclude that the OU game could go down as the peak of KU's 2015-16 season.
And maybe that's the issue here. Maybe this team knows that. Maybe it's not fatigue and trouble moving on — emotionally, physically, whatever — from that game that's causing the problem. Maybe it's the fact that they're facing the unreasonable expectation — from fans and themselves — of trying to recreate how they played in that game.
Instead of just focusing on playing hard and winning games at whatever cost, they've got that gem bouncing around in their minds and anything less than the performance they put forth that night against OU seems like a miss.
It's not, of course. This team has plenty of talent and the coaching to win games in a number of different ways and still can accomplish big things this season. Remember, no one says victory has to be pretty. You just have to have more points than the opponent on the scoreboard when the clock shows :00.
I'm not exactly saying that KU is struggling right now because it is trying to be perfect. Heck, there have been times lately when the Jayhawks have not even appeared to know the definition of perfectly average. And, like it or not, these other teams that are gunning for Kansas and smelling blood, have had more than a little to do with that 3-3 record since KU knocked off the Sooners in that showdown at Allen Fieldhouse in early January.
But here we are more than three weeks later and there are still people out there trying to justify KU's poor play of late by talking about how the OU game took so much out of this team that it just can't get right. I'm not buying that.
The only way that incredible OU victory might still be impacting this Kansas team is inside the heads of the players, some of whom might be striving a little too much to be the heroes they were in that game instead of the tough-as-nails, fundamentally sound, completely confident and strong-willed players that KU coach Bill Self is known for having.