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Jayhawks in prime position to earn 13th straight Big 12 title

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Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) flashes a smile as the Jayhawks close out the game against West Virginia in overtime, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) flashes a smile as the Jayhawks close out the game against West Virginia in overtime, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If you followed along with my Gameday Chat yesterday you’d know that I made a light case that the Jayhawks already had locked up at least a share of Big 12 title No. 13 in a row.

That was before the epic comeback vs. West Virginia and it seems even more certain now.

Sure, the Baylor loss on Monday night helped. A two-game lead with five to play is a pretty good spot to be in. But it’s an even more pleasant place when you consider this: Kansas could lose at Baylor on Saturday and still not be worried.

The reason?

Since Big 12 play began back in December, no conference team (other than Kansas, which opened Big 12 play 7-0) has ripped off five consecutive conference wins, which is likely what it would take for the Bears to dethrone Kansas.

Taking that notion one step further, half of the Big 12’s 10 teams have just five conference wins or fewer this entire season.

West Virginia is too far back now to be a factor and Baylor still has to navigate home games with Kansas and WVU and a road trip to Ames, Iowa. A loss in any one of those games pretty much ends it for the Bears.

But let’s say Baylor gets red hot and wins all five games. Kansas then would have to go 2-3 to not win a share of the title. For a team that sits 11-2 through 13 games, it’s hard to envision them losing 3 of 5 to close the season.

What’s more, if you’re looking at schedules alone, you’d have to give the advantage to Kansas in that department, too.

With home games remaining against Oklahoma and TCU and road games at Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State, Kansas likely needs only to win the two games at Allen Fieldhouse to maintain its position at the top of the Big 12 standings.

Baylor still has to play 3 of the Top 4 teams in the current standings and, like Kansas, also plays at Texas.

The combined Big 12 record of KU’s five remaining opponents is 26-35. The record of Baylor’s five remaining foes? 32-30. Advantage Kansas.

A case could be made for KU losing two of the five games fairly easily. At Baylor at Saturday will be a bear, no pun intended, and closing the season at Oklahoma State looms as a difficult task, as well. KU has lost three straight in Stillwater.

But, again, even if KU were to drop those two games, Baylor would have to win out to move into a tie with Kansas. If Baylor loses even just one game, Kansas would then have to lose at Texas or home against TCU or Oklahoma to finish in a tie.

And, on the flip side, if Baylor loses one of its five remaining games, Kansas could lose both at Baylor and at OSU and still win the thing outright, which is exactly the goal this team has in mind year after year.

Even though Kansas sits in the perfect position to keep its Big 12 title streak alive, it has been a crazy season in the Big 12 and the conference is tough from top to bottom so it’s not safe to take anything for granted and you can bet the Jayhawks will not.

But regardless of what lies ahead and all of the scenarios that still could play out, one thing is certain: Kansas can basically lock it up with a win on Saturday at Baylor.

A win in Waco would put the Jayhawks up three games with four to play.

As a parting note, here’s a quick look at each team's longest 2016-17 conference winning streaks in the Big 12 this season:

Kansas – 7
Baylor – 4
Oklahoma State – 4
TCU – 3
West Virginia – 3
Iowa State – 2
Kansas State – 2
Oklahoma – 2
Texas – 1
Texas Tech – 1

Current Big 12 standings (as of Feb. 14)

Kansas — 11-2
Baylor — 9-4
West Virginia — 8-5
Iowa State — 7-5
TCU — 6-6
Kansas State — 5-7
Oklahoma State — 5-7
Texas Tech — 5-8
Texas — 4-8
Oklahoma — 2-10

Comments

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

Win in Waco, clinch against TCU and go ahead and cut down the nets at home.

I am not sure that Bill and the boys will want to cut the nets and have the trophy ceremony when they clinch a share, but my argument for it is that you go ahead and do it in front of your home fans when you have the chance. Then on Sr. night it can be all about Frank, Landen, and Tyler.

Of course, they may want to have the trophy ceremony and/or cut the nets after they've won it outright. But my opinion is to get it out of the way. No reason to create any extra pressure on the guys at this point of the season by trying to delay the gratification of winning.

That is of course contingent on winning the next two games. Anything but a foregone conclusion. Baylor is projecting as a #1 or a #2 seed. TCU is a #10 seed, but Jamie Dixon will have them ready to play and make them tough to beat.

Joe Ross 2 months, 1 week ago

I agree with Matt here, clearly. It would take an implosion NOT to at least get a share of the Big 12 title now, extending the streak to 13, given the results on Monday night.

But while you're chewing on that bone, let me give you another one to consider: Can Kansas break the record, and extend to 14 in a row?

The traditional powers that have been pushing Kansas in the last several seasons have all gotten better. Iowa State beat us on our own floor. This is probably the best two-game performance Bob Huggins' WV squad has played against us. Baylor has been a slow train coming, but they are a really legit team this year. The top tier of teams may produce a legitimate challenge to Kansas if current trends continue. Keep in mind that with more game experience against Coach Self, the more teams can tailor game plans.

In the meantime, the middle of the pack teams and underachievers are really coming on: TTech was not a gimme, neither was Kansas State. New coaches at TCU and OSU will more than likely seen an increase in performance. And please...PLEASE...dont count out teams coached by Lon Kruger and Shaka Smart. Sometimes these teams go up and down, but they do go UP.

My point is that the road to conference championships is getting more difficult for Kansas. More potential pitfalls. The thing that Kansas has going for it is that these teams play each other, too! Spreading losses around as the league improves is the factor working in our favor. That, and well...we're Kansas. It's just that at some point you know streaks will end. When might it come?

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 2 months, 1 week ago

I think its likely the Big 12 will be better overall next year. There are a number of good, young teams in the league.
Its difficult to say how good the Jayhawks will be with all of the unknowns around who stays and who goes and who still commits (Young hopefully). Regardless, lets stay focused on Baylor and cement number thirteen!

Tim Orel 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, To get to fourteen, we need to have thirteen first. I'd much rather it take place this year than after another thirteen seasons, so go 'Hawks!

Jay Scott 2 months, 1 week ago

Great thoughts Joe! ... except the Shaka stuff. He's never won anything. VCU didn't get better while he was there. His only "up" was a weekend in March, years ago. VCU is better now that he's gone. Texas is much worse with him.

Kansas could well be super loaded next fall. Your discussion is an interesting one.

Benny Armstrong 2 months, 1 week ago

Definitely an interesting exercise in projecting ahead next year and I agree lets get there first and win #13 outright. Playing that out though, we will certainly lose a great deal in leadership and output from Frank and Landen, not to mention probably Josh and potentially Svi. I'm on the fence about Devonte leaving as I don't know if he's had enough great games to position himself for a guaranteed draft pick and think he might be well served to stay another year.

That being said, while we lose a lot, so are a lot of the teams you mention in your comment. Iowa St is losing Burton, Morris, and Thomas so they might take a big step back (especially without Morris). Baylor will most likely lose Motley to the draft and for sure lose Wainwright who is a key glue guy (look at their +/- numbers for him). They will be younger, but I don't know if they'll be better. West Virginia is losing big chunks of their core with Adrian, Philip, and some other contributors and they'll also be much younger with only 3 seniors and a ton of freshmen/sophomores. KState is losing Iwundu and Johnson, but could take a step forward if Wade has someone to pair with down low. Tech has 7 seniors and Smith might test the waters as a junior so they could regress some. Jamie Dixon could have TCU into the middle/upper tier soon, but we'll see how he recruits going forward, though signs are good so far. OSU is losing Forte but Evans might test the waters after a solid first two years. That could set them back if he leaves without someone behind him ready to contribute immediately. Additionally, I don't know what to make of Texas or OU. Shaka hasn't exactly thrilled me trying to recruit big names to play his brand of defense, so we'll have to see whether he adjusts playing style (havoc d) or adjusts who he recruits and goes after more WVA guys that aren't great but play hard. I think he's on a short leash after the first few years and think he won't be there too long if these results keep up. OU is the biggest wildcard of the bunch to me because they have a really young core but lack a real point guard without Woodard, and a lot of next year for them hinges on where Trae Young decides to go. If he goes to OU, they could be dangerous, if not they could be in the 7-9 range.

This certainly isn't an attempt to say that 14 would be a lock, but I see that the timing might be right in that each programs loses some key guys that it might cause their teams to regress a little. That coupled with the fact that we still have 9 games in AFH each year makes me think we're the favorites to win it until someone takes it from us. Definitely would be fun to break the record though and should be an entertaining ride assuming we take care of business the next couple of weeks.

Jay Hawk 2 months, 1 week ago

Devonte is regularly slotted in the 2nd round of mock drafts and the consistent internet buzz is he's already decided to leave. I don't think we will see him next year.

Carlton seems to be off of more boards than on. I predict more college for Carlton . . . I wonder if that will be at KU? If he comes back, with our other 3 returning bigs and Preston coming, our inside depth and rotation will have a completely different look next year. I personally think one of the reasons we've not landed a late year "big man" recruit is because Bragg was trending toward returning.

Svi is a mixed bag of projections in the mock drafts. He needs one more year in my opinion but he is still very young, getting better, and offers a strong upside with maturity. I think Svi will test the waters but likely be back for one more ride.

Whatever the roster make-up, I'm confident we will be a strong candidate for #14 next year.

Rock Chalk

Mike Greer 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm not overlooking anyone between now and the last game of the regular season. Baylor, like most of the Big XII is tough at home and TCU has improved greatly with their new coach, and Texas has a talented young team. If I were to take a team lightly at this point it would be Oklahoma with the loss of their star point guard, Woodard. But what strikes me odd in all of this, Frank Mason III has not won a game at Oklahoma State. With as good as the teams have been over the past 3 years, that Frank has been at KU, he has yet to experience a win in Gallagher-Iba.

Alan Dickey 2 months, 1 week ago

I think next year’s prospects may depend on whether the following three B12 players return: Svi, Graham, and Motley. Motley is projected as a low first rounder right now. If Motley returns, Baylor will only lose one player (Wainright) for certain and possibly will be as good as, or better than, KU next year.

KU loses seniors Mason, Jackson, Lucas, and possibly juniors Graham and/or Mykhailiuk. Baylor loses senior Wainright and (hopefully) junior Motley. Next year, even if without Motley, Baylor will field five seniors (Lual-Acuil, Lecomte, Maston, Freeman, Omot) and two juniors (McClure and Lindsey). Three of those are starters and all of them had significant playing time. So, Baylor likely will have a great team even if Motley leaves, and even more so if he stays.
West Virginia loses senior starter Adrian, but the other four starters likely will be returning. They do lose seniors Myers, Phillip, Watkins, and Adrian from the bench. But WV likely will be as good or better next year as they were this year.
Iowa State’s top six players are seniors, so, they are no concern next year.
TCU will return all of its top players next year, and many of them will be seniors. They should be better, but probably not good enough to challenge us for the league title.
OSU loses senior starters Forte and Hammonds. They probably will be good next year, but not a threat.
KSU loses senior starters Johnson and Iwundu and main backup guard senior Ervin. They likely will not be a real threat to KU.

The following lineup for KU likely would be favored to win the league title against next year: POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUP: Udoka Azubuike / So. / 7-0 / 280 ; Carlton Bragg / Jr. / 6-10 / 245 ; Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk / Sr. / 6-8 / 205 ; LaGerald Vick / Jr. / 6-5 / 175; Devonte Graham / Sr. / 6-2 / 185.

BENCH PLAYERS: Billy Preston / Fr. / 6-10 / 230 (Rivals #8); Malik Newman / RS-So / 6-3 / 190 (Rivals #8) (transfer from Miss. St.); Mitch Lightfoot / So. / 6-8 / 210; Marcus Garrett / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #37); Sam Cunliffe / RS-So. / 6-6 / 190 (Rivals #36) (transfer from ASU; eligible Dec. 2017); Dwight Coleby / RS-Sr. / 6-9 / 240.

We might also get Trae Young

But, if Svi and/or Graham leave (unlikely for either I think, but who knows?), and if Motley returns, Baylor could be a logical favorite in 2017-18.

Benny Armstrong 2 months, 1 week ago

Alan, didn't mean to miss your comment before posting mine. Agree with a lot you have to say. Great minds I suppose... RCJH

Alan Dickey 2 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Benny. Your comments are very insightful and covered many items I missed. Also, I slightly overstated ISU's departures. 5 of their top players are seniors. But the impact is the same. ISU will be gutted next year.

Jay Hawk 2 months, 1 week ago

Wow - if all of these guys do return, that's a loaded roster for sure!

If that happened, I doubt we get Trae and I think Newman might edge out Vick as the 2nd combo guard.

Kent Richardson 2 months, 1 week ago

Thirty-one days until first and hopefully second round games in Tulsa. March 17 and 19th. Outside of about 10 teams I can't make any sense of who is really good. Might be a mid-major year. No one really stands out but several scare me. Teams like UK, Louisville, UCLA, Arizona and UNC all go brain dead at times. Outside of the WVU away game we are not dominant but at least consistent. With 7 or 8 games left before the NCAA tourney things can happen, like we become a great defensive team.

March Madness, The Big Dance and whatever are so over done names. Mid-Major, survive and advance, one and done, Cinderella, Second Round, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four sound so politically correct. We need to spark this up a bit?

March Madness = Selection Committee's prognosis.

The Big Dance = Lollapalooza

Mid-Major = Cannon Fodder

Survive and Advance = Near Death Experience

One and Done = Over Rated

Cinderella = Overlooked with Small Sneakers

Second Round = Maybe kept my job

Sweet Sixteen = Happy to be here

Elite Eight = I didn't think this far ahead

Final Four = I will ask for a big fat raise

Barry Weiss 2 months, 1 week ago

I predict Svi and Devonte both come back next year. Also, Dok is going to be an absolute beast next year. I am guaranteeing right here, right now, a double double machine in him!

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