The case for Kansas center Udoka Azubuike as national player of the year is building with teammates and opponents alike
To hear his teammates tell it, Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike is on some kind of a hot streak at the moment, with five double-doubles in his last seven games and back-to-back monster showings in KU’s two most recent victories.
“I mean, he’s on a roll right now,” said sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji after Monday’s 83-58 win by No. 1 Kansas over Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.
Added freshman guard Christian Braun: “The roll he’s on right now is crazy. What he’s doing night in, night out is pretty impressive. It’s fun to watch for all of us.”
Throw OSU coach Mike Boynton into that “all of us” group, even if it comes in a losing effort.
Monday night, shortly after watching Azubuike torch the Cowboys for 19 points and 16 rebounds in 27 minutes, Boynton spent half of his postgame meeting with the media praising Azubuike.
That was after he offered one heck of an in-person compliment to Azubuike during the handshake line after the final horn sounded.
When the two met near midcourt, Boynton shook Azubuike’s massive mit with his right hand, tapped him on the chest with his left and then pointed up to the ceiling at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He kind of just said if I keep doing what I’m doing that I’m going to hang a banner at the fieldhouse,” Azubuike said.
After the victory, which featured the career 41% free throw shooter making 7 of 8 free throw attempts and nearly reaching 20 points on just six shots, Boynton, unprompted, paraphrased his exchange with KU’s 7-foot center.
“Hell, I’m not afraid to say it,” Boynton began. “If Udoka Azubuike is going to make all of his free throws, they’re going to win a national championship.”
Heading into Monday’s matchup, Boynton was keenly aware of two important realities. First, the third-year OSU coach knew the Jayhawks were national title contenders. Second, he knew his team wasn’t.
That made the challenge tough from the start. But the individual performances that led to the collective beatdown spoke to Boynton even louder throughout the 40 minutes of his third crack at a win on KU’s home floor.
“Damn, they’re good,” he said after the KU victory Monday night. “One of my goals was actually to never hear that chant in this building. I was 2 for 2. So that streak’s over.”
The unique thing about Boynton’s words on Monday night was that he seemed happy to share them. There was no shame in the loss, no overwhelming disappointment or frustration weighing on him.
His appreciation for what Kansas basketball is and his enjoyment of watching young men have success in the game he loves outweighed any of that.
“I cheer for these guys when we don’t compete against them,” Boynton said of the Jayhawks. “I hope they do well. We’re not a national championship contender. They are. And the reason that they are is because not only do they have (Azubuike), but they also have as dynamic of a point guard as you can have in college basketball (in Devon Dotson). But then their ancillary pieces all contribute, as well.”
Speaking specifically on Azubuike, Boynton emphasized the senior center’s four-year development and the obvious work that he has put in to position himself to have the year he is having.
“I’d be hard pressed to find a better national player of the year candidate,” Boynton said. “I mean, the way he’s playing is pretty special. … He’s truly one of the most improved players I’ve ever watched.”
And that improvement is not limited to one end of the floor or the other, nor is it something that shows up in spurts or small doses. Boynton, whose team did a better-than-average job of handling Azubuike in the first meeting in Stillwater, Okla., in late January, said the thing that has impressed him the most about Azubuike’s career is how he has shaped himself into a complete player.
“He still doesn’t have a ton of post moves, right,” Boynton said. “He’s not like (Hakeem) Olajuwon out there. But if he catches it in the paint, you don’t really have an answer for him. But what he can do defensively now versus what he could do two years ago, for sure, is night and day. He can move his feet, he can switch in ball screens and keep a guard in front of him, and then anything around the basket, he has very good reaction time, very good anticipation. And, for the most part, he does it without fouling a whole lot.”
Boynton continued: “This game is about these kids. I’ve watched his development in my time here. I saw him play a little bit in high school. And his growth is remarkable. Obviously a lot of credit goes to their staff putting him in position, but that kid has obviously put a lot of work in and he’s made himself not just a big, plodding post player who can get lost in today’s game as everyone thinks. No, the truth is if you’re good enough you can figure it out, and he’s terrific.”
Ranked No. 6 in the current KenPom.com player of the year standings — Dotson is actually No. 1 — Azubuike enters the home stretch of his senior season focused more on taking full advantage of every moment and less on individual accolades.
“I’m happy that I’m actually showing what all the hard work I put in in the offseason (has done for me) and it’s really paying off right now. I’m going to look back one day at this moment and the best thing to do is just cherish the moment.”
As for his head coach’s thoughts on Azubuike’s candidacy for national player of the year?
“Over the last (several) games, you can certainly make a case for that,” KU coach Bill Self said after Monday’s victory. “So hopefully he’ll still keep on this uptick and keep building off of it, and if that's the case and if we win then maybe he will start getting some recognition for that. I’d like for our guys to be in the game for all postseason accolades, but, you know, we still have to win three games before we should even think about that.”
Fresh off of a three-point win in Waco, Texas, on Saturday over then-No. 1 Baylor, the Kansas Jayhawks have moved into the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Kansas, which sits at 24-3 overall and 13-1 in Big 12 play, jumped two spots in the latest poll that was released Monday morning. The Jayhawks received 62 of the 64 first-place votes handed out this week. Baylor received the other two.
Although one of its top two teams wound up on the losing end of the recent showdown, Saturday’s KU victory turned out to be a win-win for the Big 12 Conference. Despite the loss — its first in its last 24 games — Baylor fell just one spot to No. 2 and the Big 12 now owns the top two positions in the current AP poll.
Gonzaga, like Baylor, which lost over the weekend, dropped a spot to No. 3, and Dayton (up one) and San Diego State (down one) round out the new Top 5.
The Jayhawks’ jump to No. 1 in the latest AP poll was hardly a surprise. Not only did KU knock off the No. 1 team on its home floor last weekend, but the Jayhawks also are ranked No. 1 by KenPom.com, No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament Evaluation Tool rankings (NET), No. 1 by KPI and Sagarin and also have the most Quadrant 1 wins of any team in the country and the most Quadrant 1 and 2 wins of any team in the country.
KU’s strength of schedule also ranks No. 1 per KenPom.com, giving Bill Self’s Jayhawks the most complete and well-rounded resume of any team in the country and in Kansas team in a long time.
Having said that, the Bears were just a possession or two away from sweeping the Jayhawks, making their soft landing at No. 2 more than justified, according to KU point guard Devon Dotson, who praised the Bears after Saturday’s victory.
“Just great teams battling against each other,” Dotson characterized Saturday’s showdown.
“Both teams really defend,” he added. “They make it tough each and every possession on you and there’s just that respect (between us). Just many different pieces, a lot of versatility out there on the floor, a couple great teams collectively that can execute game plans. Just two great teams going at it.”
KU now has been ranked in 217 consecutive AP polls, bringing the Jayhawks closer to eclipsing UCLA’s all-time record of 221 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25.
Here’s a complete look at the rest of this week’s poll:
1 – Kansas, 24-3, 1,598 (62)
2 – Baylor, 24-2, 1,532 (2)
3 – Gonzaga, 27-2, 1,442
4 – Dayton, 25-2, 1,413
5 – San Diego State, 26-1, 1,287
6 – Florida State, 23-4, 1,247
7 – Duke, 23-4, 1,186
8 – Kentucky, 22-5, 1,130
9 – Maryland, 22-5, 1,124
10 – Creighton, 22-6, 986
11 – Louisville, 23-5, 966
12 – Villanova, 21-6, 928
13 – Seton Hall, 20-7, 842
14 – Oregon, 21-7, 653
15 – Auburn, 23-4, 643
16 – Penn State, 20-7, 618
17 – BYU, 23-7, 598
18 – Iowa, 19-8, 489
19 – Michigan, 18-9, 329
20 – West Viginia, 19-8, 313
21 – Colorado, 21-7, 291
22 – Texas Tech, 18-9, 226
23 – Ohio State, 18-9, 210
24 – Michigan State, 18-9, 160
25 – Houston, 21-7, 102
Others receiving votes: Arizona State 95, Illinois 82, Arizona 71, Butler 51, Virginia 50, Marquette 41, Stephen F. Austin 29, LSU 24, East Tennessee State 13, Utah State 9, Florida 8, Wisconsin 7, New Mexico State 2, Liberty 2, Northern Iowa 2, UCLA 1.
Most years, the postseason player of the year award in any conference is given to the best player on the best team.
On Saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas, the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks staked their claim as the best in the Big 12 this season by avenging a January home loss to Baylor and beating the Bears on their home floor, 64-61, in a battle of top-three teams.
But even though senior center Udoka Azubuike was absolutely dominant in the Jayhawks’ latest victory — scoring 23 points and grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds in the win — Kansas coach Bill Self was not exactly ready to hand his big man the hardware with four games still to go in conference play.
“Let’s not forget about Dot,” said Self of point guard Devon Dotson in a postgame interview with radio color analyst Greg Gurley. “We’ve got two guys, I think, who have a viable case.”
While Azubuike’s numbers and impact stood out the most on Saturday, Dotson continues to put up big numbers while playing a critical role for the Jayhawks night in and night out.
On Saturday, Dotson, the Big 12’s leading scorer, finished with 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting while dishing three assists and swiping two steals.
Dotson’s final line was modest by the standard he has set for himself this season. But his impact on the game, and on the final lines of so many of his teammates — including Azubuike — tells a more complete story of Dotson’s value.
Three of the six shots he missed on Saturday were flushed back home by Azubuike, who benefited greatly from Dotson’s ability to get his shoulders past his defender and get to the rim, make or miss.
At times, when things get particularly stagnant on offense, some coaches have said that the best offense a team can run is one in which the guards get the ball on the rim and let their big men go clean up the misses.
There was a strong element of that in play on Saturday, although it was more the result of Baylor’s ferocious defense and not necessarily KU’s inability to run offense.
The Jayhawks did plenty of that, employing Self’s new wrinkle of keeping the ball in the middle of the floor to prevent Baylor’s defenders from playing strong help D on passes inside to Azubuike.
Dotson also drew four fouls — compared to six by Azubuike — and shot 2 of 3 at the free-throw line, with the two makes coming with 34 seconds to play to put Kansas up 62-55.
And then there was the workload.
“What’d he have? Two turnovers? And the ball’s in his hands all the time,” Self said after the game. “I thought he played great. The plays that he made getting to the hole there, midway through the second half, were pretty big for us.”
Dotson’s versatility is a big reason he currently leads the Big 12 in scoring at 18.2 points per game. He’s also first in free throws made, with 120. The sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., has eight 20-point games to date and is among the team and conference leaders in six other categories.
Azubuike, meanwhile is one of 33 players in NCAA Division I currently averaging a double-double (13.1 points per game, 10.1 rebounds) and his double-double average of 12.2 points and 10.7 rebounds make him one of just two players (WVU freshman Oscar Tshiebwe) averaging a double-double in the first 14 conference games.
“He’s played turned up just about all year,” Self said after Saturday’s victory. “But on a day when David (McCormack) fouls out in four minutes and he’s got to play 36, that’s a lot for a guy that big. The big fella, he played today.”
This one-two punch, which Self has said is the best he’s had at Kansas, is a huge part of the reason the Jayhawks are in contention to bring the Big 12’s regular-season trophy back to Lawrence.
But on Saturday, when Azubuike and Dotson led the Jayhawks to their biggest win of the season, the one thing that fueled them and their teammates the most was pride.
“I think it meant a lot to our guys,” Self said of the win over Baylor. “(It meant) a lot more than the league race. We didn’t talk about the league race. They beat us the first time. At home. And I think we were pretty motivated to play a highly competitive game... That meant a lot more than the league race.”
There are four games remaining in the race to crown a Big 12 champion. And those four games could also decide the conference player of the year.
The featured game on ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday is the Big 12 Conference showdown between No. 1 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas.
And fans everywhere seem to be confused about why that game, with all of the shine and buzz of a Top 3 matchup, is still scheduled to tipoff of at 11 a.m. instead of being moved to a later time, like the 7 p.m. slot after an entire day of build up.
The reason is simple. And it has a lot to do with the new way of thinking when it comes to televising college athletic events.
See, in the past, the 7 p.m. slot was as good as it got. Prime time they called it. And everyone, everywhere, knew it.
But that was during simpler times, when not every Division I college basketball game was broadcast on some kind of network somewhere. (Sorry to those ESPN+ haters out there who just rolled your eyes or clinched your fists).
These days, with the overwhelming majority of games on television, the whole start time focus has become a relative thing. And the idea games competing against each other for ratings is one of the most important elements.
It’s also important to note that the Saturday schedule is different than weekdays. In many eyes, the earlier the better on Saturdays because the games are over before the day gets away from you and they do not conflict with dinner plans, concerts or any other out-and-about types of activities that people tend to enjoy on the weekends.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Saturday’s slate.
There are two other 11 a.m. games featuring Top 25 teams this Saturday — No. 13 Auburn hosts Tennessee and No. 19 Marquette plays at Providence.
While both of those games — on CBS and FOX, respectively — will draw their share of viewers, most of them will come from those four fan bases. As loyal as the followings for those four teams are, it’s not as if we’re talking about Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or even Villanova or Arizona.
The bottom line is this: If you’re the Big 12, you’d rather have your marquee game of the season — let alone your game of the day — go up against those two matchups rather than square off against the other games later in the day.
North Carolina and Louisville face off at 3 p.m. Florida and Kentucky play each other at 5 p.m. Virginia Tech and Duke go at it at 7 p.m. And unbeaten San Diego State and UNLV are paired up at 6:30 p.m.
Even the later time slots feature an 8 p.m. game between Arizona and Oregon and a 9 p.m. battle of Top 25 teams, No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 23 BYU.
Why go up against any of those games if you don’t have to?
Besides, moving the game might not have even been a real possibility. Remember, college schedules are made months in advance. And, unlike the NFL, which has a flex system in place for this very reason, there is no built-in, automatic process for moving college games at the last minute.
Doing so would be a logistical nightmare not only for the ESPN crews, but also for the other schools that would be affected by such a late change, programs that have had their start time printed on all of their promotional materials and plans in place for several days — if not weeks — for how to operate on Saturday.
By keeping the KU-Baylor game at 11 a.m., the Big 12 Conference keeps the focus for basically the first half of a busy Saturday in college hoops on its top two teams.
GameDay being there plays a big role in that, of course. But when it comes to the rest of the country waking up to watch some college basketball, a marquee battle between two of the top-ranked teams in the country is about as good of a way to start a day of college hoops as I can think of. And the Big 12 is in position to take advantage of that.
Moving the game to a later time would just cut into the number of potential viewers and increase the odds that the conference’s ratings and exposure would be smaller.
I realize this isn’t an air-tight argument. Unless KU-Baylor is the only game on television at 11 a.m., there are always going to be some fans who would rather watch their teams play or watch other games and the Big 12 has to live with that.
But why put your conference’s game of the year up against the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world — teams that have enormous followings and even draw a fair number of people who tune in just to root against them — when you don’t have to?
The 11 a.m. tipoff might be a little early and it might not work for everybody — it also might be a little too closely associated with 11 a.m. football kickoffs for Kansas fans — but there’s not a more attractive game anywhere at that time of the day this Saturday, and there’s something to be said for being the conference that sets the table for a late-February afternoon of college basketball.
Listen below to our latest KU Sports Hour podcast, breaking down the KU-Baylor battle:
Marcus Morris has played all of three games and scored 33 points for the Los Angeles Clippers, yet the franchise is already treating him like a lifelong contributor.
Monday night, as Morris returned to Allen Fieldhouse to see his jersey raised into the rafters of the building in which he starred for three seasons in college, the Clippers sent a video team from L.A. to Lawrence to chronicle the night.
From following Morris and twin brother Markieff around throughout the night to talking with people in Lawrence and getting feedback from Kansas coach Bill Self, the crew treated Morris like he had been a part of the Clippers organization for years.
It would have been incredibly easy for them to say thanks but no thanks to the assignment. After all, the team just traded for him and had absolutely zero ties to him before Feb. 6. Beyond that, it would have been easy to simply say there just wasn’t enough time to get everything together in order to get a crew to Kansas for the memorable night for the Morris family. But none of that stopped them.
The timing certainly helped. The fact that it was close to All-Star weekend, with the Clippers having a few days off, certainly played a part in the video crew’s attendance.
But the gesture still surely meant a lot to Morris, who talked about his new team and opportunity before Monday’s win over Iowa State.
“I think it’s a chance for something special,” he said. “I’m happy. Just being able to compete for a championship, or even being in that position, I think is big for me and big for my career. I’m ready to get out there and be that missing piece that they were looking for.”
As expected, Self was thrilled to see the two former KU forwards and he marveled at how much they had grown and changed since leaving KU following the 2010-11 season.
“First of all, they both look great,” Self said. “I mean, they’re lean and they’ve both lost weight since they’ve been here even.”
As for the event itself, Self, who was in the locker room and did not see it, was equally pleased with how much the ceremony meant to the twins and how they treated their return.
“I asked Kieff how Marcus did and he said he was great,” Self said. “I asked Marcus how he did and he said, ‘Coach, I killed it.’ And then I asked him, I said, ‘Really, what was your motivation?’ He said they went back and watched all the other senior speeches. So that tells me how much it meant to them, and him, to come back and do that because that’s probably more studying than they’ve done in long time. But I was happy to see them and then they obviously had a lot of teammates that care about them come back, too. So it was pretty special to see those guys as husbands and parents.”
Here’s a quick look back at the short video of the night put together by the Clippers.
Third is still the word for the Kansas men’s basketball team.
When the latest poll was released on Monday morning, KU held onto its No. 3 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 for the fifth week in a row.
Baylor and Gonzaga remained in the top two spots ahead of the Jayhawks, with the Bears receiving 48 first-place votes, the Zags getting 14 and Kansas retaining the one first-place vote it has had throughout its stay at No. 3.
The Jayhawks and Bears are closing in on a Big 12 showdown at 11 a.m. Saturday in Waco, Texas, where the conference title and potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament could be on the line.
KU plays host to Iowa State tonight and Baylor plays at Oklahoma on Tuesday before the battle of Top 3 teams.
KU now has been ranked in 216 consecutive AP polls, bringing the Jayhawks closer to eclipsing UCLA’s all-time record of 221 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25.
The Jayhawks are 5-3 this season against the current Top 25, with wins over No. 5 Dayton, No. 17 West Virginia (twice), No. 18 Colorado and No. 23 BYU. KU's three losses all came to teams ranked in the Top 25 — No. 1 Baylor at home, No. 6 Duke in the season opener and at No. 12 Villanova.
IN AND OUT
BYU climbed into the poll at No. 23 after wins over Loyola Marymount and San Diego, and now faces Santa Clara on Thursday night before a showdown with the second-ranked Zags. The Cougars were followed by Arizona at No. 24 and Ohio State at No. 25, two teams that were in the poll earlier this season before dropping out.
Illinois plummeted out of the poll after losing to Michigan State and Rutgers. Texas Tech also dropped out along with LSU, which lost at Alabama during a brutal Saturday for the nation’s Top 25 teams.
CLIMBING AND FALLING
Creighton made the biggest leap this week, rising from No. 23 to 15th after beating then-No. 10 Seton Hall and DePaul. Penn State moved up four spots to crack the top 10 at No. 9, while Oregon climbed from No. 17 to 14 and Kentucky moved up two spots to round out the top 10.
Louisville’s weak week culminated in a drop of six places to No. 11, while Seton Hall also absorbed a pair of losses and fell to No. 16. West Virginia lost to Baylor and Kansas but was only penalized three places and remained No. 17.
There are some intriguing mid-major programs poised to enter the Top 25 if there’s another week of upsets. Stephen F. Austin quietly improved to 22-3 and is one of the first teams out, while Northern Iowa (22-4), Utah State (21-7) and Rhode Island (19-6) are getting plenty of love from voters as March begins to bear down on the college basketball season.
Here’s a look at this week’s complete AP Top 25:
1 – Baylor, 23-1, 1,559 (48)
2 – Gonzaga, 26-1, 1,518 (14)
3 – Kansas, 22-3, 1,434 (1)
4 – San Diego State, 26-0, 1,404
5 – Dayton, 23-2, 1,294
6 – Duke, 22-3, 1,285
7 – Maryland, 21-4, 1,194
8 – Florida State, 21-4, 1,088
9 – Penn State, 20-5, 1,024
10 – Kentucky, 20-5, 1,011
11 – Louisville, 21-5, 837
12 – Villanova, 19-6, 824
13 – Auburn, 22-3, 818
14 – Oregon, 20-6, 742
15 – Creighton, 20-6, 718
16 – Seton Hall, 19-5, 567
17 – West Virginia, 18-7, 552
18 – Colorado, 20-6, 501
19 – Marquette, 17-7, 404
20 – Iowa, 18-8, 254
21 – Butler, 19-7, 242
22 – Houston, 20-6, 237
23 – BYU, 21-7, 188
24 – Arizona, 18-7, 102
25 – Ohio State, 17-8, 95
Others receiving votes: Texas Tech 92, Michigan State 87, Michigan 83, LSU 55, Rhode Island 39, Virginia 32, Cincinnati 14, Stephen F. Austin 14, Illinois 12, Northern Iowa 9, Utah State 8, Rutgers 6, Florida 6, East Tennessee State 5, Saint Mary's 4, Tulsa 3, Richmond 3, SMU 2, New Mexico State 2, Wright State 1, Arizona State 1.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
According to the Kansas basketball Twitter account, the 1990s are making a comeback this weekend.
They're officially calling the movement "90s Retro," which makes this Class of 2000 college graduate, who capped off his high school career in 1996, feel more than a little old.
Each year, the KU basketball program picks a couple of games to wear different throwback uniforms. Sometimes the new duds are tied to an event like Black History Month. Other times, the alternate attire is the work of Adidas, which is using KU to roll out a new style, new look or new technology.
And other times, the powers that be within the program just want to get in on a good, old-fashioned throwback festival.
That appears to be what’s happening on Saturday.
The video clip associated with the Tweet showed highlights of former KU greats Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce and others, wearing the classic white Kansas uniforms that prominently featured both crimson and blue as part of the look.
Although Nike was KU’s apparel provider throughout the 1990s — KU agreed to switch to Adidas in 2005 — there’s no doubt that Adidas will be able to recreate the look in its image, complete with everything but the Swoosh.
Third-ranked Kansas, which sits one game behind unbeaten Baylor in the Big 12 standings, will take on Oklahoma at 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
With one game separating them in the loss column and the rest of the contenders saddled with at least four conference losses heading into the final seven or eight games of the regular season, the chase for the 2020 title appears to be down to Baylor and Kansas.
Makes sense, too, given the fact that both teams are ranked in the top three in the national polls and KenPom.com has both of them in the top four, with Kansas at No. 1 and Baylor at No. 4.
But even with the Big 12’s top two teams heading toward the home stretch with some serious separation between them and the rest of the conference, Kansas coach Bill Self believes it’s still too early to call it a two-team race.
“I don’t think we’re head and shoulders above everyone else,” Self said Monday. “Our records, give the appearance of that, but I don’t think there’s that much difference in the teams (at the top).”
Before you scoff at the Self’s suggestion that someone other than Baylor or Kansas could still win the Big 12 this season, consider that Self’s stance comes from experience.
“You’ve got what (seven) games to play and they’ve got a four-game lead on third place? That’s hard to come back from,” Self acknowledged. “But it has happened before. I think we were 10-0 my second year here in the league and ended up tying for the (title) at 12-4. So that kind of stuff can happen.”
Can is the key word there. And predicting it will is a much different ball game.
That’s partly because of the talent, depth and versatility with which the Bears and Jayhawks can play. But it’s also because of the lack of quality teams beyond the top four.
Some NCAA Tournament projections have had the Big 12 as a four-bid league, with KU, Baylor, West Virginia and Texas Tech being the only teams who currently appear to be in good standing with the selection committee.
The latest Bracketology update from ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has five Big 12 teams in the field of 68, with Oklahoma, as a 9 seed, joining the foursome listed above.
As Self pointed out this week, things could change and there are always “ebbs and flows” to any season. But with roughly a little more than weeks remaining between now and Selection Sunday, the teams at the middle of the pack are running out of time to build their resumes.
Even with that being the case, Self believes the bottom six or seven teams in the conference will have just as much say in how things play out as those types of teams do any year.
“I can see how people look at it saying it’s a two-team race,” he admitted. “But the other teams in our league will determine who the champion is still.”
Regardless of what happens below them, Self believes that Scott Drew’s Baylor team is in elite company.
“I think Baylor’s probably the best February 10th team that we’ve ever had in our league since I’ve been here,” Self said this week. “They’re better than (Texas) Tech was last year on February 10th. Oklahoma State would be the only other team I could compare them to and that was in 2004. Texas had a good run where they got out to a 10-0 start in league one year. But I think (Baylor) is the best team at this juncture.”
That OSU team went on to reach the Final Four. And that Texas team that Self mentioned actually ripped off 11 consecutive Big 12 wins to open the 2010-11 conference season before losing three of their next four games and finishing one game behind Kansas in the final Big 12 standings.
With just one head-to-head matchup with Baylor remaining on the schedule — Feb. 22 in Waco, Texas — Self is well aware of the fact that the Jayhawks are going to need a little help to get by Baylor and win the conference outright. And he also believes the Bears have put themselves in the best position possible through balanced offense and their stifling defense.
“The reality of it is, the league race isn’t over by any stretch,” Self said. “But Baylor is well in front of us, and well, well in front of everybody else. With us, we’re a game-and-a-half or two games out just because they’ve already won on our home court. … So I’m hopeful that somebody will play good against Baylor, including us, and give them something to really challenge them.”
Here’s a quick look at the remaining schedules for Baylor and Kansas:
Feb. 12 – at West Virginia
Feb. 15 – vs. Oklahoma
Feb. 17 – vs. Iowa State
Feb. 22 – at Baylor
Feb. 24 – vs. Oklahoma State
Feb. 29 – at Kansas State
March 4 – vs. TCU
March 7 – at Texas Tech
Feb. 15 – vs. West Virginia
Feb. 18 – at Oklahoma
Feb. 22 – vs. Kansas
Feb. 25 – vs. Kansas State
Feb. 29 – at TCU
March 2 – vs. Texas Tech
March 7 – at West Virginia
The Kansas men's basketball team has a stranglehold on the Big 12 Player of the Week honors.
For the third week in a row, the award has gone to a Jayhawk, with Udoka Azubuike winning this week's honor after back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Texas and TCU last week.
Azubuike, who also won the award two weeks ago, joins teammate Devon Dotson (Feb. 3) in helping Kansas sweep the conference's last three player of the week awards.
The two preseason all-Big 12 selections have now earned five of the 14 Big 12 POW awards this season, with Dotson earning the nod three times and Azubuike twice.
Azubuike posted back-to-back double-doubles with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Texas followed by 20 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks at TCU.
The senior center recorded 11 dunks on his 18 field goals, including nine of 10 at TCU.
Azubuike became the sixth Big 12 player in league history to post at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in a conference game with his performance against the Horned Frogs.
The 7-footer from Delta, Nigeria now has 10 double-doubles on the season, which is tied for the league lead, and his five in Big 12 play rank first.
Big 12 Men’s Basketball Weekly Honors 2019-20
Player of the Week
Nov. 11: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, G, So.
Nov. 18: Kristian Doolittle, Oklahoma, F, Sr.
Nov. 25: Jared Butler, Baylor, G, So.
Dec. 2: Devon Dotson, Kansas, G, So.
Dec. 9: Freddie Gillespie, Baylor, F, Sr.
Dec. 16: Devon Dotson, Kansas, G, So.
Dec. 23: Kristian Doolittle, Oklahoma, F, Sr.
Dec. 30: Cartier Diarra, K-State, G, Jr.
Jan. 6: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, G, So.
Jan. 13: Jared Butler, Baylor, G, So.
Jan. 20: Kyler Edwards, Texas Tech, G, So.
Jan. 27: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas, C, Sr.
Feb. 3: Devon Dotson, Kansas, G, So.
Feb. 10: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas, C, Sr.
Newcomer of the Week
Nov. 11: TJ Holyfield, Texas Tech, F, Sr.
Nov. 18: Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia, F, Fr.
Nov. 25: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech, G, Fr.
Dec. 2: Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia, F, Fr.
Dec. 9: Rasir Bolton, Iowa State, G, So.
Dec. 16: Terrence Shannon, Jr., Texas Tech, G, Fr.
Dec. 23: Chris Clarke, Texas Tech, F, Sr.
Dec. 30: Miles McBride, West Virginia, G, Fr.
Jan. 6: Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia, F, Fr.
Jan. 13: MaCio Teague, Baylor, G, Jr. and Miles McBride, West Virginia, G, Fr.
Jan. 20: Isaiah Moss, Kansas, G, Sr.
Jan. 27: Rasir Bolton, Iowa State, G, So.
Feb. 3: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech, G, Fr.
Feb. 10: MaCio Teague, Baylor, G, Jr.
Sophomore guard Devon Dotson on Monday was named the Big 12 player of the week for the third time this season.
Dotson’s 21-point performance in a home win over Texas Tech was the highlight of the point guard’s week and he entered this week still on top of the Big 12 Conference’s scoring leaders list at 18.2 points per game.
The Charlotte native who averaged 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists last week, has scored 20 or more points in a game seven times this season.
Monday marked the fourth time this season that a Kansas player had earned the weekly award. Dotson has done it three times (Dec. 2, Dec. 16 and Feb. 3) and center Udoka Azubuike was the recipient on Jan. 27.
KU senior Isaiah Moss also has been honored by the Big 12’s weekly awards, earning newcomer of the week honors on Jan. 12.
Also on Monday, Dotson was named as one of 10 finalists for the annual Bob Cousy Award, given out to the best point guard in college basketball.
He joins Baylor's Jared Butler, Colorado's McKinley Wright IV, Duke's Tre Jones, Iowa State's Tyrese Halliburton, Kentucky's Ashton Hagans, Marquette's Markus Howard, Michigan State's Cassius Winston, Oregon's Payton Pritchard and San Diego State's Malachi Flynn on the list of 10 Cousy Award finalists.