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Bill Self used to look ahead at the Big 12 schedule; not any longer

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Kansas head coach Bill Self has words with an official during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self has words with an official during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Human nature used to lead Bill Self to look ahead — at least for a little peek — when it came to Big 12 play.

Of course the Jayhawks’ head basketball coach and his staff prepared their players as if the next game on the schedule was the only one left. But Self inevitably found himself thinking three steps ahead, as well.

An expert at winning conference championships, Self simply got in the habit of mapping out the exact route Kansas needed to navigate in order to win its next league title.

Until this year.

Self revealed a shift in his philosophy shortly after his Jayhawks eked out a one-point home victory over rival Kansas State this past Saturday. The coach said at the time he knew KU’s next game would be at West Virginia and the following matchup would be with Baylor, at Allen Fieldhouse.

“And I have no idea after that,” Self claimed.

The coach’s disclosure spoke to the turbulent nature of the Big 12 this year, when no outcome can be assumed and even a victory over one of the league’s lesser teams is valued more than ever before.

Texas Tech was humming along, before losing, 67-58, at Texas on Wednesday night — a loss that provided KU (15-3 overall, 5-1 Big 12) a one-game lead and sole possession of first place headed into this weekend.

The Red Raiders (15-3, 4-2) are now in a three-way tie with West Virginia and Oklahoma for second place a third of the way through conference action. Often over the first couple of weeks of league play, Texas Tech won convincingly, with three Big 12 victories by double digits — including one in Lawrence. Even so, the Red Raiders haven’t been invincible. Tech lost by 10 at Oklahoma just over a week before their road setback at UT.

Sure, Kansas is off to a 5-1 start in the ruthless league, but none of its wins have been by more than six points. And Self predicted bluntly before the start of league play that KU would lose back-to-back games at some point between now and the end of the regular season.

The high-scoring Sooners already have topped 90 points three times against Big 12 competition, but currently sit a game behind KU in the standings after their trip to Kansas State this week ended with a 22-point defeat.

Four of West Virginia’s six league games have been decided by six or fewer points, including both of its losses, consecutive setbacks at Texas Tech, 72-71, and to Kansas, 71-66.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) tosses a pass under Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter (2) tosses a pass under Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

The conference’s new reality has forced Self, the man who has guided 13 Kansas teams in a row to regular-season titles, to be a little less forward-thinking in terms of the calendar. In past years, he would study KU’s schedule and always know the identity of the Jayhawks’ challengers during an upcoming two-week span.

“‘These are our next four’ or whatever,” he explained. “I haven’t done that at all.”

His players, Self insisted, have “no idea” on one Saturday who they will be playing seven days from then.

“It’s just what’s in front of us,” Self said. “And it’s not a knock to anybody (upcoming foes), because they’re not looking ahead at all. They’re not at all.”

The 10th-ranked Jayhawks (15-3 overall, 5-1 Big 12) must know that after Saturday’s home matchup with Baylor (12-6, 2-4) they have another massive road game this coming Tuesday, at No. 4 Oklahoma (14-3, 4-2). But, to Self’s point, thinking ahead any further than that is only safe for fans and observers; not those actively trying to win the league.

Because we’re not in the same boat as Self and his players, here’s a rundown of the next four league games (plus the Big 12/SEC Challenge matchups) for each of the conference’s top four teams, all of which seem capable of winning the Big 12 crown this year.

No. 10 Kansas (15-3 overall, 5-1 Big 12)

  • Saturday vs. Baylor

  • Tuesday at No. 4 Oklahoma

  • Jan. 27 vs. Texas A&M

  • Jan. 29 at Kansas State

  • Feb. 3 vs. Oklahoma State

No. 4 Oklahoma (14-3, 4-2)

  • Saturday at Oklahoma State

  • Tuesday vs. No. 10 Kansas

  • Jan. 27 at Alabama

  • Jan. 30 vs. Baylor

  • Feb. 3 at Texas

No. 8 Texas Tech (15-3, 4-2)

  • Saturday at Iowa State

  • Tuesday vs. Oklahoma State

  • Jan. 27 at South Carolina

  • Jan. 31 vs. Texas

  • Feb. 3 at No. 24 TCU

No. 6 West Virginia (15-3, 4-2)

  • Saturday vs. Texas

  • Monday at No. 24 TCU

  • Jan. 27 vs. No. 18 Kentucky

  • Jan. 31 at Iowa State

  • Feb. 3 vs. Kansas State

Comments

Dave Miller 4 years, 7 months ago

I was at a local coffee shop today and the discussion turned to KU, the Big 12, and if the Jayhawks could make history and win at least a portion of the conference this season. We cussed and discussed the season so far and agreed on one thing: This season is a dog fight, a horse race, and a grudge cage match all rolled into one. No team is coming out of this season without being "bloodied" in the process.

Roger Ortega 4 years, 6 months ago

to me it looks like tech has the "easiest" of the next 4 conference games. Lookin forward to UK vs WVU though!

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