The streak is over.
Bill Self’s first Big 12 championship came in his second season in Lawrence, back in 2004-05. The Jayhawks split the title with Oklahoma that season, the first of four shared titles during the 14-year streak. With Texas Tech and Kansas State both guaranteed to finish ahead of the Jayhawks, this will be the worst finish for Self since his arrival at Kansas in 2003. In his first season at the helm, Kansas finished tied for second place, two games back of Oklahoma State.
Self kept the end of the streak in perspective.
“I haven’t talked the streak with the team very much — talked of the streak [with them],” Self said. “But it’s pretty cool that, at least from our perspective, that we’ve hung in there for a pretty substantial amount of time, and we’ve taken most people’s best shots most every night and everything, and we’ve had teams that were tough enough, able to combat that — and talented enough to, ’cause you can’t do it without talent. And we’ve certainly had our fair share of talent, and we have talent now; it’s just young talent. But it’s great.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew, who arrived in the Big 12 the same year as Self, told ESPN on Tuesday night that the sheer consistency amid all the turnover in college basketball is the most impressive aspect to Kansas’ reign atop the league.
“You have transfers, guys going to the NBA, injuries, and they’ve been able to win 14 in a row with that happening,” Drew said. “That’s a streak in the Power 5 that will never be broken.”
Kansas was picked No. 1 in the country in the preseason and was the overwhelming favorite to win its 15th straight title. But inconsistency away from home along with a season-ending injury to center Udoka Azubuike in January and a leave of absence by starting guard Lagerald Vick in February meant the Jayhawks had work to do down the stretch in order to keep the streak going. However, Kansas finished just 3-6 on the road in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks’ worst record away from home since Self took over.
Self said the one thing that will bother him is if people blame the current team for the end of the streak.
“I don’t like the fact that this team will feel they’re the ones that let it down, and there’ll be a lot of players from the last 14 years look(ing) at this team as a team that broke what they started or whatnot. And I don’t think that’s fair either,” Self said. “I think that a coach, better than anybody, knows the potential and the ceiling for each and every team. And for us to be 22-8 right now, even though we’ve had some pretty bad losses on the road, I don’t think is anything for this team to hang their hat on, considering the stuff they’ve gone through.”
With Texas Tech winning eight in a row and Kansas State starting Big 12 play with nine wins in 11 games, the Jayhawks simply couldn’t keep up. After those two teams won on Monday, Kansas needed to win its final two games and have both the Red Raiders and Wildcats lose this weekend.
Oklahoma ended those hopes on Tuesday night, though, in a game that was never really competitive. The Sooners jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first four and a half minutes, and Kansas would cut it to single digits for only 19 seconds the rest of the game.
Kansas shot 40.9 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from 3-point range, turning the ball over 15 times.
The Jayhawks (22-8, 11-6 in the Big 12) finish the regular season at home against Baylor on Saturday.