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14: A Nostalgic Look Back at the Kansas Jayhawks Historic Big 12 Streak (part 1)

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

By: Chris O'Brien

For Mombo and Poppo

Two lovebirds who met at the University of Kansas all those years ago

and created one big family of crazy Jayhawks fans. 

Quick note on the text - This story bounces back and forth from the final year of the streak (2017-18) to all the years that came before it. There's kind of a Godfather 2 vibe going on. Until Part 3 which only focuses on the 2021-22 season.

Also, I use the term "We" when talking about the Jayhawks as if I played for the team (or even went to the school... that's a whole other story). Die-hard KU fans will be familiar with this way of speaking/writing about OUR team.

Alright. That's all. Enjoy and Rock Chalk!

Chapter 1 - From Roy Williams to Bill Self

The wound was still fresh. 

Roy Williams left the University of Kansas for North Carolina.

Die-hard Kansas fans -- and there's really no other kind -- still recall that emotional post-game interview after the 2003 National Championship loss to Syracuse. It seems foolishly optimistic now, but we thought maybe, just maybe, Roy didn't give a sh!t about North Carolina.

But, a few weeks later, Roy left for his alma mater. A coach leaving Kansas for another school? This was unheard of! It was a feeling of rejection we weren't familiar with.

Because basketball, the game itself, has roots in Lawrence, Kansas. And I mean that literally. The inventor of basketball (Dr. James Naismith) was the Jayhawks' very first basketball coach in 1898, six years after he penned the official rules of the game. Funny enough, he's also the only Kansas coach with a losing record. Talk about beating someone at their own game!

I'm not denying North Carolina has a rich basketball history of its own, but their history ultimately branches off the Kansas basketball tree. Dean Smith, the Godfather of Tar Heels basketball, the man who coached Michael Jordan, played for Phog Allen at KU. Smith was part of the 1952 National Championship team.

The story of basketball reads like the book of Genesis. Instead of going from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, it goes from Naismith to Phog Allen to Dean Smith to Larry Brown and Roy Williams. All of this to say, it wasn't crazy for Roy to leave Kansas for North Carolina, it just felt like he was heading east of basketball's Eden.

Shocked, angry, upset, however we were feeling, it was time to let go of the past and embrace the Bill Self era. Prior to taking the head coaching job, Self already had ties back to Kansas. He was an assistant coach on Larry Brown's staff in 1985.

To Self's credit, he couldn't have delivered a better opening press conference.

"Woke up this morning, and I'm driving to the office and I, on purpose, drove up on Naismith Drive. I've always thought, 'How cool would it be to office on Naismith Drive?' And now it actually gets to happen."

We needed to hear a coach gush like that over the tradition in Lawrence, Kansas. Needed to hear how we were the ultimate basketball destination because, for the first time in our iconic basketball history, we'd been dumped. Like a high schooler going through their very first breakup, this whole thing was unfamiliar to us.

Self got off to a great start. Took the Jayhawks to the Elite 8 in 2004. What made it even sweeter - Roy Williams' Tar Heels were already sent home, lost in the second round. Not like we were obsessively checking our Ex's Facebook page or anything like that...

In 2004-2005, we looked at our roster and things couldn't be better. Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles all coming back for their senior seasons. Those guys had already gone to two Final Fours. Wayne had a legitimate shot at the National Player of the Year. This was an experienced group of guys.

Maybe this was our year...

Photo from Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo. Included in this story.

Plus, Self was already showing promise as an elite recruiter. We added freshmen Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, and Russell Robinson.

How fitting that the team who started this streak of 14 Big 12 conference titles in a row began their season 14-0. We had a *minor* hiccup against Villanova (minor is generous. This was almost a 30-pt loss) followed by a six-game winning streak. Hard to start much better than 20-1.

On February 28th, 2005, the Oklahoma State Cowboys came into Allen Fieldhouse. We were No. 8 in the AP Poll; they were No. 4. Oklahoma State had made the Final Four the year before, and barely lost to Georgia Tech. The Cowboys were still loaded. They had a Big Three of their own with Joey Graham, John Lucas III, and JamesOn Curry.

There was also the connection between Bill Self and Oklahoma State. Ok State was Self's alma mater. He played for the Cowboys and served as an assistant coach for 8 seasons, learning the craft from one of the greats, Eddie Sutton

This game was the unofficial Big 12 Championship. Both teams were 10-3 in