Updated: Mar 18, 2020
By: Chris O'Brien
This is a historical look back at the 14-year streak of Big 12 conference titles. The format bounces back and forth from closely monitoring the 2017-18 season (the final year of the streak) to chronicling all of the seasons and players that came before and made the streak what it was. The streak in total may have been perfect, but every season had its share of ups and downs. I highly recommend starting with Part 1 before diving here into Part 2.
The Sprint Center isn't technically our homecourt. But it's pretty damn close.
Any game KU plays in Kansas City is in front of a crowd consisting of around 90-95 percent KU fans. And, as we know from decades of experience, Kansas doesn't lose at home.
And yet there we were losing again in the Sprint Center. Let's run through the recent list. Oregon in the Elite Eight the year before. TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Now Washington this year. Washington??
An unranked Washington team who wasn't even predicted to finish Top Five in the Pac 12. Their zone defense shut down our three-point shooting, holding our guys to 5-of-20 from behind the arc. Graham finished with just three points, Svi with eight.
Maybe the Sprint Center should be viewed like a road game. Especially Graham, that place is his kryptonite.
I tried to justify it. I remember in high school there was one gym that I played horribly in, every single time. It turned me into the guys in Space Jam after the aliens took their talent. And, honestly, it wasn’t a bad thing because I could superstitiously rationalize, “Well, as long as I’m not playing in that gym, I’ll be fine.” Maybe Graham could do the same with the Sprint Center?
All I know is we need this Preston situation worked out. Fast. Without him, I don't know if we can keep this streak alive.
2008-09: Rebuilding, Bill Self style
This was an unfamiliar feeling as a KU fan. A season with no pressure. Playing with house money.
I mean, come on, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur, Russell Robinson were all gone. We lost five NBA players. Plus it took 20 years in between banners the last time, winning back-to-back wasn't even on the mind. This would be a rebuild. Get to the tourney, maybe a Sweet 16 berth, that's good enough for me.
Sherron Collins (junior) and Cole Aldrich (sophomore) were now the veterans of the team. They were joined by a powerful recruiting class: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor.
KU started 11-4 in non-conference play, falling out of the Top 25. But then the Jayhawks rallied off eight in a row in the Big 12. Finished 14-2 in conference, No. 9 in the AP poll.
Kansas landed a No. 3 seed and made a run to the Sweet 16. Self's squad put up a good fight against Michigan State, a team that went on to be national runner-up with a star freshman named Draymond Green.
So much for a rebuilding year. We still won the Big 12 outright, landed a top-three seed. This theme would continue, with Bill Self there are no down years.
The Jayhawks could bounce back from the disappointing loss to Washington with a win over another Pac 12 opponent. Arizona State was off to a great start, undefeated, already a win over a top-tier Xavier squad.
ASU was good but they were good through their guard play, not big men. We should be able to handle that. This was a chance to notch a quality out of conference win to pair with wins over Kentucky and Syracuse.
But Kansas couldn't guard at all. We gave up 58 second-half points on our HOME floor! Can't blame it on the Sprint Center. The Sun Devils pulled off the 95-85 win. We were ranked No. 2 at the time, the Washington loss was earlier in the week so hadn't hit the voting yet. But after this week of disastrous PAC 12 speed dating, we didn't even look like a Top 25 team.
This loss had me worried because, obviously, the size of teams like Michigan State, Arizona, or Duke would be a problem for us, but I assumed we could handle elite guards. Apparently, this wasn't the case. So now add Villanova and Xavier - both with great guard play - to the list of teams I don't think we could beat.
And sure, that's the big picture, me dreaming of Final Fours. But this year, there was a lot to fear in the conference. The defensive pressure of West Virginia and this rising star Trae Young over at Oklahoma. The Big 12 title felt like it was beginning to slip away and we were not even in conference play.
After the Washington game, and a couple days before the Arizona State game, I read a story by Gary Bedore titled, “Bill Self visits granddaughter in Texas, prepares for KU game against Arizona State.”
Did the granddaughter visit soften him up? Make him feel warm and fuzzy about his team? Not at all.
“You are replacing Frank with somebody not near as competitive as Frank (Devonte Graham). You are replacing Josh with someone not near as competitive as Josh (Lagerald Vick). And you are replacing Landen with somebody who doesn’t know how to be competitive yet (Udoka). Those aren’t negatives. Those are just facts. We had 2 1/2 dogs last year. Landen was close to being a full one.”
(quote from Bedore story)
Or how about:
“You look at personality and whatnot, we’ve got some really nice young men. I don’t know that anybody, first thing they said after playing Frank or Josh was, ‘Those are some nice young men.’ I don’t think that’s what they said normally. I think that’s probably how other people look at us now,” Self said.
(quote from Bedore story)
2009-10 Sherron's Senior Season
What a season!
Started No. 1 in the pre-season polls, held onto that top spot for 14 games. All the way to January 10th when we lost at Tennessee.
And talk about milestones. Bill Self wins his 400th career game. He hit his 200th win at Kansas, the fastest coach in KU history to do so. The Jayhawks won their sixth straight Big 12 title, a "feat that hadn't been accomplished in a BCS conference since John Wooden's UCLA Bruins."
Which is incredible, but man, if we only knew this streak wasn't even halfway through...
The season was filled with individual achievements. Sherron Collins set the record for winningest Jayhawk in a four-year span. Cole Aldrich broke Greg Ostertag's record for blocks in a season.
Or how about beating Kansas State three times! This was Kansas State's best season, they finished Number 7 in the AP Poll but we remained the big brother. We finished even better than our record in '07-08, at 32-2 overall, 15-1 in conference play. Landed the Number 1 overall seed.
Only took us two games to lose our first Big 12 matchup. The second loss in the Phog. Texas Tech dominated the game from start to finish, winning 85-73. Add Texas Tech to the list of teams that might end the streak.
On the season, Kansas shoots something like 40 percent of their total shots from three. It’s kind of like the college version of the Houston Rockets. It’s sporadic to watch; it leads to significant droughts during games followed by these crazy fast rallies where Kansas scores 10 – 15 points in a couple of minutes.
And it can work as a core strategy IF there are other components to the offense. For example, look at last year. Graham and Svi spent a lot of time behind the 3-pt line but it was balanced out by Mason getting to the rim, Jackson getting to the rim. When guys went cold, the offense didn’t come to a screeching halt.
But this year, I was shocked to see (at the time of the Texas Tech game) that Kansas was dead last in ALL of college basketball in free throw attempts. That’s ridiculous. I looked it up and the teams around us on that list were Colgate, Holy Cross, Western Illinois.
Colgate?! We’re shooting less free throws than a brand of toothpaste??
And yeah, sure, we don’t have size, but lack of free throws, to me, is a sign that our guys are playing way too soft. Free throws would also be a chance for a thin depth chart to get some breaks during a game. Catch their breath. There is no reason our total number of attempts per game should be just 12 or 13.
2010-11: Lucky Number 7
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