Because the opponent is Oklahoma State, Kansas’ quest for a ninth straight Big 12 championship will seem opened ended or book ended after Wednesday.
The Jayhawks, Cowboys and Kansas State are tangled at the top of the standing, and a victory in Stillwater would give Kansas a huge leg up in the race.
But a loss would make the climb steep for the Jayhawks, who would have dropped the season series to the Cowboys. A regular season sweep hasn’t happened to KU since 2001, when Iowa State turned the trick.
And if Oklahoma State goes on to win the outright Big 12 title, will be the first time somebody other than Kansas won or shared it since 2004 – when the Cowboys last won a conference crown.
The Jayhawks’ league title streak started the next year, and a late season conquest of Oklahoma State proved to be the flag-planting moment.
Kansas, which had been ranked No. 1 earlier in the year, rode a three-game losing streak into the game. The Cowboys of Joey Graham and John Lucas were ranked fourth, KU 8th. In a wild and superbly played game on a Sunday afternoon, the Jayhawks prevailed 81-79 when Lucas’ open three-point look at the end fell just short.
“It was an unbelievable game,” said Bill Self, the Oklahoma State grad in his second year as Kansas’ coach.
The Jayhawks not only put themselves in the driver’s seat for the first of eight straight (this one was shared with Oklahoma), senior star Wayne Simien cemented his All-America and conference player of the year status with a career-best 32 points with 12 rebounds. Entering the game, Big 12 player of the year was up for grabs between Simien and Graham.
Just as it might be this year between Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and Kansas guard Ben McLemore. Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder is also part of the conversation.
In 2005, the game, the honors and the championship fell to Kansas and the remarkable streak had started. On Wednesday, the run faces one of its most difficult challenges.
• “They’re very young. We’re treading new water. It wasn’t like a postgame tirade. That’s not what this was. This was during the game that we were talking about guys gotta listen better.” —Kentucky Coach John Calipari, explaining his post-game comments Saturday about some of his players being “uncoachable.”
• “It’s never over until it’s over.” —Texas Coach Rick Barnes on what’s left this season for the Longhorns, who could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Barnes’ 15 years in Austin.
Double bonus top 10
|School (prev. rank)||Overall||Conf.||Last week|
|3.Kansas State (3)||20-5||9-3||1-1|
|4.Oklahoma State (5)||19-5||9-3||2-0|
|7.Iowa State (8)||17-8||7-5||1-1|
|9. Alabama (NR)||17-8||9-3||2-0|
|10. Mississippi (7)||19-6||8-4||1-1|
Projected NCAA Tournament top-four seeds
Heading into Monday night’s games
|Midwest Region||East Region||South Region||West Region|
|Seed||Indianapolis||Washington, D.C.||Arlington, Texas||Los Angeles|
|1.||Indiana (Dayton, Ohio)||Miami, Fla (Lexington, Ky.)||Michigan State (Auburn Hills, Mich.)||Duke (Philadelphia)|
|2.||Syracuse (Philadelphia)||Michigan (Auburn Hills, Mich.)||Florida (Lexington, Ky.)||Gonzaga (Salt Lake City)|
|3.||Kansas (Sprint Center)||Louisville (Sprint Center)||Georgetown (Austin, Texas)||Arizona (Salt Lake City)|
|4.||Butler (Dayton, Ohio)||Kansas State (San Jose)||New Mexico (Austin)||Wisconsin (San Jose)|