Bill Self sees this as another test of his team’s toughness.
Every year, the Kansas men’s basketball coach centers most of his regular-season attention on his team winning a Big 12 title.
That leaves the Jayhawks in an awkward spot after overachieving. KU, which will visit No. 25 Texas at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN, already has clinched a share of the league crown with two games remaining.
“Now my concern is making sure we stay hungry,” Self said, “because when you put such an emphasis on, ‘This is our goal,’ then when you accomplish the goal, are you still hungry to keep moving forward? The great teams do (that).”
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It takes some squinting, but with enough effort, one can make out reasons for KU to be motivated Monday.
For one, the Jayhawks still haven’t won the league championship outright. Although Self says he would have been happy with a share of the title before the year began, the competitive part of him wants to finish the deal.
Not only that, he doesn’t like the thought of any other Big 12 teams being able to deliver recruiting mailouts stating they also are conference champs.
“After you’re guaranteed a piece,” Self said, “you want to be the only one that does it.”
West Virginia remains as the only team with a shot to catch KU, sitting two games back of the Jayhawks with two remaining.
“If we drop these two games and something crazy happens, it wouldn’t be as sweet,” KU forward Jamari Traylor said. “We just want to win it outright.”
KU also should have a shiny new number next to its name this week. Following Villanova’s road loss to Xavier, the Jayhawks should move up to No. 1 in both national polls.
“I feel like we deserve it,” Traylor said. “I feel like we’ve worked pretty hard. But it’s not the most important thing. We’ve still got a couple more games left in Big 12 play. We want to win those.”
KU’s last move to No. 1 was a short one; the Jayhawks ascended to the top spot on Jan. 11 before losing to West Virginia the next day.
Texas has played well as of late, winning three of its last four games, which includes home victories over No. 14 West Virginia and No. 3 Oklahoma.
“Certainly we’re going to have to play better than what we played this past week to win,” Self said. “Hopefully we’ll get our batteries recharged and do that.”
KU, which has won nine straight, appears to be nearly locked in as an NCAA Tournament 1 seed with a week left in the regular season.
Self says he won’t be treating this game any differently, as KU still has incentive to win games.
“This isn’t like NFL football where you rest your starters last game,” Self said. “We’re playing for seeds. We’re playing for a lot of stuff. We want to continue to play well.”