More than an hour after Kansas’ 86-67 victory over TCU on Wednesday, guard Frank Mason turned toward the locker room before a request stopped him.
“Can my daughter get a picture with the best backcourt in the country?” a man in a KU shirt said.
Mason nodded before turning back to look for teammate Devonté Graham. He was hard to miss, smiling wide a few feet away while extending a stranger’s cell phone to take a selfie with three other college students.
With only a couple of hours left on his 22nd birthday, Graham didn’t seem to be in a rush. With a white “13 straight” cap tucked over his hair, the KU guard continued down the line of fans after earlier posting 17 points with seven assists.
Two days earlier, he predicted on Twitter it was going to be “a great week.” He was right.
“I’m glad we could get the win on my birthday,” Graham said. “Just being around these guys, being around all the fans and then winning 13 straight, I couldn’t ask for a better day.”
With that, the streak continues. KU won the Big 12 for a 13th straight year — a feat that remains difficult to put into perspective.
Here’s my best shot. Let’s assume the Jayhawks had a 50 percent chance of winning the Big 12 each of the last 13 seasons — a number that seems too optimistic given the strength and number of teams in the league, but again, let’s go with it. Even starting with that, KU would essentially have to flip a coin 13 times and have it hit heads every single time.
The odds of that happening? One in 8,192.
It’s safe to say this feat will never be accomplished again in Power Five conference basketball.
Another way to reflect on The Streak? Take a look back at video from the year it started.
Of note: SBC was one of KU’s sponsors. That company has folded into AT&T.
There were no pregame videos at Allen Fieldhouse then … because videoboards had not yet been installed above the court.
The three-point line was 19 feet, 9 inches. The Jayhawk at midcourt didn’t have Trajan font for its “KU.” Jim Wooldridge was coaching Kansas State — and that wasn’t even his last year.
One can understand the stress of trying to continue a historic run that has continued this long.
“We’re happy that we won it, but we can’t get complacent and just think it’s over now,” Graham said. “We’ve still got a lot more.”
That would be the upcoming NCAA Tournament, and the level of confidence in this team likely depends on one’s world view.
KU doesn’t appear as dominant statistically as years past. It hasn’t overwhelmed opponents frequently, partly because of a defense that lags behind previous Bill Self squads.
That’s the glass-half-empty view. But if one believes in destiny — in sports sometimes creating storybook endings — it’s easy to see this playing out a different way.
KU has beaten good teams. It has the likely national player of the year in Mason. It is 11-2 in games decided by 10 points or fewer this year with a roster that seems to always play its best in crunch time.
And it also has one more birthday to observe.
Eventually, Graham made his way over to Mason outside KU’s locker room, “the best backcourt in the nation” smiling for a photo behind a young girl. The two guards were the same age for the first time in a while.
Graham celebrated his birthday Wednesday with a conference title, while Mason will be 23 on April 3.
The dates match up perfectly for the 2016-17 Jayhawks.
One birthday championship down. One still to go.