In an interesting scheduling twist, the Big 12’s second-place basketball team, Kansas, plays its next two games at home, while first-place Texas Tech has a pair of contests on the road.
“We are still in a situation we are not in a great position at all,” KU coach Bill Self said after Tuesday’s 83-77 road victory over Iowa State kept the Jayhawks (20-6, 9-4) a game behind Texas Tech (22-4, 10-3), an 88-78 home winner over Oklahoma.
West Virginia, which will meet KU in a 5 p.m. tipoff Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, has sole possession of third place at 8-5 in the league and is 19-7 overall. Oklahoma, which visits KU on Monday for an 8 p.m. game, is tied for fifth at 6-7, a game behind Kansas State (7-6).
Texas Tech will travel to Baylor on Saturday and Oklahoma State on Wednesday, before playing host to KU a week from Saturday.
“Our home games are monster games. Then the road games are obviously really hard,” Self said. His squad is going for a 14th consecutive Big 12 crown, which would be the most league titles in a row of any team in NCAA history. KU is currently tied with UCLA (1967-79) at 13.
“The next three games will probably determine the league. It doesn’t guarantee anything,” Self quickly added, “(but) West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech … you have a chance to do some special things if you are able to have a great eight days. Certainly it will take us playing a lot better, a lot tougher, a lot smarter. It certainly helps to win this game (Iowa State) to kind of get our heads right.”
KU entered Tuesday’s game at Iowa State having lost two of its previous three contests.
“We’ve got to do our best work of the year at home Saturday and Monday, then we’ve got to go play our best game of the year on the road the following Saturday,” Self said. “That’s the way it should be to compete for a championship. You’ve got to go through things like that.”
By the way, in Tech’s final two games, the Red Raiders will travel to West Virginia on Feb. 26 and meet TCU at home on March 3. KU will meet Texas in a Senior Night game on Feb. 26 at Allen Fieldhouse then travel to Oklahoma State on March 3.
In the final analysis, Self would prefer his players concentrate on the task at hand against the Mountaineers.
“This was a step in the right direction,” he said of the Iowa State win. “We don’t need to think about anything but West Virginia, attacking their pressure and certainly keeping those guys off the glass.”
KU beat West Virginia 71-66 on Jan. 15 in Morgantown, W.Va.
Graham on Naismith list
KU senior Devonté Graham is one of 30 players selected to the Citizen Naismith Trophy Late-Season Team, which represents the country’s top candidates for college player of the year.
Other Big 12 players on the list: Mohamed Bamba, Texas; Jevon Carter, West Virginia; Keenan Evans, Texas Tech; and Trae Young, Oklahoma.
The list will be reduced to 10 national semifinalists on Feb. 28, then four finalists will be revealed in mid-March. The Citizen Naismith Trophy Player of the Year will be announced on April 1 during the Final Four.
Self visiting Langford
Self on Monday was scheduled to visit Romeo Langford, a 6-4 senior shooting guard from New Albany (Ind.) High, who is ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com.
Langford, has a final list of KU, Vanderbilt and Indiana. Langford will visit Vanderbilt on Saturday for its game against Florida, Zagsblog.com says.
“We like coach Self as a coach and we also like the program. We like their staff,” Langford’s dad, Tim, told Zagsblog.com. “He already mentioned that they were going to try to get those two guys (guard signees Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes). They finally got Grimes. He was talking about doing a three-way offense for his guards and having Romeo, Grimes and Dotson take the ball up and down the court, so we don’t see any problem with that.”