For Pete's Sake

‘Same as it ever was.’ What experts are saying about KU’s chances to win Big 12

Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham and Marcus Garrett celebrated on Monday night.
Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham and Marcus Garrett celebrated on Monday night. The Associated Press

The Big 12 men’s basketball standings show just one team in first place: Kansas.

The Jayhawks won 71-66 at West Virginia on Monday night and broke a four-way tie for the top spot in the Big 12 Conference.

KU is attempting to win a 14th straight conference title, and here is what people who cover college basketball are saying about the Jayhawks’ chances:

▪ Kyle Boone of CBS Sports wrote: “So after a rocky 1-1 start in conference play that saw Kansas fall at home to Texas Tech, it’s the Jayhawks — better known as winners of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles — who sit alone atop the Big 12 standings after breaking the four-way tie shared among Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia entering Monday.

“And once again, like clockwork, it’s Kansas that appears to be the team to beat in the Big 12.”

▪  Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports wrote: “Kansas is unusually flawed, a good yet hardly dominant team with no surefire first-round draft picks, few shot creators and minimal interior depth. The Jayhawks have already lost twice at home this year, unheard of under Bill Self, and dropped another game against a middling Washington team in nearby Kansas City.

“The Big 12 is also unusually stacked with four teams in the KenPom top 15, eight in the top 50 and all 10 in the top 100. Oklahoma boasts the nation’s leading scorer Trae Young and a potent supporting cast, West Virginia features senior guards and its usual harassing press and Texas Tech counters with a dynamic backcourt and one of college basketball’s elite defenses. ...

“Now Kansas has a road win that for awhile it didn’t look like the Jayhawks would get, something that could easily make a difference come March between claiming a share of the league title and finishing in second or third place.

“Kansas may be flawed and the Big 12 may be loaded, but the Jayhawks will go to sleep tonight alone in first place. Same as it ever was.”

▪  Travis Hines of NBC Sports wrote: “The Big 12 is unmerciful this season. Texas Tech already has a win at Allen Fieldhouse, Trae Young has gone full supernova and even the league’s bottom tier looks like tough outs. Kansas faces a major test, and they’ll do so without a roster that compares to some of the powerhouses Self has assembled. The Jayhawks have often been able to win just by delivering broad strokes. They were bigger, faster, stronger and, simply, better. When they coupled that with a mastery of the finer points of the game, they dominated.

“If The Streak is going to reach 14, it won’t be with that blueprint. The grittier parts of the game are going to have to come to the forefront. Outlasting West Virginia in Morgantown while shooting 44 percent and facing double-digit deficits would suggest the Jayhawks have the toughness and ability to make clutch plays that can paper over other issues.

Kansas isn’t going to overwhelm the Big 12 this year. They still very well could win it.”

▪ Doug Gottleib of Fox Sports tweeted after KU’s win: “KU gonna win this damn league again.”

▪ ESPN’s Dick Vitale said the Big 12 will go through KU (I think). He tweeted: “Hey just like the ‪@SEC goes thru Lexington the ‪@Big12 will once again tgu Lawrebarrrr”

Vitale followed that by tweeting: “The ‪@SEC is the most improved conference but u still must go thru Lexington & BBN / also once again u must go thru Lawrence as tonight’sRock Chalk W over West Virginia was major!”

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham spoke to reporters following the Jayhawks’ 71-66 victory over West Virginia on Jan. 15, 2018.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff