January 09, 2015

(AP) - The championships could easily blend together, one right into the next, each one special but none of them rising above the rest during Kansas' remarkable string of Big 12 titles.

Instead, No. 12 may trump all others.

That's the opinion of coach Bill Self, who has presided over all of them, and it's rooted in this logic: Never before has the league featured so many elite teams. And if the second-ranked Jayhawks can beat Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, the five-time national champions will move within one of matching the record of 13 consecutive championships established by the UCLA teams of the 1960s and '70s.

''I do think this one will be significant for our players and for me and our staff,'' Self explained, ''because it's a year in which our conference was probably the best it's ever been.''

The Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3) swept Oklahoma, which spent time at No. 1 this season. They've split with West Virginia, which has been a top-10 mainstay. And proved to No. 17 Iowa State, No. 25 Texas, 19th-ranked Baylor and the rest that the road to Big 12 supremacy still tracks along Naismith Drive in Lawrence.

''There are a lot of positives about our league that winning it this year, at least from our perspective, would probably be more of an accomplishment,'' Self said, ''because you're not going through one or two teams. You've got to beat six or whatever. And so that to me is pretty significant.''

Just to be clear, Self adds: ''If we're fortunate enough to win it.''

But consider the fact that the Red Raiders are 0-15 at Allen Fieldhouse, and Kansas has won 38 straight in their building, and the enormity of the challenge facing coach Tubby Smith's crew comes into focus.

Texas Tech (18-9, 8-7), however, has won five in a row for the first time in its 20-year stay in the league, which includes victories over Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Aaron Ross has keyed the surge, scoring a career-high 25 in Tuesday's 83-79 win over TCU. The junior reserve is averaging 17.6 points in the last five - 6.9 better than his season average.

"You have to have talent to compete in this league or at any level," Smith said. "We've got some talented players that are playing to their potential. We always talk about overachieving and playing harder and playing smarter. I think we have some players that are recognizing that if they don't play harder and smarter then we aren't going to win. We've stayed positive."

Although Texas Tech has seen marked improvement, averaging 77.6 points and 43.8 percent 3-point shooting during the win streak after being at 66.6 and 33.1 in losing seven of nine, it hasn't beaten Kansas since March 2009.

The Jayhawks won 69-59 at Texas Tech on Jan. 9 to push their win streak in the series to 11. Frank Mason III and Perry Ellis each had double-doubles for Kansas, which held a 42-26 advantage on the boards.

Mason had 19 points while Landen Lucas had the tiebreaking layup with 3:03 left in Tuesday's 66-60 win at Baylor. Kansas made exactly half its shots for the third straight game in pushing its winning streak to eight.

''We just have an understanding to represent a streak that's been made by other people who have come before us, and made possible by them,'' Landen Lucas said. ''There's an understanding that there's something greater than us that we have to keep alive.''

Kansas finishes with a trip to Texas on Monday and a home game against Iowa State next Saturday.

''We should be talking about playing Texas Tech, and that's how we'll handle it with our guys,'' Self said. ''If we are able to take care of business and do well, then you have a chance to celebrate a little bit. But the reality of it is our last three games are against teams that are all ranked in the top 25 in the RPI, so we've still got a lot of work to do.''

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