Jayhawks close to wrapping up 11th straight Big 12 title
A reminder of a decade's worth of perfection.
Now, as the regular season winds down, the ninth-ranked Jayhawks are on the precipice of an 11th straight Big 12 championship. They can wrap up a share of it by beating No. 20 West Virginia on Tuesday night, or claim it outright if Oklahoma stumbles at Iowa State on Monday night.
Either way, it sure seems likely that a photo of another diamond-encrusted ring will adorn that piece of wall when the Jayhawks begin practice next season.
''We'll have a chance to clinch or tie against a team that plays just as well on the road as it does at home. Hopefully it'll be a juiced atmosphere,'' Jayhawks coach Bill Self said after a win over Texas last weekend. ''Hopefully, everybody will be fired up about it.''
The Jayhawks' stretch of conference superiority is virtually unmatched, the statistics that surround it downright staggering. Only the UCLA teams of John Wooden in the 1960s and `70s were more dominant, winning at least a share of 13 consecutive championships. Gonzaga also won 11 in a row in the West Coast Conference, though it's hard to compare that league to the Big 12.
In fact, Kansas has won at least a share of 14 of the 18 championships that the league has contested since it expanded in the mid-90s. That gives the five-time national champs a staggering 57 conference titles overall, by far the most in Division I basketball.
Not all of them have been easy, of course.
Just last year, the Jayhawks endured a grisly three-game skid in February that included a stunning loss to TCU. In 2006, they lost two of their first three Big 12 games before reeling off 10 consecutive victories. Several times, it has come down to the final game, including the 2008 national championship team that wound up sharing the Big 12 title with Texas.
Things haven't been easy this season, either. The Jayhawks struggled through inexperience early on. They've had shooting woes, inconsistency on both ends of the floor. They lack a true rim protector and virtually any interior presence.
Yet they have kept on winning by keeping the pressure on everybody else.
Iowa State was within striking distance much of the conference race, but a stunning loss at Kansas State last weekend put the Cyclones two games back. Oklahoma is the last team with a chance to win the title outright, but it would need to win out and hope Kansas loses out.
Incidentally, the Jayhawks visit the Sooners in their Big 12 finale on Saturday.
''We don't want to share it. We want to win it,'' sophomore guard Frank Mason III said, adding that ''it would be great to win it at home.''
That sure beats cutting down the nets in somebody else's arena.
Self doesn't hide the fact that Kansas is on the brink of history. It's impossible to keep that stuff from players these days anyway. Instead, he has had the Jayhawks embrace their chase for a championship from the very beginning - easy to do with a reminder on the wall.
''Coach has brought it up a little bit, but he's just trying to keep us focused,'' freshman forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said. ''He wants us to win the outright. He wants us to remain focused and continue to push. No more upsets, no more court-stormings. We just need to remain focused.''
Notes: Self said Monday that the status of freshman F Cliff Alexander remains up in the air. Alexander was held out of the Texas game after the NCAA notified the school of some eligibility concerns. Self has not said what those concerns might be. ''The obvious thing is get to the bottom of it and get it resolved,'' Self said, ''and I feel confident that everybody wants to do that.''