Kansas arrived to Lubbock knowing the next 48-hour stretch would determine if they could somehow extend the streak to 15 straight Big 12 titles, or if this depleted squad would fall short of the conference crown for the first time since 2004.
All it took was the first 20 minutes of the Red Raiders’ 91–62 victory for Kansas to realize it was closer to the latter.
Texas Tech jumped out to a quick 18–8 lead, which simply appeared to be the Red Raiders throwing the first punch in a highly anticipated heavyweight match. But Kansas never threw a punch of its own. The Jayhawks switched from man to zone with little to no luck as Texas Tech drained nine first-half threes en route to a 45–20 lead at intermission.
Even with an additional 20 minutes to make the score respectable, Texas Tech continued its shooting clinic to the tune of 60.7% from the field and 61.5% (16-of-26) from beyond the arc. Long before the final buzzer, it became evident that the Jayhawks’ streak will all come down to Monday night in a matchup with in-state rival Kansas State.
Kansas entered the night on a three-game winning streak since Lagerald Vick left the team for personal matters, and appeared to be picking up momentum. The Jayhawks were also winners of four of five, putting them just one game behind Kansas State in the conference—until the nightmare in Lubbock.
The streak isn’t quite dead, but Bill Self’s squad is now two back of Kansas State with only four games remaining on the schedule. They’ll return to Lawrence where they will have to bounce back in less than 48 hours for what is perhaps the biggest Kansas-Kansas State game of the decade.
The streak isn’t officially over, but Kansas’ in-state rival could change that
Making Kansas State travel to Allen Fieldhouse—a venue the Wildcats haven’t escaped with a victory since 2006—to end the streak only seems fitting. While Kansas State still has TCU and Baylor on the schedule, the trip to Lawrence is easily the largest obstacle standing between the Wildcats and an outright regular-season title. For Kansas, it’s simple: Just keep winning. A victory on Monday could kick-start a 4-0 run to end the season, but even then, Kansas desperately needs Kansas State to drop one more game to Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma in order to extend the streak to 15.
Kansas has more to worry about than the Big 12 race
Depending on how the rivalry game unfolds, Kansas’ streak could end as early as Monday night. After giving up 91 points in Saturday’s matchup, though, the Jayhawks have more than this Big 12 race to worry about. While they likely won’t have to face a team shooting 60.7% from the field again anytime soon, they simply got outplayed in every facet of the game. If Kansas comes out as flat as it did on Saturday, the run in March might be a short one.
Texas Tech is the Big 12’s best bet
The Red Raiders are still looking up at Kansas State in the conference standings, and without a shot at the Wildcats for the remainder of the season, all they can do is hope for a collapse. However, whether Chris Beard’s squad can secure a regular-season or tournament title won’t change the fact that this team is the Big 12’s best shot at being represented in Minneapolis.
Tech only has the luxury of playing in Lubbock, where it boasts a 15–1 record, for two more games. But the combination of a veteran starting lineup and a suffocating defense can be lethal in the tournament, and more importantly, it travels.