What in the world is wrong with the Kansas Jayhawks? Just one week ago they were the No. 1-ranked team in the USA Today coaches’ poll and were 17-1, unbeaten in six games in Big 12 play and taking dead aim on their eighth consecutive conference crown in basketball.
We know that things can change fast at this time of the year in college basketball, but, come on, this is highly uncharacteristic of a Bill Self-coached team. We’re speaking, of course, about mighty Kansas havin lost two straight times – and in two of the most unlikely places – in less than a week.
The Jayhawks were a heavy favorite at home over an Oklahoma State team that was 4-3 in conference games and 14-5 overall. And why wouldn’t they be, having won 102 of their previous 103 games at historic Allen Fieldhouse, and given that Oklahoma State’s last win there came in 1989. Moreover, the Cowboys had lost 33 of their last 34 road games going into the contest with Kansas.
So what, said Oklahoma State. The Cowboys raiced out to a 16-point first-half lead and withstood a furious KU second-half rally in which the Jayhawks briefly took over the lead, only to give it back and go on to lose by five before a stunned sea of blue, sitting silent in the end, literally in “The Phog.”
And to think that wasn’t even the worst of it. Four nights later, on Wednesday night on the road in Ft. Worth, Kansas was faced with what appeared to be the fastest and surest remedy for a losing team in the rebound: a date with the last place team in the conference, a team that went into the game with a ratings percentage index (RPI) of 237. The Jayhawks were one of the country’s ten best teams, according to the RPI. No sane man on earth would have bet against the Jayhawks.
Kansas made just three of its first 22 shot attempts and did not score its first points in the game until over seven minutes were gone in the first half. At the point the score was only 10-2, but the Jayhawks never really got any closer and never led in the game, dropping a 62-55 decision in recording what has to be there worst loss under head coach Bill Self, and one of the most horrific performances in the school’s storied basketball history. Kansas shot under 30 percent from the field for the game.
In his postgame comments, Self called it “the worst team that Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was there. I think (Dr. Naismith, Kansas’ first basketball coach and the only KU coach to have a losing record) had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and some things like that in the first couple years,” Self said. “But for the first half, there hasn’t been a team play worse than that.”
Self has repeatedly told his teams over the years not to let one loss become two. Now, with a team whose confidence has to be shaken after two shocking defeats, the Jayhawks head out on the road again on Saturday for a rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners (14-7, 5-4), a team that is undergoing some struggles of its own, having lost three of its last four games and two in a row.
Both teams are coming off their worst losses of the season, so it will be interesting to see how they respond on Saturday. It should also be noted that the last time the Jayhawks lost three consecutive games, in 2005, it was at Oklahoma where the losing string was extended.
There will be no let up in the schedule for Kansas. Following the game at Oklahoma on Saturday, the Jayhawks return home to the comforts of Allen Fieldhouse, for a Big Monday national TV game against Sunflower State rival Kansas State, which is tied with KU for the conference lead with identical 7-2 league records heading into the weekend action.
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