You’d have a hard time convincing the Kansas Jayhawks that they should share the conference regular-season championship, especially after a convincing 16-point, 70-54 victory Saturday in the Big 12 Championship over Kansas State, the team whom the Jayhawks share this year’s conference crown.
It was the third straight win this season for Kansas over its Sunflower State archrival to the West and the Jayhawks’ 45th win over Kansas State in the last 48 meetings. Kansas has now won nine of the 10 Big 12 Championship games it has played in and six of the last nine Big 12 postseason tournaments. The loss left Kansas State with an 11-17 record in Big 12 Tournament games and o-2 in the championship game, with both losses coming against Kansas.
The win Saturday marked Kansas head coach Bill Self’s sixth Big 12 championship, and he became the winningest coach in Big 12 Championship history with a record of 21-4 in conference tournament games. Echoing the thoughts of every Jayhawk basketball fan, Self said after the game, “Even though we tied (for the regular-season title)…we left little doubt leaving here, beating them three times, that we’re pretty good.”
The Kansas-Kansas State matchup in the championship game was exactly what Big 12 officials had hoped for, with the two best teams in the conference and both having huge fan followings and located two hours or less from the tournament venue at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“It’s a big rivalry,” said Bruce Weber, who is in his first season as head coach of Kansas State and led the Wildcat to a 26-win season. “But it’s not a rivalry until we make it a rivalry, and that means beating them somewhere.”
This year’s KU squad is not your grandfather’s Kansas basketball team. For that matter, it’s not your older brother’s Jayhawk team, either. What this year’s Kansas team has that earned it a ninth consecutive regular-season championship and probably No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament that begins this coming week despite not being one the the Jayhawks better teams in Self’s 10-year coaching reign, was exceptional team chemistry, initiated by Self’s leadership on the sidelines and carried on by four starting seniors on the court. This is a selfless team with exceptional team and individual confidence and, need I mention it, perhaps the best freshman player in the country this season.
So now it’s just a matter of waiting until the complete NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed Sunday evening to find out where Kansas, Kansas State and, most likely, three other Big 12 teams will be seeded and where they will play their opening-round game(s).
If Kansas receives a No, 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Basketball Championship, which most of the experts think they will, it will be the fifth time in seven seasons the Jayhawks have been one of the tournament’s top four overall seeds.
“I think we’re deserving to be in the discussion,” Self said about the possibility of securing a top seed after winning the Big 12 Championship. “I think we’ll be one of the, for sure, five or six most highly ranked teams on the seed line.”