The Kansas Jayhawks secured the Big 12 title this week, making it the 14th consecutive season they have done so. This latest title breaks a tie with John Wooden’s UCLA teams (1967-79) for the longest streak of conference titles in NCAA basketball history. Every year, regardless of who leaves Kansas or what other Big 12 programs have, the result is the same. The Big 12 title race has become the college basketball version of the movie Groundhog Day. The Jayhawks just seem to find a way. Coach Bill Self now has more Big 12 titles (14) than he has suffered home losses (13) at Allen Fieldhouse. That in itself it a ridiculous stat.
In the era of the one and done, Bill Self has had to remake his roster in multiple ways during this streak. He has won with veteran teams, young freshman led teams, relying on transfers and developing talent over a four year period. The Jayhawks have had a bevy of stars over the last 14 seasons. The likes of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Mario Chalmers, Frank Mason, Brandon Rush, Wayne Simien and the Morris twins have all played their part in this streak. Self has built a machine in Lawrence by churning out wins on a regular basis, replacing parts each year and eventually coming together to rule over the Big 12. To try and cover the depth of this incredible run would be a herculean task.
Kansas Jayhawks Win 14th Consecutive Big 12 Crown
Where it All Began
The streak began in Coach Self’s second season at Kansas. The 2004-05 team won a share of the Big 12 title with a 12-4 conference record, tying the Oklahoma Sooners. This is one of four times the Kansas Jayhawks have shared the Big 12 crown in the last 14 seasons. The team that started the streak was led by Wayne Simien and Keith Langford. These two seniors carried this team, accounting for nearly half of the team’s points each night. Simien averaged 20.3 points and 11 rebounds a contest. Langford chipped in with 14.4 points per game.
After tying for the regular season title, Kansas lost in the conference tournament to Oklahoma State. Selected as a three seed in March Madness, the Jayhawks were upset by 14 seed Bucknell 64-63. As disappointing as that first round loss may have been, this will still be the team that started this unprecedented run.
The Best Kansas Jayhawks Team
Self has obviously had his share of great teams in at Kansas. You cannot win as much as he has otherwise. The 2007-08 team will go down as the best of the bunch, though. This version of the Kansas Jayhawks won the treble, capturing the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles along with the NCAA tournament title. They finished off their 37-3 season with an overtime win over the Derrick Rose led Memphis Tigers. This team was deep and balanced, with seven players scoring between seven and thirteen points per game. Darrell Arthur and Rush led this team, but it was much more than a two man show. Sharon Collins, Chalmers and Russell Robinson formed a three headed monster at the point guard position, combining for 29 points and 11 assists each night.
They cruised through Big 12 play at 13-3 in the conference and were never ranked lower than 5th all season. After winning their first three NCAA tournament games by double digits, they survived 59-57 against Stephen Curry and Davidson. Kansas dispatched UNC in the Final Four to set up a meeting with Memphis. Down three with only seconds to go in regulation, Chalmers took his place in Jayhawk history, hitting a buzzer beating three to send the game into overtime. Kansas went on to win 75-68, giving Self his only National Title.
The Record Breakers
This was supposed to be the year. After losing a load of talent from last year’s team, mainly Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, the rest of the Big 12 would finally be in position to dethrone the Jayhawks. Non-conference losses at home against Arizona State and in Kansas City to Washington showed this team’s vulnerability. The Texas Tech Red Raiders came into Allen Fieldhouse and won by 12 early in conference play. They led the race for the Big 12 title for most of the season. A fourth conference loss to Baylor put Kansas two games off the top spot. They have since won five in a row. Kansas clinched the title last Saturday with a 74-72 win in Lubbock over the Red Raiders.
Like many of the Kansas teams in this run, the 2017-18 rendition is a balanced group led by a steady point guard. This year’s star is Devonte’ Graham, averaging 17.7 points and 7.2 assists per game. Graham epitomizes what Self has built in Lawrence, a four-year player who has seen his role and game expand in each of his seasons. However, this is not a one man show. The Jayhawks have five players averaging double figures, with any one of them capable of taking over on a given night. This is a small team, mainly relying on their perimeter play. They do have an anchor in Udoka Azubuike manning the paint. The seven foot sophomore is a load inside, pouring in 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds a night. This team is 24-6 overall, and will once again head into the Big 12 tournament as the team to beat.
Reflection on Greatness
The Kansas Jayhawks have always been one of the premier programs in college basketball. They start each season with the loftiest of goals, conference and national titles being at the forefront of those listed. Kansas’ dominance in the Big 12 has not quite translated into the same kind of national success one may expect, though. Self has the one national title from the 2007-08 season and has made one other Final Four in 2012. Regardless of March Madness success, what the Jayhawks have done over the last 14 seasons in the Big 12 is remarkable. Self has built something special in Lawrence, and the rest of the conference is still playing catch-up.