After the loss to Iowa State last night, some people are freaking out about the chances of Kansas loosening its stranglehold on the Big 12 regular season title. For those of you who think KU is doomed this season: stop it. KU is going to win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for the 12th straight year. Just like any other normal year in the Big 12.
But this isn’t a normal year. This is arguably the best the league has ever been, as every team is bringing its A-game against all opponents. Road games are almost death-traps and home games are far from a gimme. No team is safe, and there seems to be an upset alert nightly.
Even mighty KU has struggled throughout this season, almost losing at home twice — one game being the triple-overtime thriller against Oklahoma and the other being the slugfest against Texas on Saturday. Also, they didn’t put away lowly TCU until midway through the second half for a six-point win. On paper, this is one of the best teams that Bill Self has ever coached. They have the talent, and Self is no slouch when it comes to leading a winning team. But it hasn’t come together recently.
Ever since the much-lauded aforementioned game against Oklahoma, KU hasn’t been the same. They’ve looked out of sync on offense and their defense isn’t nearly as effective. This has led to three double-digit road losses — at West Virginia, at Oklahoma State and at Iowa State. Three conference losses in January doesn’t doom a team by any means. But there is reason to be concerned, especially after KU completely blew a chance to beat Iowa State in the second half.
These warning signs leave room for other contenders in the Big 12 to jump into the title conversation. No. 1 ranked Oklahoma, No. 14 Iowa State and No. 9 West Virginia all have a shot this year. Heck, No. 17 Baylor has an outside chance if they could just right the ship. The standings are tighter than ever, with KU currently tied with Iowa State at fourth. You can’t make this stuff up.
KU has been outplayed in their recent losses and just done enough right to hold on in their recent wins. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as No. 20 Kentucky comes to town on Saturday, and with trips to Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and Texas looming. If KU wants to hold on to their title chances, they need to improve in these next few games to keep pace with the other contenders.
But at the same, time this is a proud program that knows how to win a ballgame when it has to. KU can overcome adversity, and don’t be surprised if they make a run in the later part of this season. They’re down, but they’re definitely not out. The sky isn’t falling, and there is still plenty of time to regain control of the conference.
It’s going to take a lot of incredible play and effort to dethrone KU at the end of the regular season. Not just head-to-head matchups, but also games against the lower half of the standings, will prove crucial when it’s all said and done. For an anomaly to happen, KU will have to continue on the downward trend and Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State need to capitalize to make things interesting.
But then again, nothing interesting ever happens in college basketball.
Junior Braden Shaw is a passionate sports fan who follows sports at both the college and professional level. He loves to defend his unpopular opinions on the University of Nebraska, Sporting KC, Chiefs and Royals and is always up for a debate over any game or team.