KU's latest title its most unlikely

By Steve Sell
March 03, 2015

The Kansas Jayhawks didn’t have to take a shot or grab a rebound to earn a share of their astounding 11th straight Big 12 basketball championship.

The Jayhawks were more than interested spectators for ESPN’s “Big Monday,” which originated from Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum.

I’m sure a few Jayhawks were ready to click off their sets when Oklahoma’s lead ballooned to 21 at one point.

But then OU’s Isaiah Cousins had to go all stupid and poke the sleeping bear.

Cousins allegedly talked trash after a blocked shot by teammate Ryan Spangler with the Sooners leading 48-28. That earned him a technical foul and the Cyclones immediately took off on 22-0 rip as the Sooners were cooked. Hilton Magic had worked once again and the Sooners’ loss dropped them two games back of Kansas, which can win the title outright at home tonight against a West Virginia team whose star, Juwan Staten, is suffering from a sore knee. He didn’t play in the Mountaineers’ last game, but you know there’s no way he’ll miss this one.

This title (a share counts as a title) has to be one of Kansas coach Bill Self’s most satisfying. This Jayhawk team has more warts than any Self has ever put on the court in his years in Lawrence, yet it comes during a year the Big 12 had its most parity ever and he steered the car right between the parking lines. It also had to survive numerous court stormings, even though it’s been a .500 team on the road in conference play.

Kansas, which has saddled up the suddenly aggressive Perry Ellis and ridden him like Secretariat, shoots it crooked, its 3-point shooting has dried up the last few games and it’s constantly getting pounded on the boards, especially with freshman Cliff Alexander on the sidelines awaiting word on his future. Quite honestly, Alexander had been a dud during KU’s dash for No. 11 as he was virtually invisible the last half-dozen games or so leading up to his benching.

You can argue whether or not the Big 12 is the best of the “Big 5” conferences this year. My belief is that it’s not, but it is the best at producing the most exciting and competitive games since there is so little separation among the teams. Even former woebegones TCU and Texas Tech have snuck up on some people and been far more competitive than last year.

The Big 12, though, won’t have a team in the Final Four. I still believe if one would make it, it would be Iowa State, given its style. The Cyclones play at a dizzying pace and keep pressure on their opponents. They’re not overly big or deep, but are one of the most entertaining teams to watch and they would walk on hot coals for placid coach Fred Hoiberg. 

Don’t be surprised when the Big 12 Tournament gets under way next week that a team shoots up from the middle of the pack to win the title. Texas, for one, comes to mind. It probably needs to win the tournament to make the NCAAs and perhaps save coach Rick Barnes’ job. Baylor is another with its funky zone and ferocity on the boards. I don’t see KU winning it since the outcome will make little difference. It will be a 2 or 3 seed regardless.