On Saturday, Kansas defeated Texas Tech 74-72 to improve to 23-6 overall and 12-4 in conference play. With the victory, the Jayhawks sewed up yet another Big 12 championship, their 14th in a row, giving them the DI record for most consecutive conference titles.
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) February 24, 2018
It sometimes seems as if we don’t appreciate often enough just how remarkable the Jayhawks’ streak truly is. The last time Kansas failed to win the Big 12 regular-season title, George W. Bush hadn’t won his second term, LeBron James was an NBA rookie and current Jayhawks starting center Udoka Azubuike was four years old.
And it’s not as if Kansas plays in some pushover conference. During this streak, the Jayhawks have faced some incredible college players, from Michael Beasley to Blake Griffin to LaMarcus Aldridge to Marcus Smart to Kevin Durant to Buddy Hield to Trae Young. They have faced some incredible teams as well, from Frank Martin’s tough Kansas State squads to Fred Hoiberg’s versatile Iowa State groups to Rick Barnes super-talented Texas units. And yet Bill Self and the Jayhawks have again and again pulled out the conference title.
One reason Kansas’ run of Big 12 dominance is sometimes overlooked is because the Jayhawks have developed a reputation as NCAA Tournament underachievers. But it’s not as if Kansas has entirely flunked the postseason during the streak. Since 2005, Self’s teams have reached eight Sweet 16s, six Elite Eights and two Final Fours, with a national title in 2008 mixed in. And besides, a team doesn’t have to dominant the NCAA Tournament for its regular-season brilliance to be impressive. The fact that the Jayhawks never have a down year, never lose a few costly games in January, never allow one of the other talented teams in their conference to surpass them even for a moment, is truly remarkable.
And given that Kansas will return four starters next season while welcoming a top-five recruiting class, the streak might not end anytime soon.