When the Big 12 first began, the two top teams in the conference were Kansas and Iowa State. Classic showdowns were held at least twice every year, as such stars as Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley battled Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. Then, up rose the Oklahoma dynasty just as the Cyclones were beginning to fade, and Boomer Sooner thrust themselves to to the top of the Big 12, again matched by Kansas. Both teams even made it all the way to the Final Four, back in 2002.
But just as suddenly as Oklahoma ascended to the top of the Big 12 standings, they quickly fell back to the pack, only to be replaced, just two years ago, by the Texas Longhorns. They made the Elite Eight in 2006, the same year that they took on the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game for the first time. Enter Kevin Durant, and the 'Hawks and 'Horns yet again met each other in the Conference Tournament Championship game, and again the Jayhawks left with a W. And now, for the third consecutive year, UT and KU will see each other in the Big 12 Championship game. Despite meeting for three consecutive years, we have yet to actually meet in the same city consecutive years, as the Tournament has bounced around from Dallas (2006), Oklahoma City (2007) and now Kansas City (2008).
With three consecutive finals appearances for both teams, it is now officially official that the new dynasty to compete with the almost-always-consistent Jayhawks is the Texas Longhorns. I don't want to sound cocky or arrogant, I'm not exactly sure that we are even the better team this year. All I am saying is that, since the Big 12's inception, we have been among the Big 12's elite, and we are, without a doubt, the only team that can claim such a distinction.
Moving on to the actual game at hand, I am glad that the Longhorns won. It would be really nice to enter the NCAAs with a win against a team as good as Texas, both for our case for a #1 seed (with Tennessee's loss today to Arkansas, the winner tomorrow should be set) and, much more importantly, our emotional mindset. We are on a roll right now, and while that roll has slowed down from complete ludicrous speed to the speed of a simple neighborhood drive, the wheels are still rolling. I am pretty convinced that two of the few teams that can cut down the nets in San Antonio will be playing ball tomorrow in Kansas City, and with how flat-out entertaining the first game was, especially the up-and-down first half, I can't wait to sit down on the couch and watch basketball at its finest.
Speaking of Brandon Rush, that might have been his best game of the season. And if there was any lingering doubt, I would say he is, without a doubt, completely back from his devastating knee injury. While it may seem like he should have been healthy a long time ago, that thought process is marred by the fact that he came back so incredibly quick. Most of the time, it can take around 8 months before he would have been able to start playing basketball again, meaning he wouldn't have started until conference season. If that is the case, no way is he jumping and hopping around like the player he was his freshman season. A healthy Brandon Rush is a really good basketball player, but a healthy Brandon Rush who plays like he is pissed off is an incredible player. And right now, sparked by the fiery one himself, Sherron Collins, Brandon and the entire team is playing pissed off.
We are playing like we have something to prove, and shoving that proof down that opponent's throat. If we play complacent basketball for 40 minutes, against anybody, we will lose. If we play it just here-and-there, we will be put in a hole that we might not be able to escape from. In order to even get past the first weekend, we are going to have to play pissed off. No one does that better than SC, and he needs to see major minutes.
Some more stuff on the game a little later on tonight, then we will be here all day on Sunday to take a look at how the bracket shakes out for the Jayhawks.