Almost there. Two games left and tonight Kansas has a chance to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title on their home court during senior night. What that means of course is that the Kansas coaches, players and fans get to hoist a trophy on senior night in Allen Fieldhouse. The trophy would represent a SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE Big 12 Conference title.
Let that sink in a little bit, seven consecutive. That's pretty impressive in this modern era of parity and one and done's. Made all the more impressive when Bill Self continues to group together these impressive runs with the entire league gunning for Kansas. Self and Kansas do it by beating the teams they are supposed to, winning road games, and more often than not they handle business in the big games.
Tonight Mark Turgeon comes to town looking to spoil that celebration for his Alma Mater, but that's not small task and the former Jayhawk has to know that. Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little say farewell tonight and they have a chance to do it in true Kansas form, with a championship.
The Aggies are coming off a loss in Waco this past Saturday to the hapless Bears from Baylor. With a win the Aggies would have had a pretty firm grip on that #3 spot headed into the Big 12 but now they do face a threat from Kansas State depending on how the season plays out.
The Aggies are led by Khris Middleton who averages 14.6 points per game and ranks second on the team with 34 steals. Early in the season Middleton was probably a darkhorse Big 12 POY or Big 12 First Team candidate but he's come back down to earth a bit after the hot start to the year by A&M. Middleton also ranks second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game, 31 three-pointers made and 83 assists this season.
David Loubeau is the primary inside presence for Mark Turgeon and the big man is second in scoring at 11.2 points per game. Loubeau averages 4.9 rebounds per game and is second on the team with 11 blocked shots this season.
Nathan Walkup is your all everything, Mr. Hustle of Texas A&M basketball and he leads A&M in rebounds with a 5.8 average to go along with his 9.7 points per game average.
B.J. Holmes leads the Aggies with 41 three-pointers made and is second in assists with 86. He is scoring 9.5 points per contest.
Dash Harris rounds out the A&M starters. He leads the team with 89 assists, is tied with Middleton for the team-high 34 steals and scores 4.3 points per game.
Other A&M contributors include Kourtney Roberson (5.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, team-best 60 percent field goal percentage), Naji Hibbert (5.6 ppg), Ray Turner (4.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Andrew Darko (2.5 ppg).
Mark Turgeon has done a fine job with this group that was picked sixth in the conference to start the year. They may not have the most talent but Middleton has stepped up as the leader while Walkup is a guy that has a never ending motor and that scrappy hard nosed style rubs off across the board.
The Aggies hit a rough patch in late January with losses to Nebraska, Texas and Baylor in succession but have since won five out of their last six including five in a row during the month of February. That streak was ended with the loss in Waco this past weekend so it will be interesting to see how A&M rebounds from the loss. It's certainly no small task to rebound from a road trip to Waco with one to Allen Fieldhouse.
In terms of statistically grading out the Aggies they are a team that checked in very strong early in the season but they have slowly drifted back to the middle of the pack or more accurately that 25-50 range which is still a solid team, just not as strong as they once appeared.
A&M is stout defensively and scrappy offensively. It's actually a bit enjoyable to watch a team like A&M who overachieves in a lot of respects and they do it through solid defense, attacking the glass (especially offensive glass) and attacking the basket which of course get's a team to the free throw line.
Looking at the Aggie losses does seem to show that they struggle with teams that can out man them on the interior and Kansas would seem to have the edge in that respect, but Loubeau and Walkup certainly have the ability to outwork you and if they are able to take the game directly at the twins you never know when foul trouble might rear it's ugly head.
It's a night of "consecutives". Kansas has won for 26 consecutive senior nights. A win tonight pushes that to 27 and of course pushes the consecutive conference championship streak to SEVEN....YES 7!!!!! Lucky 7. Not a chance the Jayhawks lose this one and I usually don't make that bold of a prediction.
and now...a few notes on our departing seniors courtesy the KUAD.
Mario Little (Chicago, Ill.)
--Little will graduate from Kansas in May with a degree in African and African American Studies.
--Including his redshirt season of 2009-10, Kansas is 87-13 (87 percent) during Little's career.
--Little has been a part of two Big 12 regular-season championships and one Big 12 tourney title while at Kansas.
--In 2008, Little's first year at KU, the Jayhawks advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
--A native of Chicago, Little came to Kansas from Chipola (Fla.) Community College where he was rated the No. 1 juco player nationally in 2008.
Brady Morningstar (Lawrence, Kan.)
--Morningstar graduated in May 2010 with a degree in communication studies.
--He was a redshirt during Kansas' 2007-08 NCAA National Championship season.
--In his five seasons at Kansas, Morningstar has seen 157 victories (157-21 record). In his four seasons on the court, excluding the redshirt, KU is 120-18 (86.9 percent).
--In his five seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have won four Big 12 regular-season championships, three Big 12 tourney titles, one Final Four, one NCAA National Championship and have advanced to two NCAA Tournament Elite Eights and three Sweet 16s.
--Morningstar will end his career ranked in KU's career top 10 for three-point field goal percentage, currently eighth at 41.5 percent.
--Earlier this season, Morningstar was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team.
Tyrel Reed (Burlington, Kan.)
--On Feb. 22, Reed became the 15th player in Kansas history to be named Academic All-America First Team. Additionally, he is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection and has been on the athletic director's and commissioner's honor rolls every semester while at KU.
--Reed graduated from Kansas in 3.5 years with a degree in pre-physical therapy/exercise science and has been accepted to KU's School of Medicine physical therapy program.
--Reed is one of 10 finalists for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
--While at Kansas, Reed has a record of 124-16 (88.6 percent) for 31 wins per season (and counting). Last season, Sherron Collins left Kansas with the most wins in school history at 130-19 (87.2 percent).
--Reed will end his career ranked in the KU career top 10 for three-point field goals made, three-point field goals attempted and three-point field goal percentage.
--In his four seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have won three Big 12 regular-season championships, two Big 12 tourney titles, one Final Four, one NCAA National Championship and have advanced to one NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s.