The Big 12 Streak and Bill Self
Before we get into the specifics of the 83-75 victory by Kansas over Oklahoma on Monday night, let's establish this: Bill Self is a coaching legend.
Not a pretty good coach, not a great coach. A legend.
Kansas defeated Oklahoma on Monday night by the score of 83-75, making Bill Self the head coach of a team that has at least tied for the best record in a major basketball conference for ten consecutive seasons. Every single year that Self has coached at KU, the Jayhawks have been a force to be reckoned with. What he is doing in this modern age of increased parity in college basketball is nothing short of astounding.
Never, during Self's tenure, has Kansas had a bad season, or even an average season. Forget about ever missing the NCAA Tournament, something that occasionally happens to even the most prestigious of basketball programs. Every season under Self, Kansas has had a great year. Kansas has yet to have a season under Self where they have been worse than a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and, barring some major surprises, they're going to have either a 1 or 2 seed again this season. The only year Kansas didn't win the Big 12 under Self was in his very first year with the school, and the team they lost it to was the 2004 Oklahoma State team led by Tony Allen, Joey Graham and John Lucas that went on to go to the Final Four.
Yes, it's easy to recruit to Kansas, and many have had success here before. But it's also easy to recruit to North Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana. Those teams have all had down years the past decade, and it's completely understandable and not a knock on their coaches at all. It just makes what Self has done even more ridiculous.
Let's put this in perspective:
Jim Boeheim had 9 Big East titles for Syracuse in his 37 years coaching in it. Pretty fantastic run.
Tom Izzo has 7 Big Ten titles for Michigan State the last 18 years. Fairly dominant.
Mike Krzyzewski has 12 ACC titles for Duke the last 28 years. Unbelievable, sustained dominance.
... and Bill Self has 10 Big 12 titles the last 10 years.
A few more nuggets:
- Self's coaching record at KU is now 322-65 (.832 winning percentage).
- The lowest a KU team has finished in the final AP poll under Self was #16 in 2004, Self's first year.
- Self has a record of 86-4 in his 90 Big 12 Conference games at Allen Fieldhouse. That's four home conference losses in 11 seasons.
There really isn't much else to say. What Self has accomplished this past decade is one of the most remarkable streaks in sports history.
As far as the game itself, the Sooners gave KU a scare for quite a while. While I wondered if the dominant performance by the defense Saturday vs. Texas was sustainable, I certainly was hoping for more than what KU showed. Oklahoma finished with 75 points and shot 44.3% from the field, the second highest by an opposing team in Allen Fieldhouse this season. Then again, Oklahoma is a pretty great offensive team, ranking 12th in Kenpom's adjusted offensive efficiency.
On offense, Kansas was led by Naadir Tharpe, who was incredibly efficient. Tharpe finished with 19 points, shooting 5 of 6 from two, 1 of 1 from three, and 6 of 6 from the line. Tharpe also threw in 5 assists with just 1 turnover. It's becoming increasingly difficult to predict what sort of performance Tharpe will give each game.
Wayne Selden also had an impressive game. He finished with 15 points, and though he shot just 1 of 4 from two, he drained 3 of his 5 threes, and 4 of 4 on free throws. Selden also had a vital drive and kick (something he is by far the best on the team at) to Andrew Wiggins for three with just under three minutes to go. Before the benefit of a re-watch, this was the second game in a row that I thought Selden did not stand out on defense in a bad way.
As for the two super freshmen, Joel Embiid had a very solid game, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Embiid did have 4 turnovers, and remains not that great at taking care of the ball. Andrew Wiggins had a tough time getting his shots to fall, but he was fine other than that.
As Self usually says and did again around this time of year, the Big 12 title unquestionably solidifies that Kansas has had a great year. But if they want to make it a special year, one that really will be remembered, the ultimate test is still ahead. Kansas fans likely feel a lot better that it's Bill Self tasked with leading this squad of youngsters to greatness.
We will have more in-depth analysis both on the Oklahoma game and leading up to the game in Stillwater against Oklahoma State on Saturday, but for now, let's just reflect on how fortunate Kansas is to have Bill Self as its coach.
Until then, hit us up in the comments with your best "The last time Kansas didn't win the Big 12..."
A few to start you off:
The last time Kansas didn't win the Big 12, YouTube wasn't invented yet.
The last time Kansas didn't win the Big 12, Shaq was a Laker.
The last time Kansas didn't win the Big 12, LeBron James was a 19-year-old rookie in Cleveland.
Have at it.
As always, follow me on Twitter @TJFsports, and enjoy the week, Jayhawk fans.