Your mileage may vary, but for me the streak of Big 12 titles is the most impressive streak in the history of college basketball. UCLA beat up on a much of garbage teams with a bunch of guys bought and paid for in the era when only 4 programs were any good. Lest you think the Big 12 itself is the culprit (looking at a certain jealous national commentator who went to a Big 12 school):
Although the Big 12 figures to be down a bit this season, there no doubt will be at least one team that looks like a contender into February. The double round robin also ensures that, unlike every other league, there is no ducking anyone on the way to a conference title. If the Jayhawks are to get the streak to 13, though, they’ll have to do so via these important games:
1. At West Virginia (January 24)
Kansas hasn’t won in Morgantown since 2013, so they obviously don’t need this one in order to win the Big 12. Still, if they can knock off the Mountaineers in Morgantown, it will go a long way towards wrapping up the title. With Kentucky looming just four days later, it is probably fortuitous the Jayhawks have an opponent they won’t look past as the game before the trip to Rupp.
The gameplan is obvious: grab Kansas a bunch and hope they can’t call them all. Lately, it’s worked. The Mountaineers have committed 12, even, and 4 fewer fouls in the previous three wins over the Jayhawks, which is a bit curious given how foul heavy they are.
2. vs West Virginia (February 13)
I am lumping these in together because I think, unlike the last couple years, there is an overwhelming favorite for 2nd place in the league. As such, sweeping WVU is necessary. The Mountaineers lost by 10 and 7 (in overtime) the last two seasons in Lawrence, so a win is not guaranteed.
3. at Iowa State (January 16)
If the Jayhawks manage to win in Ames, there is a legitimate shot they’ll start the Big 12 season 6-0. Given the start they had last year, 6-0 can potentially shut the door on the season.
The Jayhawks have struggled a bit in Ames lately (comparatively speaking), but with no Georges Niang and no Jameel McKay, Kansas should have a huge edge inside and the guards should mostly cancel each other out, giving Kansas a huge chance to win a big road game.
4. vs Texas (January 21)
The game comes in probably the most brutal stretch of the season for Kansas: at Iowa State, vs Texas, at West Virginia, at Kentucky. If Kansas loses two winnable games in Ames and Morgantown, the game against Texas in Lawrence will become doubly important. An extra wrinkle: the game will be 5 years to the day Thomas Robinson’s mom passed away, and of course Texas defeated the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse the next day.
5. at Baylor (February 18)
It’s probably good news for Kansas that this is the marquee CBS game, because the Jayhawks have had some closer than they should have been games in Waco, winning by 6 last year and just 1 in 2015. And who could forget the 81-58 drubbing on the last day of the 2013 season, which certainly must be the biggest massacre to ever take place in Waco. A win here, with just 4 games remaining, could put the Jayhawks in a position to clinch with another win.