On Saturday, Iowa State stormed into Allen Fieldhouse, overcame a 15-point second-half deficit, and beat the Jayhawks in overtime. It was just the 10th time in Bill Self’s tenure at KU that he dropped a home game, snapping a 51-game winning streak at the Phog.
I was at the game. It was just the second time in 56 lifetime games that I attended Allen Fieldhouse and didn’t see the Jayhawks win. As I was walking out of the building, I saw a couple of fans in tears. Another claimed “the season was over.” I couldn’t believe it; wasn’t this team still 20-3? Wasn’t this team still the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12?
Iowa State made 18 three-pointers, including 10 of its last 13, to surge past KU and pull away in overtime. That does not happen very often. And while the Jayhawks didn’t offer a ton of resistance to some of those shots, the Cyclones had the best day in the history of the program when it comes to making three-pointers.
Sometimes, it’s just the other team’s day. It sounds cliche, but fans need to remember that, especially in Big 12 play, the other team is always full of excellent players who want to win every bit as bad as the Jayhawks.
The recipe for an upset in Allen Fieldhouse is clear: you either have to force the Jayhawks into an all-time bad day themselves, or you have to have an all-time good day yourself. The Cyclones did the latter. At halftime, most people would have given Iowa State about a 5% chance for everything to come together for a comeback to be executed, and everything that needed to happen actually happened. I mean, it happens. Rarely, but it does happen.
When you cheer for a team that has won 217 of its last 227 home games, shock and disappointment is going to strike when the unthinkable occurs. But plenty of other elite teams have had moments like this in their home buildings this year. Just yesterday, No. 2 Baylor lost at home to Kansas State. Oklahoma, which is in last place in the Big 12, went into Morgantown and took down West Virginia earlier this year. North Carolina State clipped Duke behind a season-best offensive outburst, and UCLA got red hot to take down Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
The point is: losing at home happens. It happens to Kansas less often than any team in college basketball, but sometimes, the other team plays really well. The last time I checked the rules, that is allowed.
Some fans are worried about “The Streak,” saying that this game hurts KU’s chances to win its 13th straight Big 12 title. Immediately following Kansas’ loss, Baylor and West Virginia followed suit by also losing at home to unranked teams. As a result, the top three teams in the league remain one game apart from the other; Kansas is 8-2, Baylor is 7-3, and West Virginia is 6-4. Would fans have felt better about KU’s Big 12 chances had all three teams won on Saturday? Because that’s exactly the same spot the Jayhawks would have been in compared to the one they’re actually in.
Think of it this way: when Saturday began, Baylor was one game behind Kansas with nine games left. Now, with eight games left, the Bears are still one game behind. KU’s Big 12 chances actually increased on Saturday, because the one-game cushion was maintained with one more game coming off the schedule.
Here’s another perspective. On January 16, the Jayhawks were beginning one of the most torrid stretches of games I’ve ever seen them go through: at Iowa State, vs. Texas, at West Virginia, at Kentucky, vs. Baylor, and vs. Iowa State. Would you, as a fan of the team, have taken 4-2 over that stretch if I had offered it to you just before the first game tipped? I know I would have – in an instant.
There’s never a good day to lose in Allen Fieldhouse, particularly in league play, but yesterday was about as close to that as there will ever be. The Jayhawks are still going to win the Big 12, most likely outright. The Jayhawks are still going to be the No. 1 seed at Sprint Center, both in the Big 12 tournament and in the Midwest Regional of the NCAAs. Why? Because this is happening to everyone, and even though it may not seem like it after yesterday, it’s happening to everyone else way more often than it is to Kansas.