1. 14. Count ’em.
The Kansas Jayhawks have won a men’s basketball Division I record 14 consecutive Big 12 conference championships. The streak has been an amazing for its entirety, but to actually hold the record is truly special. Devonte’ Graham is 95% of the reason KU won on Saturday. He finished with 26 points, going 4-of-7 from three. Graham absolutely took over down the stretch, driving to the basket, getting and-ones, and hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. Graham has my vote for Big 12 player of the year. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 21 points, going 4-of-10 from three. He was pretty quiet in the second half, but hit some big free-throws late in the game to help salt it away. Svi and Graham played extremely well together, giving each other wide open looks from three and basically schooling the Texas Tech defense.
Malik Newman scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds, and went 3-of-4 from three. Newman had mostly a shrug of a game, minus the made threes. He did play well on defense but also recorded three fouls. Udoka Azubuike scored just six points, but he grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots. Udoka continues to be a major reason this team wins games. His defense was superb, as was his spacing. He knows where to be on the floor at all times too. Bill Self is an incredible coach and this is one of his best coaching jobs in his time at Kansas. I think the 2014-15 season is the worst Bill Self coached team to win the conference, but this team might have the most impressive conference championship in that era. Here’s to a Big 12 tournament and national title.
2. How many Big 12 teams are going to make the tournament?
Well, let’s count them off.
Kansas. Clearly the best team in the conference, and at 23-6, they will compete for a one seed.
Texas Tech. Still a good team despite three straight losses. If Keenan Evans can get back to 100% they’ll be in good shape. They’re a three seed right now.
West Virginia. They’ve struggled since the middle of the conference slate but the Mountaineers are still 21-8. They’ve had some quality wins and have one of the best guards in the country in Jevon Carter. West Virginia is a five seed.
Kansas State. One of the surprises of this season. K-State seem poised to suck this season but the Wildcats have put together a really nice season. KSU is a seven seed.
TCU. The Horned Frogs started out really poorly in the Big 12 but have bounced back to 20-9 overall and 8-8 in conference play. Not having Jaylen Fisher still hurts TCU, but they’re a seven seed.
Oklahoma. As much as it pains me to say, OU is going make the tournament. The Sooners, or excuse me, Trae Young, is a good team who deserves to make the field of 68, but it will most likely be as a nine seed.
Baylor, Texas, and Oklahoma State are all bubble teams. I think Baylor and Texas can afford to lose another regular season game and still make the tournament but the Cowboys might have to win both remaining games, plus at least one Big 12 tournament game for all three teams.
3. Why Kansas can win a national title
A lot of KU fans wrote off the Jayhawks as any sort of title contenders early in this season. This was a knee jerk reaction to a couple of losses in games the Jayhawks should have won. They said Kansas wasn’t consistent enough to win a title. But here’s why those people are and were wrong. No one in college basketball is consistent enough to win a title. Examples: Duke has no defense, Michigan State toys around with teams like Rutgers and Wisconsin, Virginia can’t score, Villanova doesn’t play defense very well either sometimes. THOSE ARE THE TOP TEAMS IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL. Kansas can beat all of them when they’re hitting their shots. Also, guard play wins championships. Kansas has as good of a backcourt as there is in the country. I trust Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk just as much as Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford. Or as much as Grayson Allen and Gary Trent. Winning a national title for KU will ultimately come down to the play of Udoka Azubuike in the Sweet 16 and beyond. If Kansas can get a great performance out of Udoka when the guards have gone cold then KU can cut down the nets.
4. Should Devonte Graham get his number retired?
To answer that question in one word: probably. Graham certainly has made a case to receive the honor. He has had some absolutely stellar games on the biggest stages. Graham is an the verge of becoming Big 12 Player of the Year and an All-American as well. Those are things Perry Ellis can’t lay claim to (though Ellis should get his jersey retired). If this Kansas team makes the Final Four Graham will be a virtual lock for a number retirement. Devonte Graham should also be entered into the best Kansas point guards of the Bill Self era conversation. His numbers are just as good as anyone else’s. In the meantime however, let’s just enjoy Devonte’s last game in Allen Fieldhouse and try our best not to tear up during his speech.
Landen Fields is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. You can check out his archive here.