Let’s take a trip back to March 6, 2004. Usher ruled the charts with “Yeah!” Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the freshly crowned Best Picture Oscar winner in an 11-for-11 sweep.
And Kansas basketball didn’t finish on top of the Big 12 standings.
On that day, Oklahoma State routed Texas A&M 70-41 to win the conference outright. It was so long ago, Texas A&M, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska aren’t even in the league anymore. Hello to “new” members TCU and West Virginia.
Since that Oklahoma State solo title, Kansas has won at least a share of 14 consecutive regular-season conference titles, an NCAA record. However, that streak might finally end this season. Might.
Kansas rival K-State is currently in first in the conference at 9-2, good for 1 1/2 games ahead of the Jayhawks and Texas Tech. However, Kansas State still has to travel to Lawrence. And Kansas must play at Texas Tech.
Still, it looks like this could be the year the streak ends.
As we approach the end of the regular season, we break down the leading Big 12 championship contenders by looking at odds, schedules — and how it could end.
The state of the Big 12 basketball title race
Record: 19-5 overall, 9-2 Big 12
Remaining games: 7 (Feb. 16 vs. Iowa State; Feb. 18 at West Virginia; Feb. 23 vs. Oklahoma State; Feb. 25 at Kansas; March 2 vs. Baylor; March 4 at TCU; March 9 vs. Oklahoma)
ESPN’s BPI chances to win the Big 12 title: 65.4 percent
KenPom projected record: 13-5 (projected winner)
There are going to be challenges ahead, but the importance of Tuesday’s win at Texas can’t be overstated. With guard Cartier Diarra out with a broken finger on his shooting hand, the Wildcats won 71-64 to win conference game No. 9.
Week 14 of #Big12MBB:
🔵 Lawson: averaged 21.5 pts and 8.0 rebounds.
🤘 Ramey: tied his career highs in scoring, FG made, and 3-point FG made.
😈 Bane: averaged 21.5 pts in leading TCU to a 2-0 week, including a win at No. 17 Iowa State.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) February 11, 2019
Only three of the remaining seven games are on the road, but one is the Big One: Kansas on Monday, Feb. 25. If K-State wins that one, that could (should) finally end Kansas’ run, barring a total K-State collapse.
The problem? The Wildcats haven’t defeated Kansas in Lawrence since 2006, when KU’s title streak was only an infant and not a teenager.
Some good news, however: Kansas State also doesn’t have to play Texas Tech again this season, as the two teams already split.
Record: 20-5 overall, 8-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 6 (Feb. 16 vs. Baylor; Feb. 23 vs. Kansas; Feb. 27 vs. Oklahoma State; March 2 at TCU; March 4 vs. Texas; March 9 at Iowa State)
ESPN’s BPI chances to win the Big 12 title: 32.3 percent
KenPom projected record: 12-6
Lost in the whirlwind of a Kansas-or-Kansas State is the fact that Texas Tech is right there, too. Plus, the Red Raiders get KU at home. Besides that game, the Red Raiders have a relatively manageable schedule.
The Red Raiders will bring their championship-caliber offense every game. The question is if Jarrett Culver and Co. can score enough.
Record: 19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 6 (Feb. 16 vs. West Virginia; Feb. 23 at Texas Tech; Feb. 25 vs. Kansas State; March 2 at Oklahoma State; March 5 at Oklahoma; March 9 vs. Baylor)
ESPN’s BPI chances to win the Big 12 title: 29.2 percent
KenPom projected record: 12-6
Kansas is only 2-6 on the road this season, a troubling number as the Jayhawks can’t rely on Allen Fieldhouse the rest of the way. Of course, they do get K-State at home. However, KU must also travel to Lubbock to face fellow challenger Texas Tech only two days earlier. A 1-1 split is the most likely result. If it’s 0-2, the run is done. If Kansas goes 2-0…look out. But even if KU does beat K-State, it will need the Wildcats to slip up somewhere else.
KU is also going to lack depth going forward, so the growth of freshmen Ochai Agbaji and Devon Dotson will be key.
Record: 18-6 overall, 7-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 7 (Feb. 16 at Kansas State; Feb. 19 vs. Baylor; Feb. 23 at TCU; Feb. 25 vs. Oklahoma; March 2 at Texas; March 6 at West Virginia; March 9 vs. Texas Tech)
ESPN’s BPI chances to win the Big12 title: 18.5 percent
KenPom projected record: 11-7
Iowa State’s slim hopes will either turn into legitimacy or fall apart on Saturday. The Cyclones go to Manhattan to face the Big 12 leaders, the kind of game where everyone in contention not named K-State will be hoping Iowa State pulls off the upset.
If the Cyclones fall short, they’ll be three games back with six to play and would have lost both games to K-State.
Record: 16-8 overall, 7-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 7 (Feb. 16 at Texas Tech; Feb. 19 at Iowa State; Feb. 23 vs. West Virginia; Feb. 27 vs. Texas; March 2 at Kansas State; March 6 vs. Oklahoma State; March 9 at Kansas)
ESPN’s BPI chances to win the Big 12 title: 2.9 percent
KenPom projected record: 10-8
Though the Bears are only two games out of first, stats say the Bears are more likely the play the role of spoiler the last few weeks. Much of that is more because of the schedule than any problems with Baylor itself.
Just take a look at what’s ahead. The Bears must visit ranked Texas Tech, Iowa State, K-State and Kansas in their final seven games. That means Baylor will be underdogs in more than half their remaining games.
The Bottom Line
It’s possible it’ll come down to a three-day stretch. From Saturday, Feb. 23 to Monday, Feb. 25, Kansas must play both Texas Tech and Kansas State.
Kansas also did just beat TCU on the road, so maybe the Jayhawks can hold serve at home and do enough on the road to earn a split, likely with Kansas State.
Despite that scenario, K-State has to be thinking a title is more likely than not. The bigger question is whether it will be shared…and if Kansas can claim No. 15 because of that.