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.
Kansas rival K-State is currently tied first in the conference at 13-4 with Texas Tech. 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 projections, players, history and schedules — and how it could end.
The state of the Big 12 basketball title race
Record: 23-7 overall, 13-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 1 (March 9 vs. Oklahoma)
K-State’s loss at KU on Feb. 25 was more about the Jayhawks remaining alive in the race than dooming the Wildcats’ title chances. Kansas’ 64-49 win meant the Wildcats had a little more pressure on themselves.
The good news? Since then, K-State beat Baylor and TCU to maintain its spot in a first-place tie. If the Wildcats beat Oklahoma on Saturday, they will end KU’s streak — and clinch at least a tie.
Record: 25-5 overall, 13-4 Big 12
Remaining games: 1 (March 9 at Iowa State)
Lost in the whirlwind of a Kansas-or-Kansas State battle was the fact that Texas Tech is right there, too. Now they’re more than “just there” after dismantling Kansas 91-62, narrowly beating Oklahoma State on Feb. 27 and earning dominant wins over TCU and Texas.
The Red Raiders will bring their championship-caliber defense every game. The question is if Jarrett Culver and Co. can score enough.
That hasn’t been a problem of late though, as the Red Raiders have routed Kansas and short-handed Baylor (86-61) in back-to-back games. And the wins didn’t stop there, as Texas Tech has won eight in a row since losing at Kansas on February 2.
If Texas Tech wins at Iowa State on Saturday, the Red Raiders clinch at least a share…and would end KU’s streak.
Record: 22-7 overall, 11-5 Big 12
Remaining games: 2 (March 5 at Oklahoma; March 9 vs. Baylor)
Kansas is only 3-7 on the road this season, a troubling number as the Jayhawks can’t rely on Allen Fieldhouse the rest of the way. Of course Kansas did just that last week, as it beat leader K-State 64-49. Bill Self is now 29-0 at home at KU on Big Monday.
But even if Kansas beats both Oklahoma and Baylor to end the regular season, it would need both K-State and Texas Tech to lose on Saturday to earn a share of the title. Those are long odds.
Record: 19-10 overall, 10-6 Big 12
Remaining games: 2 (March 6 vs. Oklahoma State; March 9 at Kansas)
Baylor was in contention for much of the season, but the Bears can’t catch either K-State or Texas Tech in the standings.
Record: 20-9 overall, 9-7 Big 12
Remaining games: 2 (March 6 at West Virginia; March 9 vs. Texas Tech)
Iowa State’s title hopes faded after dropping three games out with four recently. But the Cyclones could play spoiler and upset Texas Tech on Saturday. That could cost Texas Tech at least a share of the Big 12 crown.
The Bottom Line
There’s no margin for error left for Kansas. The Jayhawks must beat both Oklahoma and Baylor in the final week — and then they will need big, big help.
On Saturday, K-State plays at home against Oklahoma and Texas Tech visits Iowa State. KU will need both the Wildcats and Red Raiders to lose. Otherwise, the streak is finally done.
Texas Tech has the tougher of the remaining two games, but K-State will be in great position to win and earn at least a share of the title.