The Kansas Jayhawks have won the Big 12 title eight seasons in a row, an unprecedented feat for a team in a power conference. Even in a year when they dropped three straight contests to then-unranked opponents, the Jayhawks remain my favorite to finish atop the Big 12.
They will get a rematch in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Wednesday night, a team that defeated them, 85-80, in Lawrence back on Feb. 2. The Jayhawks may very well lose that game and fall a game behind the Cowboys in the Big 12 standings. That loss would be a setback for Kansas, which is coming off a 73-47 blowout victory over Texas but it wouldn't come close to erasing Kansas' chances of winning the Big 12 crown.
Kansas (21-4, 9-3) has a much more favorable schedule than Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3). The Jayhawks will be looking for revenge against TCU before traveling to Ames to take on Iowa State and playing West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor to close out their regular season. Oklahoma State travels to West Virginia and TCU, hosts Texas, travels to Iowa State and hosts Kansas State to end the regular season.
In most seasons, Bill Self’s club would take care of business down the stretch, and with arguably the Big 12’s best guard in Ben McLemore (the Big 12’s leading scorer in conference play at 17.8 points per game) and the best big man in the Big 12 in Jeff Withey (13.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game this season), Kansas is too good to let another slide happen late in the season, and will close strong like in any other season under Self, whom I consider the best coach in the Big 12. Kansas is a seasoned team, with four senior starters, and should finish the season strong even if it falls to the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State on the other hand, has a lineup full of freshmen and underclassmen. Its star player is freshman Marcus Smart (16.5 points per game in Big 12 play), who helped deliver its 84-79 victory in overtime over the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, with his clutch play down the stretch of regulation. McLemore is also a freshman, so unless the Cowboys win out, he will likely not even earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. Since the Travis Ford era began in 2008, the Cowboys have not won more than nine conference games in a season. With potential traps at West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State, Oklahoma State will probably drop a game down the stretch and, if they fall to Kansas this week, the Jayhawks will run away with it.
The Jayhawks should win a tight and hard-fought game in Stillwater on Wednesday and win out, good for another conference title for Kansas. I can also see Oklahoma State winning out after falling to the Jayhawks and defeating Kansas State on its Senior Night to knock them out of Big 12 regular season title contention and finishing 14-4 in conference play. Kansas could also lose to Oklahoma State and win out, and as long as the Cowboys fall to someone other than Kansas State or Kansas State loses down the stretch, Kansas’ streak of eight conference regular season championships in a row will become nine. Simply put, until Kansas fails to win the Big 12, it is safe to assume the Jayhawk Dynasty will continue to reign supreme.