The story of college basketball, like every year, revolves around the NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seeds and buzzer-beaters and Cinderellas … but let’s pause for a moment to recognize what happened in Lawrence, Kan., again this year. Kansas, you might recall, lost two of the top three picks in the NBA Draft last year. But they won the BIg 12 regular season-championship anyway.
It was the 11th straight year that Kansas has won the Big 12.
Eleven straight years. It’s hard to sum up this remarkable run. It’s the second-longest streak in college basketball history, behind John Wooden’s UCLA teams of the 1960s and ’70s. But it’s even more amazing. The last 11 years, the Big 12 has featured some of the best players of this generation — Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan. The Big 12 has featured some of the game’s best coaches. And yet, every single year, Bill Self and the Jayhawks win the title.
This year’s Kansas team, without Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, did not look like a threat to win the league. The Jayhawks were destroyed early by Kentucky and Temple. They did not seem to have a champion’s rhythm or a singular star.
But, like always, Self’s team emerged when the Big 12 season began. Junior Perry Ellis began to play like one of the best players in the country. Everyone picked up their games. The Jayhawks did not lose once at Allen Fieldhouse. They wrapped up their championship with a near-miraculous comeback at home against West Virginia.
Bill Self is amazed himself at what his teams have done. He also knows that it will all be forgotten if Kansas loses early in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe that’s why they call it March Madness.
— Joe Posnanski