Jayhawks Heating Up As March Nears

As the college basketball regular season winds, down Kansas coach Bill Self is encouraged by the team's recent upswing, culminating with Monday night's win at Iowa State.

As the college basketball regular season winds, down Kansas coach Bill Self is encouraged by the team's recent upswing, culminating with Monday night's win at Iowa State.

Even more encouraging is the improvement of guard Elijah Johnson, who poured in a career high 39 points in the overtime win over the Cyclones. Self has reason to hope that the game could be the start of another run for the senior, who is hoping to lead his team on another successful run through the month of March.

"That was an unbelievable basketball game with as good of a performance by an individual since I've been here," Self said at his weekly press conference, Thursday. "I'm excited for Elijah, that he's got his mojo back."

At first glance, you could look and just see Johnson's 39 points and think that he got hot for a night, but after dealing with adversity through the course of the season, Self was fired up for his senior leader, as Johnson rose to the occasion when his team needed him the most.

"There were no easy points," Self said. "A lot of times, a guy may score 20 in four or five minutes, because a team has to foul to catch up or something like that. This is a guy making plays every possession. If he don't make every play, then we lose the game and he had to make five or six consecutive plays in a row to give us a chance to win the game."

Timing played a critical role, as Kansas trailed by as much as five points with a minute to play. Johnson's run proved to be the difference make that has the Jayhawks in prime position to win their ninth consecutive Big 12 championship.

"He got his points when it mattered the most and that's what I think made it so special," Self said.

Moving forward to Saturday afternoon's game with West Virginia, the Jayhawks have once again put themselves in the position to grab a number one seed come tournament time and make no mistake, fans aren't the only one paying attention.

"I don't follow it like some fans do on TV, or look at Joe Lunardi's updated bracket, but I'm interested and I hope we're in the discussion," Self said.

With the regular season down to three games, attention is beginning to turn toward the second season, as Kansas will head into March, hoping to duplicate last year's success and then some, but it's what happens in that month that determines if a season can be considered as special in the final analysis.

Though, Self said a Big 12 title doesn't determine that, it would be a flaw considering the fact that Kansas started 7-0 in league play, but each year is different except for the common denominator that is the how one fares in March.

"The whole thing is, I don't think you can have a special season, unless you perform well in the NCAA Tournament," Self said. "We've had 35-3, 33-3, those were great years, you can't take that away. But, were they special? No, we didn't quite get done what we thought we could get done."

Self pointed out that each year is different, but success in March will typically define a team and while a Big 12 championship is important, it's what happens after that makes the season.

"Last year was special, because we advanced. When we won the league when Mario and them were freshman (2005-06), great year, but we had to win some games in the tournament to make it a special year and I think that's still the case. So, you can have a special year and not win your conference. I don't think you can have a special year and not do good in the tournament."


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