Enemies of the Kansas Jayhawks were almost giddy at the prospects of someone, anyone knocking KU off it's lofty Big 12 perch. After Saturday's 80-78 testy win over Oklahoma State, those rooting against the Jayhawks are not feeling to hot any longer.
With the win, Kansas improved to 4-0 (13-4 overall) in Big 12 play and with a win Monday night over Baylor, they will have completed their grueling five game stretch to open league play, unscathed and with that, they'll be in firm control to capture an incredible 10th consecutive league title, which has the team feeling good.
"Definitely, I see everybody now smiling," guard Naadir Tharpe said. "You know, you see a play happen when there is a timeout and everybody is getting off the bench and everybody is excited. You know I think everybody is just starting to understand this is how Kansas basketball is supposed to be played."
The Jayhawks find themselves with a two game lead on the field and barring a big collapse later in the season, you almost get the field that they can feel their power growing. For, despite their record, there is much room for improvement as evident by their performance against Oklahoma State. Kansas built a 19 point lead before surrendering it all and giving the Cowboys a chance at the end.
"We are 4-0, and we played really well the first half, but we played as bad the second half as we did good the first half," head coach Bill Self said. "We got out of here with the win. We controlled the game start to finish. I think they only led once and that was 4-2. They cut it to two points with a chance to tie or win late, and fortunately Frank (Mason) made a play. We are happy that we won, but frustrated about how we finished the game. That was as poor of a second half as we've played."
If the KU can continue to gel and improve, they could turn the Big 12 race into a laugher by mid February. Given the history over the past decade and the team's struggles earlier in the season, you like their odds to turn what seemed like an epic league race into a runaway and perhaps a coronation by season's end. One fact is clear, the rest of the league, best heed the message that they're going to have to do a lot better to dethrone Kansas.
"I feel like we are always sending a message that guys, even though even though we have a lot of young guys on the team, that they came and are ready to play and ready to defend the title that we have right now," Tharpe said. "If guys come in with that mindset and every game we just take it one game at a time and go out there and play Kansas basketball, I feel like we have a great chance."