The Jayhawks (24-7, 13-5) enter the tournament trying to rebound after their 75-73 loss at Oklahoma last Saturday. Kansas is the No. 1 seed for the 12th time, seventh-straight, in the 19-year history of the league. KU has won 14 conference tournament titles, including six of the last 10 and nine of the 18 Big 12 Championships. Since the Big 12's inception in 1996-97, Kansas is 17-1 in its first games, 16-2 in the quarterfinals, 10-6 in the semifinals and 9-1 in the championship games.
TCU (18-14, 4-14), which had lost three straight, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 67-65 upset victory over No. 8 seed K-State in the opening round Wednesday. It was the Horned Frogs’ first win in the Big 12 Championship in three tries, and sets up the first meeting with the Jayhawks in the tournament.
Forward Chris Washburn led TCU with 16 points and eight rebounds, while guard Kyan Anderson also scored 16 points and guard Trey Zeigler added 15. The Horned Frogs shot 47.4 percent from the field and 40 percent (4-10) from beyond the arc, while holding KSU to just 39.7 percent shooting and 16.7 percent (1-6) from three-point range.
TCU head coach Trent Johnson was real pleased with Washburn and his team's guard play.
“Yeah, that was his best game all year long, 16 and eight (rebounds),” Johnson said of Washburn. “I thought he did a good job of giving us a post presence and he got happy hands and happy feet there late. But for the most part, this was his best game all year.”
Johnson also raved about Anderson and Zeigler.
“First and foremost, this is a time of year where you need to get good guard play and these two guys have been steppin' up all year long and they're both seniors, but I thought they did a really, really good job of handling the ball and getting us into the offense,” Johnson said. ”We had to make a few adjustments, because they put a lot of pressure on Kyan and were really physical, like they have been all year long. So we put the ball in Trey's hands and they did a really good job of handling pressure.”
Now, TCU hopes to keep the momentum going against Kansas. The Horned Frogs gave the Jayhawks a great game at home on Jan. 28 before falling, 64-61. In the rematch at Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 21, KU prevailed 81-72.
KU coach Bill Self remembers those games well.
“At TCU, (we had a) nine-point lead with two minutes left and almost let it get away from us there,” Self said. “Here, (we had a) 16-point lead and they cut it to six.”
The TCU players welcome a third game with the Jayhawks.
“I feel like it's hard to beat a team three times, especially (with) a conference like this,” Anderson said. “It's definitely going to be tough to try to pull that out, but we're going to do our best.”
“We match up well with Kansas,” Zeigler said. “We feel like they play the same style of basketball we do. They're a tough, physical, defensive team. We're looking forward to that matchup. We had two good games against them so hopefully we can continue to compete and try to get a win.”
Johnson has great respect for KU.
“Premier team in this league, one of the premier teams in the country,” he said. “No basketball program has a more storied tradition than they do and we've got to find a way to compete at a high level in a short period of time, and it's just a supreme challenge. It always has been.”
The Horned Frogs entered the Big 12 Championship ranking nationally in the Top 20 in three categories, including third in free throws attempted (797), 14th in offensive rebounds (13.6) and 15th in blocked shots (5.4).
A LOADED BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Many teams are coming to Kansas City this week with a real shot of winning the Big 12 Championship.
"I really believe that you could make a case that there are seven or eight teams that could win the tournament if they get hot," Self said. "Then you could make a case that if those seven or eight teams don't play well, us included on Thursday, that they'll lose. I don't think there are probably any other tournaments in America with that type of competitive balance. It should be a fun tournament. The team that just gets hot for the weekend will be the team that probably has the best chance to move forward."
STATS & STUFF
Kansas scores 71.9 points per game and has a +6.8 scoring margin, while the Jayhawks average 38.2 boards per game and have a +3.8 rebound margin. KU is second in the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage at 38.3 percent and averages 13.5 assists, 6.5 steals and 5.1 blocked shots per game.
Kansas has won more Big 12 Championships than any other school with nine. Oklahoma is next with three titles (2001-02-03).
KU is the only team to have won at least 30 games in the Big 12 Championship. The Jayhawks are 36-9 (80.0 percent) in the event, while Oklahoma State (23-16) and Texas (23-18) are second with 23 wins each.
With a 22-5 (81.5 percent) record, Self has the highest winning percentage in Big 12 Championship history.
LUCAS COMES UP HUGE
Redshirt sophomore forward Landen Lucas came up huge against Oklahoma last game replacing Perry Ellis (sprained knee) in the starting lineup. Lucas recorded career highs of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 33 minutes.
"I've always thought Landen was a good player," Self said. "I said not too long ago that Landen was good enough to be a starter at Kansas eventually, and that's true. Tarik (Black) was good enough to start here last year, too, but he didn't. We've had a lot of guys that are good enough (to be starters here) but they haven't because of recruiting. I'm not going to make any bold statements that he's 'for sure this' or he's ‘for sure that.' But I do know that he's for sure a good player, has improved a lot and is certainly part of our future moving forward."