KU has won four consecutive conference titles just five times in school history, the last being 1995-98. While the national championship is the Jayhawks’ ultimate prize, winning the Big 12 title is also a huge goal for this team.
“Coaches across America understand how hard it is to win
league championships,” Bill Self said at his Thursday press
conference. “That’s a great achievement (to win
four straight Big 12 titles). To win four in a row in a high major
league, where other guys are recruiting comparable-type players is a
great accomplishment. Obviously, we haven’t done that. We got
to win Saturday. But that would be a big feather in this
program’s cap, and primarily those seniors’ caps to
have a chance to do that.”
KU (27-3, 12-3) is currently tied with Texas atop the Big 12 race. The
Longhorns host Oklahoma State in their regular-season finale on Sunday.
The Jayhawks, though, are just focused on A&M and controlling
their own destiny.
“I think our locker room will be pretty juiced going out (to
play),” Self said. “This should be the most
competitive we feel all year long going into this game. Our guys will
be fired up to play, just like A&M’s will be
KU is facing former Jayhawk guard Mark Turgeon’s Aggies
(22-8, 8-7), who have won two of their last three games after dropping
three straight. The Aggies are coming off a big 71-57 victory at Baylor
on Wednesday, just a game after being blitzed at Oklahoma, 64-37.
Texas A&M has a balanced offensive attack, led by junior
guard/forward Josh Carter, who averages 12.6 points per game. He also
leads the team with 63 three-pointers. Senior forward Joseph Jones is
next in scoring at 10.7 points per game, while also ranking second on
the team in rebounds (5.2 rpg). Sophomore guard Donald Sloan averages
9.4 points, followed by freshman center DeAndre Jordan (9.0 ppg and
team-best 6.4 rpg and 37 blocks), sophomore forward Bryan Davis (8.6
ppg and team-high 31 steals), senior guard Dominique Kirk (7.9 ppg and
team-best 102 assists), and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6.1 ppg).
The Aggies are holding opponents to 61.6 points per game (No. 3 in Big
12) and 38.8 field-goal shooting, which is second in the league behind
Kansas. They're looking to end the regular season with a bang on Senior
“Two of their last three games (victory over Baylor and 98-54
blowout win against Texas Tech) have been great
performances,” Self said. “I thought last night
(beating Baylor) was a great emotional win for their program, one they
probably felt they needed to get. I’m sure Saturday will be
an emotional-filled day also. Hopefully, we’ll play good. We
expect them to play good. It should be a great Big 12
Texas A&M has been a streaky shooting team. Self just hopes
they don’t catch fire on Saturday. He said the Aggies pose
“They defend, they’re very, very
athletic,” Self said. “DeAndre Jordan is an athlete
that few people in America have. He’s a fabulous talent and
fast. ... Josh Carter was the best three-point shooter in the country
last year, this year he’s not shooting quite as good. But we
know he can shoot. They’ve got the guys. When you make shots,
everything looks a lot better. It's the same for us."
KU has received a big boost recently from the play of sophomore guard
Sherron Collins. He scored 13 points against Texas Tech on Senior
Night, and exploded for 18 the previous game against K-State. His
bruised knee is getting better daily.
“He’s not a little better, he’s a lot
better than he was a week ago,” Self said. “This is
the first time he’s felt good all year. He had the stress
fracture, the screw put in his foot, and he didn’t respond to
treatment well after that. And he turns his ankle and chipped a bone in
his foot. Then he gets a bruised knee. He’s never been able
to practice and get to where he’s at now. Right now,
he’s actually practicing full time. He hasn’t
practiced full time in months. I think he’s close to being
what we all thought he would be going into the season. He
couldn’t have picked a better time to do it. He’s
close to being 100 percent (regarding) health, timing, explosiveness,
and conditioning. I still think he can improve in some of those
This game marks the first time Turgeon has ever coached against his
alma mater. The former KU point guard (1983-87) is in his first year at
Texas A&M after serving the last seven years as head coach at
Wichita State. Turgeon is in his 10th season overall as a head college
coach, and sports a 175-127 record.
“This (game) won’t be emotional for him like it
would be normally,” Self said. “It will be
emotional for him coming back here next year playing (in Allen
Fieldhouse) and being recognized and having all the talk. You know what
people down there are talking about? ‘We need to beat Kansas
to accomplish what we want to accomplish.’ I think they're in
the tournament without a doubt, but for seeding ... Coming back next
year, depending on the timing of the game, (people will) be talking
about his homecoming. He's not going to get hung up on playing his alma
mater this particular game. It'll probably be tougher next year."
Texas A&M will certainly be a tough obstacle for Kansas, whose
players know one more win is all they need to wrap up at least a share
of the Big 12 crown. If the Jayhawks can beat the Aggies, and if Texas
loses to Oklahoma State, KU will win the league title outright. So will
Self be tempted to watch the Texas game on Sunday afternoon?
“I hope I don’t even have to watch the
game,” Self said. “I’m sure
I’ll watch part of it, but the biggest thing, if we know who
we’re playing in the first round (of the Big 12 Tournament)
or the two teams we could potentially play, I’ll worry about
that. I don’t think you can burn energy or spend all your
time worrying about things you have no control over. At 3 (p.m. tipoff)
on Sunday, I hope I’m totally exhausted recovering from a
great celebration Saturday night. That’s what I hope
Four straight Big 12 championships would certainly be cause to
Conference Title on the Line Saturday for KU
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