I always drink my diet soda (or diet soda and a splash of something) out of the bar cup I kept from the day two seasons ago when Texas' Kevin Durant went nuts in the first half at Allen Field House but KU still won.
I have my lucky sweatshirt that I watch every KU game in. Sure, it's
uncomfortably hot come tournament time, but if the team can run and
pound and dive and sweat, the least I can do is break a sweat drinking
in my recliner as I watch them.
So it isn't on an impulse that I write this. The last thing I want to
do is jinx the basketball team as they wrap up the Big 12 regular
You have to admit, though, the stars seem aligned. Again.
KU sits alone at the top of the Big 12 standings at 12-1. Oklahoma, who
KU beat in Norman Monday night, is a game back at 11-2. Missouri, who
handed KU their only Big 12 loss, is also a game back in the loss
column at 10-2.
There are still three or four games left in the conference regular
season, but it's difficult not to look at the three schedules and feel
pretty good about KU's chances.
Oklahoma: The Sooners still have to make road trips to Lubbock and
Columbia before finishing off the regular season with the hoops
installment of the Bedlam Series against Okie Light. Their home stretch
all depends on my national player of the year, Blake Griffin.
Oklahoma is a very different team without him. I know: duh. What I mean
is, they're still very good, but Griffin is an intimidating presence.
He is extremely physical and he has the sensitivity of a guy who clubs
baby seals. Remember how Chicago Bear middle linebacker and walking
amphetamine advertisement Dick Butkus used to say his ideal hit would
be to hit a guy so hard his helmet comes off…with his head still in it?
That's how Blake Griffin dunks. That dark quality and physicality
complements the Sooner's athleticism and make them a much tougher out.
Depending on if he comes back and, if so, how well he plays, OU could
go anywhere from 1-2 to 3-0. Whatever happens, Mizzou on the road and
Oklahoma State in Norman won't be an easy road.
Missouri's schedule is back-loaded, which will make it tough for them
to finish 14-2. They beat an improved Kansas State team Wednesday night
in Columbia. They still have to face Kansas in Lawrence this Sunday,
Oklahoma at home (possibly with Blake Griffin back) next Wednesday and
a tough season finale at College Station where Mark Turgeon and his Ags
seem to be figuring it out.
Meanwhile, Kansas takes on Missouri this Sunday at home, Texas Tech in
Lubbock Wednesday and then Texas in Allen Field House the
Coach Bill Self has five days to prepare his team to take on Missouri,
a team that beat them on a last-second bucket in Columbia. Give Bill
Self five days to prepare his KU team for the Boston Celtics and I'll
take KU and the points.
Texas Tech is, to quote Ty Webb, not good. Even though the United
Spirit Arena will be packed – after all, this is one of just a handful
of games each year where it fills up – Pat Knight still has to trot his
dad's pedestrian talent onto the court. I just don't see KU losing this
Finally, Self has had quite a bit of success against Texas, and this
year's edition may well be the biggest disappointment in the Big 12,
maybe the country. They've won six games against top 50 RPI teams,
which is very impressive, but they've really tanked in Big 12 play (7-5
as this is being written). I've seen more organized offenses in the 6-3
and Under League at the community center. The loss of D.J. Augustine to
the NBA was bigger than I think anyone realized, and the guys behind
him aren't stepping up.
I know: I've jinxed the ‘Hawks. They're screwed.
It's difficult not to look ahead, though. Five straight conference
championships in this day and age? That's an amazing feat, particularly
when you look at all the turnover after Self's second season (gone:
Nick Bahe, Alex Galindo, J.R. Giddens, C.J. Giles, Keith Langford,
Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien) and last season, his fifth
(gone: Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun,
Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson).
And 52 league titles in KU program history? Don't get me started.
If you'd have asked me back in September to make a prediction on what
the Jayhawks' record would be after 13 games of the conference
schedule, I'd have said 8-5, getting ready to finish up 10-6. That
would've been good enough to get me excited for next season when these
guys are a year older and a year wiser.
Much to just about everyone's happy surprise, though, KU is in the
driver's seat in the Big 12 with what seems to be a favorable schedule
in front of them.
Eh, what the hell? Superstitious or not, just go ahead and win the
Fifth Conference Title in a Row?
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