Xavier Henry has shaken off the freshman funk he was in for about 14 games.
With only a few precincts reporting, it's too early to call, but Tyshawn Taylor's return to the starting line-up looks like a success.
Sherron Collins has found his shot and is playing with a bounce in his step again, like the weight of an entire basketball team has been lifted from his shoulders.
Cole Aldrich has been playing like Cole Aldrich. For that matter, Marcus Morris has been playing like Danny Manning.
It's nice to be able to bring guys like Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed off the bench. Even the end of the bench – Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey – is productive when foul problems dictate.
KU is 13-0 and looks primed to make a run at a perfect 16-0 record in the Big 12, something that's only happened once before. In 2001-02, the Jayhawks ran the table en route to a 33-4 record and a Final Four berth.
Which is exactly why Kansas is ripe for a loss Saturday.
The Jayhawks will take on the new kid on the Top 10 block, Kansas State, at Allen Field House next Wednesday, March 3rd. The thought of letting struggling KU off the overtime hook at the Hawktagon of Doom earlier this month makes that vein in coach Frank Martin's forehead pop out.
Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton are playing very well. Curtis Kelly is becoming a tough inside player who can score. And this winning stuff doesn't look new on the Cats anymore; they're starting to carry themselves like they've been there before. There's nothing more dangerous than a team that thinks they belong, and if Kansas State was tough the first time, they're even better now.
Then KU takes on Missouri at the Paige Sports Arena the following Saturday to finish the Big 12 regular season. All that would stand between the Jayhawks and Big 12 history would be a smallish Mizzou team that really didn't need to bother showing up for an 84-65 beatdown at Allen Field House back in January.
Thing is, weird stuff happens when KU plays Missouri on the road. It's one of the two or three games MU legend Norm Stewart could get his underachieving Tigers motivated to play and one of just a handful of games for which Missouri fans will actually turn out. Even coach Mike Anderson's found a way to get his team to play up to their potential against the Jayhawks, as evidenced by a 62-60 home victory over the Jayhawks.
Oh, yeah – and Kansas plays Oklahoma State this Saturday, too.
Coach Travis Ford and his Aggies (my homage to Max) are a very solid 19-7 overall, 7-5 in the Big 12 heading into a Wednesday night contest against Texas at Austin. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they won, which is more a statement about how average Texas is than how good OSU is.
Okie State boasts the conference's leading scorer in James Anderson (G, 6-6, 220) at 22.8 points per game. So they got that goin'. Y'know. Which is nice.
- As a team, the Cowboys score 75.8 ppg in the conference, four fewer than Kansas.
- Defensively, they give up 73 ppg in conference, five more than KU.
- Oklahoma State allows Big 12 opponents to shoot 43.3 percent. KU's opposition shoots just 38.8 percent.
- Finally, OSU averages 37.1 rebounds a game. The Jayhawks grab 40.8.
The numbers that may be the most telling are these: 102-52. That's Kansas' all-time series record against the Cowboys.
Now, forget everything you just read.
Kansas is just one game over .500 (31-30) at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Add on two games played when KU and Oklahoma A&M were in the Missouri Valley and you can bump it up a little. KU was 2-0 at the campus armory building before "historic" Gallagher-Iba opened. No word on whether it was referred to as the Armory of Doom or not.
Quick sidebar: Is a building historic if I slap up a big sign that says it is?
Granted, Ted and Larry had a pretty good handle on things when the two teams were members of the old Big 8. The Jayhawks went 23-14 at GIA during the tenure of that old conference, but that's ancient history by now.
The record shows Kansas is just 3-3 in Gallagher-Iba since the inception of the Big 12.
Ol' Roy had his problems at Stillwater. I remember a night during the 1999-2000 season – KU went 24-10 – when he took the team south for Big Monday and came back an 86-53 loser. That Jayhawks squad wasn't exactly a powerhouse, but then, neither were the Cowboys. OSU's Desmond Mason was a terrific player, but the next most recognizable name was ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb, a man better known for his fashion sense on the court than his ability.
As Kansas coach, Bill Self is 1-2 against his alma mater in Stillwater since coming to Kansas. His losses were an 80-60 train wreck in ‘03-'04 and a 61-60 upset of his '07-'08 squad that went on to win the national championship.
With two monumentally huge games in the distance, and with a unique place in Big 12 basketball history in the backs of their minds (and you know it is), it would be easy to gaze off, dreamily, into the horizon toward an exciting destination and lose focus on what should be a very navigable bump in the road right in front of them.
I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.