KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- And so we bid farewell to the Jayhawks on their latest journey into March. Define Saturday's madness any way you want. Kansas did it mostly with smiles on their faces and definitely payback in mind.
There's no telling what any of the nastiness that ran through Kansas' 85-73 win over Texas in the Big 12 tournament championship game will mean in 24 hours. But for at least that long the Jayhawks will have the simple satisfaction of getting even. Hey, they're kids. Let them stick out their tongues if they want. Figuratively, of course. It didn't get that bad.
|More Kansas vs. Texas|
But for some loopy reason, there were residual bad vibes lingering from the teams' first meeting. Kansas' 74-63 loss to Texas on Jan. 22 was its first of the season and first in four years at home. That game featured four technicals and was overshadowed by the death of Lisa Robinson, mother of KU's Thomas Robinson, who had died the previous night. If Kansas felt like it owed Texas one, it had to check itself first. On that day, the Jayhawks blew leads of 15 (18-3 early), 12 (at halftime) and double digits well into the second half.
What did Texas do to deserve this pounding? Nothing, really, it just happened to be caught between Revenge Saturday and Selection Sunday.
"We really wanted another shot at them because a lot of people have been saying that they were the best team in the Big 12," Kansas' Marcus Morris said.
Where did that nasty rumor start? We already knew that wasn't the case because Texas eventually lost control of the conference race it gained advantage of that January day. Kansas won its seventh consecutive regular-season title, then backed it up with a fifth conference tournament title in the past six years. Saturday's beating was so thorough you'd think Texas was leaving the conference, not Nebraska and Colorado. That made this the final Big 12 game with the 12-team configuration.
Not that anyone noticed. This was clearly personal for Kansas, perhaps because the teams had spent the season separating itself from the rest of the league. This was their private tiff. Markieff Morris gave us a hint of the animosity Friday night when he told Texas, "I want ya'll," as the Horns were taking the floor for their semifinal against Texas A&M.
"I’ll give you the nicer version of what he said," Texas guard Jai Lucas said. "You better win, so we can beat ya'll tomorrow,' with some [other] words."
|Tyshawn Taylor scores a season-high 20 points against Texas. (Getty Images)|
"We had to back our talk up," he said. "We were saying we wanted Texas."
Thank goodness, for Kansas' sake, Texas did save the Big 12. The Longhorns have been a championship punching bag, 0-6 in Big 12 title games, four of those losses to Kansas. A team that had become a physical, defensive intimidator over the season seemed to take a step back. Not bad, big picture, for a likely No. 2 or No. 3 seed. But horrible on Saturday.
"I'd rather lose now and rather win it later on," Texas coach Rick Barnes rationalized. "We're a good team. We can beat anybody. We'll be a team that no one wants to play."
Now for more traditional March-like madness from Kansas:
• Thanks to some deft coaching by Bill Self, it looks like KU has shored up its point guard situation. The position remains the biggest question mark on a loaded team. Tyshawn Taylor started for the first time since he was suspended for two games in late February. The result was an encouraging 20 points and five assists in 37 minutes.
• Six players scored in double figures. Not that Kansas particularly needs any more depth.
• Kansas' defense shut down super freshman Tristan Thompson, who scored only seven points in 21 minutes against the Morris twins and Robinson.
"That was a big boy game," Self said. "There were men out there playing."
• Kansas could be an Ohio State loss away from its second consecutive overall No. 1 seed on Sunday. The Buckeyes play Penn State in the Big Ten tournament championship game. The overall No. 1 is a nice label and all, but ask Jayhawks everywhere how that worked out for them last year.
Can the revenge motive keep Kansas woofing, running and jamming for the next three weeks?
"We definitely want to set the record straight," Robinson said.