By now it would seem fitting for Kansas to dismiss Big 12 competition and not get up for games.
But revenge was on the Jayhawks' minds in the final of the conference tournament. With that motivation, which they expressed with some chippy moments, they avenged an earlier homecourt loss to Texas by thumping the Longhorns 85-73.
The tournament title was the fifth in six years for Kansas (32-2) and came off its seventh consecutive regular-season title in the Big 12. Immaterial, you say, going into the NCAA Tournament? Maybe not, given the dominance the Jayhawks exerted.
"If we play like that every game, it's definitely going to be hard to stop us," said Marcus Morris, a junior forward who was named the tournament's outstanding player after being crowned the Big 12 player of the year for the regular season.
Kansas advanced as the second overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and was installed as the top seed in the Southwest Region. It opens March 18 against Boston University (21-13) in Tulsa, Okla.
Motivation is sometimes an issue and one the Jayhawks cannot ignore moving forward. They survived a one-point scare from Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament and then were in a two-possession game against Colorado inside the final minute of the semifinals.
More importantly, as the top overall seed in last year's NCAA Tournament, Kansas lost in the second round to Northern Iowa. Whether any sufficient lessons were learned from that upset defeat, or other close calls this season, remains an issue. For his part, coach Bill Self downplayed the distinction of top overall seed.
"That doesn't even matter to me," he said.
What matters is playing complete games like the one against Texas. When the Jayhawks click offensively, they work through Morris and his twin brother, Markieff, to get touches on the block. Kick-outs to the perimeter are more effective, particularly if bombers such as Tyrel Reed are connecting. Fast-break opportunities are also exploited when turnovers are created or the boards are controlled.
Combine all those elements and the Jayhawks could be as good offensively as any team in the tournament. Defense has been a prickly point, however, for Self, who routinely develops teams that are tough on that end. Sometimes, Kansas is content trading baskets, realizing it possesses more firepower than most opponents.
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