LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas pulled off a rousing comeback against a dogged and dangerous West Virginia team Monday night, rallying from 14 down with less than three minutes left to preserve its nearly unblemished record of domination at Allen Fieldhouse and its long-running vise grip on the Big 12.
And, more to the point, Bill Self continued to quietly build his résumé as perhaps the best college basketball coach not named Coach K.
Another championship or two and Self should rank among the best of all time -- perhaps, even, at a solid No. 2 on the list. The shiver and tremble that shook the Phog as Kansas battled back to an 84-80 overtime victory should not obscure the level of greatness its coach continues to demonstrate.
All of that was evident in No. 3 Kansas beating back No. 9 West Virginia's attempt to make the Jayhawks lose back-to-back games at home for the first time since the 1988-89 season. Instead, Self improved to 218-10 in perhaps America's finest basketball venue.
With Baylor's loss on the same night at Texas Tech, the Big 12, again, is Self's plaything and Kansas' unquestionable domain. And while the conference is the best in America -- Kansas should not take lightly remaining games against TCU and Oklahoma State, to say nothing of No. 4 Baylor in Waco on Saturday -- it again seems all but certain that KU is on the way to winning its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
"It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, but we can't be worried about what other teams do," Kansas guard Devonte Graham said. "But that gives us a little bit of a cushion on the conference lead."
A little cushion between now and 13 consecutive seasons dominating a great, great college basketball conference is absurdly great -- a historical level of excellence that too often goes unnoticed on the coasts. As does the coach behind it.
Self has a national title. He's taken KU's blue-blood program to heights that Roy Williams, despite the fanfare and affection surrounding him, never reached in Lawrence. And Self has one of the best teams in America right now, one that showed its toughness and the reason to fear it as much any other once March turns to madness.
And yet in conversations with most college hoops fans, media or even other coaches, I rarely hear Self getting the credit he deserves on the level he should: Coach K, Cal, Pitino, Roy, Izzo, Boeheim -- the luminaries -- should never be spoken without Self's name among them.
The victory Monday was classic Self: calm, disciplined, remarkable and, because it happened at the Phog, one that won't be properly appreciated starting a few days from now.
"It was huge," Self said of the victory. "It was huge to play that hard and compete that hard and not have anything good happen for so long and the guys just hung in there. We missed every front-end it seemed like, every open look, and actually handled the ball pretty well against pressure, but our guys ... I still don"t know how we did it.
"It was a remarkable game."
He's right. West Virginia dominated the game and pressed and prodded Kansas into a state of disarray and awful shooting for most of the game. And despite blowing that 14-point lead with less than three minutes to go, West Virginia remains a dangerous team you should remember once you start filing out your brackets next month.
They're real contenders -- tough, defensive studs, with a press that has embarrassed multiple top-10 teams this season -- that is capable of carrying Bob Huggins to another Final Four if things break the right way.
West Virginia is that legit. So is Baylor. Either team is good enough to win it all this year. But Kansas, under Self, has shown that its greatness is anything but temporary, and that easy confidence that finds a program that wins year after year can be the difference in a big comeback in February or a key Sweet 16 game in March. And with Frank Mason -- a player of the year candidate who scored 11 of 18 points over that final 2:45 -- evolving into a player who can take over an entire NCAA Tournament, that confidence may kick in yet again a month from now.
Don't lose sight of Kansas' excellence and where it puts its head coach as an all-timer. On a night when Allen Fieldhouse broke a Guinness world record for loudest crowed roar at an indoor sporting event, Bill Self continued to quietly set down a career that has few peers in the history of the game.