KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Inside the Kansas Bubble, reality is distorted.

This wasn't the best KU team in Bill Self's 15 seasons, not even close. But it wasn't going to tank either. There were questions, lots of them for a team that lost the national player of the year (Frank Mason) and 61 percent of its scoring.

But it wasn't a disaster either.

That Kansas Bubble can sometimes be a place of entitlement, expectation, birthright. Not by the players, but because of the breathless expectations of their followers.

Nothing, it seems, is ever good enough.

"Everything was about what were we going to do without Frank," Kansas guard Devonte Graham said. "How were we going to replace Josh [Jackson]? If we had any depth.

"We knew what we had."

That didn't become fully evident to everyone inside and outside that bubble until Saturday night. Kansas backed up another Big 12 regular-season title with another Big 12 Tournament title, this time with an 81-70 win over West Virginia.

In the process, that bubble burst. For those fans who lamented all the so-called "issues" regarding this team, just stop it. Prior to this week, the fans at about 330 of the 351 Division I schools would have taken this team in a heartbeat.

Now? Even without injured center Udoka Azubuike and even with questions about depth and rebounding, well, just stop it again. After a revealing run through another Big 12 Tournament these Jayhawks suddenly look like they're good enough for the Final Four.

That was once blasphemy for a squad that lost three at home for the first time since 1988-99. Now?

"Let's be honest," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins summed up, "all those guys out there if they're not McDonald's All-Americans, it's because they're from another country."

Bill Self, as he usually does, has rounded his team into March shape.

Inconsistent guard Malik Newman just happened to play the best three games of his career - combining for 72 points and being named the tournament's most outstanding player.

Freshman Silvio De Sousa, who joined the team at the semester, accomplished the first double-double of his career (16 points, 10 rebounds) against one of the toughest teams in the country.

And Graham? He was a bit Jordanesque. With Graham at the controls, the Jayhawks made second-half comebacks down by seven (twice) and eight points in the second half.

Graham's 13 assists were a championship-game record. Eight of his 18 points came in the final eight minutes.

"We're way past that [doubt]," said Graham, the Big 12's player of the year. " Everybody's starting to find a little rhythm. It's a perfect time to do it right at the beginning of March."

Kansas will likely start the tournament within driving distance in Wichita where - if the selection committee has any sense - the Jayhawks will be the top seed in the Midwest.

From there, well, a different scrutiny will apply. For all of Self's conference success, he has been to only two Final Fours and won only one (2008).

The Kansas City Star ranked this the ninth-best team of Self's 14 consecutive Big 12 champions. It might be the third-worst overall in Self's 15 seasons.

There were depth issues. There were no sure-fire NBA talents on this team. There still might not be after Jackson became the No. 4 pick in the draft last year.

Kansas relied too much on outside shooting. It didn't rebound well. But the Bubble never saw the big picture.

There are only a tiny fraction of teams who can legitimately harbor those self-doubts. Self teams do peak in March. On Saturday, the Jayhawks shot 56 percent for the game (72 percent in the second half) and 55 percent from three (69 percent in the second half).

"It was like every shot they put up, went in," West Virginia guard Jevon Carter lamented.

"When you see other guys making shots and the team depending on you to make plays, you can't not shoot the ball," Graham said.

This is already a season in which "there may be 25 teams out there who can make the Final Four," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said before the game.

Why not Kansas? Why not now? They're not perfect, but who is? One player of the year (Mason) was replaced by another (Graham). Any concerns about Azubuike melted away when backups Mitch Lightfoot and De Sousa combined for 46 points and 30 rebounds in the three tournament games.

De Sousa became the breakout star with his double-double.

"Coach called me soft," said the 6-foot-9 freshman from Angola (by way of IMG Academy). "At halftime after he called me soft. I said, 'All right, I'll play better.' ''

De Sousa joining the team in midseason was key. Billy Preston, one of those McDonald's All-Americans, left the team in January after a review of a suspicious car accident caused eligibility issues. He never returned.

De Sousa didn't play his first game until Jan. 13 looking, at times, completely inept.

"In January I just wanted to feel liked," he said. "I just wanted to see how it felt like, the college game. Today, it was different. It's more comfortable knowing I can play."

The coach who once called him soft, reacted differently Saturday when told he had a diamond in the rough.

"We found one," Self said. "We found a shiny one."

This was one of the best Big 12 games of the season. It was West Virginia's grit (37-27 rebounding advantage) against Kansas' great shooting.

If Sagaba Konate (the nation's No. 3 shot blocker), Carter (two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year) and Daxter Miles keep leading, the Mountaineers could easily reach the Sweet 16.

Miles (25 points Saturday) came into tournament with 37 threes all season. He had 12 in the tournament.

But in the end for the Mountaineers there are no excuses. They have now blown combined leads of 50 points in the last four meetings with Kansas.

"It's not like we haven't had chances," Huggins said. "We've had chances."

A Big 12 pecking order had long ago been established.

"They've got good players and the guy can coach," Huggins said. "We've got great kids who just played their tails off that aren't as skilled, quite frankly."