Kansas suddenly looks to be cruising to its 14th consecutive Big 12 championship

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The only part of Kansas basketball that fell behind Monday was the black market. 

Might as well go ahead and start printing the T-shirts, right? 

Kansas, Big 12 champs. Again. Forever, it seems. 

"Oh, hell no," Bill Self said when it was suggested it might be time to assume a 14th consecutive conference title.

Sure, there is a long way to go after a 104-74 dismantling of Oklahoma on Monday. There are still three conference games left, including Saturday at No. 6 Texas Tech, but it just feels like it always has at this time of year.

That is, a sense of sublime accomplishment.

After what was arguably No. 8 Kansas' best game of the season, the focus is less on the future than the immediate present.

"We don't care about two weeks from now," Self said, shooting down any projection to postseason play. "We care about Saturday."

With the win, KU inched a half-game in front of Texas Tech. A win then in Lubbock, then, could clinch at least a tie for that 14th consecutive title, which would break UCLA's college basketball record of 13 from 1967 to '79.

There were times this season when that seemed unlikely. The 12-point home loss Jan. 3 to the Red Raiders was the worst of the Self era. The three total losses at home this season matches the most since the 1998-99 season.

This is how tenuous life has been at home for KU: It was favored Monday (8 1/2 points in Vegas) by more points than it has won any home conference game by this season.

"We needed a game where we could not sweat to the very, very end," Self said.

Kansas scored the first 10 points, shot 61 percent for the game, 55 percent from the arc and scored 100 against a conference opponent for the first time in two years.

Six players scored in double figures.

"It takes away your confidence when you're contesting shots and they're all going in," Oklahoma's Jamuni McNeace said.

There was a lot missing about this team. Depth, for one. Projected contributor Billy Preston never made it to the court, the subject of an in-house investigation. He eventually left to play overseas.

That meant a lack of accountability when players did slump. Sometimes Self couldn't sit down guys if he wanted to. There simply is no replacement at times.

With 7:06 left in the first half, guard Devonte Graham was taken out of game for the first time in 37 days. He had played every minute of every game in the past 10 contests going back to Jan. 13 against Kansas State.

"It actually did [feel weird]," Graham said. "I haven't watched a game from the sidelines in I don't know when."

Not that Graham -- with 23 points and seven assists -- has ever been a slacker this season. In fact, after holding Trae Young, the nation's leading scorer, to a career-low 11 points, there could be some reconsideration of the Big 12 Player of the Year.

"We haven't won like this in a while, everybody playing and having fun," Graham said.

If Self can continue to get close to the 10 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes forward Silvio De Sousa contributed, that changes things considerably in the post.

The 6-foot-9 De Sousa was cleared by the NCAA on Jan. 13. Shortly after halftime, the Angolan surpassed his career total (five points in nine games).

"That's a huge positive," guard Malik Newman said. "We don't have to rely on [center Udoka Azubuike] and tire him out in the last five, six minutes of the game."

The last time these teams met, Jan. 23 in Norman, the Sooners fouled Azubuike whenever he touched the ball down the stretch. The hack-a-Doke strategy worked. Azubuike -- a career 43 percent foul shooter -- went 1 for 8 from the line. OU won 85-80.

Young also scored 26 and added nine assists that day.

"The only thing that was on our mind was payback," Newman said. "We went down there and they stole one from us."

On Monday, Young and all of the Sooners just looked tired of playing basketball. Fans taunted him with chants over "overrated." Students wore costumes mocking Young's now-famous fear of birds.

The Sooners are as much a confounding mess as Kansas is confident. The nation's No. 1 scoring team is also the worst Power Five team defensively in the country. OU has lost six in a row and seven of eight.

At 16-11 (6-9 in the league) there has to be legitimate concern whether the Sooners will make the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Kansas (22-6) always seems to peak at this time of year. At least that's the way it has been the past 13 conference-winning seasons.

Self's exclamation above about anything being wrapped up was one part coach-speak and one part graciousness. The other part is hedging about a team he still doesn't have a full idea about.

"Making shots here," he said, "won't have anything to do with making shots in Lubbock."

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