Kansas locked up a share of the Big 12 regular-season title on Wednesday with its 87-68 victory against TCU in Lawrence. Itâs the 13th consecutive conference title for Bill Self and the Jayhawks, a streak that leaves them in the rare company of UCLA teams from 1967-1979 -- all but the last four of which were coached by John Wooden.
The pressure was on this yearâs KU team from the start, and player of the year candidate Frank Mason even admitted that no one in that locker room wanted to be a part of the team that stopped the streak. The streak has been going on so long that the current Kansas roster doesnât know anything else.
That intensity, combined with a deadly back court and the superstar emergence of Josh Jackson have been the power source for the Jayhawksâ incredible ability to close this season. In the last eight days, Kansas has stormed back from a double-digit deficit against West Virginia and stole a win from Baylor in Waco. Kansas has been playing with a purpose, and it just might be enough to carry them to another Final Four.
Kansasâ social media team was ready for the occasion, dropping a fire hype video to celebrate the 13th title shortly after the win.
Here are three things to know from KUâs big night
1. Some of basketballâs best have shared this streak
As Jackson, a top NBA prospect, and Mason, set to finish as one of the most decorated Jayhawks in the Bill Self era, were speaking to the media after the victory, it was impressive to think about the lineage of Jayhawks basketball in the past 13 years. Kansas has had 14 first-round draft picks (so far) during this 13-season run, but only two first team All-Americans (Thomas Robinson, 2012; Wayne Simien, 2005).
âIt has been an unbelievable run. There have been a lot of rocking guys that have been here during that time,â Self said.
The line of succession starts with Simien and Mario Chalmers, runs through Brandon Rush and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, on to current NBA stars Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Now thereâs another NBA lottery pick on the roster with Jackson and another likely first team All-American in Mason. The only unknown is whether this special group will go the distance in the NCAA Tournament like only one other team (2008) has in this run.
2. Bill Self ranks among the best
Selfâs name now sits right next to Wooden, but where does he rank against his peers, both past and present? Self has recruited at a higher level and won big games more often than anyone else in the Big 12. His winning percentage and Final Four appearances put him in elite company, but at 54 heâs still writing his legacy.
If anything Selfâs running legacy is one of consistency. For example, Self has never lost both ends of a home-and-home series against a Big 12 opponent at Kansas, and hasnât done it at all since his first year at Illinois 2000-01. Kansas has consistently rolled out a roster ready to contend with the best teams in the country and only once under a Self-coached team lost 10 games or more (2014).
3. The birthday boy: Devonte Graham
Graham has been a part of a lot of huge Big 12 wins during the past three seasons, so clinching the conference title made Wednesday, his birthday, even better.