For the first time since 2004, the Kansas Jayhawks will not lay claim to the Big 12 regular-season championship.
Kansas’ run of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles, 10 of which have been outright, officially came to an end Tuesday night as the Jayhawks were blown out 81-68 by Oklahoma. It was the Sooners’ first win over the Jayhawks by more than 10 points since the 1990 Big 8 tournament, ESPN’s broadcast said.
“We knew what was on the line for this game,” Oklahoma’s Brady Manek said of his team’s NCAA tournament resume-boosting win. “We wanted to come out and hit them first. I think we did that. We played really well together and played as a team.”
That the run-ending loss came on the road was appropriate for the Jayhawks: Despite a No. 14 ranking and perfect 16-0 record at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas (22-8) has gone just 3-8 in true road games this season. In league play, Kansas is now 11-6 with a game vs. Baylor still to play. Texas Tech and Kansas State are tied atop the Big 12 standings at 13-4.
Aside from being inconsistent on the road, Kansas also had to deal with the season-ending injury to center Udoka Azubuike. Lagerald Vick also took a leave of absence to deal with a personal matter that has him still away from the team.
The last team that won a Big 12 championship without Kansas at least claiming a share was the 2004 Oklahoma State Cowboys. That squad, led by the legendary Eddie Sutton, finished 31-4, falling to Georgia Tech in the Final Four.
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“Where our league is so good is the 10 total,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the Big 12.
“The thing about OU, or TCU, or Baylor, or Kansas, or Iowa State … if you don’t play well that night you’re going to get beat. And that’s what makes the league so good. And I’m not saying other league’s don’t have that, but they don’t have it to the extent this one does,”
While Kansas’ impressive league-dominating streak – all done under coach Self – is over, it is assured of at least continuing another impressive streak: The Jayhawks will make the NCAA tournament for the 30th straight season. They have not missed the Big Dance since 1989, Roy Williams’ first season in Lawrence. It is the longest active streak in the nation.
Contributing: Associated Press