It cannot be said enough how remarkable the University of Kansas men’s basketball team’s run of Big 12 Conference championships is.
With an 80-70 win over Texas Monday night, the Jayhawks wrapped up sole possession of their record 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. It is one of the most amazing runs, not just in college basketball, but in all of sports.
Kansas had been tied with the great UCLA teams from 1967 through 1979, which won 13 straight conference titles in what is now the Pac 12. But with wins over Texas Tech on Saturday and Texas on Monday, KU is alone at the top with 14 titles.
What makes the 14th title all the more impressive is how Kansas accomplished it. Given the loss of two front-court players — William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman and freshman Billy Preston — the Jayhawks lacked size and depth this season. And they faced a conference that was stacked from top to bottom. Eight of the 10 Big 12 teams are expected to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks lost three games in Allen Fieldhouse, and a little more than two weeks ago following a loss to Baylor, they were in second place looking up at Texas Tech. National pundits, most notably ESPN’s Seth Greenburg, started to write them off, predicting this would be the year that someone other than Kansas would win the Big 12.
KU would have none of it, reeling off five straight wins to secure the 14th title. Give credit to the players, especially senior stars Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, for keeping the streak alive. But also give credit to coach Bill Self, who turned in one of his finest coaching performances this season.
When Kansas’ Big 12 title streak began, George W. Bush was beginning his second term as president. Facebook was barely a year old. The iPhone was still two years away from being announced and the Big 12 still had 12 teams. Graham was just 10 years old, and Mykhailiuk was a 7-year-old in Ukraine who had never heard of Kansas.
During the streak, the Jayhawks have won 83 percent of their games, going 416-85 overall. In the conference, the team has compiled a record of 196-41. Kansas has lost just 11 conference games at home since the streak began.
Since the first Big 12 title, the Jayhawks have made nine appearances in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, six in the Elite Eight, two in the Final Four and made two trips to the national championship game, winning it in 2008.
Thirty-eight coaches and 16 All-American players from the Big 12 have tried to stop Kansas’ streak. Bob Knight, Bob Huggins and Lon Kruger tried. Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Marcus Smart and Trae Young tried.
Instead, Self and the Jayhawks finished first in the conference every single year for 14 consecutive years. It’s an amazing run that instills great pride in KU fans everywhere.