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Pac-12 Conference Reset: Get caught up on all of the league’s offseason wheelings and dealings

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close. The transfer market is slowly winding down.

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2017-18 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the Pac-12 over the next six months.

OFFSEASON STORYLINES 

1. Will this end up being Sean Miller’s best team at Arizona?: The Wildcats are loaded in a way that the teams that generally traffic in one-and-done players are not accustomed to. Let’s start with the returnees; specifically, Allonzo Trier, who returned from a 19-game suspension for a positive PED to become Arizona’s leading scorer a season ago. He opted to return to school for his junior campaign, meaning that Miller will have a back court anchored by a potential National Player of the Year.

Then there is Rawle Alkins, who had a chance to be drafted as a one-and-done this year if he had left but he decided to return to school. Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are back in the mix as well, while Arizona adds a monster recruiting class headlined by Deandre Ayton, who is one of the top five prospects in the class. There are some question marks with this team — namely, if their point guard play is good enough, whether or not they will defend and the consistency that Ayton will play with — but given the lack of a great team anywhere else in college basketball, it’s fair to say that this group is the most likely to end Sean Miller’s streak of failing to get to a Final Four.

Is it his best team?

I don’t think so. You’ll have a hard time convincing me that Miller’s best team didn’t lose to Frank Kaminsky at some point in the NCAA tournament.

But if it finally gets that monkey off of his back, will he care?

UCLA head coach Steve Alford (AP Photo/Michael Baker)

2. How does UCLA handle losing so much talent?: The Bruins are essentially rebuilding their entire roster, as five of their top seven players are off to the professional ranks. That includes Lonzo Ball as well as fellow one-and-doners, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu. There is still talent on this roster, however, as Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh and G.G. Goloman return to a team that landed a six-man recruiting class, including five-stars Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes. To be frank, the biggest issue isn’t going to be the pieces they lost, it’s going to be replacing the unselfishness that came with having a team led by Lonzo. He changed the culture of that program, but will that change be nothing more than a one-year blip on the radar?

The interesting battle to watch will be at the point guard spot. Hands is the star recruit that was pitched on being Ball’s replacement, but Holiday is a former four-star prospect in his own right. After spending a year sacrificing as UCLA’s sixth-man, will he believe this is the season that UCLA is his team?

3. More importantly, how will LaVar Ball take it if LiAngelo isn’t a star?: Because he’s not. I don’t see how the second Ball brother finds his way into UCLA’s starting lineup, not with the likes of Holiday, Hands, Ali and Wilkes ahead of him in the perimeter rotation. Most people have accepted this as gospel: Lonzo has the chance to be a star in the NBA and LaMelo has some promising skills if he ever figures out how to play basketball like a normal person while LiAngelo is destined to end up as a four-year role player whose bread and butter is as a catch-and-shoot floor-spacer.

LaVar has been quite vocal in the past about his desire for all three of his sons to be one-and-done players. What happens when it becomes clear that’s not exactly in LiAngelo’s future? Will the whole ‘LaVar Ball never comes into the UCLA basketall offices‘ deal still hold true?

USC’s Chimezie Metu (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. Is this the year that USC finally competes for a Pac-12 title?: With the obvious exception of Michigan State, who somehow managed to convince a potential top ten pick to return to school for his sophomore year, you’d have a hard time finding any program that had better luck with players declaring — well, not declaring — for the NBA Draft. USC returns Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright, Deanthony Melton, Elijah Stewart and Shaqquan Aaron, all of whom flirted with the idea of leaving school.

The best part? That list doesn’t include their most important player, point guard Jordan McLaughlin. I’m not sure there are five teams in all of college basketball that are more talented this season that the Trojans. Andy Enfield will finally, for the first time in his tenure with USC, coach a player that spent four years as a member of the program. Does that mean this is the year they finally turn a corner?

5. How does Dana Altman manage the roster turnover?: There’s no way around it: Losing Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks — the latter three with eligibility remaining — is a massive blow to the Ducks, enough to keep them out of the conversation for preseason top 25. But with a team that includes five-star prospect Troy Brown, a four-star redshirt freshman in MJ Cage, transfers Paul White (Georgetown) and Elijah Brown (New Mexico) as well as the return of Payton Pritchard, this team has the makings of one that Dana Altman will be able to figure out. How? Well, that will be interesting to follow.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS

  • Deandre Ayton, Arizona: Ayton has long been thought of as the player with the most raw talent in the Class of 2017. At 7-feet he has the skillset and the physical tools to play as a small-ball four alongside Dusan Ristic, which is a scary proposition. When Ayton is engaged, he is an absolute monster. The big question with him is how often he is, you know, engaged.
  • Troy Brown, Oregon: Brown, a top 15 recruit, is the perfect player for Altman to have at his disposal. He’s a well-rounded 6-foot-6 athlete that should be able to fill the Dillon Brooks mold pretty nicely.
  • Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, UCLA: These are the two biggest names in UCLA’s recruiting class, as Steve Alford looks to find a way to continue the success that he had during Lonzo Ball’s freshman season. This will be the chance for him to prove that it was his coaching, not simply the presence of Ball, that led to last year’s 31-win season.
  • Derryck Thornton, USC: Remember him? Thornton was a five-star point guard prospect in the Class of 2015 that was tabbed as Tyus Jones’ successor at Duke, only he found himself coming off the bench and playing limited minutes for a team that desperately needed point guard play. So he left, sat out last season and returned to California, where he’ll likely spend this season coming off the bench again. That’s a nice luxury for Enfield to have.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell, Oregon: It wasn’t really a surprise that Dillon Brooks left school. He was a junior and a two-time all-american dealing with foot issues. He needed to get paid while he can. Dorsey and Bell were more surprising, as both had the look of four-year talents. But after their unbelievable run in the NCAA tournament — as they morphed into Steph Curry and Ben Wallace, respectively — it was time.
  • Ike Anigbogu, UCLA: Anigbogu was the member of UCLA’s recruiting class that no one had heard of, but after showcasing next-level athleticism and physicality in limited minutes that did not expose his flaws, cashing in was the smart move.
  • Kyle Kuzma, Utah: The Utes were better than you probably realize last season, winning 11 games in the Pac-12, but they’ll lose Kuzma to the NBA, a decision that is crushing. Kuzma had a shot at being an all-american next season, but as a redshirt junior with his degree in hand, it made sense for him to go.

COACHING CHANGES

  • Wyking Jones, Cal: Cal’s recruiting search was bizarre. They were involved with a handful of names that were somewhere between head-scratching and unrealistic before finally settling on Jones, a first-time head coach that had spent time on Rick Pitino’s staff before joining up with Cuonzo Martin in Berkeley. He’ll have about as bare of a cupboard as you’ll find for any new head coach, but he does have former Kentucky forward Marcus Lee in the mix and he has landed a couple of top 100 recruits for next season.
  • Mike Hopkins, Washington: Hop finally jumped ship from Syracuse. After years of hearing about how he was the next in line to replace Jim Boeheim when Boeheim finally retired, it became clear that he was done waiting for something that may never happen. So Hop took the job at Washington, a rebuild that is not going to be easy to do. The Huskies won just nine games last season despite having Markelle Fultz on their roster. I hesitate to call this a homerun — like I said, it’s hard to judge any first-year head coach — but it certainly could have gone much worse.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Allonzo Trier, Arizona(Player of the Year)
Jordan McLaughlin, USC
Chimezie Metu, USC
Reid Travis, Stanford
Deandre Ayton, Arizona

Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

  1. Arizona: This will be Sean Miller’s best chance of getting to a Final Four to date, as he has the perfect combination of quality veterans (Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Parker Jackson-Cartwright) and talented freshmen. Will they defend enough to win a title?
  2. USC: On paper, this should be the best team that Andy Enfield has ever coached. No one had a better early entry deadline than the Trojans, as they return everyone of note from a group that won 24 games last year.
  3. UCLA: The Bruins are the x-factor in the league once again. They’re talented enough to get to a Final Four with enough youth and defensive question marks to end up going .500 in Pac-12 play. Is it Aaron Holiday’s year?
  4. Oregon: The Ducks lost so many key pieces off of last year’s team, but with Dana Altman at the helm, it’s hard to imagine anything other than another trip to the NCAA tournament for Oregon. He always finds a way.
  5. Stanford: The Cardinal are going to sneak up on some people this season. Reid Travis returns, as does Dorian Pickens, while Jerod Haase brings in a promising recruiting class. That said, it feels like we’ve been saying ‘this is the year’ for Stanford for years.
  6. Utah: With Kyle Kuzma leaving early and Lorenzo Bonam graduating, the Utes have a lot to replace. There are some pieces here, but the biggest one is Larry Krystkowiak. His presence on the sideline is worth two spots in my Pac-12 preseason poll.
  7. Oregon State: The Beavers are my sleeper pick in the Pac-12. I don’t think it’s crazy to think they can sneak their way into the NCAA tournament after a 1-17 Pac-12 performance a year ago. Tres Tinkle is back, the young talent on their roster all returned and Ethan Thompson is going to surprise some people.
  8. Arizona State: The Sun Devils are going to have some holes to fill in their front line, but a back court that includes Tra Holder and Shannon Evans is going to be tough to handle.
  9. Colorado: The Buffaloes are going to take a pretty big hit, as they will lose four redshirt seniors, one of whom — Derrick White — was arguably the most under-appreciated player in the Pac-12.
  10. Washington State: The Cougars actually won six Pac-12 games last season, which probably says more about the bottom of the Pac-12 than it does Wazzu. Anyway, they bring back a solid piece in PG Malachi Flynn, but there is a lot of turnover on that roster.
  11. Washington: The Huskies went 9-22 last season despite having Markelle Fultz on the roster. It’s going to be a long first season for new head coach Mike Hopkins.
  12. Cal: The Golden Bears lose essentially everyone from a team that missed out on the 2017 NCAA tournament, including head coach Cuonzo Martin. It will basically be Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee carrying a team coached by Wyking Jones in his first season running a program. Fun!

Penny Hardaway acknowledges links to college programs

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One of the most fascinating subplots to this year’s college coaching carousel is what will happen with Penny Hardaway.

A Memphis basketball legend, Penny is currently the head coach of the powerhouse Memphis East high school while running a Nike-affiliated AAU program aptly named Team Penny. Combined, those rosters include an absolutely ridiculous amount of talent. James Wiseman, who may just be the best player in the Class of 2019, plays for both East and Team Penny. Another five-star prospect in the Class of 2019, D.J. Jeffries, also plays for Team Penny while his cousins — Jonathan and Chandler Lawson, the younger brothers of former Memphis and current Kansas players Dedric and K.J. — play for East.

There’s a real debate about whether or not those teams would be able to beat the Memphis Tigers basketball team.

As in the University of Memphis.

That’s where things are in that city.

Which is why Penny Hardaway has been linked to a job that isn’t even open yet. It’s why his name is mentioned when discussing whether or not Ole Miss should hire him to replace Andy Kennedy. We’re talking about a guy with more than a decade of experience in the NBA that can, in theory, bring with him the kind of talent that you would expect to see on a roster like Kentucky or Duke. It would only make sense for the likes of Memphis and Ole Miss to kick the tires.

What if he says yes?

And, according to an interview he gave to SEC Country, it sounds like Penny would, at the very least, listen.

“It’s a huge compliment for any college to even think about wanting me to come in. I feel like I bring a lot to the table even though I haven’t coached college,” he told the site on Monday. “I feel like my NBA experience and the coaches I’ve had over the years, I’ve learned enough to be a head coach in college. But I’m really enjoying this right now and coaching these guys.”

If Louisville vacates the 2013 national title, does Michigan win the national title?

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Louisville lost their appeal, meaning that for the first time in college basketball history, a Division I program is going to have to take down a national title banner.

The details are pretty straight-forward: If one of the three enrolled student-athletes or 15 recruits that the were determined by the NCAA to have received “adult entertainment and/or sex acts” from strippers and sex workers played in any game from Dec. 2010 through July 2014, when Louisville staffer Andre McGee was paying for girls to come around Louisville’s Billy Minardi Hall, then that game is to be vacated from the Louisville record books.

That includes 123 regular season games and 15 NCAA tournament wins.

That also includes the 2012 Final Four and the 2013 National Title.

What does that mean? How does a program vacate records and titles?

Well, they can no longer do anything to officially reference winning that title. Banners come down. Record books must be changed. For all intents and purposes, Louisville must never again acknowledge that their run to the national title — which included Kevin Ware breaking his leg in the Elite 8 against Duke, a marvelous comeback in the Final Four against Wichita State and one of the most exciting halves of basketball in NCAA tournament history as Luke Hancock and Spike Albrecht went shot-for-shot — took place.

It doesn’t, however, mean that Michigan, whom Louisville beat in the national title game, won the 2013 National Championship.

This not like the Olympics. A silver medal does not turn to gold when the official winner is ruled a cheat. Michigan still lost that game in the eyes of the NCAA. Louisville did not forfeit the win. They just … also lost.

There is no winner.

Officially speaking, as of today, no one won the 2013 national title.

Louisville’s NCAA appeal denied, 2013 title banner to come down

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The NCAA announced on Tuesday morning that Louisvile’s appeal of NCAA rules violations has been denied.

The penalties are the results of an NCAA investigation into a former assistant coach and member of the basketball team, Andre McGee, providing players and recruits with strippers and sex workers at on-campus parties in Billy Minardi Hall, the Louisville basketball dorm. Louisville, in their appeal, referred to the penalties as “draconian”.

The NCAA did not agree.

“Louisville must vacate men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 academic years,” the NCAA’s statement on Tuesday read.

The most significant and relevant piece of information here is that Louisville’s 2013 National Title will be vacated along with their 2012 trip to the Final Four. In total, Louisville will have to vacate 123 wins, which includes 15 NCAA tournament wins from 2011-2015, the seasons in which players that have retroactively been ruled ineligible played in games.

For the first time in college basketball history, a national title will be wiped from the record books. Michigan, who lost the 2013 national title game, will not be named the national champion.

“From here, we will officially remove the formal recognitions from our facilities,” interim AD Vince Tyra said, “but not from our minds.”

The Cardinals were placed on probation for four years when the initial penalties were handed down in June of 2017. They have also been hit with scholarship reductions and restrictions on their recruiting while being forced to pay back the money they received from conference revenue sharing as a result of the NCAA tournament wins. That number will be around $600,000, the school said in a press conference on Tuesday.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” interim president Greg Postel said.

These penalties were announced before the NCAA did any investigation into allegations that were made against the program during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. That investigation, which determined that an agreement was made between an Adidas executive and a member of the Louisville staff to funnel $100,000 to the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen, eventually cost Rick Pitino his job.

Pitino has repeatedly denied knowledge of the parties that took place in the dorms. Before this title was vacated, he was the only Division I head coach to lead two different programs to a national title; he won the 1996 title with Kentucky.

Pitino was charged by the NCAA with failure to monitor an employee, one of the four Level I violationsthat the NCAA found in their initial investigation. Louisville contested the NCAA’s findingthat Pitino had “violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation”. Plausible deniability is no longer a defense for head coaches in the eyes of the NCAA. In an effort to prevent the punishment for violations from being dumped on low-level staff members, the NCAA changed their rules to state that head coaches were at fault for anything that happened in their program under their watch whether the NCAA can prove they knew about it or not.

“By his own admission, the head coach and his assistants did not interact with prospects from 10 p.m. until the next morning,” the NCAA said in their findings. “The panel noted that the head coach essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects, and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dorm.”

“This arrangement played a role in creating a location where the former operations director’s activities went undetected.”

Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Jalen Brunson has overtaken Trae Young

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Jalen Brunson is the National Player of the Year.

At least that’s the way that I see it.

If the season ended today, the award goes to Brunson. As incredible as Trae Young has been and as ridiculous as his efficiency stats and counting numbers are, winning has to matter when it comes to National Player of the Year. It has to matter when it comes to postseason awards. It’s why I campaigned against Ben Simmons being a Player of the Year or first-team all-american. It’s why I said that Markelle Fultz shouldn’t be considered for any preseason Player of the Year or all-american awards.

And it’s why Trae Young, in my mind, is no longer the National Player of the Year frontrunner.

I’ve talked about this a couple of different times before, but the simple fact of the matter is that we rarely see a player that isn’t on a national title favorite win the award. The last time a player that was on a team that wasn’t at least a top four seed that won the award was in 2005 when Utah’s Andrew Bogut was the consensus Player of the Year. Before that? You have to go all the way back to 1988, when Danny Manning and Hersey Hawkins both won three of the six major Player of the Year awards. Manning played on No. 6 seed Kansas, who went on to win the title that year. Hawkins played for No. 9 seed Bradley.

As it stands right now, Oklahoma is 16-11 overall. They’ve lost six in a row after getting mollywhopped at Kansas. They’ve dropped nine of their last 11 games. They’ve lost eight in a row on the road. They are 6-9 in the Big 12. If they go 1-2 in their final three games — which, at this rate, seems like a fairly likely scenario — they could end up missing the NCAA tournament entirely.

Seth Davis made an interesting point about this on a recent CBS broadcast, and one that I think it worth addressing: He said, and I’m summarizing here because I don’t remember the exact quote, that the award is the Player of the Year award and not the Player of the Month award, and I agree to an extent. A couple of bad games shouldn’t impact an entire season’s body of work.

My response to that is that we are talking about more than just a couple of games. Young and Oklahoma have struggled for the last 11 games. That’s more than 40 percent of Oklahoma’s season to date, and there are still three Big 12 games left before the Big 12 tournament kicks off. More importantly, the Big 12 season matters more than non-conference play. Does anyone really care that Young, say, tied the record for assists in a game against Northwestern State when he lost by 30 in the Phog?

Winning is the most important thing that a player can do. In any sport. If you are the star of a team that is not winning games, you are not having as good of a season as the star of a team that is winning games. That is a fundamental belief that I have that will not change.

And Brunson?

He’s having a historically good season from an efficiency perspective on a team that may just set the record for efficiency in the KenPom era. He can dominate a game when he needs to. He can also control a game as a facilitator, getting the ball to the guys that are cooking when he needs to. Case in point: at Xavier. Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges were on fire, so Brunson made sure they got their touches.

I love Trae Young’s game. I love the way he plays. His struggles down the stretch are not entirely his fault.

But when you are not a threat to win a national title, I do not think that you can be a threat to win National Player of the Year.

Anyway, here is my top ten:

1. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova
2. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
3. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
4. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
5. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier
6. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech
7. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
8. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s
9. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas
10. GARY CLARK, Cincinnati

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; JEVON CARTER, West Virginia; CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue; AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; LANDRY SHAMET, Wichita State

Tumble continues for Oklahoma as No. 8 Kansas cruises to win

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Oklahoma desperately needed a win. Not even necessarily in the classic sense of the term of outscoring your opponent. The Sooners just needed something, anything, positive to build on in a season that’s suddenly crumbling around them.

Unfortunately for Lon Kruger and his team, Allen Fieldhouse is not the place to go when you’re in need of a pick-me-up. It’s a place more suited for realizing your worst nightmares.

Eighth-ranked Kansas eviscerated the Sooners in a 104-74 beatdown that not only exposed Oklahoma’s problems but exacerbated them to the point where the NCAA tournament no longer looks to be assured.

Oh, and it set up a potential Big 12 title game in Lubbock later this week with a 13-year streak on the line, but more on that later.

The headline here is that Oklahoma and the man who set college basketball ablaze, Trae Young, look broken. And maybe beyond repair.

Oklahoma has now lost six in a row, tumbling from burgeoning Final Four contender to potential First Four hopeful. Things are spinning out of control fast.

The person who will draw the bulk of the blame, fair or not, is Young. The freshman from Norman North looked like the college basketball’s answer to Steph Curry while carrying his hometown university to a 12-1 start to the year, leading the country in scoring, assists and jaw-dropping plays and performances. The substance of his game matched the style, which was no small feat for a guy who routinely would splash shots from 35 feet out.

He’s been a bit of a disaster during this six-game slide, however. Young is just 11 of 56 (19.6 percent) from 3-point range and 27 of 57 (47.3 percent) from inside the arc during the losing streak. He’s also turned it over 25 times. He’s still distributing at a high-rate, but that’s not enough to offset his shooting numbers. His teammates don’t score it well enough to pick up the slack. They also can’t create for Young. He’s got to do all of it himself – get looks and dole them out.

Young and Oklahoma’s issue runs deeper than just the makes and misses of their offense, though. The Sooners’ defense has become a massive liability. Kansas took a sledgehammer to it and blasted it to smithereens in front of 16,300 witnesses in Allen Fieldhouse and millions more in their living rooms.

The Jayhawks shot 60.9 percent for the game. They made 16 of 29 of their 3-point attempts. That’s 55.2 percent from deep. Nineteen of their buckets came from layups or dunks and averaged 1.444 points per possession.

It was as if the Sooners weren’t there at all, which actually might have been of some consolation to Kruger because that would at least mean no one could see their baffling lack of effort, cohesiveness and pride on the defensive end. It was really a sight to behold for the rest of us, though.

Young is as big of culprit here as anyone. Yes, he carries an incredible offensive burden with a 39.6 usage rate. No one is expecting him to be Jevon Carter, but he has to offer some resistance some of the time. Against the Jayhawks, he died on screens again and again or simply didn’t even put up a fight too often when guarding the ball.

He’s not alone, however, as the Sooners looked disconnected as a unit. They were simply incapable of even slowing Kansas. The Jayhawks got hot, sure, but Oklahoma can’t write this off as just catching a team on a night they couldn’t miss. The Sooners had as much to do with it as anything.

That’s the area that’s got to get fixed. Young may not be able to put up the absurd numbers he did for long stretches earlier this season, but his talent is so immense that it would be foolish to expect this slump to stay this bad for too much longer. Without a superhuman Young, however, they’ve got to get some stops. Without them, Young may join the ignominious list of Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz as pheoms who failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Now, back to that Big 12 title game in West Texas.

Assuming Texas Tech can get in and out of Stillwater with a win over Oklahoma State – potentially without Keenan Evans – the Red Raiders and Jayhawks will be tied atop the Big 12 with matching 11-4 league records with Kansas making the trip to Lubbock.

The Jayhawks, you may have heard, have won 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season championships. It very well could be decided Saturday if there will be a 14th.

After a two-game hiccup of losses at Texas and Iowa State, Chris Beard’s team won seven-straight before falling to a resurgent Baylor on Saturday. They’re undefeated at home and possess one of the country’s best defenses. They’ve been the biggest threat to Kansas’ streak since they knocked off the Jayhawks in Lawrence in January.

The Jayhawks will go into the game with their best offensive performance of the season. Devonte Graham finally looked like he may be the Big 12’s best player – he certainly bested Young – and Svi Mykhailiuk, LeGerald VIck and Malik Newman looked like the more-than-capable secondary options this Jayhawks team desperately needs. Silvio De Sousa even looked serviceable for the first time, putting up 10 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. Which is also to say nothing of Udoka Azubuike being one of the Big 12’s toughest matchups.

Kansas is a flawed team, but once again the Jayhawks have put themselves in enviable position and appear to be rounding into tip-top form toward the end of February. It’s their conference, and they’ll have the chance this weekend to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is just trying to stay out of playing Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament. The Sooners sure could use a win. Of any kind.