It was a night light on games, but not on significance as the Big 12 race heated up, Virginia was red-hot and March Madness got its start. Here’s everything you need to know from Monday:
TEXAS TECH AND KANSAS STATE ARE A GAME AWAY FROM ENDING THE STREAK
It might actually happen.
The seemingly unstoppable, infallible and inevitable streak of Big 12 regular season titles for Kansas could come to an end this week as both Texas Tech and Kansas State guaranteed themselves a cushion of at least one game heading into their regular season finales Saturday by beating Texas and TCU, respectively, on Monday evening.
If Kansas loses tomorrow at Oklahoma, it’s over. If the Jayhawks lose Saturday to Baylor, it’s over. If Texas Tech beats Iowa State on the road and/or Kansas State wins at home against Baylor, it’s over.
Despite all the close calls, the obituaries written and dire situations over the last 14 years, the Jayhawks’ amazing streak looks like it has finally found a corner from which it won’t escape. It’s been a truly remarkable run.
Kansas State would have been one of the contenders everyone picked to be a threat to end Kansas’ streak this year after the Wildcats went to the Elite Eight a year ago, but the doubts about just how talented they were got pretty loud after they opened the Big 12 0-2 and then trailed West Virginia by 21 before rallying to avoid 0-3. Since then, they’ve won 13 of 15 Big 12 games.
Texas Tech’s move to the top is more surprising. Jarrett Culver went from third-option behind Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith to a likely lottery pick, which has helped the Red Raiders overcome huge roster losses from last year’s Elite Eight squad. All of a sudden combining red-hot 3-point shooting with the nation’s top defense also goes a long way.
Their fortuitous turns have coincided with what seems like disaster at every turn for Bill Self and Kansas. The Jayhawks lost Udoka Azubuike to an injury, which completely changed the dynamics of the team. Then Silvio De Sousa was ruled ineligible (though not surprisingly) by the NCAA, and that was followed by Lagerald Vick’s departure from the team, with no definitive word on if he’ll return. It didn’t help that Marcus Garrett turned his ankle and missed time, too.
It took all that to end the streak. Well, at least it looks like that’ll be enough to finally put an end to it, anyway.
And while it’s the end of an astounding streak for Kansas, a streak that underscores its excellence and consistency as a program under Self, it’s the end of what has to be, or at least should be, an embarrassing year-after-year result for the league. Yes, Kansas has shared a couple titles during the streak and they have a rich tradition and spend millions (insert joke here, if you so choose) in its upkeep, but in a league with programs of the resources of Texas and Oklahoma, with the proud basketball traditions at places like Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, somebody should have stepped up and ended this thing at some point – and probably more than once – over the last decade-and-a-half.
Yes, these 14 years have been a triumph for Kansas, but they’ve been a failure for the rest of the conference, too.
Maybe now, that’s over.
Or Texas Tech and Kansas State will bumble this away Saturday and the Jayhawks streak will continue to live on in perpetuity until the sun engulfs us all.
TEXAS AND TCU MISS BIG CHANCES
While Texas Tech and Kansas State’s pursuit of the End of The Streak gets top billing in the Big 12, the league’s quest to get eight of its 10 teams into the NCAA tournament is an interesting subplot, one which got dinged by the furtherance of the Red Raiders’ and Wildcats’ quest Monday.
TCU and Texas both missed big chances to bolster their NCAA tournament prospects, with the Horned Frogs losing at home to K-State and the Longhorns losing in Lubbock to the Red Raiders.
In our Monday-morning bracketology, we had Texas as a No. 11 and TCU as a No. 10 seed. While neither team suffered anything close to what would be considered a bad loss Monday, both missed out on wins that could have really gone a long way in solidifying their shaky position.
One of them will be in better position come Saturday night, however, as they face each other in the regular season finale. That’s bad news for the loser, though.
VIRGINIA GOES BONKERS FROM DEEP
I’ve written before that the failures of previous Virginia teams shouldn’t be held against this current version. I’ve written how good these Cavs are and how they’re different from their predecessors. Mostly in their willingness to shoot more 3s.
That was on display in a major way in their 79-53 second-half dismantling of Syracuse.
The Cavs hit a school-record 18 triples, with Kyle Guy connecting on eight and both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter on five apiece.
We all know how good Virginia’s defense is. It’s been nearly invulnerable for years, and it’s very much so again this season. Pair that with a team that can shoot it like this one – capable of piling up points in a low possession game – and look out.
That’s a pretty good recipe for a national title contender, if you ask me.
CONFERENCE TOURNEY SEASON IS UPON US
The Power 5 games Monday will get all the attention, but it’s worth marking the unofficial start of March Madness with the Atlantic Sun’s conference tournament tipping off.
North Florida, Liberty, Florida Gulf Coast and Lipscomb were all first-day winners, for those keeping track at home.