The Kansas Jayhawks are on a quest for an unheralded 10th straight Big 12 Conference championship. It appeared that the Jayhawks were in trouble after sustaining three losses away from the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse early in conference play. The three losses came in the longest road stretch during the Bill Self era. Kansas would lose four games in their non-conference slate, falling to a top five caliber team in the form of San Diego State. After being shocked at home, Kansas has won six straight conference games.
Although Kansas looked quite vulnerable entering conference play, the Jayhawks have reestablished themselves as the class of the Big 12 conference with four wins against four ranked conference opponents. Overall, Kansas has collected four wins against the top 10. Kansas has the best RPI in the country and is currently projected to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
- Duke Blue Devils (Neutral)
- @ Oklahoma Sooners
- Kansas State Wildcats
- @ Iowa State Cyclones
- Oklahoma State Cowboys
- Baylor Bears
The biggest (literally) contributor to the Jayhawks’ success midway through the season has been breakout center Joel Embiid. Embiid started playing basketball three years ago, but has proven to be the best freshman in the talent laden 2013 recruiting class. While most of the attention was geared towards teammate Andrew Wiggins, Embiid has carved a success story quickly in time in Lawrence.
The former standout volleyball player’s skill set has translated well to college basketball, as Embiid is one of the most dominant rim protectors in basketball. Embiid has been on a tear lately, scoring in double figures in nine of his last 10 contests. Embiid’s best performance of the season came against Oklahoma State where he flirted with a triple-double. His 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks propelled the Jayhawks to a big win in the early going of conference play.
Crucial upcoming games:
- Iowa State (1/29)
- @ Kansas State (2/10)
- @ Oklahoma State (3/1)
Road to the postseason:
Kansas currently has a two game advantage in the Big 12 Conference and are well on their way to a No. 1 seed in their conference tournament. Kansas still has two marquee match ups against the Texas Longhorns. Texas has beaten three top 25 opponents in a row and is quietly padding their resume for March. Picking against Kansas at home is a cardinal sin, but look for the Cyclones to throw the kitchen sink at Jayhawks. Iowa State may not beat Kansas on Wednesday, but will wear them down emotionally. The Iowa State game sets Kansas up perfectly for a trap game at Texas next Saturday.
Every week is a pivotal week in the Big 12 Conference. This week is especially important for Kansas. If theyb can take care of business at home against Iowa State, they virtually eliminate Iowa State from contention for the top seed in the conference tournament. That leaves a big matchup on the road against Texas on Saturday. Kansas should win this game on paper. Texas has been playing well above their ceiling as of late, and could potentially upset the Jayhawks at home.
If Kansas goes 2-0 this week, they control their own destiny as the top seed of the conference. One or two losses leaves the door open for the rest of the conference to pull even with Kansas. I expect Iowa State to shoot better than 4-25 from three point range, like they did against Kansas in their previous match up. Kansas will outlast the Cyclones and use the momentum to blow out Texas. They will lose two games in conference, likely to Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the road.
Expect Kansas to take the top seed in the conference tournament and win their 10th consecutive conference title.
Jack Dooley is a Big 12 Basketball writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JackDooleyRS.