There might be still a few games left to play in the Big 12, but Kansas already know that they’ll be at least co-champions of the conference after beating Oklahoma 83-75 after having all five starters in double figure scoring, needing to lose their next three games in order not to win the conference title exclusively.
So it’ll be a share at least of their 10th consecutive conference championship. The Big 12 might be the deepest conference in the nation, but Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma themselves weren’t able to keep up with the most talented team in the league, and possibly the whole country.
It was Naadir Tharpe’s time to shine, finishing with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-7 from the field. He was backed by Wayne Selden Jr. with 15 points, Andrew Wiggins on a bad shooting night with 15 as well, Joel Embiid scoring 12 while grabbing 13 rebounds and Perry Ellis added 11 points while 16,300 inside the Allen Fieldhouse were once again given a reason to celebrate conference dominance.
In a league this competitive, thought by many to be the toughest league in the country, to have a three-game lead with three to play is pretty special. To be at home, to hear the fans and all that, it’s a beautiful feeling. It just shows the tradition of Kansas and what it means to us.
It was easy to forget that both Wiggins and Embiid might be tasting this conference dominance only once, as the Freshman duo is likely to be playing in the NBA next season. Both might end up lower in the draft than some expected them to, especially Wiggins, but they are still players that a big chunk of the NBA think it’s worth tanking for.
This is the standard in Lawrence, as Selden mentioned. Kansas still need to tie the record: Gonzaga won 11 straight in the West Coast Conference from 2001-11, but the all-time best comes from UCLA, winning 13 consecutive Pac-10 titles from 1967 to 1979, although it came with a lot more national success compared to how Kansas have done.
Oklahoma fall to 9-6 in the Big 12 this season, led by 18 points from Cameron Clark and 16 from Buddy Hield. Oklahoma haven’t won away against Kansas since 1993, and it was their inability to withstand the scoring spurts and runs Kansas go on that held them back from completing the job this time, especially in the first half.
As for Kansas, it’s pretty much mission accomplished on the first part of the season. It’s going to be nice winning the conference tournament, but it’s the NCAA tournament they’re aiming for. They’re a better team than in November and December, when they beat Duke but lost to Villanova on neutral ground. On paper, they still might be the most talented team in the country, but in order for that to come true on the court and in the brackets, it’s going to take a lot more consistency from Andrew Wiggins and some big nights from Joel Embiid, who has looked less than his usual dominant self in some of the more recent games.