LAWRENCE — As a Kansas student, winning the lottery doesn't mean you're getting rich. It means you and your friends, who spent days camping out in the concourse at Allen Fieldhouse, get to sit on the front row for a Jayhawk basketball game.
On Saturday, during KU's 89-66 thrashing of Iowa State, the lucky students were prepared for all the possibilities their day in the hot seats could bring. So when "No. 14 Wisconsin 71, No. 1 Ohio State 67" flashed on the video board, it was only a matter of time before the students organized themselves and flashed white block letters that asked, with an undeniable hint of sarcasm, "OSU LOST!?"
Yes, the Buckeyes finally fell, just minutes before No. 2 KU's game tipped off. And, when it was clear the Jayhawks were just going to keep pouring it on the undermanned Cyclones, the students decided it was time to make a statement, spelling out "KU'S NUMBER ONE."
They were the right students to have won the lottery for this game, which quickly turned into an audition for KU to prove to poll voters that it — not No. 3 Texas or even No. 1 Ohio State — should be sitting atop the land.
Never miss a local story.
This is not college football, where the polls make up two-thirds of the national championship picture, but there will still be plenty of debate until the tally is released Monday. Kansas is 24-1, 9-1 in the Big 12. Texas may have three losses — to No. 4 Pittsburgh by two on a neutral floor, at Southern California by 17 and at home to No. 10 Connecticut by one in overtime — but it handed KU its only loss of the season on Jan. 22, 74-63 inside the previously impenetrable walls of The Phog.
Should Kansas be No. 1? KU forward Marcus Morris was waiting not-so-patiently for the question.
"There's a lot of talk they might put Texas at No. 1, but I don't see how," Morris said.
"I want to be No. 1. I want to have that chip on our shoulder every time we go out. I want to get everybody's best shot, because I think we can take it."
Iowa State swung all afternoon, and while it connected an impressive 14 of 32 times from three-point range, the Cyclones never truly got close to knocking the Jayhawks backward.
Kansas, playing without the injured Josh Selby and Thomas Robinson, made it seem as if the two NBA prospects were just two guys. KU continued its offensive momentum, assisting on 24 of 33 baskets, turning it over just nine times and shooting 52 percent.
Marcus and Markieff Morris did not have Robinson's backup and won't for a few weeks or so after Robinson had surgery Friday to repair a slightly-torn meniscus in his right knee. The twins responded — Marcus had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Markieff had 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Jayhawks have won six games in a row by an average of 18.3 points.
"We're playing the best we've played all year," Self said, "which is a good thing, but it's still not our team. That's the thing that's a little frustrating. We don't have our team yet. I just hope (Selby and Robinson) both get back with their full speed a couple weeks prior to the postseason so that way we can be in rhythm.
"Having a guy come back and practice two days or three days before you have to win a game, that doesn't do anything. You've got to be in rhythm. You've got to have confidence. You've got your rotation. Our rotation's pretty good right now. That could disrupt our rotation. So I certainly like how we're playing, but I don't want the injuries and when they come back to take away from the way they're playing now."
For Self, that was a long-winded way of saying that he's got way more important things to worry about than whether or not Kansas is atop the polls Monday when it plays at Kansas State.
Self's players, on the other hand, will be waiting to hear if they've done enough to return to No. 1 for the first time since last season, when they held the top spot for all but four weeks.
"We were No. 1 all of last year, too, and we've got nothing to show for it," said KU guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had 14 points and six assists on Saturday. "I think last year we kind of took being No. 1 for granted a little bit. Being with guys that have been through that and know how it feels to lose being No. 1, and it being over that fast, I feel like we won't let that happen. We don't want to feel that again."
Will the lucky students' sentiment prove to be true? And, if they do get their wish, will the Jayhawks let them down?
"We're just ready," Marcus Morris said. "I feel like we've been practicing hard, I feel like we're guarding better. I just think we're ready, basically."