Kansas clinched at least a share of its 13th consecutive Big 12 championship on Wednesday.
It’s a streak that equaled UCLA (1967-79) for the longest conference title run in major-college basketball history and continues to baffle the Big 12 coaches that keep falling short to the Jayhawks.
Baylor coach Scott Drew called it “impressive.” Texas coach Shaka Smart called it “really crazy.” And TCU coach Jamie Dixon called it “the most remarkable thing I have seen since I’ve been around college basketball.”
Much has been made of the streak, both for what it has meant to Kansas and the rest of the league. Many have debated the 13 championship teams against the others. Which one was the best?
But here’s a look at the teams that could have, and in some cases should have, ended the streak.
1. Oklahoma (2008-09)
With Blake Griffin leading the way, Oklahoma had a golden opportunity to dethrone Kansas. The Sooners started 25-1 and the Jayhawks replaced five starters from their national championship team. But injuries got in the way. Oklahoma began league play 11-0, but then Griffin suffered a concussion during a loss at Texas. He was unable to play the following game against Kansas, and the Jayhawks took advantage. KU won with a 14-2 record. Oklahoma went on to make the Elite Eight, but finished a game back in the Big 12.
2. Texas (2006-07)
Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin were good enough to lead Texas to big leads against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and at the Big 12 Tournament, but not good quite enough to win. Durant led Texas with 32 points and nine rebounds at Kansas with a shot at a shared conference championship on the line, but the Jayhawks came from behind for the victory. KU was helped by the old North/South split this year. Texas had to play Texas A&M, led by Acie Law, twice. Kansas played each team once at home.
3. Oklahoma (2015-16)
No team on this list can play the what-if game more than these Sooners. This was a team that went to the Final Four behind sharpshooter Buddy Hield. And Kansas started 5-3 in Big 12 play. A conference championship was there for the taking, but they couldn’t quite win in Lawrence, they couldn’t quite beat KU in Norman and they stubbed their toe against Kansas State and Texas Tech. They finished three games back, in third.
4. Texas A&M (2006-07)
The previously mentioned Aggies took a lead in the conference standings by beating Kansas on the road, but blew their advantage by losing twice to Texas Tech.
5. Texas (2007-08)
Another team that would have ended the streak if not for a loss to Texas Tech. Augustin and company beat Kansas in Austin. It looked like Rick Barnes had an outright Big 12 championship in the bag at 11-2 until it lost in Lubbock and had to share the trophy with Kansas at 13-3.
6. Texas (2010-11)
The Longhorns won their first 11 conference games, including a trip to Lawrence, but a start-fast, fade-late trend once again doomed Barnes and his team. Late losses to Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State left them looking up the Jayhawks once again.
7. Texas (2005-06)
Drubbed Kansas by 25 to take the outright lead with two games to play, and then scored 43 points the next time out against Texas A&M. The Longhorns had to share another title with the Jayhawks.
8. Oklahoma (2004-05)
Kelvin Sampson guided the Sooners to the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, but Kansas matched their 12-4 record for a shared title.
9. Kansas State (2012-13)
The Wildcats lost to the Jayhawks three times, but still went 14-4 in Big 12 play and had a shot at ending their title streak during the regular-season finale. Rodney McGruder converted a traditional three-point play to give K-State a 61-57 lead with 4:45 remaining at Oklahoma State, but couldn’t hold on. K-State and Kansas entered the day tied, and they shared the championship when Baylor thumped KU later in the day.
10. Baylor/West Virginia (2016-17)
How different would the current Big 12 championship race look had Baylor protected a late six-point lead against Kansas at home or West Virginia held on to a late 14-point lead at Kansas?
Oklahoma State is the hottest team in the Big 12.
The Cowboys have won nine of their past 10 games to climb above .500 in the conference standings despite beginning league play on a six-game losing streak. Some of their success is due to a lull in the schedule. Oklahoma State hasn’t played Kansas or Iowa State during its winning streak and lost at home to Baylor. But it did land a convincing victory at West Virginia while it has dominated the bottom half of the league.
Their latest victory came Wednesday against Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum. The Cowboys rallied from 14 down to win 80-68. It was a shocking turn of events, considering K-State beat Oklahoma State 96-88 a month ago in Stillwater. The biggest difference? Defense.
“The one thing we have done is we have backed off all of our rotations,” OSU coach Brad Underwood said. “We are a much better defensive team. We are more in gaps, not getting spread out. We are better in our rotations. That has allowed us to get on the floor and fight for loose balls. Our rebounding numbers are much better.”
Big 12 basketball coaches continue to say the conference deserves to have eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, but there is little chance of that happening. Texas Tech is fading fast, while K-State and TCU are fighting just to stay on the bubble. Seven teams is possible. Six seems like a more reasonable expectation.
K-State at TCU will be a big game next week. The winner will have the inside track at sixth place — which means not playing in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament — and a potential NCAA Tournament berth.
1. Kansas (25-3, 13-2 Big 12): Jayhawks did it again.
2. Baylor (23-5, 10-5): Bears can still claim No. 1 seed with strong finish.
3. West Virginia (22-6, 10-5): Scary moment watching Bob Huggins fall to his knees during a game.
4. Iowa State (18-9, 10-5): They rarely make things look pretty, but the Cyclones are on a winning streak.
5. Oklahoma State (19-9, 9-7): Cowboys are 9-1 in their last 10 games.
6. TCU (17-11, 6-9): Lack of quality wins could hurt Frogs on Selection Sunday.
7. Kansas State (17-11, 6-9): Bruce Weber needs wins and he needs them now.
8. Texas Tech (17-11, 5-10): Red Raiders can’t catch a break in close games.
9. Texas (10-18, 4-11): If Jarrett Allen comes back, Longhorns could bounce back next year.
10. Oklahoma (9-18, 3-12): Nightmare season rolls on for Sooners.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett