University of Kansas

KU within grasp of Big 12 title

LAWRENCE — In Kansas coach Bill Self's program, everything is thought out. And one thing Self has had to think about during this conference season, as it became clear the Jayhawks were probably going to walk away with their sixth straight Big 12 regular-season title, was how much information to give his team along the way.

For instance, Self has decided he will not discuss the possibility of KU going undefeated in league play for the first time since 2002 until the Jayhawks get past Oklahoma tonight and Oklahoma State on Saturday. He doesn't want to jump the gun. Of course, there is a faulty assumption here that life is still as it was back in the early 1980s when Self played and information wasn't so readily available to teenagers like KU freshman Xavier Henry.

Self may not be talking about the possibility of going 16-0, but Henry knows all about it.

"I'm thinking about going undefeated and winning every game we play from now on," Henry said. "As long as we get the next one and the next one, we know it's there, so we're playing for it."

Similarly, you can bet that the top-ranked Jayhawks, who bring a 26-1 and 12-0 Big 12 record into tonight's game at Allen Fieldhouse, have been talking about the chance to wrap up at least a share of the league title at an impossibly early date like Feb. 22. But that didn't stop Self from keeping a lid on it until after KU's 94-74 victory over Colorado on Saturday.

"We talked about it for the first time in the locker room," Self said. "Worst-case scenario, we get a chance to clinch a tie (today). That's a big deal. If you're the best team in a league that's supposedly as good as anybody in the country — the RPI-rated No. 1 league — that's a pretty big deal to be the best team in it. I'm pretty proud of these guys that we have a chance to at least clinch a part of it."

That KU's sixth league crown in a row could come this painlessly is a shock to everyone involved. Last season, KU clinched a share in the last week of the season with an Oklahoma loss at Mizzou. In 2008, the Jayhawks got their share by winning at Texas A&M in the season finale. In 2007, KU had to win at Oklahoma during the last week as well.

That is how Sherron Collins, until this year, has known how to win a Big 12 title — with grit accompanied by great drama. So Collins knows how special it could be to lock it up tonight with three more games to play.

"It's crazy," Collins said. "It just shows how good we are, how good we've gotten. We've won some tough games on the road, just finding ways to win."

Self first admitted his shock after KU's win last Monday at Texas A&M.

"I envision a lot of things," Self said. "None of them come true. I think I've got a great chance to win the Powerball. I envision that. 12-0 is probably a far better start than what we thought we could get to."

Only two other power-conference programs have been able to win six league titles in a row in the last 50 years: UCLA, which won 13 straight Pac-10 titles during 1967-79, and Kentucky, which won six straight Southeastern Conference titles during 1968-73 and six straight SEC East titles from 2000-05.

"This'll probably stack up at the top just because of my senior year," Collins said. "We've got a chance to win it here at home. It'll be great. Another one. I got three, and it'll be another one."

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