University of Kansas

Kansas won't manufacture motivation

LAWRENCE — At the end of every practice, the Kansas Jayhawks come together in a huddle and yell "Big 12 champs!"

"Just to put in their mind this is what we have to play for," KU coach Bill Self said.

Then what is there to play for now? That is the question after the Jayhawks locked up at least a share of their sixth straight regular-season league crown on Monday and paraded the Big 12 championship trophy around Allen Fieldhouse with three tough conference games still to play.

Win one of the three, and KU takes the title outright. Win all three at Oklahoma State, against Kansas State and at Missouri, and the Jayhawks will become the first KU team since 2002 to go 16-0 in the Big 12. Those potential feats are obvious, but there are a couple of big-picture matters that are still out there if No. 1 KU can continue its winning ways down the stretch.

First — and there will be plenty of KU fans clucking at the idea of this one — Kansas can reach 2,000 wins faster than North Carolina. The Jayhawks currently stand at 1,997, the Tar Heels at 1,998. If Kansas wins out and North Carolina loses two of its last three (at Wake Forest, Miami, at Duke), KU would reach the 2,000 milestone first.

"Who really cares about that?" Self said. "Getting there first doesn't mean you've got a better program. It doesn't mean anything."

Oh, it would mean something, and here's why: When Roy Williams left KU and took over North Carolina, the Tar Heels were ahead 1,808-1,801 — which means that Bill Self's KU program has won six more games than Williams has been able to pull off at Carolina. Of course, the Jayhawks (27-1) have gained 12 games on the Tar Heels (14-14) this season.

"That's something for fans to talk about," Self said.

Self is right. The guys who are actually out there winning games don't think much about such things. KU guard Brady Morningstar had no idea the Jayhawks were approaching 2,000.

"That's 2000 for Kansas, obviously, not coach Self," Morningstar said before realizing Self had just won his 400th game.

The second thing KU can accomplish by finishing strong should be easier to grasp for the players. At the moment, the Jayhawks are positioned well to be the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed, which would place them within driving distance from Lawrence in Oklahoma City for the first two rounds and St. Louis for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. But Self didn't think his players would be aware of that possibility, even with the tangible benefits of playing close to home.

"Our players wouldn't have a clue," Self figured.

It depends on whom you ask. Morningstar and Sherron Collins said they were aware of the potential pods in Oklahoma City and St. Louis. Tyrel Reed? Definitely clueless.

"I haven't looked ahead at all," Reed said. "I know last year they had one in Kansas City. I'm sure there's not one there this year."

Why is Reed so clueless?

"I've been busy with school lately," he said.

Morningstar and Collins may know more than Reed, but they both said they don't pay attention to any "Bracketology."

"Never," Collins said. "We'll be in the bracket somewhere. I know we're there, so I don't have to pay attention to it."

Even with the Big 12 trophy already in house, the Jayhawks don't appear to be struggling to find motivation.

"They should be fired up anyway," Self said. "How many teams have put themselves in position to have really great years? It doesn't happen every year."

All business — Self will be making his first trip to Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday since the Cowboys made a run at him to return to his alma mater to coach after the 2008 season.

Self made it clear on Thursday that, no matter how many friends and family will be in attendance, he won't allow himself to lose focus.

"It's not emotional anymore," Self said. "It's a business trip. We won't mix personal on this business trip. There'll be some people I'll love to see, but it'll be when we come out of the locker room. I can't do both."