Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Is this the year Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 championship?

Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason (left) has been playing the best basketball of his career of late as the Jayhawks ready for the start of Big 12 play Wednesday night at Baylor.
Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason (left) has been playing the best basketball of his career of late as the Jayhawks ready for the start of Big 12 play Wednesday night at Baylor. The Wichita Eagle

It’s fashionable, based on Kansas’ ups and downs so far in 2014-15, to pick against the Jayhawks winning their 11th consecutive Big 12 basketball championship.

Fashionable and a bit uneasy.

While Kansas is 11-2 and owns the No. 2 RPI according to ESPN.com, the Jayhawks haven’t looked like a great team. They have wavered in almost every game and that blowout loss to Kentucky still resonates. As does KU’s strange road loss at Temple.

The Big 12 has had a monumental non-conference season and has vaulted to the top of everyone’s conference ratings. Outside of mysteriously disappointing Kansas State (7-7), the worst record in the conference is held by Texas Tech at 10-4. The other eight teams are a combined 91-15.

Still, how can anyone not pick Kansas?

Cases can be made for Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and maybe West Virginia. I said maybe West Virginia.

But is anyone really buying Oklahoma State, Baylor or TCU as legitimate Big 12 title threats?

As good as the Big 12 has been this season – and it’s No. 1 ranking is legitimate – there have been some interesting losses.

How does Iowa State lose to an improved, but still not great South Carolina? Ditto for Oklahoma State, which the Gamecocks thumped by 26 points.

Texas dropped an overtime game at home to a good, not great, Stanford.

Baylor was beaten by Illinois.

Oklahoma lost to Creighton.

Strange things happen in non-conference basketball, yes.

Still, while the Big 12 has a lofty ranking overall, only one of its teams, Texas, is ranked in the Top 10. And the Longhorns are 10th.

The Big 12 does fill out the second 10 of the rankings with Kansas (12), West Virginia (14), Oklahoma (16) and Iowa State (17) residing there. Baylor is No. 21.

It should make for a lot of interesting Big 12 matchups, starting with tonight’s Big Monday debut on ESPN between Oklahoma and Texas in Austin. Oklahoma State plays at Iowa State on Tuesday night and Kansas visits Baylor for its conference opener Wednesday.

Are the Bears, who lost their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma on Saturday, good enough to beat the Jayhawks?

Kansas has been almost unbeatable at home in Big 12 games for more than a decade. Will that change this season?

It’s logical to believe the Jayhawks’ string of conference titles is about to end because of the depth of good teams in the Big 12. But there’s no clear-cut favorite to unseat Kansas, is there?

So as spotty as KU has been in some games this season, I’m not ready to jump ship as one who believes the Jayhawks will win another conference crown. I like what I’ve seen lately from sophomore point guard Frank Mason. Freshman Kelly Oubre is developing quickly.

And Kansas coach Bill Self has shown time and time again that he knows how to get his team ready for January, February and early-March basketball. There are some other outstanding coaches in the Big 12, but Self stands alone at the top.

Maybe the odds are against Kansas, who knows? The Jayhawks presumably aren’t going to win every Big 12 championship until the end of time.

But the question remains: Is there a team good enough to take the title away from KU this season? Until further notice, I have my doubts.

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