No. 8 Kansas clinches 14th straight Big 12 title
Kansas coach Bill Self has signed some of the nation’s top-rated players during his tenure in Lawrence, allowing him to restock the roster instead of rebuilding.
Signing one-and-done players comes with a price: Constant roster turnover.
It hasn’t mattered to Self and the Jayhawks. No matter who they have on the floor, they find a way to win the Big 12 title.
The count is 14 straight after Saturday’s win over No. 6 Texas Tech clinched at least a share of the title, leaving No. 8 Kansas alone for longest streak in NCAA history. The Jayhawks had been tied with UCLA, which won 13 straight Pac-10 titles from 1967-79.
“I feel like this year was the year that everybody thought we were going to lose it,” said Kansas guard Devonte Graham, who scored 26 points against the red Raiders.
“As a team, we’ve just been battling, staying positive with each other, going through the grind. And now we made history.”
Kansas was picked to win the Big 12 title in the preseason, but doubts arose after the Jayhawks lost nonconference games against Washington and Arizona State.
Kansas (23-6, 12-4) still appeared to vulnerable after losing to the Big 12′s two Oklahoma schools in a span of four games.
The Jayhawks, like they always seem to, found a way to play their best when they needed to, winning four straight games to earn another title. Kansas can take it outright with a win against Texas on Monday.
“We picked the best time to be our best the last couple of weeks,” Self said. “To play with little depth and to play so small and to not be a physical team at all, to see how these guys hung in there and competed, I’m amazed.”
Texas Tech picked a tough time to start struggling.
The Red Raiders (22-7, 10-6) reached their highest ranking as a program at No. 6 on Monday, but lost both games since. Those followed a loss to Baylor, when leading scorer Keenan Evans injured a toe. He appears to still be bothered by the foot, scoring in single digits the past three straight games, including six against Kansas.
Even with the slide, Self has been impressed with the job coach Chris Beard has done this season.
“Chris has done as good a job as anybody in the country,” Self said. “He should be mentioned for national coach of the year.”
VIRGINIA TAKES ACC CROWN
Top-ranked Virginia earned its third ACC title in five years with a dominating performance. The Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) had already clinched at least a share of first place with a home win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday and crushed Pittsburgh 66-37, holding the Panthers to seven points in the first half.
Virginia continues to lead the nation in scoring defense at 52.1 points allowed per game and is third in shooting percentage against at .375.
CREIGHTON’S BIG WIN
Creighton’s margin for error to reach the NCAA Tournament became a little thinner after consecutive losses to Marquette and Butler. The Bluejays (19-9, 8-7 Big East) were still in decent shape, but couldn’t afford many more slipups.
Saturday’s upset win over No. 3 Villanova should make them feel a lot more comfortable. It was the highest-ranked opponent Creighton had ever beaten.
“I’m so happy how we won that game,” Creighton’s Marcus Foster said. “We’ve been talking these last three games about how we want to play, and then to go out and execute what we said we wanted to do, it’s a great feeling right now.”
No. 21 West Virginia’s Jevon Carter accomplished something no other major-conference player had. With two assists against Iowa State, the Mountaineers senior guard became the first Power 5 conference player in NCAA history to reach 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.
Carter has 1,612 points, to move past Truck Bryant for 14th on West Virginia’s career list, with 510 rebounds, 501 assists and 303 steals.
ANOTHER ZAGS TITLE
No. 6 Gonzaga was expected to be in rebuilding mode after losing most of the key players from last year’s Final Four team.
But coach Mark Few doesn’t rebuild, he restocks the roster.
With Saturday’s 79-65 victory over BYU, the Bulldogs (27-4, 17-1) have won at least a share of 18 of the past 19 regular-season West Coast Conference championships, including each of the past six seasons.
Gonzaga earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s WCC tournament and will face the Loyola Marymount-Portland winner.