Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Big 12 Men: Challengers Exist to Threaten KU's Lengthy Reign as Big 12 Champion

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Big 12 Men: Challengers Exist to Threaten KU's Lengthy Reign as Big 12 Champion

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE -- Sometimes the victories Kansas claims against Big 12 rivals defy logic.

Or, as Bob Huggins put it last season after his West Virginia team blew an 18-point lead in Allen Fieldhouse and allowed the Jayhawks to clinch an 11th consecutive conference crown: "There are some things that happened that are just hard to explain.''

On occasion, teams claim upsets in KU's storied gym, but rarely against Bill Self.

The Jayhawks coach stands 190-9 at home entering his 13th season at KU. Just five of those defeats have come against conference rivals. The Jayhawks enjoy a 23-game win streak at home in Big 12 play, stand 35-1 in AFH since a round-robin format was adopted for the 10-team league in 2011-12.

Yes, KU was again picked as the Big 12 favorite.

Big surprise.

Only that is exactly what Kansas is capable of doing sometimes in Big 12 games -- overcoming deficits to pull out unlikely wins. League rivals seem to feel more pressure when they sense the possibility of beating KU than the Jayhawks do avoiding an upset.

"I see that a lot. West Virginia had a chance to beat 'em,'' said Iowa State guard Monte Morris, the Big 12 leader in assists last season, as he recalled the Mountaineers' upset bid that turned into a KU's league clincher last March.

"It's Kansas, and they're good, but people have got to calm down, relax and play basketball. They're human, they lace up their shoes and put on their jerseys just like you do. Sometimes that's how teams lose to them, yet it's just basketball.''

When Big 12 play begins on Jan. 2 and Kansas plays host to Baylor, the Jayhawks will be looking to extend a 24-game win streak in conference openers dating to 1991, when they were members of the Big Eight. The Bears opened league play with the Jayhawks last season too, in Waco, and had chances to win before falling 56-55.

Usually, tight games are ones opponents must pull out to defeat Kansas. Under Self, the Jayhawks are 27-18 in Big 12 regular-season games decided by five points or less.

Self, now the dean of conference coaches following Rick Barnes' dismissal at Texas, stands 164-36 all-time in Big 12 regular-season games. …

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