The Kansas Jayhawks have won 14 straight Big 12 regular season titles. To win a fifteenth, they will need to finish the regular season on a high note and will also need to get some help from other teams in their conference. Here is what has to happen for KU to once again claim at least a share of the Big 12 title:
For starters, the short-handed Jayhawks must win at least five of their final six games in order to finish (at least) 13-5, which is the worst record that KU has had in any of their title-winning seasons since the league schedule expanded to 18 games in 2013. If KU wins less than five games, they will need several teams to lose multiple games that they should not lose. The Big 12 has a lot of parity, which is evidenced by the fact that between 60 and 80 percent of the league’s teams will play in the NCAA Tournament. Even still, there is no way that a 12-6 record is going to be good enough to win the conference title.
KU’s three home games are all virtual must-wins. The first of those games is on Saturday afternoon against slumping West Virginia. The Mountaineers just dismissed two of their starters from the program, so it would seem that Kansas should have the upper hand this weekend. However, KU lost its first matchup with the Mountaineers this season, and the Jayhawks themselves are also missing some key players. Kansas cannot overlook West Virginia and must focus on the fundamentals in order to get a win.
The other two home games are against Kansas State and Baylor. The K-State game is a must-win because Kansas is trailing the Wildcats by two games in the standings. If they lose that game, they could win the rest and still would probably not catch not catch Bruce Weber’s club.
KU’s three road games are against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Based on their performance last week, the Jayhawks should be able to beat OSU, but Gallagher-Iba Arena has proven to be a tough place to play. Oklahoma is sitting squarely on the bubble, and they will be in must-win mode for their matchup with Kansas. Texas Tech is tough, but Bill Self and KU’s coaching staff will have a week to prepare for their game against the Red Raiders. All three road games will be tough, but Kansas could certainly take two out of three and give themselves a chance to win at least a share of the conference title.
The Wildcats have a manageable schedule in their final seven games. Four of the seven games are at home, and one of the road games is at lowly West Virginia. In order for Kansas to catch Kansas State, the Wildcats will probably have to lose at least three of those seven games.
Of course, one of those losses will need to come against the Jayhawks in Lawrence. K-State has tough home games against Iowa State and Baylor and a tough road game at TCU on their schedule. If the Wildcats lose two of those three games, then the Jayhawks will have a chance to make up ground in the standings.
Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Baylor
Those three teams need to lose just one game in order for Kansas (if the Jayhawks go 5-1) to stay even or ahead of them. Fortunately, all three of these teams have head-to-head matchups against each other. That means that at least two of those three teams are guaranteed to lose at some point over the course of the rest of the season. The Jayhawks should not be worrying about losing the streak to any of these three teams. If KU finishes the season behind any of these three teams, then it will be because the Jayhawks did not win at least five of their final six games.
The Big 12 title is still up for grabs, but Kansas State currently has a two-game lead and therefore has the inside track in the race for the title. Kansas has some tough games left, but they have a week to prepare for the Texas Tech game and they get K-State at home. The Kansas Jayhawks’ streak is not over yet, but they have work to do if they want to win their 15th straight Big 12 title.