Is This the Year the Big 12 Changes Hands?

For the past thirteen seasons the Big 12 has belonged to the Kansas Jayhawks. One of the more impressive streaks in all of sports, Kansas had won at least a share of the Big 12 the last thirteen years. Some seasons the Jayhawks have made light work of the competition, others they have been tested mightily. Every year though, the question remains the same: When will KU fall? This year the Big 12 Conference has stood out in non-conference play. The seat is hot as Kansas heads into conference play. Let’s look at factors that could keep Kansas short of their 14th conference title.

Depth

Bill Self’s short bench has been a highly discussed topic his year. That bench got a little deeper when the Jayhawks added Sam Cunliffe right before the holidays. Self and his staff are hoping to receive more good news in the new year to help solve his front court problem. Right now, with Cunliffe, Kansas rotates eight players, and a few of them are not ready for the major minutes they are receiving. If KU gets De Sousa cleared, and Billy Preston finds his way onto the court, it’s a mew ball game. But those are just ifs for now.

Three Point Reliant

Having such a thin front court, has cause Self to make changes over the past two seasons. Last year self went with a four guard lineup and allowed Josh Jackson to play the four. This year though, there is no Jackson, and Kansas has a very small four guard line up. This has them relying heavily on the three-point shot. The good news, is they currently rank 14th in the country in percentage. The bad news, is that when shots aren’t falling, you’re cooked. You saw it in the Elite Eight last year against Oregon. Not having a proper balance could hurt KU in conference play.

Trae Young

During non-conference play, Trae Young and Oklahoma received all the headlines, not Kansas. Young has taken the Sooners from unranked to number 12 in the nation. Their number one offense in the country is clicking at an insane rate. They are currently putting up 95 points per game. That’s better than Duke, Gonzaga, Arizona State, everyone. It’s this potent offense that poses a real threat to Kansas. The Jayhawks defense, though it’s improving, has not been up to Bill Self’s standards thus far. If Kansas tries to get into a scoring match with the Sooners, they will likely lose more times than they’ll win.

The Big 12 is Experienced

Outside the scorching hot Oklahoma Sooners, the rest of the Big 12 is, well, really good. Right now, West Virginia (7), TCU (10), Oklahoma (12), Baylor (18) and Texas Tech (22) all join Kansas (11) in the AP Top 25. Texas Tech and Texas have top ranked defenses in the country, and you can’t talk defense without mentioning West Virginia. Kansas has overcome deep Big 12 Conferences before, but this year seems different. There are explosive offenses like Oklahoma, well balanced teams like TCU and Texas Tech, and Bob Huggins always gives Bill Self fits. Add in Baylor and Texas and it will be a tall task for Kansas to repeat.

Kansas has faced its challenges. You don’t win thirteen regular season conference championships without a few obstacles. This season is shaping up to be no different. Kansas is not a finished product, they will hopefully add one, or hopefully two, more players to give Bill Self a deeper rotation to work with. Self usually gets his team to overcome. If he is to do it this year, it may be his best work yet.

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