After KU clinched at least a share of their 10th-straight Big 12 title last night, a discussion list I’m on started throwing out things that weren’t around the last time KU did not win the conference regular season championship. The iPhone and iPad. Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Twitter.
I realized that a lot of us have kids that have never known a world where KU didn’t rule the Big 12. M. was born eight months before the first title in the stretch. That, famously, was the year I stopped watching games for a week because I couldn’t behave during, and more importantly after, games and thought I needed a break to be a better father.
Some things haven’t changed much. I needed a long cooling off process shoveling snow after the San Diego State game back in early January. I guess I’ve learned to focus that negative energy.
There is plenty of talk about the significance of the streak. I don’t know what to add to all that. Obviously, it’s pretty damn cool. I enjoy how the national media has really run with the story each season as the streak stretched beyond five years and became something unique in the modern sports world. And I appreciate all the crazy stats the pop up this time of year. Bill Self’s conference titles vs. home losses totals. KU’s road conference record compared to other teams’ home records. How every team that is in, or was in, the Big 12 has had a losing conference record at least once over the streak.
It all boils down to something we all know: KU has been really freaking good for a long time. Sure, there have been disappointments along the way. But the title streak is a reminder that even with some notable losses in March, more often than not when KU takes the court, they’re the most talented team, the best prepared, and have a pretty good coach running things. And then they usually take care of the task at hand.
I’m finding this one especially sweet, and not just because of the nice, round symmetry of the number 10. Or because it’s something that likely won’t be repeated any time soon in the super conference era. Rather, I continue to believe that while this team has nearly limitless potential, they won’t realize it this year. I worry a bit that the Wiggins-Embiid-Selden year will be remembered for a bad shooting night in March. Thus, I really wanted them to grab this title as their own. When people bemoan the realities of the one-and-done era, this will be a reminder that this batch of youngin’s was pretty damn good.
I know some of you will recall that, not too long ago, I wrote that this would likely be the year the streak ended. I would have been thrilled if KU had gone 3-2 in their first five Big 12 games, figuring San Diego State exposed a bunch of weaknesses that conference foes would take advantage of.
The Jayhawks quickly proved me wrong. They won their first seven games of the conference slate. Shows how much I know about hoops, I suppose.
I honestly believed that, though. And I hope my view of their current flaws is another over-reaction and they’re going to make a deep run in March. I still worry about how they guard the perimeter. I worry about their point guard play. I worry about how they play defense in transition. I worry about Wiggins going 3-15 on a night when no one else can buy a shot. I worry about Embiid getting hurt. I worry about a team full of young guys cracking under the extreme pressure of March.
So really, despite all of KU’s success over the years, I’m no different than every other fan this time of year. I see plenty of great things, but probably focus too much on, and over-emphasize, the flaws I also see.
It’s been another great year for Kansas basketball. I’m hopeful that last night’s celebration won’t be the last, or the high point of the 2013-14 season.