Why this Big 12 title is the most impressive of Kansas' 12 in a row

Why this Big 12 title is the most impressive of Kansas' 12 in a row

The last time Kansas did not claim the Big 12 title, Usher's "Yeah" was unavoidable on the radio, Facebook was a new site your parents hadn't yet discovered and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still America's favorite couple.

That streak will continue at least one more year.

Kansas players celebrate at the end of the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas players celebrate at the end of the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas clinched at least a share of its 12th consecutive Big 12 championship on Saturday afternoon when it opened a 20-point second-half lead over Texas Tech and hung on for a 67-58 victory. The Jayhawks will win the league outright if they win at least one of their final two games against Texas and Iowa State or if they lose both but neither West Virginia nor Oklahoma manage to win out.

The most consecutive league titles any college basketball team has ever won is 13 by UCLA from 1967-1979. Kansas is now alone in second place, followed by Gonzaga (2001-11), UNLV (1983-92), Connecticut (1951-60).

To put into perspective how remarkable an accomplishment Kansas' league title streak is, consider that only one other college basketball program entered the current season with a streak of more than three straight conference championships. Harvard had won or shared five Ivy League titles in a row before its nosedive to the lower half of the standings this year, while Stephen F. Austin, High Point and Gonzaga all have a chance to win their fourth conference title in a row.

Of all of Kansas' 12 league titles, this one may be the greatest accomplishment.

Never before has the Big 12 been any stronger than this season when 60 percent of the league is ranked in the AP Top 25 and 70 percent of the league is likely headed to the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma boasts the favorite for national player of the year, Iowa State boasts a top 10 offense, West Virginia boasts a top 10 defense, yet each of them are two or more games back of the Jayhawks entering the final week of the regular season.

What's also impressive is that Kansas has racked up a 25-4 record without the presence of a single surefire first-round pick in its rotation. The highest-rated prospect on the Jayhawks' roster is McDonald's All-American freshman Cheick Diallo, who has scored a total of six points in the team's past 11 games. DraftExpress projects Kansas' leading scorers Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden as second-round picks this June.

The talent Kansas does have is tough and experienced but the roster doesn't fit Bill Self's preferred style of play as well as most previous editions did.

This year's Jayhawks score a higher percentage of their points from behind the arc and a lower percentage inside it than any other Kansas team Self has coached, a product of their lack of a low-post scoring threat the caliber of a Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson or Cole Aldrich. Perry Ellis is the team's best scorer in the paint, but he's better knocking down mid-range jump shots or finishing on lobs and high-low passes than he is backing down an opposing big man on the block

Credit Self for adapting to his roster, altering his paint-to-perimeter mindset and playing to his strengths. With two point guards in its starting five and shooters all over the floor, this Kansas team excels scoring in transition, making plays off the dribble or bombing away from behind the arc.

Kansas' revamped style of play was on display Saturday as the Jayhawks pushed the pace whenever possible against the slower Red Raiders and let it fly from 3-point range 21 times. Svi Mykhailiuk was the unexpected star off the bench, sinking all five threes he attempted and finishing with 17 points. Mason also had a big day, scoring 16 points and knocking down a trio of 3-pointers.

When Kansas was 5-3 in the Big 12 and staring up at Oklahoma and West Virginia in the conference standings, there was reason to believe the Jayhawks' streak could at least be in some jeopardy. Instead they built some momentum with an overtime victory over Kentucky at Allen Fieldhouse and then ripped off eight straight conference victories by an average of 12.8 points.

Now Kansas is on pace for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and in position to win the nation's toughest conference outright with just one more victory next week.

Of all their Big 12 titles the past 12 years, none is more impressive than this one.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!