After one of the most lopsided wins in school history, Kansas is in position to take at least a share of the Big 12 title and could also find itself playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
There’s a certain alumnus who would like to make sure neither of those things happen.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks look to guarantee themselves at least part of a fourth straight conference title on Saturday at Texas A&M, which is coached by former Kansas player and coach Mark Turgeon.
Kansas (27-3, 13-2) got a break when unranked Texas Tech knocked off then-No. 5 Texas last Saturday, leaving the Jayhawks and Longhorns tied atop the Big 12 standings. Two days later, Kansas thanked the Red Raiders by handing them the worst loss in school history, a 109-51 drubbing that ranked as the largest margin of defeat in conference history.
“We did play guys and everybody made shots and they couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” coach Bill Self said. “I’m certainly glad we had a chance to play everybody.”
Self’s attention now turns to the Aggies (22-8, 8-7), coached by Turgeon, who is in his first year at Texas A&M. Turgeon played point guard in Lawrence for four years in the mid-1980s, then served as an assistant on the Jayhawks’ staff under Larry Brown and Roy Williams.
“He’s very knowledgeable, very competitive and certainly was an important figure in KU’s success during the time that he was here,” Self said. “He’s proven now to be a very good coach.”
For the first time in school history, Kansas is coming off a loss to the Aggies. Texas A&M went into Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 3, 2007, and won for the first time, beating the then-No. 6 Jayhawks 69-66.
Kansas hasn’t lost at home in 24 games since.
Seven of the eight Jayhawks who played in that game are back this season, and that group makes up one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country. Four players average between 12.0 and 13.3 points, led by sophomore Darrell Arthur.
Sophomore guard Sherron Collins averages just 9.2 per game, but he’s been Kansas’ best offensive threat in its last two contests, averaging 15.5 points. He had a team-high 18 a year ago in the loss to the Aggies.
Collins had a stress fracture in his foot that caused him to miss six non-conference games, and has recently had a bruised knee. But Self thinks he’s close to 100 percent.
“He’s not a little bit better, he’s a lot better that what he was a week ago,” Self said. “He couldn’t pick a better time to do it.”
Turgeon’s Aggies were ranked as high as No. 9 in the Top 25 in early December, but they’ve not lived up to that billing, losing four of their last six. They appear to be a safe bet to make the NCAA tournament, but a win over a top 5 opponent would certainly bolster their resume.
Texas A&M is led by junior forward Josh Carter, who’s averaging 12.7 points. He’s struggling with his shot over the last month though, hitting just 39.0 percent from the field in his last nine games.
One player who hasn’t had any accuracy issues is freshman DeAndre Jordan. The Aggies’ 7-foot center is averaging just 8.9 points, but shoots 62.6 percent. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder, grabbing 6.6 per game, which ranks him in the conference’s top 10.
“DeAndre Jordan is an athlete that few people in America have,” Self said. “He can totally control the inside of the lane. He’s a fabulous athlete and fast.”
Jordan had six blocks while Carter scored 17 points on Wednesday in the Aggies’ 71-57 win at Baylor.
Kansas is 5-0 at Texas A&M’s Reed Arena, winning by an average of 13.4 points.