Kansas has won more Big 12 tournament titles than any team in the conference, but another championship may not be enough for it to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks look to continue their conference tournament success when they open play against seventh-seeded Nebraska in a quarterfinal matchup on Friday night in Kansas City.
Kansas (28-3) is the No. 2 seed in the tournament despite sharing the regular-season league title with sixth-ranked Texas. The Longhorns earned the top seed after beating the Jayhawks on Feb. 11.
The Jayhawks, who have won four straight regular-season conference titles, will try for a third consecutive Big 12 tournament championship and sixth overall when they face Nebraska (19-11), a 61-56 winner over Missouri in a first-round game Thursday.
However, if the Jayhawks are able to claim another title this weekend, it might not be enough for them to earn a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament.
In addition to winning the event, Kansas likely needs one or more of the potential NCAA top seeds - North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Tennessee - to lose prior to reaching their respective conference tournament title games in order for itself to be considered for a No. 1 seed.
“We have a chance, but some things probably need to happen to make it a reality,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We just want to gather as much momentum as we can going into next week.”
With the focus firmly set on winning in Kansas City, the Jayhawks look for a fifth straight victory while trying to improve to 12-0 in their first game of the conference tournament.
“We are going to try and come out and show that we have the best team in the (Big 12) Conference,” said reserve guard Sherron Collins, who’s averaging 14.7 points in his last three contests. “That is our goal.”
Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers each had 16 points, while Arthur added nine rebounds in Kansas’ 72-55 win at Texas A&M on Saturday in the regular-season finale.
The Jayhawks, who are shooting 50.6 percent, went 27-for-54 from the field and outscored the Aggies 44-12 in the paint, while holding an opponent to fewer than 60 points for the second consecutive game.
Kansas has had little trouble handling Nebraska in recent seasons. The Jayhawks have won 10 in a row over the Cornhuskers, allowing an average of 55.8 points during that run. Kansas outscored Nebraska by a combined 56 points in two meetings in 2007-08.
“We’re going to have to play near perfect basketball for us,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “It’s just a very, very tough matchup.”
Arthur, averaging a team-leading 13.4 points, had 18 in the Jayhawks’ 84-49 home win over Nebraska on Jan. 26 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
Kansas dominated offensively in that contest - shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 56.3 from 3-point range - and held 6-foot-11 Nebraska senior Aleks Maric scoreless for the first time since his sophomore season.
Maric, a first-team all-Big 12 selection who averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds during the regular season, went 0-for-6 from the field in that contest. He is averaging just 9.6 points and 6.0 rebounds in nine career games versus the Jayhawks.
Maric, though, had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the Cornhuskers’ win Thursday. It was his 38th double-double in a league game, the most by any active Big 12 player.
The winner of this matchup will face either Texas A&M or Kansas State in Saturday’s semifinals.