Some recent poor play by the Big 12’s other top 10 team has left Kansas in prime position to claim its seventh consecutive conference title. However, with a tough final week ahead, the Jayhawks understand accomplishing that feat will not be easy.
The second-ranked Jayhawks can clinch a share of the regular-season Big 12 championship with a sixth straight victory over No. 24 Texas A&M on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor could return for this matchup after coach Bill Self lifted his suspension after two games for an unspecified violation of team rules. However, it’s unclear if Taylor, averaging 8.8 points and a team-high 4.7 assists, will be allowed to play Wednesday.
The Jayhawks (27-2, 12-2) have been doing fine without him.
Sophomore Elijah Johnson has played well in place of Taylor, and Kansas has averaged 87.7 points and shot 54.3 percent while winning three straight since losing at Kansas State on Valentine’s Day. That run, combined with seventh-ranked Texas losing three of four games, has the Jayhawks one-half game ahead of the Longhorns atop the Big 12 standings.
“Our two games, it may be the toughest week we’ve had all year,” Self told the school’s official website. “Those are hard games.”
With senior night on tap, Self expects his team to be focused as they try to nail down No. 1 seeds in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
“Every year, we go in wanting to win the Big 12 and win the Big 12 tournament and then have your best opportunity to be a No. 1 seed,” senior guard Tyrel Reed said. “We’ve got two more games and I guess kind of now the ball’s in our court and we’ve got to take care of business.”
Though Kansas is 16-1 all-time against the Aggies and won the last five by an average of 12.2 points, Self won’t take anything for granted. Texas A&M has won five of six overall and needs a win to secure the No. 3 seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
“I think if we can approach it as just keep trying to get better, we will get better,” Texas A&M coach and former Jayhawk guard Mark Turgeon told his school’s official website. “We will just stay confident. We should be a confident team. We’ve won five out of six so we should be a very confident team right now.
“We haven’t played too well in the state of Kansas since I’ve been the coach here, so hopefully we’ll play a little bit better on Wednesday.”
To do so, the Aggies likely must contain Kansas stars Marcus and Markieff Morris. The twin brothers combined for 42 points and 19 rebounds in Saturday’s 82-70 win at Oklahoma.
Marcus Morris (17.3 points per game) has totaled 50 points the last two games while Markieff (13.6 ppg) has averaged 20.0 with 10.7 boards the last three.
Texas A&M also will try to bounce back after its five-game winning streak was snapped with a 58-51 loss at Baylor on Saturday.
Forward Khris Middleton had 12 points with 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. The sophomore averages a team-leading 14.6 points but totaled 17 in two games versus Kansas in 2009-10.
The Aggies have dropped nine straight on the road against Top 25 opponents since beating the then-No. 6 Jayhawks 69-66 on Feb. 3, 2007.