Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. The Boston Celtics’ eight straight titles. Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts. All of the great streaks in sports history eventually had to end. Another one met that fate on Tuesday.
With a loss against Oklahoma, Kansas basketball was officially removed from Big 12 title contention for the first time since 2004, ending a mind-boggling streak of 14 straight conference titles.
It was a streak that cemented Bill Self as one of the game’s best coaches, and one that included contributions from Wayne Simien, Mario Chalmers, the Morris twins, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and, throughout the years, Perry Ellis.
The Jayhawks’ streak broke a record for consecutive conference regular season titles previously held by John Wooden’s UCLA teams, and could very well not be surpassed for generations.
Naturally, all that history, prestige and fun ended with the team getting taken to the woodshed by the seventh-place Oklahoma Sooners, losing 81-68 in a game in which they trailed by double digits during the entire second half.
Now who wins the Big 12?
With Kansas officially out of the picture, the Big 12 is now a two-horse race between Texas Tech and Kansas State, the Jayhawks’ in-state rival.
Both teams boast a 13-4 record, two games ahead of Kansas’ 11-6 mark with one game left in the regular season. Kansas State probably has the easier path to winning the outright title, with a date against Oklahoma to end its regular season while Texas Tech plays an Iowa State team ranked 13th in the KenPom rankings.
Of course, both teams would probably be fine as long as they get a share of the Big 12 title, and Kansas doesn’t.
What the sports landscape looked the last time Kansas didn’t win the Big 12
The last time Kansas didn’t come away with at least a share of the Big 12 title, some of its current players weren’t even in elementary school.
To find a Kansas season that doesn’t have “Big 12 regular season champion” on its list of accomplishments, you’d have to go as far back as the 2003-04 season in which an Oklahoma State team led by Tony Allen ran away with the conference. To put into perspective how long ago that was, the Memphis Grizzlies announced plans to retire Allen’s number two years ago.
Here are some other things that were going on in the sports world around that time:
LeBron James was on his way to winning NBA Rookie of the Year
Nick Saban had just won his first national title at LSU
Michael Phelps had not won a single Olympic medal
the Boston Red Sox were still waiting to end their 86-year World Series drought
Roger Federer had two career Grand Slam titles, Rafael Nadal had won zero
the Montreal Expos still existed
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby had not made their NHL debuts
Tom Brady just won his second Super Bowl title (OK, some things do stay the same)
Where Kansas goes from here
Even with the death of the streak, Kansas will still get a chance to post at least one Big 12 title with the conference tournament, where it will likely be ranked third if it beats Baylor in the regular season finale.
There’s also of course the NCAA tournament, where NCAA.com projects the Jayhawks to hold a 3-seed, though that could go down with their most recent loss.
And, if all else fails, maybe Les Miles and Kansas football could be something to turn to.
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