Make no mistake, if Kansas is to win a 10th consecutive Big 12 championship, they’re going to have to go through hell and back to get it done. The Jayhawks introduction to league play this season can be described as brutal at best.
Heading into this afternoon’s Sunflower Showdown with Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks know they’ll be in for a test, but it won’t get any easier, as they face a quick turnaround, as they face a difficult road game at Iowa State Monday, before a showdown with Oklahoma State, next weekend.
“If I can recall if we've played a tougher stretch than what we're getting ready to play based on records and based on rankings, but I can't think of one, “ Self said. “This is a monster start for us, certainly one in which we need to play good. Early in conference play, you can't win the league, obviously, in January, but you can certainly put yourself in a position where it would be awful tough to catch up, so we need to be our best right now.”
Despite the stretch of games that started with a road win at Oklahoma and concludes with a home game against Baylor two days after the Oklahoma State game, Kansas (10-4, 1-0) cannot afford to overlook anyone, especially the red hot Wildcats (12-2. 2-0), who stroll in playing perhaps the best basketball in the conference and they’ve done so with a simple formula, defense.
“Well, they're guarding. Guys seem to really understand their roles, and certainly their freshmen now have played enough minutes that they're more seasoned and have been more effective,” Self said. “They're playing extremely hard, and they are off to a good start. There's no question, they're playing with a ton of confidence.”
This is a game that will be typical of the Jayhawks quest to capture another league title. It’s clear even through the first week that there will no off days and that the league has tremendous depth from top to bottom, which could set things up for a wild race.
“Well, in my personal opinion, I think that we've been a favorite several years. We've been co-favorites or there's been other teams that have been up there that make a run. I can go back many times and think about, well, we've got three losses and they've got two, and we've got to win out and we've got to hope something happens with them,” Self said.
“So it's been open before, but I think going into a conference season, I don't think we've ever had as many teams that you could say, when they're playing their best over a period of time, could be the best team in the league. Now I think there are multiple teams that you could say that with.”