The Big 12 Conference just wrapped up its regular season and once again the Kansas Jayhawks came away as champions.
For the 12th straight year, the Kansas Jayhawks laid claim to at least a share of the regular season Big 12 title, the second-longest streak of conference domination in the history of college basketball.
Only the UCLA Bruins in the 1960’s and 1970’s put together a longer era of championships at 13.
For the third straight year, the Big 12 finished the regular season as the top-ranked conference in Rating Percentage Index (RPI). In fact, over the last two seasons, the Big 12 has won over 81percent of their non-conference games, including the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The Big 12, like all conferences, tends to beat itself up during conference play. In the end, Kansas is always the team left standing. No other school has consistently challenged them over the years.
Texas has three Big 12 titles though they shared two with Kansas. Iowa State has won two, Oklahoma (shared with KU) and Oklahoma State have each finished first once, and Kansas State earned a share of the title with their in-state rivals once. That’s it.
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None of these schools have been able to maintain the level they need to so they can challenge the Jayhawks every season. No team can provide the exciting yearly match-ups, year in and year out, needed to unseat Kansas.
In the NCAA Tournament, it is often Kansas or bust for the Big 12. The Jayhawks have more Final Four appearances (four) than all other Big 12 teams combined (three).
Early this century, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Sate all made the Final Four in consecutive years; the first two shared the national spotlight with Kansas.
Kansas has the only National Championship for the conference, winning in 2008.
According to Sports-Reference, the Jayhawks also have twice as many NCAA tournament wins (43) than the next highest school, Texas (21). That includes Kansas losing in the first weekend of the tournament eight times. They still have that many more tourney victories.
If people are skeptical of the Big 12 as a legitimate power conference, they have good reasons. What power conference would be dominated so overwhelmingly by one school? What power conference would perform so badly in the NCAA Tournament, year after year?
The Jayhawks also have twice as many NCAA tournament wins (43) than the next highest school, Texas (21).
Schools in the Big 12 have to find a way to build their programs into consistent national powers. It can’t just be the Kansas Jayhawks that bear the standard for the conference year in and year. There has to be other programs of consistent excellence.
The Big 12 is probably going to get seven schools, 70 percent of the conference, in the tournament. Those schools need to perform better. Even Kansas hasn’t made it past the Sweet Sixteen since appearing in the National Championship game in 2012.
Oklahoma and West Virgina have been ranked in the top ten for several weeks. The Sooners even were ranked number one earlier in the season. These teams need a good showing in this year’s tournament. They need a deep run to validate the strength of the conference.
Oklahoma proved, at least for this season, they can be a team that might go on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Still, it would be nice if they could be a legitimate challenger for the conference title every season.
The Kansas Jayhawks, ranked number one in the nation at the end of the regular season, can’t afford to stumble early, as they are prone to do sometimes, especially in recent seasons.
The Big 12 faces some geographical challenges when it comes to recruiting. It has to be tough to attract top high school talent to places like Morgantown, Virginia, Manhattan, Kansas, Ames, Iowa, and Lubbock, Texas.
It is going to have to be a coaches’ conference. That’s fine. The coaches are in place.
Now, those coaches have to find a way to bring their programs into the limelight and keep them there. They need to bring success to their programs and take advantage of those successes to bring in more talent. They need to build quality and consistent programs.
They need to dethrone Kansas. It is difficult for folks around the country to take the conference seriously as a power conference when it is so utterly dominated by one school. The Big 12 Conference MUST be more than the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Big 12 schools can’t do anything about Kansas until next season, but they can earn their high praise by performing well this NCAA Tournament. If several of these schools can make it out of the first weekend, and get three or four into the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, their lofty RPI rank will be justified.
If they can get a team or two to the Final Four, it will go a long way toward legitimizing the power of this conference.
If these teams falter again, the numbers mean nothing.