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Commentary: New world order in the Big 12

By Blair Kerkhoff, The Kansas City Star Published: February 11, 2013
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The home loss to Oklahoma State gave the rest of the conference hope, and the ensuing KU losses to TCU and Oklahoma have thrown the Big 12 race into free-for-all. Eight league games remain, and two games separate the top six teams. If Kansas wins and the Sooners hold serve at home against TCU tonight, all six leaders will have either three or four league losses.

But if the Wildcats emerge with their first victory in Lawrence since Jim Wooldridge's final team in 2006, they'll become the Big 12's singular target. Mike Evans was the standout the last time Kansas State won a conference title, in 1977.

And there's this piece of trivia: The Wildcats could join Oklahoma and Texas as the only schools to win Big 12 championships in football and men's basketball in the same school year. The Sooners turned the trick in 2004-05, the Longhorns in 2005-06. In both cases, they shared the basketball title with Kansas.

As even as Monday night's game appears, Kansas holds a trump card. The success against its state rival is one of the most bizarre occurrences in college sports.

With its 59-55 victory in Manhattan last month, the Jayhawks moved to 45-3 against K-State since 1994.

In all of those years, Kansas finished as the higher-ranked team. But the Jayhawks win the lion's share of league titles, finish as the highest-ranked conference team in most seasons, and historically have had more trouble with league rivals like Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

The Jayhawks' firm grip on the series may have been best illustrated in 2010. K-State, led by Pullen, set a school record with 29 victories and pushed the Cats all the way to the NCAA regional title game.

The Jayhawks and Wildcats met three times that year, and K-State wasn't ranked below 11th nationally in any of the meetings.

Kansas won all three, captured the Big 12 by four games and had everybody else playing only for bracketology once again.

But in one week, the Jayhawks have given more than half of the Big 12 championship dreams. If K-State finds a way to win Monday night, Kansas will find itself closer to a place it hasn't known for years — one where it falls back in the conference race and can only wonder about its postseason seed.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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