LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — This was supposed to be the season that the Jayhawks were finally challenged for conference supremacy. Oklahoma State returned a bevy of stars, including All-American Marcus Smart, and teams such as Baylor and Iowa State thought they had the makings of a championship contender.
Instead, Kansas has proven once more that the road to a title runs through Lawrence.
The Cowboys are struggling just to make the NCAA tournament during a miserable season that hit a low when Smart was suspended for entering the stands at Texas Tech. Baylor and Iowa State have both gone through plenty of lows with their highs, while teams such as Oklahoma and Kansas State have proven they can beat just about anybody — including the Jayhawks.
Kansas State pulled that trick last week. The problem for the rest of the league is that except for Texas, nobody else has been able to replicate it.
That means the Jayhawks (20-6) are 11-2 in the standings, while the Longhorns (20-6) are at 9-4. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Kansas State are stuck in a logjam at 8-5.
"The big thing is we can't talk about anything past Saturday," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "because if it doesn't happen Saturday, it's a one-game lead as opposed to a three-game lead."
Kansas has been in tight races before, of course.
Not all of those conference championships have been won in a walk.
Last season, the Jayhawks actually tied with Kansas State for the regular-season crown, only to beat the Wildcats in the league tournament. The four titles before that were won outright, but the Jayhawks were forced to share the championship with Texas in 2006 and '08.
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