STILLWATER – I hope my Jayhawk friends take this the right way. I hope they know it's nothing personal.
But it's time someone other than Kansas won the Big 12 basketball championship.
The Jayhawks won the league in 2012. And 2011. And 2010. And 2009. Four straight outright titles, and the Jayhawks have finished no worse than in a tie for first eight straight years.
Not since Eddie Sutton's great Cowboy team of 2004 has Kansas been relegated to as low as second place.
And now another OSU team can do something about it. Travis Ford's Cowboys host KU on Wednesday night, and the winner lands the catbird seat for the 2013 Big 12 championship.
It's about dang time someone besides Kansas sported the trophy.
“I think it's time for us to win it,” said OSU's Markel Brown.
Nothing against Kansas. The Jayhawks have been worthy champions. Over the years, they have been splendid representatives of Big 12 hoops. Annually a ballteam you can cheer for.
Likable coaches, be it Roy Williams or Bill Self. Stars you can embrace, from Nick Collison to Thomas Robinson. Fans you can stand to live with. The best venue in college basketball. The best tradition in American sport.
We don't pound our chests with conference pride in this part of the country, but who among us doesn't pull for the Jayhawks every March? Kansas basketball is pure class.
I'm just tired of KU winning the league every year, and the Big 12 ought to be really tired of it. It's holding back the conference.
No other league has such domination. No ACC school has won four straight league titles since Duke in 1997-00. No Pac-12 school has done it since UCLA's reign of terror in the ‘60s and ‘70s. No SEC school has done it since Kentucky in 1968-71. No Big Ten or Big East school ever has done it.
But here come the Jayhawks, floating along. Heck, even when the Big 12 is loaded, KU is undeterred. In 2002, OU made the Final Four. But Kansas won the league and made the Final Four itself. In 2003, Texas made the Final Four. But Kansas won the league and made the Final Four itself.
And even that parity has flown the coup. KU has failed to finish first only once in the last 11 years, that 2004 season. And now the Jayhawks have made the Big 12 Tournament their domain, too. Oklahoma schools won five straight Big 12 Tournaments, 2001-05, but KU has five of the last seven.
Time was, Kansas shared the tournament glory. Five schools won the five Big Eight/Big 12 Tournaments from 1993-97; Williams coached KU for 15 glorious seasons and won just four conference tournaments.
It's getting old everywhere except Mount Oread. Once-grand basketball schools – OSU, OU, Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State – have lost the faith over the years. Big 12 hoops has stagnated over the last eight-nine seasons.
Gonzaga has been challenged more in the West Coast Conference than KU has been in the Big 12.
But now the Cowboys have staged a revival. K-State is in the title chase. The Sooners are good again. Suddenly, Big 12 basketball has some sizzle about it. Three teams ranked in the top 14.
“I wouldn't mind ‘em sharing a little bit,” said a smiling OSU sharpshooter Phil Forte, who grew up a KU fan, since his dad played football for the Jayhawks. “We're going to have to work for it.”
Ford won't touch the what's-best-for-the-conference talk – “I don't know about that. I don't get caught up in that.” – but does say, “I would like for us to try to win one, absolutely. Is it time? I hope we've got a chance. Lot of respect for Kansas. They've had a lot of really good basketball teams.”
We long ago declared college basketball a post-season sport. Nothing matters except March and the NCAA Tournament.
But for this sport to thrive, the regular season has to matter. It has to be more than just slotting for NCAA brackets. A conference championship is well-earned. It should be more than a sign of prowess. It should be embraced with pride.
And it's time it was embraced by someone other than the Jayhawks.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.