Photo credit: KUsports.com
In the 1987-88 season, The University of Kansas and ‘Danny and the miracles’ snatched the 1988 National Title on Danny Manning’s game sealing free throws. As sweet as that sounds, legendary coach Larry Brown was facing multiple NCAA sanctions due to recruiting violations during the ’88 season, causing him to step down. Kansas was searching for a coach and found the perfect man, Roy Williams. Roy Williams had been an assistant coach under another legendary coach, Dean Smith, at the University of North Carolina. Roy Williams had big shoes to fill as Larry Brown was walking away.
He did not end up accomplishing his life long dream at KU but put up some fairly impressive numbers with the Jayhawks. After not making the NCAA tournament the following year, and barely making it into the big dance the 1989-90 season, Roy Williams finally stole Kansas fans’ trusts. Then he stole their hearts by stating he would coach at KU until the day he dies. After leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four in the 2002-03 season, Roy Williams accepted his dream job at his alumni, the University of North Carolina. In 15 season he led the Jayhawks to 9 regular season conference titles, 3 conference tournament titles, and 4 Final Fours. He had never given Kansas’ fans their heart’s back after he had left. In just 2 seasons at North Carolina, he had done the only thing he couldn’t do in his 15 seasons at KU, win the National Championship. Now he had not only stolen KU fans’ hearts but ripped them into pieces leaving KU bitter and disgusted.
Lucky for KU, they know how to reload and they brought in a legendary coach in the making. In just three seasons with the Illinois Fighting Illini, Bill Self won 2 regular season Big 10 titles and a Big 10 tournament championship. A year later, Bruce Weber took Bill Self’s recruits to the Final Four at Illinois, perhaps Self was regretting the decision at this point. What Bill Self didn’t know is that he was about to start one of the greatest coaching dynasties at the University of Kansas. In 12 full seasons, Bill Self has coached the Jayhawks to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, 2 Final Fours, and 1 National Championship with a late comeback and ‘Mario’s Miracle’ shot by Mario Chalmers to send the game into overtime against Derrick Rose and the Memphis Tigers.
Even as Bill Self coached the winningest team in KU basketball history, including a National Championship, and one of the craziest games in NCAA history, that is not how most people recognize him. They know Bill Self because he has coached the Jayhawks to an incredible 11 straight regular season Big 12 Titles! The second most in NCAA history tied with the Gonzaga Bulldogs and chasing coach John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins staggering 13 conference titles in a row. I’m not saying the journey has been easy for the Jayhawks but there are some valid concerns this season while they’re looking for their 12th straight conference championship.
The Kansas Jayhawks started the 2016-17 season with a tough game against Indiana with an overtime loss (103-99). Ever since the season opening loss the Jayhawks have won 13 consecutive games, including an impressive game winner by Frank Mason III facing the Duke Blue Devils. Though the Kansas Jayhawks have won 13 straight, their first two Big 12 games weren’t pretty. They escaped the TCU Horn Frogs by a score of 86-80 in Fort Worth, Texas. Then on January 3, the Jayhawks blew a 10 point lead against instate rival Kansas State Wildcats and escaped on a game winning lay up by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in the Sun Flower Showdown at Allen Field House.
This is concerning for the Jayhawks because they now only have one Power Forward with solid playing time as Freshman Sensation Udoka Azubuike is out with a season ending injury. This causes match up confusion for the Jayhawks on defense and have given up too many easy baskets in the paint. KU has never faced such a task, having extraordinary Rim Protectors in the past, for example Utah Jazz starting Center Jeff Withey, Joel Ambiid, and Thomas Robinson. It is a topic of debate that KU has the best back court in all of college basketball but is that enough for a 12th straight conference title? If squeaking out victories against two mediocre opponents isn’t already nerve racking enough, I cannot wait until the Jayhawks face the Baylor Bears and Kentucky Wildcats. That is when we will truly see what the future holds for the Kansas Jayhawks as that will be the two toughest challenges of the regular season. Will it be Rock Chalk Jayhawk another year in the Big 12? or will they be dethroned?