No. 3 Kansas is two wins away from winning what ESPN’s Dick Vitale has called the best league in the NCAA in the last 20 years.
“Now I don’t always agree with what Dick says,” said Jayhawks coach Bill Self after his team squeaked past West Virginia 76-74 on Saturday, “but I actually agree with that.”
Kansas (24-5, 12-4 Big 12) can clinch no worse than a tie for the Big 12 Conference title Tuesday night if it beats visiting Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan. The Jayhawks are also aiming for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, thanks largely to 14 Quad 1 wins.
They got the job done against West Virginia despite some inconsistent play. All five starters scored in double figures and the team made 54.9 percent of its shots, as well as 10 of 20 3-pointers. But Kansas was just 10 of 17 at the foul line and committed 19 turnovers while being outrebounded 34-26.
However, it got a brilliant game from point guard Dajuan Harris (17 points, six assists, six steals) as well as 16 points on just eight shot attempts by Kevin McCullar. The Jayhawks’ balanced scoring and excellent shooting was just enough to get them across the finish line.
“I’m leaving out of here thinking we’re fortunate we won and we can be humbled enough that we can get better from it,” said Self. “I’m not going to leave out of here being negative.”
Jalen Wilson, who along with McCullar will be honored on Kansas’ senior night, leads the team in scoring at 19.6 points per game, although his field goal percentage has dropped to 41.8. Gradey Dick averages 14.9 while McCullar, who started his career at Texas Tech, chips in 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds.
As for the Red Raiders (16-13, 5-11), they suffered an 83-82 loss to then-No. 24 TCU on Saturday that could be a serious blow to their hopes of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Texas Tech won four straight and went 6-2 in its previous eight games to put itself in position to earn a berth, but couldn’t come up with enough defensive stops.
For coach Mark Adams, whose team last year earned a reputation as being one of the hardest to score against, this has been a different kind of season.
“The biggest disappointment is that we just don’t have one guy on this team that just loves defense,” he said. “We just don’t have a stopper. We’ve got to fall back in love with defense. And that will be the message this week.”
TCU sank 48.5 percent of its shots from the field and committed only 10 turnovers, ruining the Red Raiders’ 50 percent effort from the field. Texas Tech got 19 points from Fardaws Aimaq, 18 from De’Vion Harmon and 17 from Kevin Obanor, but it wasn’t enough.
Kansas took advantage of the Red Raiders’ defensive deficiencies on Jan. 3 in a 75-72 win in Lubbock, Texas, shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and making 11 of 24 3-point tries.
–Field Level Media