Kansas Basketball: Ranking the Biggest Potholes in Bid for Perfect Big 12 Season
Kansas head coach Bill Self has lost a total of 23 Big 12 regular season games over his nine years in Lawrence, the last eight years resulting in conference titles.
Despite this .838 winning percentage, Self has never gone undefeated in Big 12 play and the closest he's come was in 2009-10 with one loss.
The 50-year-old coach has surely led teams with higher expectations and a deeper bench than his 2012-13 bunch but the lack of another elite contender within the conference has some wondering if he can run the table over the next two months.
The new-look Big 12 is undoubtedly facing a down year but they still expect to produce at least five tournament teams, giving the Jayhawks plenty of consistent competition during a grueling 18-game conference slate.
Could KU stumble against one of those tourney teams, or potentially a motivated underachieving squad?
5. January 26th vs. Oklahoma
Losing to the mighty Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin at home is always horrifying, regardless of their expected dominance of the Southland Conference. Therefore, the Sooners' rebuilding project under Lon Kruger was put on hold for another year by many.
However, this Oklahoma team is significantly improved from last season and boasts a versatile team that is 2-0 in league play following early wins over West Virginia and in-state rival Oklahoma State.
Romero Osby presents a tricky defensive matchup for Kevin Young and Jeff Withey inside, especially coming off a challenging two-game road trip to Manhattan and Austin for the Jayhawks.
4. February 25th at Iowa State
Last week's victory over Iowa State was not attractive nor encouraging, but it was certainly necessary against Fred Hoiberg's resilient bunch.
Freshman power forward Georges Niang appears on his way to becoming an adequate replacement for the departed and controversial Royce White, giving Kansas issues inside and on the perimeter. A second matchup likely benefits the veteran Bill Self, as many adjustments are expected inside the paint but improved selective three-point shooting (14 for 38) could give ISU the edge.
Hilton Coliseum is easily the most underrated home-court atmosphere in college hoops and following Wednesday prayer victory, reminiscent of KU's overtime win in 2007 in Ames, the Cyclones could have their number for the second straight year at home.
3. February 20th at Oklahoma State
Travis Ford and Oklahoma State appeared to be a consensus Top 25 team in late December, seeking to threaten Kansas for the Big 12 title.
However, a one-point home loss to Gonzaga followed by two quick conference defeats at the hands of Oklahoma and Kansas State has outsiders wondering if Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash can carry this team to March.
Gallagher-Iba Arena has not been kind to Self and the Jayhawks as they have lost two of their last three dating back to the 2007-08 season. Oklahoma State could be riding high on a four-game winning streak when KU visits.
Hot shooting from Smart, Nash, and guard Markel Brown is imperative for the Cowboys to end a potentially perfect Big 12 season February 20th in Stillwater.
2. March 9th at Baylor
Kansas visited Waco last February—four days after a heartbreaking three-point loss at Missouri—to play a No. 6 ranked Bears team riding a four-game winning streak. In a regular season game finally expected to go Baylor's way, Jeff Withey and No. 10 KU dominated the second half en route to a 68-54 win.
Two weeks earlier, Kansas blew out the previously undefeated Bears at Allen Fieldhouse, continuing a trend of unexpected convincing performances from both teams over the last five seasons. But their March 9th meeting this year might yield an expected result.
It appears the Jayhawks have a couple early challengers for the conference title in Kansas State and Baylor, but barring an immense setback, Kansas should have the Big 12 wrapped up by this last game of the regular season.
Scott Drew's team could still be jockeying for NCAA Tournament seeding and may topple a KU team looking ahead.
1. January 22nd at Kansas State
First-year head coach Bruce Weber has the Wildcats nationally ranked and two wins away from a 4-0 start in the Big 12 when they will welcome Kansas to Bramlage Coliseum on January 22nd.
Despite an offensively challenged team shooting only 42.7 percent from the floor, good enough for 187th in the nation, and scoring a dull 69 points per game, improved defense and timely execution in wins over Florida and Oklahoma State has Kansas State thinking big in 2013.
Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez are seeking K-State's third home victory in the last six seasons over KU after failing to record a victory in Manhattan for 24 years.
January 22nd should be Kansas' most challenging Big 12 game of the 2012-13 season as they look to pick up a suddenly resume-boosting win.