Kansas Jayhawks Basketball

The Bill Self Effect: Kansas Coach Makes History with 10th Straight Big 12 Title

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterFebruary 25, 2014

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Move over, John Wooden and Adolph Rupp. Kansas and Bill Self are rewriting the history of college basketball.

Here's a trivia question for you: What coach in a major conference has won the most consecutive league titles in the history of college basketball? On Monday night, the answer changed.

The fifth-ranked Jayhawks won at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 title with an 83-75 win over Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse.

Self now has left Wooden and Rupp, who both won nine straight league titles, in his dust on a streak that has no end in sight.

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22:  Joel Embiid #21, Andrew Wiggins #22 and members of the Kansas Jayhawks react to a dunk by Tarik Black of the Kansas Jayhawks during a game against the Texas Longhorns in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2014
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

This team, like almost every one Self has coached in Lawrence, was expected to win the title once Andrew Wiggins signed on. But there's a difference between expectations and achievement in most places. 

Just not at Kansas.

"It's something you know coming in," freshman Wayne Selden said. "That's the standard here."

Still, it shouldn't have been this easy.

In the year that the Big 12 is considered the best league in the country—good enough to give Marcus Smart's Oklahoma State Cowboys seven straight losses—the Jayhawks nearly pulled off the equivalent of lapping the field.

With three games left to play, Kansas (13-2 in league play) has a three-and-a-half-game lead on second place.

"That's just a phenomenal accomplishment," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "It's not like you're doing that in a bad league."

No, this was supposed to be the year the league stood up to the Jayhawks.

When Smart decided to return to school, the idea was floated that finally there was a team in the conference that had the talent and the moxie to end this ridiculous run already. The Cowboys had five starters back. The Jayhawks had zero. 

Feb 22, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts to a call in the first half of the game against the Texas Longhorns at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Self had the top-ranked freshmen in the country, but Kentucky's John Calipari had what was thought to be the best recruiting class in the history of college basketball, and that group doesn't have any rings in its foreseeable future. 

Self has enough to go around. One for every finger. 

"To me, in a power conference, to do something where the whole key is consistency, we've been so blessed to have good players year in and year out, because we've had a lot of turnover," Self said. "We've had guys we knew would leave and guys that left unexpectedly and those guys are hard to replace."

Self doesn't exactly start from scratch. He always has enough veterans around to let the young guys know what's expected, but this season was the third time during the streak he's had to start five new players.

His challenge is not much different than what Calipari or Roy Williams face each year. Just his results are.

Since Self started his streak, no power-conference school has won more than six league titles.

Most major-conference titles in the last 10 years
Conference titles
1. Kansas10
2. North Carolina6
3. Ohio State5
4. UCLA4
5. Kentucky3*
5. Florida3*
5. Michigan State3
5. Georgetown3
B/R

*Both Florida and Kentucky are in contention for the 2013-14 SEC title. Here are the current standings.

"It's a direct reflection of Coach," former KU point guard Elijah Johnson said before last season's title No. 9 and might as well have spoken for all 10. "The people who were doing it eight years ago are not doing it now. He's still there. I feel like that has to mean something. He's doing something right.

"I just appreciate the fact that he tries to shed the light on us and make it look like it's us who's doing it. When all of us know who it really is, the head honcho."

Feb 24, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Naadir Tharpe (10) shoots the ball as Oklahoma Sooners guard Jordan Woodard (10) defends during the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 83-75. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

True to form, Self praised Naadir Tharpe for bringing this one home on Monday night—Tharpe scored 10 of his 19 points in the final 3:15—and also gave his freshmen some credit for being so good so fast.

"Those are three special guys," Self said of Wiggins, Selden and Joel Embiid. "It'd be crazy to think what these guys could do if you could keep them together for a while, but obviously that probably won't happen."

Wiggins had a grin from ear to ear on Monday night—"To win the Big 12 championship, it's a great feeling," he said—and Embiid skipped out of the Fieldhouse with his 10 fingers in the air.

Self's right. It's crazy to think what would happen if they stuck around for a while. But I bet I know what will happen when they leave. 

More Big 12 championships. More history.

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR. 

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