In 2004, Kansas University won the first of its 13 straight Big 12 regular-season titles (outright or shared).
How long ago was that? LeBron James was a rookie, Karl Malone was still in the NBA and Kentucky star Malik Monk turned six years old.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The college basketball landscape changes dramatically year to year simply because players come and go so quickly, but Kansas has managed to win the conference regular-season title for 13 straight years.
It's a remarkable achievement punctuated by the fact that KU will likely go into this tournament as the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
KU will be the favorite heading into the Big 12 tournament, which it has won seven out of the last 11 years.
Here's a look at the Big 12 tournament schedule (all 10 seeds won't be decided until Saturday, the final day of the Big 12 regular season) and some predictions.
Big 12 Tournament Schedule
|Wednesday, March 8||1||First Round||No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Wednesday, March 8||2||First Round||No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed||9 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Thursday, March 9||3||Quarterfinals||No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State||12:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thursday, March 9||4||Quarterfinals||No. 1 Kansas vs. Game 1 winner||2:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Thursday, March 9||5||Quarterfinals||No. 2 seed vs. Game 2 winner||7 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Thursday, March 9||6||Quarterfinals||No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed||9 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Friday, March 10||7||Semifinals||Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner||7 p.m.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|Friday, March 10||8||Semifinals||Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner||9 p.m.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|Saturday, March 11||9||Finals||Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner||6 p.m.||ESPN|
Information via Big12sports.com. All times ET. All games will take place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Projected Big 12 Bracket Seeds
|Seed||Team||Projected Big 12 W-L|
According to the Sagarin ratings, the Big 12 is the best conference in men's college basketball this season, with five teams in the top 22 and eight in the top 50.
Eight of the 10 teams in the conference are also ranked in the top 50 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
Finally, the five Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 31 of the Ratings Percentage Index.
It's a deep conference this year, as evidenced by Oklahoma's win over West Virginia in Morgantown this season and Texas' victory over Iowa State.
Therefore, there are no easy buckets in the Big 12 this season. Each game has the chance to be a tough, competitive contest.
That being said, there is a gap between the top five and the bottom five, so don't expect any upsets until the semifinals, with the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup acting as the lone quarterfinal toss-up.
The guess here—provided the above projections prove true—is that Iowa State, which swept Oklahoma State in the regular season, beats the Cowboys again and advances to the semifinals against Kansas.
Once there, college basketball fans are in for a treat. Kansas will face Iowa State, and Baylor will take on West Virginia.
The Jayhawks-Cyclones matchup will be a rematch of a thriller in Lawrence in which Iowa State beat Kansas in overtime, 92-89 behind a combined 76 points from Deonte Burton, Monte Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long. Frank Mason III led the way for the Jayhawks with 32.
The win snapped a 54-game win streak for Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, so you bet Kansas will be motivated to knock Iowa State out of the Big 12 tournament.
This game should be close yet again, but Mason III is playing like the Naismith Player of the Year right now, so expect him to take over down the stretch and lead the Jayhawks into the finals.
On the flipside, West Virginia will face Baylor, a rematch of a February 27 game in which the Bears defeated the Mountaineers, 71-62 in Waco. WVU crushed Baylor when the two teams played in Morgantown, 89-68.
College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein used the perfect analogy to describe the Mountaineers this season:
The Mountaineers lead all of Division I in steals per game with 10.9, per NCAA.com, led by guard Jevon Carter, who heads the Big 12 (and is seventh in the NCAA) with 2.8 per game. They may very well be one of the best teams in the nation, let alone the Big 12. Sagarin, in fact, ranks them second, while Pomeroy lists them third.
Baylor is a good team, but WVU's defense and depth will prove to be too much.
That will lead to a final between Kansas and West Virginia, which will be a rematch of Kansas' incredible 84-80 overtime win in Lawrence that saw the Jayhawks overcome a 14-point deficit with three minutes remaining.
West Virginia also handed Kansas its only regulation loss of the season (and only blowout), an 85-69 victory in Morgantown.
Although West Virginia has outplayed Kansas for the vast majority of the time these two teams have shared the court this season, Kansas is firing on all cylinders right now. The Jayhawks have won seven straight games, including the aforementioned win over WVU as well as an impressive 69-67 win on the road at Baylor.
They also have arguably the best tag-team duo in the country in Mason III and Josh Jackson:
Mason III could be the Naismith Player of the Year. Jackson will likely be drafted in the top five of the 2017 NBA draft (DraftExpress ranks him third). Together, they are a dangerous threat for any team in college basketball.
This game should be a classic, but take Kansas to win over WVU in a nail-biter, which will give the Jayhawks their eighth Big 12 title in 12 seasons.