From January 17 to January 23, Kansas experienced something that rarely happens under Bill Self. The Jayhawks lost three straight games, at Kansas State, to TCU and Baylor. Kansas, with a road trip to Lexington, Ky. next on their schedule, faced the very real possibility of a four-game losing streak, which would have been their first under Self.
However, as Kansas did so many times under Self, the Jayhawks rallied to defeat Kentucky and then came home to beat Kansas State several days later. On February 4, Self’s team lost to Iowa State, 68-53, but has since defeated Texas, Oklahoma (Away), Oklahoma State (Away), Baylor and TCU (Away).
Addressing the media Thursday afternoon, Kansas guard Kevin McCullar, Jr., spoke about how Kansas was able to bounce back from its three-game losing streak.
“That losing streak in those three games, it taught us a lot about ourselves and we learned from it,” said Kevin McCullar, Jr. “We kept our cool and Coach (Self) told us we have to be the best team who plays harder every game we get out there.
“We can’t come out apathetic, especially in the league we’re in,” he added. “We have to bring energy, and that’s what we did and we stuck to it. It worked for us.
Kansas, currently at the top of the Big 12 with Texas, now faces the biggest stretch of games the regular season has to offer. Self’s team, with wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech at home and on the road at Texas in the last regular season game of the year, can win the Big 12 regular season championship outright.
Self, during his weekly press conference on Thursday, spoke about the importance of the last three games of the regular season.
“Well, although you can argue that we have played a lot of big games, but they are the two biggest games we have played at home to date because of obviously the ramifications of what it could be if we were able to take care of business and what if we didn’t,” Self said. “So yeah, it’s huge matches and both tough matches and two teams we haven’t played in a long time.”
Kansas, in the last three games of the regular season of the year, has a chance to accomplish something that Self didn’t necessarily foresee at the start of the season. Playing, arguably, in the toughest college conference basketball has to offer, the Jayhawks are able to clinch the Big 12 regular season championship outright and control their own destiny in that quest.
Despite all the players who have moved on from a season ago, Kansas is three wins away from winning the Big 12 overall and, in all likelihood, finishing a #1 seed. 1 in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
“Well, I think the whole thing with, when you look at your team, your goal every year is to maximize your team to the point where they’re playing their best when it matters the most,” Self said. “And also, to get them playing as close to their roof as possible. I hope we haven’t yet. I think we have been quite consistent in our performances lately, but I hope the better ball is still ahead of us. To be honest with you, I don’t think I imagined that at the end of the year we’d be controlling our fate on what actually happens at the start of the postseason, whether it’s capturing a championship. Controlling your destiny also means you probably have to win. But Texas could also say the same thing.
“But capturing your championship and being featured in the tournament is all ahead of us if we do what we set out to do,” he added. “You don’t need someone else’s help to do that if you go about your business. There have been many years where we’ve needed help finding our way to where we want to go and that may still be the case, but the reality is that we put ourselves in a good position where it doesn’t have to be that way if we perform at our best. from this point forward. But there are no guarantees on this. So of course I hadn’t imagined it.