Big 12 News

Kansas’ Last Two Games Have Been a Microcosm of the 2023-24 Season

Kansas Basketball: Hunter Dickinson

The Kansas Jayhawks moved back into the top five in the AP poll, landing at #4 on Monday, after a big 78-65 win over now-ranked No. 5 Houston. Immediately following the momentous win and rise in ranking, the Jayhawks fell 75-70 in overtime to Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown. The past two games were a microcosm of what has been the Kansas Jayhawks basketball season since Big 12 play began in early January.

The Jayhawks are 5-0 at home but just 1-4 on the road in conference play. Three of those road losses came against teams with a conference record below .500. It has not been a good look for Kansas and things won’t get any easier for the Jayhawks. For the rest of February and March, KU’s matchups will feature seven teams who are currently ranked or have been ranked in the past month. It is about to be a brutal stretch for Kansas.

 

The good news for KU fans, despite the roller coaster of a conference season thus far, is the team can get back on track at home this Saturday against No. 13 Baylor. The Jayhawks have shown up in big games against top contenders several times this season, including in wins over No. 1 UConn, No. 5 Houston, No. 6 Tennessee, and No. 17 Kentucky. They also beat Oklahoma when the Sooners were ranked #9 nationally. These players tend to play up to the top competitors and being at home this weekend won’t hurt.

In addition to being at home, ESPN will be bringing their College Gameday program to Lawrence for the big game against Baylor on Saturday. There won’t be a lack of motivation for the Jayhawks with a top 15 team, Gameday, and all eyes on Lawrence, Kansas, and Allen Fieldhouse this weekend. A win over Baylor, who is 6-3 in conference, would put them right back on track near the top of the conference standings. As things currently sit, the Jayhawks are in fourth place in the standings with Iowa State being the only team ahead of them that holds a tie-breaker at 6-3. Houston is atop the standings at 7-3.

 

A win on Saturday is expected for the Jayhawks, but it will be what they do in the following games that will prove if they are in it to win it or if they are going to be a pretender this season. Road games at Texas Tech and Oklahoma will truly decide if Kansas can win the Big 12 this season for the 18th time in 21 seasons. Winning back-to-back road games in the Big 12 at any point is a huge accomplishment, but it would especially be so for a Kansas program that has struggled mightily on the road in conference play. It would also come at a critical point in the season with teams jockeying for postseason positioning.

Kansas fans lament the “bad” losses, as they should. Their program is held to a higher standard. Winning games at West Virginia, UCF, and Kansas State shouldn’t have been considered easy but should have been wins for a team with high expectations. Winning the big games over ranked opponents should be celebrated. However, if the team is going to make a run at another Big 12 championship, or make a deep run in March, they will need to prove they can win some games on the road. It didn’t work out for them this week, but they’ll have their chance to make things right next week against two tough opponents.

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