In 2004, Emeka Okafor led the Connecticut Huskies to a National Championship, USC won the national championship in football and Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.
2004 also was the last year Kansas failed to win the Big 12 Conference.
As you can tell, it has been a long time since the Jayhawks lost. The Big 12 landscape has changed so much since then. Since then, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri have all left, while TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12. This is the first year in a long time I think someone other than the Kansas Jayhawks actually has a great chance to win the Big 12.
Depth wins. This year in football, we saw the Texas Tech football team’s defense play well, but the main reason I believe they were as good as they were was because of the depth they brought to the field, making them a good defense. The same could be said for the Tech basketball team. The depth this team possesses is one reason this team could be special.
This is the first year in a long time I can remember Kansas not having exceptional depth. They only have a seven-man rotation and this could ultimately be the reason someone else wins the Big 12 this year.
Kansas is no longer my favorite to win the Big 12. Their recent losses show me they are not as much of a favorite as they were earlier in the season and are vulnerable with only one true big-man. That could change if the get Billy Preston, but for now, they only have one guy they use down low. The Jayhawks play four guards most of the time and in the Big 12, that’s something that could lose you some games. Just look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders. They have been able to hand it to teams because of their depth in the front court.
In their game against Florida Atlantic, the Red Raiders were having a hard time putting the Owls away until the second half when the Red Raiders’ depth railed the Owls and gave them the blowout win. The Red Raiders put a 10-man rotation on the floor and don’t play any single player too much. Keenan Evans leads the team with 26 minutes per game. Compare this to last year, when the Red Raiders played only an 8 man rotation with Keenan Evans and Zach Smith averaging over 30 minutes per game each and Justin Gray was averaging 28 minutes per game. This speaks to Coach Beard and his staff’s ability to recruit and find depth this year. This overuse of players led to burnout later in the season, as the depth the Red Raiders had last year was nothing compared to this year.
TEXAS TECH WINS AT THE PHOG!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 3, 2018
No. 18 Red Raiders beat No. 10 Kansas, 85-73, handing the Jayhawks their second loss at Allen Fieldhouse in a single season for the first time since 2006-07. pic.twitter.com/tF3HDZyMtg
Even against Kansas, the Red Raider’s depth and coaching led them to a win. Playing ten guys, the Red Raiders were able to tire out Kansas’ big man, Udoka Azubuike. Being able to tire him out with different post players along with controlling the perimeter helped the Red Raiders upset the Kansas Jayhawks in their own building.
There is more than one team in the Big 12 that plays this way. For example, No. 6 West Virginia plays with a nine-man rotation, No. 7 Oklahoma plays with 10 in their rotation, and undefeated No. 16 TCU plays nine in their rotation. No. 10 Kansas plays seven in their rotation. While their seven has the potential to beat every single team in the Big 12, we must wonder if their depth becomes a problem against all of the teams having tons of depth. Their seven-man rotation has the ability to tire out after the first round of playing teams, and this league with the caliber of talent and coaching to adjust to teams.
The Jayhawks are still an extremely talented team. They have more guard depth than most teams in the country. It doesn’t look like much when they have to play four guards on the floor at all times due to they only having one true post player. Bill Self could still coach this team to a 13th consecutive Big 12 championship, especially with rumors hinting at Billy Preston’s return. Another post player is on the way for Kansas as Class of 2018 5-star power forward Silvio De Sousa has been reclassified and will be cleared to play soon. As of right now though, we have seen Kansas is wounded in the post and teams that can chase them off the 3-point line have a great chance of beating them.
This is the year. The Jayhawks are weaker than in years past. They are still a great team and I think they will still finish in the top three of the Big 12. Kansas still has no depth in their front court and that is something teams have tried to exploit. There will be a shift in power in the Big 12, and I believe the team that comes out on top will have to play great in the post and have the ability to out-rebound teams laden with depth in the post.