MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Gold & Blue Lunch Report understands the inherent advantages afforded Bill Self as the coach at Kansas:
— Lands the best players in the Big 12.
— Benefits from the most rabid fans in the Big 12.
— Gets benefit of the doubt on most foul calls home and away.
But the notion that anybody could have coached the Jayhawks to 13 consecutive conference titles? That’s ludicrous.
And No. 13 may prove to be Self’s shiningest moment yet.
Kansas won the No. 2-rated RPI league by a four-game margin. That’s a runaway— equivalent to the ’95 Indians rolling to a 30-game cushion in the AL Central, or last year’s Golden State Warriors winning the Pacific Division by 20.
Sure, KU was supposed to win it, per the preseason poll, but circumstances didn’t always facilitate that outcome.
Kansas played the entirety of its Big 12 round-robin with a seven-man rotation after a wrist injury shelved 7-foot Udoka Azubuike, and sophomore center Carlton Bragg Jr. underwhelmed.
Perpetually forced to dig in during the final minutes, the Jayhawks finished 14-2 in games decided by 10 points or less. (It really dug in late against West Virginia.)
For all the NBA-ready talent that typically lines the roster — and Josh Jackson didn’t disappoint — KU won because Self’s program developed non-elite recruits Frank Mason, Devonte Graham and Landon Lucas into big-time contributors.
Distractions abounded, such as Bragg’s suspension for drug paraphernalia, Jackson’s misdemeanor charge for property damage, and the domestic abuse revelation involving Lagerald Vick from 18 months ago. (Hard to say from afar whether the school’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access properly disciplined Vick for that event, or whether Self should have enforced stronger punishment. But the revelations certainly didn’t make his job any easier.)
Some prefer to herald the midseason turnaround of Brad Underwood’s boys at Oklahoma State, or Scott Drew working wonders with a Baylor team that began the season unranked. Bob Huggins kept West Virginia in the top 10 despite losing top scorer Jaysean Paige and double-double workhorse Devin Williams, and Jamie Dixon made TCU bubble-relevant for the first time in two decades.
The Big 12 truly is enjoying a golden era of coaches, and its best one just conquered the league yet again.
By four games.