Texas Tech-Kansas Preview
Kansas failed to win its fifth consecutive outright Big 12 title, but coach Bill Self is not about to complain.
Senior center Jeff Withey didn't mind voicing his displeasure.
The seventh-ranked and top-seeded Jayhawks begin their bid for a sixth Big 12 tournament title in eight seasons by looking to continue their dominance of Texas Tech in Thursday's quarterfinal in Kansas City.
With Kansas State losing 76-70 at Oklahoma State early last Saturday, Kansas (26-5) clinched a share of its record ninth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title before its game at Baylor tipped off. The Jayhawks, though, settled for a share of the league crown after getting routed 81-58.
It was Kansas' first loss in eight games, and its most lopsided defeat since February 2006 against Texas.
"Yeah, I'm happy we got a ninth, I'm never going to apologize for winning a league championship,'' Self said. "It's not exactly the way we scripted it, which I think is pretty obvious. They were so much better than us. ... I'm not happy, but I'm a lot happier than I would be if it was different and we finished second.''
Withey, a first-team All-Big 12 pick and the league's two-time defensive player of the year, said it almost feels like they did.
"It doesn't feel like we've won it at all. We tied Kansas State,'' said the 7-footer, the conference's all-time blocks leader with 289. "It's cool to win, obviously. To win nine in a row is huge. But it just stinks to lose.''
The Jayhawks felt the same way after their 2012 conference tournament semifinal game, an 81-72 loss to Baylor. Kansas had won the previous two championships.
The Jayhawks will open their run toward a record ninth Big 12 tournament title against Texas Tech (11-19), which defeated West Virginia 71-69 on Wednesday when junior forward Dejan Kravic tipped in Josh Gray's shot right before the final buzzer.
It was the ninth-seeded Red Raiders' second victory away from home all season, and just their third win in 18 games overall.
"I would rather be lucky than good,'' interim head coach Chris Walker said. "We end up being the beneficiary of a put-back, which is great, which is rare for us, which is really good.''
Texas Tech hasn't won two games in a conference tournament since 2005. Doing that again Thursday will be a tall order as Kansas has won the last seven in this series by an average of 25.6 points.
The Jayhawks led by just two at halftime before pulling away for a 60-46 victory in Lubbock on Jan. 12, but they routed the Red Raiders 79-42 on March 4 in Lawrence.
Jayhawks redshirt freshman Ben McLemore missed 14 of 21 shots and scored just 23 points in those games, but he was named a first-team All-Big 12 performer after scoring 16.7 per game to rank second in the league.
Red Raiders leading scorer Jaye Crockett, who averaged 11.9 points during the regular season, totaled eight points in the two Kansas losses. He had a game-high 18 off the bench Wednesday as Texas Tech won its first conference tournament game in three seasons.
Kansas, 15-1 in its opening game of the Big 12 tournament, has won its two tournament contests against the Red Raiders by an average of 26.0 points.
The winner will face either No. 4 seed Oklahoma or fifth-seeded Iowa State in Friday's first semifinal.