Jayhawks looking to extend Baylor’s winless streak against ranked opponents

Bill Self says he's puzzled by the perception that his No. 10 Kansas team is struggling.
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WACO, Texas — Kansas coach Bill Self knows he’s responsible for the impossibly high expectations of the Jayhawks’ basketball program.

Not just because Kansas has won 13 straight Big 12 regular-season championships — a run that includes two Final Four appearances and the 2008 national title — but also because he’s willing to call out his squad. In December, Self said the Jayhawks were soft after a home loss to Arizona State.

However, with the Big 12 race heading toward the homestretch, No. 10 Kansas (19-5, 8-3 Big 12) once again has a share of first place. So Self is shaking his head a little bit at the perception that the Jayhawks are struggling.

“I had a text this morning from one of my ex-players at Oklahoma State, said, ‘Coach, I know you’re having a rough, rough season, but hang in there,'” Self said Thursday. “That is the mindset so much, and large part maybe because I help paint that in some ways.”

Rough season or not, Kansas has the chance to keep its perch atop the Big 12. The Jayhawks will try to stay on track when they travel to play Baylor on Saturday.

Kansas has experienced how evenly matched the Big 12 is this season, having lost to seventh-place Oklahoma State last Saturday. With seven games remaining until the conference tournament, Self said it’s time to show true grit.

“I would just think that the tougher teams — the teams that can execute out of timeouts, the teams that understand the importance of getting two or three stops in a row at game point — those are the teams that’ll have the best chance to finish strong and win the league,” he said.

Kansas has already willed itself to one victory over Baylor (14-10, 4-7) this season. The Bears led the Jayhawks 67-61 with 2:51 remaining. But Kansas responded by finishing the game on a 9-0 run to claim a 70-67 win at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor has just as much at stake Saturday as Kansas. The Bears have won back-to-back games and are within striking distance of playing their way into the NCAA Tournament field.

The main thing that’s troubling on Baylor’s resume so far is an 0-8 record against ranked opponents.

The Bears don’t need to worry, though, they just need to win.

“The big thing is it’s a home game and we need this because we’re trying to make the tournament,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “No matter who we’re playing, we need to take care of business and do whatever we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win.”

For the Bears to get in the 18-20-win range, it figures that they’ll have to win some games against ranked teams. The opportunities will be there, as Baylor’s remaining home slate includes Kansas, No. 7 Texas Tech, No. 19 West Virginia and No. 17 Oklahoma.

“We’re in a position where we’re taking wins as they come,” Baylor forward Jo Lual-Acuil said. “Every game is a big game for us. We’re just trying to rack up as many wins as we can get.”