Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
Kansas’ Bill Self is making a strong push for National Coach of the Year recently, putting his Jayhawks in position for their eighth consecutive Big 12 regular season title despite arguably the least talented team he’s had during the streak. Monday night’s road victory over Kansas State, 59-53, improved KU to 21-5 and 11-2 in the Big 12 to keep pace with Missouri in the loss column of the conference standings. But this time the win wasn’t the result of a dominant Thomas Robinson night or the game strategy of Self. Instead, it was the powerful performance of center Jeff Withey that led the team to another victory. This new leading Jayhawk is playing out of his mind and has emerged as the major threat that has put KU back in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 race. As the season progresses, the 7’0” Withey is getting stronger in all facets of the game, turning Kansas into an even tougher matchup than before.
Just 10 days ago, Kansas dropped a road game to Missouri to fall into a tie with the Tigers for first place in the Big 12, and it looked like the Jayhawks just might be missing something to propel them to another conference title. In that game, only Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor were able to score consistently and play at a high level offensively. Elijah Johnson had 11 points but wanted nothing to do with the ball on the final possession that could have tied the game. Withey played his usual strong defense, but failed to score and was a complete non-factor offensively. Even though Kansas nearly won that road game, the Tigers seemed to have more scoring options on that night.