Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012
To understand the magnitude of tonight’s Big 12 showdown between Baylor and Kansas, we must backtrack more than six decades into history. In 1950, the Bears won the Southwest Conference under coach Bill Henderson, cementing itself as a national power by reaching its second Final Four in three seasons. The Jayhawks, still five years away from moving into Allen Fieldhouse, shared the Big Seven title with Kansas State and Nebraska.
Sixty-two years later, Kansas has won 28 additional conference championships (along with two national titles). Since 2005, it has earned at least a share of the Big 12 title, as it has not finished worse than 2nd since the turn of the millenium. Baylor, on the other hand, never won another SWC title. And since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, only Scott Drew‘s Elite Eight team in 2009-10 has even sniffed a championship when it tied for second. In the other 14 seasons, the Bears finished in the upper-half of the league just three times.
Bill Self and Kansas Are No Strangers To Championships
So that’s where we stand on Martin Luther King Day in 2012. With the whole world watching on ESPN’s Big Monday, Baylor has a chance to erase 62 years of history and knock Kansas from the throne of this conference. That is, if it can handle the Phog, where Baylor has never won. Hardly anybody does, after all. But if the first two months of the season has taught us anything, it’s that the Bears aren’t going to roll over on the road. This isn’t the same team that collapsed in 2011-12. With better guard play and a more unselfish offensive attack, Drew’s team has already won at BYU and Kansas State, two of the tougher home venues in college basketball.
The Bears beat Oklahoma State by 40 points on Saturday. They’re undefeated. They have NBA lottery picks up and down the bench and more long, athletic forwards than they know what to do with. But as every hoops analyst has repeated time and time again, “The road to the Big 12 title goes through Lawrence.” That’s why this may be of the more important mid-January games you will see in college basketball.
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