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Archive for Saturday, March 8, 2008

Big 12 title on the line today

March 8, 2008

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Hawks take on Aggies tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon the Kansas men's basketball team would like nothing more than to finish their regular season schedule with a win. Enlarge video

— One way or another, there will be a celebration after today's Kansas-Texas A&M basketball battle at Reed Arena.

A victory by unranked A&M (22-8, 8-7) over No. 5-rated KU (27-3, 12-3) would likely send Aggie students streaming onto the court.

Fans more often than not storm when the Jayhawks lose on the road - especially in games shown on national TV, in this case CBS.

A win by KU in the 3 p.m. battle, on the other hand, would unleash wild merriment in the visitor's locker room.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is scheduled to be in the house - ready, willing and able to present a league championship trophy to the Jayhawks in the privacy of their dressing quarters ... provided they win the game.

"It'd be a really big deal," senior guard Russell Robinson said of a victory that would assure KU at least a share of its fourth straight league crown.

"It's the goal we set at the beginning of the season. It's the way practices are structured - peaking, progressing - all to try to win the Big 12," Robinson added.

KU still could claim a share of the title with a loss today, but it'd take an unlikely event - an Oklahoma State (7-8) victory at Texas (12-3) on Sunday.

The Jayhawks would love to wrap up the title today and let UT grab a piece of it as well, if the Longhorns so desire.

"The trophy says 'Big 12 champs.' It doesn't say, 'Co-(champs),'" Robinson said.

A victory would give KU its 51st conference title in school history. It'd mark the Jayhawks' fourth consecutive league crown for the sixth time in school annals, first since 1995-98.

"It'd be great. The seniors could go out with four rings," sophomore Darrell Arthur said.

"It means a lot, especially for the seniors," noted sophomore guard Sherron Collins. "They have a chance to do it four years in a row. That's big. We'd like to do it for the seniors."

KU coach Bill Self has led KU to three first-place finishes and a second in his four years on Mount Oread.

"It'd be a great achievement," Self said of four straight conference crowns. "I know it's happened before and in different leagues. To win four in a row in a high-major league where other guys are recruiting comparable type players is a great accomplishment.

"Of course we've got to win to do that. It'd be a big feather in this program's cap, primarily those seniors' caps if we are able to do that."

A victory would give KU eight titles in the Big 12's 12 years of existence.

"There's one secret. That's to have really good players," Self said. "There's no coach with bad players winning conference championships - none. What it means is your program has recruited well as much as anything else.

"To be able to sustain success over time means you have a program and not a team. It's a much easier deal to have a great team than a great program. A program sustains hits and keeps moving. Teams don't sustain those.

"Kansas long before I got here was doing that consistently over time," he added of winning titles.

Self realizes fans prefer national titles over conference titles. He wants a national title desperately, too.

"I think our fans would appreciate it in football," he said of a conference title, because the Jayhawks haven't won them regularly throughout history. "I doubt OU (Oklahoma) fans appreciate it in football as much because there's always a bigger prize. Every year your goal is to be the best you can be in your respective league. If you are the best in the Big 12 you will have a legitimate chance to be one of the elite teams in the country regardless of the sport. That's always been a goal of ours. It's not the ultimate goal.

"It does mean an awful lot to a lot of people. Trust me ... fans may not understand, but coaches across America understand how hard it is to win league championships."

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Last year revisited: A&M beat KU, 69-66, last year at Allen Fieldhouse. First-round NBA draft pick Acie Law had 23 points for the Aggies.

"It was huge last year. It gave a bunch of players confidence. It helped our season. It was a big win," said A&M's Josh Carter, who had 11 points in that game.

"I am sure they will have revenge on their minds. They will come here wanting to win," Carter added.

He is a big fan of KU's style of play.

"Their defense is amazing," Carter said. "They are together on offense, not getting down if they are not scoring a lot, always playing hard."

Of last year's game, Dallas native Arthur said: "It was a good game. Acie went off for them at the end, and they won the game."

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This, that: The Jayhawks practiced from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday at Reed Arena. ... KU's Arthur and A&M's DeAndre Jordan were teammates on USA Basketball's Under 19 team last summer. Arthur was injured, however, and had to leave after tryouts. "He's a good guy, very explosive, likes to get to the rim," Arthur said of Jordan. ... Today's game will have an NCAA Tournament feel. CBS' Jim Nantz and Billy Packer are calling the game. Those two are regulars at the Final Four. ... KU leads the series, 11-1. KU is 4-0 in Reed Arena and 5-0 in College Station.

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