"11-consecutive Big 12 titles"
By: Skylar Rolstad | @SkyRolSports
The best programs in college basketball rose to their levels of prestige with sustained success over long periods of time. For Kansas, 11 straight conference titles represents a recent dominance that no team in the nation can currently match.
The Jayhawks are on their way to making history with this streak. If the team can go two more years with conference titles, it will tie UCLA's 13-title streak from 1967 to 1979. The John Wooden-coached Bruins also won seven national titles in a row from 1966 to 1973.
The fact the longest streak of conference championships was achieved by a team that strung seven consecutive national titles together suggests how remarkable Kansas' run has been. Meaning if Kansas were able to get these next two Big 12 championships, and tie UCLA's beloved conference streak, it would put the program in an elite category.
Although the Kentucky Wildcats have been impressive over the last five seasons with four Final Four appearances, it only signifies the Wildcats' ability to get hot at the right times. Since 2000, Kentucky has only won the SEC regular season crown seven times. What makes 11-straight even more impressive for Kansas is that the Big 12 has historically been much more competitive than the SEC.
In order to make these Final Four runs, Kentucky relied on its distinct recruiting edge that has been established by head coach John Calipari.
To say Kentucky has sustained success under Calipari over a long period of time would be a lie. Calipari is only in his seventh season as coach, arriving at Kentucky after jumping around from job to job in both college and the NBA. It may be only a matter of time before Calipari again chooses to jump ship.
When Calipari did not have the recruits, his teams performed terribly. In the 2012-13 season, the year after Calipari's only national title, Kentucky failed to even make the NCAA tournament and settled for a first round exit in the National Invitational Tournament.
There is a fine difference between a fortunate postseason run and a lackluster season. With an 11-loss season in the 2013-14 season, Kentucky was runner-up in the NCAA tournament. The year before, the Wildcats lost in the NIT First Round with a 12-loss regular season.
Even historically, Kentucky can't be said to have had sustained success in college basketball. One of the greatest coaches in college basketball and the namesake of the Wildcats' stadium, Adolph Rupp, coached Kentucky for 40 years and won four national championships. But in between those four national titles are failures to even make the tournament. From 1945 to 1951, Kentucky won three national championships and made three NIT appearances.
Bill Self, on the other hand, has stayed loyal to Kansas and continues to steadily build the program. After starting his career at Illinois and taking over for Roy Williams at Kansas in 2003, Self won a national title just five years into his tenure as Kansas coach and has made the NCAA tournament in each of the 12 seasons he has coached the Jayhawks. Missing the tournament for a Bill Self-coached team would be unheard of, but for Calipari it has been settled for.
"Four Final Fours in five years"
By: Mike Maicke | @MJ_Maicke
Historic college basketball programs are set to collide Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats come to one of the most revered venues in sports to face the Kansas Jayhawks.
The clash between two of college basketball’s most successful programs is part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge, but this pairing seems hardly coincidental.
Both teams have experienced great success in recent years, and there are a few numbers to really show this. The Jayhawks have won 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles. This is especially impressive because of the increased parity in the modern era of college basketball, not to mention the Big 12 consistently features many tournament teams.
But I’ll one-up that Jayhawk streak.
Kentucky has been to the Final Four four times in the last five years. That’s an absolutely remarkable accomplishment.
Yes, Kentucky typically gets top talent, but that also means they are getting a new batch of freshmen every year. What that furthermore means is that coach John Calipari has the difficult job of preparing multiple incoming freshmen to be tournament ready by March. These are freshmen that come into Kentucky used to being “the man,” so to speak, on their respective AAU and high school teams, so it can be very difficult to establish rotations and chemistry.
Don’t get me wrong; Kansas’ Big 12 title streak is impressive, but it does not even compare to Kentucky’s recent postseason success.
It is impossible to recover from a tournament loss and still make it to the Final Four that year, while Kansas has lost as many as three conference games in a row before and still claimed the title of best in the Big 12. Losses in conference are expected and built on; losses in the postseason are season-ending and disappointing.
True success is measured in the postseason. Quite frankly the Jayhawks have not been successful for the last two years, and if they think they have been, that’s part of the problem. It is almost as if winning the Big 12 has been a crutch for pathetic postseason play recently.
Kansas has lost to teams such as Stanford and Wichita State in the tournament.
"But hey, at least we've got the Big 12!"
It’s time to stop using this title streak as an excuse to come up short in March over and over again. Sure, it’s a fun stat and an impressive run, but honestly, who wouldn’t trade these conference titles for postseason success?
I encourage all Jayhawks fans to take a look at what they’ve been doing over in Lexington, Ken.; it’s a whole lot more impressive.
— Edited by G.J. Melia