7 — Kansas is vying for its seventh conference tournament title in a decade
The “decade of dominance,” as its known throughout Lawrence, has been just that — dominance. Kansas has won six conference tournament titles in the last nine years, and that’s not even the most impressive statistic. In those six victories, the Jayhawks have won by an average of 11 points, the closest game being a 2008 matchup against Kevin Durant and the Texas Longhorns.
Head coach Bill Self and company will once again be the No. 1 seed at the tournament, as they try to put a bow on one of the most impressive streaks in college basketball history.
19.8 — Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart’s points per game average since returning from a three-game suspension
Smart’s antics with a fan down in Lubbock, Texas were viewed as, well, not his last name. However, the sophomore standout has been magnificent since returning to the team from his three-game suspension. The guard’s “worst” performance during this stretch of play was a 16-point effort at home against Texas Tech.
With the Cowboys sitting on the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s bubble, Smart will need to have a big week in Kansas City to keep Oklahoma State rolling on through March.
21 — The jersey number of Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, who will be sidelined for the tournament
The 7-footer has been nothing less than spectacular for the Jayhawks all season. More than 11 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game has rightfully granted Embiid the praise of the college basketball world, and the admiration of a few dozen NBA scouts.
However, Embiid re-injured his back against Oklahoma State on March 1, making him miss the Jayhawks’ final two regular season games. Self originally told the Kansas media that his center would return for the conference tournament, but that has since been retracted – Embiid is expected to miss the week’s action.
Sophomore forward Perry Ellis and senior forward Tarik Black will be the targeted players that will have to step up if the Jayhawks want to put another conference trophy on their shelves.
2002 — Last time Oklahoma won the conference tournament as a number two seed
Sooner Hollis Price was the Big 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in 2002 when Oklahoma won the title over number one seed Kansas at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
This year, Oklahoma returns to the tournament a No. 2 seed, this time under third-year head coach — and Silver Lake, Kan. native — Lon Kruger. Interestingly enough, the Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed as well. Can history repeat itself 12 years later?