“The Streak” is rightly revered in Lawrence, Kansas. A 14-year run of Big 12 domination represents one of the most remarkable feats in American sports, anywhere or anytime. The Streak might soon end after the Kansas Jayhawks got rocked, chalked and tomahawked by the rampaging Red Raiders of Texas Tech on Saturday night. The party isn’t over… but Kansas State and Texas Tech are close to turning out the lights.
This might cause a measure of sadness in Jayhawk Nation. Sadness would be a perfectly understandable emotion to express in response to the end of a 14-year feast of basketball excellence. The Streak was and is treasured. It has been a point of pride and a centerpiece aspect of the story of KU basketball under Bill Self, who has been more than worthy as a caretaker of the legacy originally created by James Naismith, the founder of basketball.
Maybe Kansas State will stumble at TCU before the end of the Big 12 season. Maybe Texas Tech will lose at Iowa State. Maybe Kansas can get on a run and stop The Streak from ending.
That is still possible, but that should no longer be the focus of these 2019 Jayhawks.
They have a much bigger concern if they want to return to the Final Four, which would matter more than winning another Big 12 title.
The Midwest Regional will be played in Kansas City. Yes, playing a regional in Kansas City has hardly guaranteed the Jayhawks a darn thing over the years. KU played the 2017 Midwest Regional in Kansas City and lost to Oregon in the regional final. Kansas played the 1995 Midwest Regional in old Kemper Arena and lost to Virginia in a regional semifinal. Yet, for as much as Kansas City hardly ensures that KU will make the Final Four, this is still most assuredly the Jayhawks’ best path to Minneapolis. They want no part of an assignment in another region. This team NEEDS a partisan crowd to give it an edge in late March.
The problem for Kansas is that after absorbing a 29-point loss to Texas Tech and falling two games behind Kansas State in the Big 12, Kansas cannot expect to be placed in the Midwest. As long as KU did share the Big 12 title and landed on a top-two seed line on Selection Sunday, it could expect favorable regional placement, but we all know that if you finish third in your conference and are the fourth or fifth team in your region of the country, you generally should get shipped to another region.
Kansas could stop The Streak if it wins six games in a row. That is possible.
The bigger importance of shrugging off the Texas Tech loss, however, lies in making a push for a Midwest Region placement and a chance to play a Sweet 16 game in Kansas City.
This shorthanded, limited KU team has shown it can still defend Phog Allen Fieldhouse against the best of the Big 12, in spite of its problems. This is exactly why earning a date in the Sprint Center matters for the 2019 Jayhawks.
The Streak can take a back seat to another, more urgent issue.
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