At the beginning of the year Kansas was talking about taking a step back. Early departures and graduation left the team with just a shell from an Elite Eight team that won the Big 12 a year ago, yet Kansas is right back in the hunt for a Big 12 title and even in the conversation for a number one seed.
In order to do that the Jayhawks likely need to win out and they cleared another big hurdle last night with a road win against Kansas State. The win completes a sweep of the Jayhawks in state rival and just a week after sweeping 3rd place Baylor, Kansas is well positioned to make a run at an eighth straight Big 12 crown.
At this point it's a two team race with Missouri being the other team in contention. Missouri of course won the first meeting between the two teams in Columbia, but a return trip to Lawrence is just 11 days away on the calendar.
Heading into the final stretch it looked as if Missouri had gained a favorable draw following their win against the Jayhawks. The Tigers were facing what looked to be an easier schedule down the stretch and Kansas had road trips to Baylor and last night in Manhattan on the schedule. With other games still posing potential stumbling blocks, those were two that both sides viewed as big in terms of a possible Jayhawk setback.
With wins in both games and a clean sweep of Kansas State, Kansas now sits in first place for the moment and clears yet another hurdle in the long Big 12 regular season. With just five games remaining Kansas will now have a week between games and a chance to rest up before taking on Texas Tech this Saturday in Lawrence. That would certainly seem like a win based on the Red Raiders struggles, then Kansas heads to College Station where they'll need to avoid overlooking a road opponent just days before Missouri steps foot into Allen Fieldhouse.
If Kansas can take the three game winning streak they are currently on and extend that three more, then the Jayhawks will sit at least one game ahead of Missouri with two games to play. That doesn't assure a Big 12 title, but it would be a huge step toward accomplishing that feat. And in a year where Kansas was expected to be down, it would be one of the better coaching jobs by head coach Bill Self and a testament to a Kansas program that consistently faces higher expectations than any team in the league.