Texas A&M-Kansas Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Kansas holds the nation's longest active streak for consecutive regular-season conference titles, and Texas A&M has had little success slowing down the Jayhawks during the Big 12's 16-year history.
No matter the outcome of Thursday's conference tournament quarterfinal in Kansas City, the Aggies won't have to worry about them on a year-to-year basis any longer.
Third-ranked Kansas (26-5), the tournament's top seed for the ninth time and fourth in a row, may be sad to see Texas A&M depart for the SEC following this season, having beaten the Aggies in 18 of 19 meetings since the Big 12 began play in 1996.
The Jayhawks won both matchups this season on their way to their eighth consecutive regular-season conference crown, and Texas A&M stands in the way of their third straight tournament title as well.
Coach Bill Self's team heads into the postseason having won eight straight games after beating Texas 73-63 on Saturday behind 25 points and 14 rebounds from Thomas Robinson.
Tyshawn Taylor added 22 points and is averaging 24.3 over his last three games.
Self said his players are well-equipped to make a deep NCAA tournament run, though he knows anything can happen. Kansas lost to underdog Virginia Commonwealth in the regional finals last season and Northern Iowa in the second round the year before.
"Connecticut didn't have the best team last year and they won (the national championship). Duke the year before didn't have the best team and they won it," Self said. "It's not always (being the best), it's the team that finds lightning in a bottle and gets hot, and I do think we have the pieces in place that we can do that."
Self also said his team needs to improve before the NCAA tournament, and the ninth-seeded Aggies (14-17) could provide a helpful tune-up game.
Robinson had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a 64-54 win over Texas A&M on Jan. 23, then he scored 10 points and grabbed 13 boards in a 66-58 road win Feb. 22.
Robinson is averaging 18.0 points and 11.9 rebounds, and his 22 double-doubles are the second-most in the country.
"I like our chances," Robinson said. "I actually feel more comfortable about this team than previous years. We're just right. We don't have too much, we don't have too little. We want to win. There's still a bigger trophy out there."
The Aggies are simply trying to delay their exit from the conference one more day, but they'll need a stunning upset to do it Thursday.
Texas A&M knocked off eighth-seeded Oklahoma 62-53 in the opening round Wednesday, getting 15 points each from Khris Middleton and David Loubeau, while Elston Turner added 14.
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Aggies, whose four conference wins were their fewest since going 0-16 in Big 12 play in 2003-04. They were ranked 20th nationally in the preseason, just seven spots below Kansas.
Turner scored 24 points in the first meeting with the Jayhawks, and Middleton had 23 in the second.
Kansas has won eight consecutive meetings, including conference tournament semifinal games in 2008 and 2010 on its way to championships both times.
Updated March 7, 2012