No. 6 Texas Tech, No. 8 Kansas collide in key Big 12 game
Kansas has been here before.
The No. 8 Jayhawks have won 13 straight Big 12 regular-season championships, which makes big games in late February nothing new.
But this time is still special. When No. 8 Kansas travels to No. 6 Texas Tech on Saturday, it has a chance to clinch at least a share of its 14th straight conference title and set an NCAA record.
Kansas (22-6, 11-4 Big 12) and UCLA are the only two programs to win 13 straight conference championships in NCAA Division I men's basketball history.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech does find itself in new territory.
The Red Raiders (22-6, 10-5) have never won a Big 12 title in men's basketball and they're just three seasons removed from a 3-15 mark in conference play.
Texas Tech started this season picked by almost everyone to finish in the lower half of the Big 12 standings, yet with three games left before the Big 12 Tournament, the Red Raiders have a shot at the title.
And, by the way, ESPN's College GameDay will be on campus Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
"We've got the biggest game in college basketball and national television here," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "To say that that isn't cool would be ridiculous. We're building the program. What I would say is we need to get used to this kind of thing."
The Red Raiders shifted their season into high gear by winning 85-73 at Kansas on Jan. 2. That gave Texas Tech a chance to sweep Kansas in the season series for the first time since the Big 12 went to a double-round-robin schedule.
But Texas Tech will take that shot with leading scorer Keenan Evans playing at less than 100 percent. The point guard, who averages 17.6 points, injured a toe and missed the second half in a loss at Baylor last Saturday.
Evans scored just two points in 25 minutes as Texas Tech lost at Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
"Really, he's no different than a lot of players in college basketball right now," Beard said. "Everybody's kind of banged up in some way. From a coaching standpoint, you've just got to be kind of smart. Fresh legs are everything this time of year too and then obviously Keenen's dealing with the toe issue. We'll just try to do the best job we can."
While Texas Tech deals with adversity, Kansas seems to have hit its stride. The Jayhawks have won three straight, including a convincing 104-74 pummeling of Oklahoma on Monday.
Kansas made 16 of 29 3-pointers as it raced past Oklahoma. But Kansas coach Bill Self realizes he doesn't get to use any of the extra points his team scored against Oklahoma in Lubbock.
"I think we can defend a lot better and I certainly think you're not always going to make 16 3s," Self said. "But we're a better basketball team than we were three weeks ago. I do believe that and certainly we're going to have to be really good on Saturday to go down and have a chance to win a huge game."
Updated February 24, 2018