Kansas spoiled a big day in Norman that started at 10am at Loyd Noble Center with over two thousand students front and center on ESPN’s popular GameDay program. The nationally-televised game between the Sooners and Jayhawks drew the attention of the serious basketball fans and appeared to be headed for a memorable comeback win for an Oklahoma team that would’ve taken a significant step in halting Kansas’ domination of Big 12 championships.
However, in the end, it was the poise and confidence that Kansas displayed and the lack thereof by No. 3 Oklahoma that would see KU make it five straight wins while snapping OU’s 19-game home winning streak. The 76-72 Jayhawk win runs Billy Eugene “Bill” Self, Jr’s KU record against OU to 16-3. It also means that the Sooners will almost surely need to win out — including roadies in Morgantown and Austin —in their final six games to have a shot at stopping Self’s incredible run of dominance.
The Bill Self we saw star at Edmond Memorial, then start and lead OSU basketball teams, then build a reputation as a budding big-time coach while being groomed at ORU, Tulsa, and Illinois before following Roy Williams at KU, is on the cusp of being mentioned with the greatest coaches of all time. As in John Wooden. The UCLA dynasty records most of us espoused would never be challenged. Specifically, 13 straight Pac-12 (now) titles. Today’s upset win by KU means Self is staring at the distinct possibility of making it an even dozen consecutive Big 12 championships. Let that soak in. And we’re not talking about some Podunk League. Rather, a conference that has been at, or near the top, of the national pecking order.
Today’s win was a lot about what Self has established: confidence to make game-deciding plays, the poise it requires to pull it off and the defense he is committed to being a true blue believer in Mr. Defense, Eddie Sutton. Under Self, KU won the 2008 NCAA championship. He’s a a two-time National Coach of the Year (2009, 2012) and is one of three active coaches (along with Rick Pitino and John Caliper) that have led three different teams to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament (Tulsa, Illinois, and Kansas). His product speaks for itself. The changes he made from the 46-point explosion from Buddy Hield against KU in Lawrence to how Hield was defended tonight, speak volumes about Self. Kansas simply played better defense than OU did resulting in the Sooners taking tougher shots. A 28 percent shooing first half and 33 percent for the game was the game-deciding result.
I’ve known Bill for over 30 years, beginning when he’d tell me and my “Sportscene” and game broadcasting partner Bill Land the inside scoop before OSU games in the mid-80s when he assisted Leonard Hamilton. Forty minutes after today’s game I dropped by his postgame coaching locker room — where he was woofing down some fried chicken with his assistant coaches — to congratulate him and ask if he’d walk down the tunnel for a one on one interview. As always, he obliged.
Here’s part of our visit after KU’s critical victory over the hometown Sooners.