ESPN article from Myron Medcalf on Bill Self's run of consecutive conference titles
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Outside Lawrence, Kansas, Bill Self is both overlooked and praised.
Consistency tends to breed that reaction.
Big 12 leader Kansas got an 89-76 victory over No. 11 Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday that extended the No. 8 Jayhawks’ winning streak to five games. Self is currently in a position to secure his 11th consecutive regular-season Big 12 title in the coming months.
The employee with the perfect attendance record after 20 years on the job usually gets a plaque and a round of applause. Maybe a few handshakes. Little more.
A man who climbs Mt. Everest for the first time attracts more recognition than the Sherpas who’ve scaled the peak for decades. There’s just something about consistency that reduces fascination to near-apathy over time.
Oh, Kansas is in first place in the Big 12 again? The Jayhawks are chasing their 11th consecutive conference title? Well, the sun comes up and KU wins Big 12 championships, right?
Yes. That’s been right for a decade.
That mantra persists 10 years after Self led Kansas to the first of 10 consecutive Big 12 championships in 2005. Do you remember 2005? We were two years away from the iPhone’s debut. YouTube arrived in 2005. Many of Kansas’ current players were in elementary school in 2005.
[+] EnlargeSelf Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Bill Self has Kansas in position to win its 11th consecutive Big 12 title. And yet, Self is still leading the Jayhawks to first-place slots in the Big 12.
Remember when this was supposed to be the year that the streak ended?
When Rick Barnes signed Myles Turner. When Fred Hoiberg added Jameel McKay to his most talented roster at Iowa State. When Oklahoma brought back its nucleus from a year ago and added Houston transfer Tashawn Thomas. When Juwan Staten and West Virginia began to force more turnovers per possession than any team in America.
When Temple thrashed the Jayhawks by 25 points three days before Christmas.
Yet, they’ve returned to the throne.
Under Self, Kansas won a national championship in 2008. He also guided the Jayhawks to a national title game appearance in 2012 and coached the program to three Elite Eight berths (2004, 2007, 2011).
That’s remarkable, but Self’s reign over the Big 12 might be more impressive than his feats in the Big Dance.
No Big 12 team has swept Kansas in the regular season during Self’s time there. Think about that. Iowa State topped Kansas in Ames a few weeks ago but couldn’t match that effort in Lawrence on Monday.
Conference play meant everything to a former generation. In the past, you couldn’t participate in the NCAA tournament without winning your league. Expansion relaxed the requirements and turned the conference season into a stage for regional bragging rights and week-to-week jostling for seeds in the Big Dance. Regular-season league titles are significant, but a chunk of the NCAA tourney’s bids are granted to schools that win their conference tournaments, regardless of their performances throughout the regular season. So three weeks in March and April often minimize the significance of nearly three months of league play.
The conference season’s limited value wanes with each expansion of the tournament field. If you don’t have to finish at the top of your league to secure a berth, then how much does a conference championship really matter?
That’s why Self’s streak at Kansas can be both admired and suppressed. Still, 10 conference titles in a row is a ridiculous run. No. 11 would be crazy, too.
But it would also be expected.
That doesn’t change its greatness, though.
Here Self is again. Leading the Jayhawks through this decade of dominance. It’s the most marvelous feat in college basketball right now – other than Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,000-plus wins.
The latter mark is extraordinary and it’s difficult to compare anything to it. Records involve numbers. Coach K’s achievement has an aura.
In recent weeks, there have been conversations about who, if anyone, will ever catch Krzyzewski. Self would have to coach a long time to match Coach K. He has 551 career wins after Monday’s victory over Iowa State. He could get to 1,000 simply by winning 30 games over the next 14 or 15 seasons.
That’s how breathtaking Coach K’s legacy has been for the past 30 years.
But if we’re just talking about conference preeminence, no coach has equaled Self’s mastery of a single league. Not even Coach K, whose best streak is five in a row.
That should take your breath away, too.