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Nothing can stop Kansas' reign of dominance in the Big 12

When Iowa State beat Oklahoma on Monday, the Jayhawks wrapped up another conference title.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past 10 months, there have been a number of moments that seemed to foreshadow the end of Kansas' streak of 10 consecutive seasons with at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. A few immediately come to mind.

  • After months of toying with the idea of returning to school, Joel Emiid finally announced he would join teammate Andrew Wiggins and enter the NBA Draft. Wiggins went first overall, Embiid went third.
  • On April 30, five-star big man Myles Turner committed to Texas over the Jayhawks.
  • Fred Hoiberg could have taken NBA millions if he wanted to. The Minnesota Timberwolves have seemed infatuated with bringing Hoiberg back to the pros for years, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were reportedly interested, too. Instead, Hoiberg chose to return to Iowa State to lead another talented Cyclones team.
  • On Nov. 16, Oklahoma opened up the season with win over SE Louisiana that saw star guard Buddy Hield go 7-for-7 from three-point range. Earlier that day, Oklahoma was finally told power forward TaShawn Thomas would be eligible to play this season. It looked like a season-changing addition.

There's really only one thing that happens to a streak like the one Bill Self has put together in Lawrence. Eventually, it ends. Someone gets hurt, recruits don't live up the hype, another team is just better. Somehow, none of that has happened to Kansas just yet.

When Iowa State erased a 21-point deficit to beat Oklahoma on Monday night, Kansas had won the Big 12 for the 11th straight year. It's not exactly unprecedented: Gonzaga won 11 straight conference titles under Mark Few between 2001-2011, and John Wooden's UCLA teams pushed the streak to 13 years. Still: in a Power 5 conference in the modern era, Kansas' dominance is essentially without rival.

When you win as often as Kansas has won, the end result has a way of looking like a formality in hindsight. At least for Kansas this season, that's far from the case.

I was in the gym on Nov. 18 for Kansas' second game of the season. It was ostensibly a battle of two top-five teams, the No. 5 Jayhawks vs. No. 1 Kentucky. It only took about 10 minutes to realize this was far from a fair fight. Kentucky opened up an 18-point lead in the first half and would end the game with as many blocked shots (11) as Kansas had field goals.

It was a bloodbath, plain and simple, and at that point it at least appeared possible that the game said as much about Kansas as it did about Kentucky. Over the next month, Self was still refusing to give big minutes to his two blue-chip recruits, wing Kelly Oubre and big man Cliff Alexander. Without the freshmen filling the holes left by Embiid and Wiggins, it sure looked like Kansas might be vulnerable in a deep Big 12.

So much for that. Oubre would eventually force his way into the starting lineup, where he's mostly justified the substantial hype he entered college with. Alexander never found consistent minutes and now his season might be in jeopardy because of a newfound eligibility issue. It would be a deadly blow for most teams, but not for Kansas. If Alexander can't get the job done, Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas can at least be serviceable enough in his absence.

Are the Jayhawks a great team this year? It's tough to say. They lost three times on the road in February, but they still rank in the top 20 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. Maybe Kansas won the Big 12 this year because Texas and Iowa State weren't good enough to take it from them. Maybe Self wouldn't let it happen.

One thing is for sure: no other program in the country is capable of this type of stranglehold on a so-called power conference. Here's a look at how the other four major conference have fared since Kansas' streak began in 2005:

Conference Number of different champions Most titles by one team Most consecutive titles
Big Ten 7 Ohio State: 5 Ohio State: 3
Pac-12 4 Arizona and UCLA: 4 each UCLA: 3
SEC 5 Kentucky and Florida: 4 each Florida: 2
ACC 5 North Carolina: 6 North Carolina: 3

Even if Oubre and Alexander are gone next year, Kansas is still primed to be the favorite in the Big 12 once again. A five-star big man, Carlton Bragg, will fill in on the front line. 17-year old Ukrainian freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will be expected to make a big jump. Starters Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden and Frank Mason Jr. will be back, too.

The continuation of the streak won't mean much to Self or Kansas fans if the Jayhawks fail to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament again, but this is still not the type of thing you want to take for granted. 11 years. We really might not see something like it again in a power conference.