You know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones swipes the golden idol, dodges a handful of traps, escapes the rolling boulder and gets out of the temple, only to have the idol taken away by the bad guy? Well, the good news for Kansas State and Texas Tech fans is that your teams feel like Indiana Jones right now. That’s almost a compliment.
First, semantics: The Big 12 title isn’t the golden idol for K-State. They’re going to win their share. The idol is keeping Kansas from winning their 15th consecutive. In five years, no one outside of Manhattan or Lubbock will remember 2018-19 as the year K-State and Texas Tech shared the Big 12 with Kansas. It’ll be the 15th feather in KU’s cap, building on the most impressive streak in college sports. In five years, it could be remembered as merely the closest call in recent memory as KU zeroes in on number 20. For this year to be a success for K-State, Texas Tech, or the rest of the Big 12, Kansas can’t get a trophy. The Wildcats had a chance to deliver the kill shot on Monday night, and they missed.
Defeating Kansas in a must-win game in Allen Fieldhouse is obviously a tremendously tall order, but so is winning the Big 12. Kansas failed at a similar tide-turning opportunity in Lubbock on Saturday, getting demolished by Texas Tech. After that game, Kansas lost all margin for error. After losing in Lawrence, K-State has lost theirs.
Still the favorites in a crowded conference, the Wildcats can end all of this conjecture with three straight wins. They get Baylor at home, go to TCU two days later, then host Oklahoma to end the year. Texas Tech would be tied for the lead in the conference with a win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday before going to TCU, hosting Texas and playing at Iowa State.
Those are all winnable games for both teams. Even as the boulder is gaining speed, it’s more or less a foregone conclusion that K-State and Texas Tech will escape the temple alive — just like we knew that Steven Spielberg wasn’t going to kill the title character in the opening sequence. But that’s not the question anymore. Now we all wait for the surprise twist. Assuming that the Wildcats and Red Raiders escape the booby-trapped Big 12, will they take the trophy back to Manhattan and Lubbock, or will Bill Self be there, hands outstretched, looking for his share? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played, but the last 14 installments of this franchise have all ended the same way.