What’s wrong with Kansas?

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There’s something missing with this Kansas team.

It may not be enough to keep the Jayhawks from a 14th straight Big 12 title–a run of dominance only rivaled by 1970’s UCLA and the Ming Dynasty–but it’s there, lingering in the back of fans’ minds, rushing to the forefront when dreams of a national title flash through their consciousness.

There was that weird loss to Washington in Kansas City, when Huskies head coach Mike Hopkins unlocked a mesmerizing version of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense that lulled Kansas into bad, contested shots and dumb turnovers. U-Dub thoroughly dominated that game, leading the entire second half and winning, 74-65. The Huskies (14-6, 4-3/Pac-12) haven’t gone on to anything special–they’re a bubble team, with the win over KU easily the best on their resume.

Then there was the decisive loss to Arizona State in Allen Fieldhouse, a stunner considering the history of the two programs. The Sun Devils dominated the second half of that one too, leading by as many as 13 and keeping a comfortable distance throughout.

And then there was the home loss to Texas Tech–which was off to an uncharacteristically great start but had never beaten the Jayhawks in Lawrence. They outplayed Kansas, and won by 12.

The Jayhawks’ loss to Oklahoma in Norman on Tuesday night isn’t in itself alarming (you know, Trae Young and all), but combined with the other setbacks, it’s telling.

No one in college basketball (outside of maybe Villanova) is unbeatable, so maybe this is more of a reflection on the state of the sport than it is Kansas. Still, wins in Allen Fieldhouse have never been easier to come by.

A comeback win over West Virginia in Morgantown seemed to put the ‘Hawks back on the inside track to yet another Big 12 title, but the loss at OU brings them back to the crowded field. KU (6-2/Big 12) has a one-game lead on WVU, Texas Tech, K-State and Oklahoma, and there’s no guarantee it’ll hold.

What’s been different for the ‘Hawks this year?

Well, losing reigning National Player of the Year Frank Mason and lottery pick Josh Jackson certainly haven’t helped. Neither have the eligibility issues that kept heralded freshman Billy Preston from ever suiting up (he’s now playing overseas).

Devonte Graham is a terrific college player, but he’s not Mason, and Malik Newman and Legerald Vick haven’t been dynamic enough to make up the difference.

Kansas will probably still win the Big 12, but unlike years past, an early loss in the NCAA Tournament won’t be a stunner.

Related: Scouting takeaways from Kansas-Kentucky

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