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Kansas storms back to shock West Virginia in OT

Nights like this, no matter how much Big 12 opponents wish for it, is why Kansas won't fall.

Games like the Jayhawks' 84-80 overtime win against West Virginia is exactly why they have won at least a share of 12 consecutive league titles and are on their way to a 13th banner.

Sometimes it seems like they're just lucky. How else can it be explained when Josh Jackson avoids a turnover against the Mountaineers by making a cross-court pass from his backside that leads to a Devonte' Graham 3-pointer?

Kansas appears even more fragile than it was in 2014-15, when it lost five conference games. But its rally Monday night is one that makes a team believe in destiny despite all of its shortcomings.

The Jayhawks are playing with a thin frontcourt whose margin of error evaporates with every Landen Lucas foul. The 6-foot-10 senior managed to stay in Monday night's game; reserve forward Carlton Bragg Jr., Lucas' main backup, fouled out.

The Jayhawks can be overly reliant on Frank Mason III and Jackson to generate scoring at times. When they struggle, as they did against West Virginia -- the two combined to shoot 7-of-26 from the field -- the offense becomes stagnant. That is, in part, what led to the Mountaineers grabbing a 14-point lead late in the second half.

Kansas' rotation is essentially down to seven players carrying the bulk of minutes. Mason, Jackson and Graham each played more than 40 minutes. That has come to be expected of both Mason -- who leads the Big 12 in minutes played at 35.4 per game -- and Graham, who averages 34.6 per game to rank third.

And those worries are just the on-the-court ones.

Kansas has dealt with in-season investigations, from an alleged assault to which players were listed as witnesses, to a report that uncovered a 2015 domestic violence investigation of Lagerald Vick.

Bragg was suspended as a precaution to alleged battery charges in December, placed back on the team when his name was cleared, then was suspended again after being charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.

Despite all that KU has dealt with, those same vulnerable Jayhawks somehow sit here with a two-game lead in the Big 12 with five games left in the regular season.

The rest of the league might as well gather campside and share tall tales about how they almost had the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers might just have the best, and saddest, story of them all.

On Monday, West Virginia led 64-50 with three minutes to play in regulation. It was poised to become the first team to sweep Bill Self since he was on the sidelines at Tulsa.

After losing to Iowa State 92-89 in overtime earlier this month, Kansas also was in danger of suffering back-to-back home losses for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Instead, Mason scored 11 points in those final three minutes as Kansas outscored the Mountaineers 21-7 to force overtime. The loss left West Virginia three games back of the Jayhawks in the league standings.

Baylor suffered a similar fate. It entered Monday’s game at Texas Tech a game behind Kansas, with the Jayhawks coming to Waco, Texas, for a showdown on Saturday. Two wins this week and the Bears would at least share first place in the Big 12.

Instead, the best case for Baylor will be pulling back within a game of KU.

Baylor allowed the Red Raiders to shoot 61 percent in the second half and lost a nine-point lead in an 84-78 loss.

Those same traits Kansas has overcome during regular-season play might eventually be the reason for its postseason demise. It takes only one off night in the postseason, and KU won't have the magic of Allen Fieldhouse to help it push through a tough game.

For now, as imperfect as their march has been, the Jayhawks are on the verge of claiming league crown No. 13. And there's nothing unlucky about that.