Kansas' win is big, but only in the little picture

Kansas gets revenge over West Virginia (0:58)

After losing to the Mountaineers on Jan. 13, the Jayhawks returned the favor with a 75-65 win behind 21 points from Perry Ellis. (0:58)

LAWRENCE, Kans. -- Congratulations, Kansas.

For surviving the exhausting, miserable, trip-to-the-dentist-who-lost-his-Novacaine-needle battle that is West Virginia, your reward is a round-trip to … Norman, Oklahoma, where you'll be greeted with Bahamian love from Buddy Hield, the shot-making player of the year candidate who's still stinging after dropping 46 on you and leaving with a three-overtime loss in January.

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "I'm going to Disney World" does it?

No, the Big 12 is not Disney World. It is not even Wally World.

And so while it is tempting to look at this game, at No. 6 Kansas' 75-65 win over the 10th-ranked Mountaineers, and extrapolate some greater meaning from it -- that the Jayhawks are back after clawing into a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 and that a 12th consecutive conference crown is in their reach, yada, yada, yada -- it's also downright foolish.

This game is like a rose cut from a shrub, best to enjoy before it shrivels up and dies.

"What can I take from this? We got punked in Morgantown and tonight we were more competitive," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We played more like men."

And that's about the beginning and the end of it in the big-picture view.

Because along with the visit to Norman, Kansas still has to go to Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. To win the league, Self thinks he'll have to steal a few on the road, that four losses might let you sneak to the title, but five won't do it.

Without the assistance of either a dartboard or a Ouija board, it would seem impossible to predict, let alone guarantee, just how the Big 12 will all play out.

So to the micro, rather than the macro, then.

What this game offers is promise of what the Jayhawks can be, nothing more, nothing less.

They did the near unthinkable here: They out-toughed a Bob Huggins' team. They beat them on the boards 33-28 and even outscored Press Virginia 14-13 in points off turnovers. The Mountaineers pulled off nine steals and forced 15 turnovers, but it never seemed as if KU was rattled. Every time West Virginia threatened, Kansas answered, keeping its composure in a feisty game that included a fair bit of jawing, as well as an elbow from West Virginia's Tarik Phillip to Frank Mason's jaw.

"There were a lot of guys talking out there, saying things," Mason said. "You have to keep your focus and try to be the bigger player."

Aside from winning the trash-talking war, the Mountaineers didn't bring their A-game.

They will never be accused of being gifted offensively, but they are not this bad -- 37 percent from the floor, 25 from the 3, zero points in transition despite more chippies than Huggins would care to count and six missed free throws.

"We helped their cause," Huggins deadpanned. "You have to give us credit for screwing the game up, too, please."

More credit, though, has to go to the Jayhawks, and specifically Landen Lucas. If there is anything that could potentially have far-reaching impact for Kansas, it is Lucas' play. He notched a career-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots -- or one fewer than his career total.

"He got all of our rebounds," Mason quipped at the podium.

Lucas was especially vicious on the defensive boards, pulling in 12, every one of which represented an opportunity squashed for West Virginia. The Mountaineers make their money on the offensive boards -- they have 200 more than opponents this season -- but managed only 14 second-chance points against KU.

Self remembers when he recruited Lucas, how his father asked what every parent wants to know: Can my son play immediately? Self was honest and told him not much as a freshman, maybe a little bit as a sophomore, but by his junior season, he ought to be a factor. That's borne out, his minutes rising from 4.9 as a rookie to 11.9 this season.

Against the imposing Devin Williams, Self couldn't afford to take him off the court; the more lightly recruited Lucas is a far more valuable weapon than the ones more well-regarded by recruiting service standards, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo. Lucas played 29 minutes; the other two combined for three.

"[Rebounding] is always a big goal, but today that was an especially big emphasis since they go to the glass so hard," Lucas said. "I think I did as well as I could."

Self evaluated him with a little more gusto.

"He was the most valuable guy out there today," he said.

Now that is something Kansas can build on.

But trying to find anything deeper than that, no, that would be foolish.