Allen Fieldhouse is a lot less invincible this season, and so are its current residents.
Kansas lost only three games on its intimidating, loud and storied home floor in the five seasons before the current one. The seventh-ranked Jayhawks' 84-79 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday was their third defeat in Lawrence, Kansas, since the start of December.
As cringe-worthy as that stat might be for the Rock Chalk crowd, coach Bill Self has a more troubling problem on his hands. Kansas has essentially one more round trip through the Big 12 on its regular-season schedule. The chances of winning a piece of a 14th consecutive league title haven't been on shakier ground in a decade. The blueprint for beating the Jayhawks sharpened even further into focus this weekend.
Oklahoma State (14-9, 4-6) opened up a 13-point halftime lead by refusing to sag below the 3-point arc on defense. The Jayhawks didn't hit a jump shot in the final 10 minutes of the first half. They used their size and athleticism to get to the rim and the foul line, but without the ability to hit shots from the outside, an early lead for the Cowboys continued to grow.
Kansas made a run to keep the fans in Allen Fieldhouse engaged into the final minutes, but it was Oklahoma State's shooters who controlled momentum with an answer to every big Jayhawks bucket. The hole was too deep and the Cowboys were too opportunistic for the Jayhawks to pull off a face-saving comeback.
The Jayhawks (18-5, 7-3) still have enough of a formidable résumé to put them in the discussion for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed. They ranked seventh in the RPI before Saturday's loss with the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation. They have two wins against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of those games.
It's easy, though, to paint a less inspiring picture about their chances of doing serious damage in March. The two top-10 wins came against Kentucky and West Virginia. The Mountaineers have lost three straight heading into the weekend, and the Wildcats have shown flaws since losing to Kansas way back in November.
More troubling are the losses. Kansas has posted big numbers when shots are falling. When they're not, Self's team doesn't appear to have a great backup plan. Kansas hits an average of 40.9 percent of its 3-pointers. In five losses this season, that number drops by nearly 10 percentage points, but the number of attempts doesn't take much (or usually any) of a dip.
Every team in the crowded Big 12 standings now has at least three losses. Five schools -- half the league -- are within one game of first place. Almost everyone in that group (Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State) will go head-to-head at some point before the regular season ends in four weeks.
While Kansas has the skill to win any and all of those games, the Jayhawks have yet to show the versatility and depth to do so with a cold-shooting performance. The promise of frontcourt cavalry on its way that could help Kansas pull away from the pack has come and gone. New additions on that front have helped but not to the degree that some might have thought or hoped.
The Big 12 is full of questions as the season's horizon comes into focus. Allen Fieldhouse and the Jayhawks, for the first time in a long time, might not have the answers.