Lent doesn't begin for another three weeks, yet all patrons who enter Allen Fieldhouse tonight will receive a string of Mardi Gras beads.
Bad timing or bad symbolism or both?
Whatever, those beads may be as close as Kansas University's struggling women's basketball team comes to a Fat Tuesday-like celebration for the rest of the season. KU has been in a virtual victory fast since Thanksgiving, and the outlook is grim.
Five years ago when Marian Washington's Jayhawks failed to win a single conference game, I never expected to see another Big 12 team go 0-16 again. But Bonnie Henrickson's third KU edition is in danger of another O-fer.
All this losing is uncharted territory for Henrickson, who came to Kansas after posting seven consecutive 20-plus-win seasons at Virginia Tech and seemed like the perfect fit for the job of turning the Jayhawks into a conference contender again.
Using mostly inherited talent during her first two seasons on Mount Oread, Henrickson won 29 games and lost 29. But now, using primarily players she recruited, Henrickson's club is spinning into a vortex of disappointment that appears close to the drain of despair.
The Jayhawks can't shoot, they can't score, they can't rebound, they can't defend, and they can't win. They can foul, though. They lead the Big 12 in that category.
The old adage that youth must be served becomes, when applied to Kansas women's basketball, youth must be suffered. Half of Henrickson's roster is composed of freshmen, and it's painfully clear that none of her seven yearlings is ready for prime time.
Kelly Kohn, a 5-foot-9 guard, has been the best of the freshman crop. She's intense and knows the game, but she isn't a go-to scorer even though she has, by default, been placed in that role.
Kohn would be a terrific complementary player, as would LaChelda Jacobs and Sade Morris, two freshmen who are basically the same player - agile and athletic wings, but sub-par shooters.
Still, among the freshmen, it is Danielle McCray who seems to have the most untapped potential. The 5-11 Olathe East product has the body to play inside, but she is a forward with a guard's mentality. She'll learn, eventually.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are playing doughnut basketball. They have nothing in the middle. They can't score inside, and they can't stop opponents from plundering the paint.
In her desperate search to find someone - anyone - who can score, Henrickson unshackled Shaquina Mosley, a senior point guard who turns the ball over too much but at least knows how to put the rock in the basket.
And that begs the question about next year when Mosley won't be around.
Will this year's freshmen improve enough to make the Jayhawks competitive next season? That's certainly a possibility, but I wouldn't call it a probability.
In basketball, coaching and experience can turn a bad shooter into an average shooter, but all the king's horses and all the king's men can't turn an average shooter into a great shooter.