Can a storybook ending be in the offing for a Kansas University men’s basketball team that’s already had its share of drama this season?
Through various suspensions and the death of a team member’s young mother, the Jayhawks have continued to roll, winning their seventh straight Big 12 title and eighth straight Big 12 tournament.
Whether wiping away a tear or laying down the law, Coach Bill Self has set the tone.
The trouble started with freshman guard Josh Selby being suspended for nine games at the beginning of the season for accepting clothes, transportation, meals and lodging prior to signing an athletic scholarship agreement with KU. Selby served his time and could play a role in a deep tournament run for KU.
In January, sophomore forward Thomas Robinson’s mother, Lisa Robinson, 43, died of a heart attack. The entire team traveled to Washington, D.C., for the memorial service. When they returned to Lawrence, the team, including Robinson, went right back to work. “The world doesn’t stop turning,” senior guard Tyrel Reed said then. “Whether there’s things going on in our personal lives or whatever. We’re all men. We have to deal with those things. We have a job to do.”
Near the end of the regular season, Self suspended junior guard Tyshawn Taylor for violating a team rule and replaced him with Elijah Johnson. Johnson had some of his best games while Taylor was suspended. Taylor has played his best ball of the season after returning to the team. Maybe the Jayhawks’ point-guard puzzle has been solved.
At the same time, the Jayhawk men have displayed their prowess in the classroom, with Reed being named an Academic All-American and the team scoring well in the Academic Performance Tournament created by the Inside Higher Ed blog and based on the graduation rates of tournament teams.
On Friday, the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks play Boston University in Tulsa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Coach Self appears to have his team right where he wants them, ready to win the national championship.
Every college basketball fan knows how hard it is, even for a top team, to win six straight games in the NCAA tournament. Only one team ends its season with a win. The Jayhawks have done it before and they certainly have a chance to do it again this year.
Fans in Lawrence and throughout the country wish the Jayhawks well as they start their tournament run. We hope they are focused, fired up and ready to have some fun. Winning a national championship, of course, would be the most fun of all.