Notebook: Big 12 sets schedule for final week of 2020-21 regular season
The Big 12 Conference on Tuesday afternoon announced 12 make-up games for next week, starting Monday with a game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and running through Saturday.
The games became necessary because of COVID-19 disruptions throughout the regular season. As a result, not all 10 teams will play all 18 games this season, a fact that Kansas coach Bill Self was more than willing to live with.
“The teams that obviously didn’t play (first-place) Baylor are catching a break from a seeding standpoint in our tournament, but they’re not catching a break from a seeding standpoint in the big tournament,” Self said. “I think you only get so many opportunities to do something like that, and I don’t believe anybody in our league would pass up the opportunity of getting a chance to knock off a top two team in America.”
Self has said throughout this season that he would not let anything in terms of unbalanced scheduling or COVID pauses bother him or his program simply because he was so happy to be playing in the first place.
“It’s no one’s fault that we’re in this position,” Self said. “This is one of those years where you don’t worry about this stuff. I know Baylor is going to win the league. OK? I’m confident that Baylor will win the league. I’m hoping that they don’t go undefeated, obviously, because we’ve still got them at our place (on Saturday).”
McCormack’s year at the line
Kansas big man David McCormack entered Tuesday’s 75-72 overtime loss in Austin, Texas, shooting 81.3% from the free throw line this season, having made 65 of 80 attempts.
It’s been a while since KU had its primary low post presence shoot that well at the free throw line.
To put McCormack’s season in perspective, former KU All-American Udoka Azubuike, who was notorious for his free throw struggles, did not reach 65 makes at the free throw line in 145 attempts last season, which was his best as a Jayhawk.
Azubuike connected on a career-best 44.1% as a senior, knocking in 64 of 145 free throw attempts.
Asked this week about the advantage of having a big man who was so reliable at the line, Self called it a “great” advantage for the Jayhawks.
“We just need to get him fouled more often in close games,” Self said.
McCormack was 2-for-4 at the free throw line during Tuesday’s game, which added to his strong season at the line and kept him at 80% through 25 games.
In two games against Texas this season, the 6-foot-10 junior connected on 10 of 12 shots at the free throw line.
“You don’t see that very often in college basketball where a big guy shoots above 80%,” Self said. “So, yeah, it’s very comforting to have that.”
Former Jayhawk Dedric Lawson shot 81.5% from the line (167 of 205) during his lone season at Kansas in 2018-19, but Lawson was not the same kind of low-post, back-to-the-basket presence as McCormack and Azubuike.
Senior Night up next?
The tradition of Senior Night carries with it an unusual wrinkle this season, in that the three Kansas players who are scheduled to be honored in KU’s final home game of the season all could be back next season.
Add to that the fact that it’s still not known definitively when KU’s final home game of the season will be — KU is still exploring adding a game next week — and it’s hard to sense too much buzz around the annual senior sendoff.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that whenever it happens, Allen Fieldhouse will be far from full and the spirit squad will not be allowed on the floor to do the customary tossing of the flowers during the pregame ceremony.
Under normal circumstances, Saturday’s regular season finale would be the final home game in the careers of Kansas seniors Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and walk-on Chris Teahan. But the NCAA’s decision to grant a blanket waiver for an extra year of eligibility to all winter sports athletes in the 2020-21 season, makes their return to Kansas for another season a real possibility.
When the waiver approval was announced several months ago, Lightfoot, who already is playing his fifth season thanks to a redshirt last year, responded on Twitter with the following: “Wow, this is really turning into a never leave college situation.”
Asked at the time about the potential to return, Lightfoot said he appreciated the NCAA’s decision but that his focus was on preparing for the season at hand and that he would worry about what comes next when that moment arrives.
Garrett, who has a future in professional basketball somewhere, considered testing his pro stock after last season but elected to come back for another run.
None of the three will have to make any kind of definititve decision about their futures for several weeks still.
Trophy coming to town
The Ferris Mowers NABC National Championship Trophy will be in attendance at Allen Fieldhouse this weekend, when Kansas plays host to Baylor in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 regular season finale.
The iconic Waterford Crystal trophy, which is awarded annually to the No. 1 team in each season’s final coaches poll, is the very same one that led many Kansas fans to believe the 2019-20 Jayhawks should have been proclaimed national champs following KU’s 28-3 regular season.
Last season’s Jayhawks were No. 1 in the final poll on March 16, 2020.
Saturday will mark the second stop of a first-of-its-kind, multi-city tour for the trophy. Fans will have the opportunity to see and take socially distanced photos with the trophy before and during the game in the Booth Hall of Athletics, from 5:30 p.m. through halftime.
This and that…
In addition to ending KU’s five-game winning streak, Tuesday’s loss dropped the Jayhawks to 6-6 against ranked teams this season and 4-6 in true road games. The Jayhawks are now 6-7 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse this season… KU now leads the all-time series with Texas 35-11, including an 11-8 mark in games played in Austin… Kansas coach Bill Self is now 25-9 against UT during his 18 seasons in Lawrence.