Jayhawks still have some hope at conclusion of rough week for KU
One of these years — one would hope — the Kansas basketball team will actually get to experience a complete weekend at the Big 12 tournament again.
The pandemic improved to 2-0 against the Jayhawks in Kansas City, Mo., with Friday’s news of a positive COVID-19 test on the KU roster, a year to the day after the pandemic canceled the 2020 conference tournament.
According to the picture head coach Bill Self painted on Friday afternoon, though, COVID isn’t expected — again, one would hope — to keep KU from competing in the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is going to actually take place in 2021, whether the Jayhawks are participating for the 31st consecutive time or not. But Self said he expects the Jayhawks (at least the ones who have been testing negative) to be cleared to participate in Indiana, where first round games begin as soon as this coming Friday — seven days after KU was forced to bow out of the Big 12 tourney.
Self will no doubt make sure the Jayhawks jump through all the necessary isolating and testing hoops as the team sets up camp in Kansas City, Mo., hoping to come out of this controlled environment before it heads to Indianapolis to enter another controlled environment for the Big Dance. The lockdown in the days ahead will have to be even more intense than whatever the parameters were recently, leading to KU’s current predicament.
It’s easy to say this now, with the virus creating a whole new kind of March upset for KU, Duke and Virginia this week, but the administrators in charge of planning the conference championships and NCAA Tournament could’ve made everything run a little more smoothly by building in even more time than usual between the end of conference tournaments and the start of The Madness.
Or they could’ve opted to simply not play any conference tournaments at all. At best, these postseason showcases for leagues were risky and unnecessary. But canceling conference championship week was never going to happen with so much TV money to be made and universities throughout the country taking catastrophic budget hits in the wake of the sports landscape getting blown up in 2020.
Maybe the Jayhawks weren’t as lucky as we initially thought to make it all the way to March without an interruption in a season marred by such instances. Because as much as the Jayhawks were happy to play a full Big 12 schedule and not encounter the headaches of rescheduling or a midseason reboot, the timing of their first COVID-related pause in competition couldn’t be much worse.
Hopefully no team that makes it to Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament will have to do what KU, Duke and Virginia did this week and withdraw due to a positive test. But the fact that it has happened to three renowned programs at this time of the season would suggest a team dropping out of the title chase in Indy might be inevitable.
Surely the Jayhawks, gutted by having their chance of cutting down some nets this weekend taken away from them, will keep that feeling in mind and take every extra precaution imaginable to ensure they don’t have to exit an even larger stage abruptly.
Perhaps we should’ve seen this coming, given the week of turmoil surrounding Kansas Athletics leading up to the basketball team’s withdrawal from the conference tournament. The unceremonious exits of the football coach and athletic director didn’t do much for KU’s karma.
But with Selection Sunday on the horizon, so too is a new week. And perhaps some renewed focus and luck for the Jayhawks.