Some week for KU sports, huh? Let’s review!
Monday: fired a football coach for the fifth time in 11 years, this time for lying/covering up allegations of allegedly/likely putting female student staff members in uncomfortable situations at his previous job. Gross.
Tuesday: Idiot athletic director gives press conference to show that he’s in control and deserves the chance to hire the next football coach. It does not go well. Well, not for him, at least. Jeff Long’s exchange about the lack of success of his last two football hires, “On the field,” with the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger was likely the tipping point that led to Wednesday’s news.
Bill Self announces that David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna will not play in the Big 12 tournament because they are in the Covid–19 protocols.
Wednesday: My (and many other KU fans’) prayers are answered: KU fires idiot athletic director!
Thursday: KU makes the smart choice (for once) and names assistant football coach Emmett Jones as interim head coach. Jones has played a huge role in bringing in the best recruits KU has signed over the past three classes, is popular with the entire team, and seems best situated to keep the roster together until a new head coach is named.
Later that night the KU basketball team plays one of their best halves of the season to build a 23-point, first-half lead against Oklahoma. They blow 20 points of that lead but hold on to advance to get a third crack at Texas in the semifinals.
Friday: Self announces that an unnamed player has tested positive for Covid–19 and the team is dropping out of the Big 12 tournament. There is immediate worry about whether KU will be able to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday: KU is named the #3 seed in the West region, the school’s 31st straight appearance and 20th straight top four seed. Self says, based on what he knows Sunday evening, that all but the positive player will be ready to go on Saturday afternoon.
That is one jam-packed week! I have thoughts.
Long: Thrilled he is gone. KU has made a lot of bad hires in the lsat 20 years. I’m hoping he is the last in that run and someone competent is soon running the athletic department. Not holding my breath, though.
Covid: Well, shit. KU got through the entire regular season unscathed. They had a non-conference game in December cancelled when the opponent had to shut down for a week, then had to reschedule one of the Iowa State games when the Cyclones were dealing with their issues. But KU played every Big 12 game, and never had a player or coach miss a game because of Covid. And, as the KC Star reported, the program was insanely strict about how players even interacted with their relatives after games. Then they suddenly get hit at the worst possible time.
Now all the fingers are crossed that McCormack is able to play this weekend and the one positive player, who should miss the first week of the tournament, is the only positive the team has.
NCAAs: I was a bit surprised by the three seed, but that was just because I figured the NCAA would give KU no grace if it came down to them and another squad for a seed, so I expected a four. Getting a three, or even a four, is a terrific accomplishment for a team that looked just about dead six weeks ago.
As we get more and more numbers each year, it gets easier and easier to pick apart the NCAA seedings. USC was the first one to jump out at me. In the KenPom ratings, they are eight spots higher than KU, yet are the six to KU’s three. Loyola-Chicago is ranked ninth in the KenPom ratings, but only got an eight seed. And so on.
If KU can beat Eastern Washington and play USC, I think that’s an incredibly tough matchup. USC isn’t as good as Texas, but their size and athleticism reminds me of Texas. That’s very bad for KU and means a season-ending L in the round of 32. But USC is one of those tricky teams that are loaded with talent but you can’t entirely trust them. At first glance I put them in the Elite 8, based on matchups alone. But they could easily lose to Wichita State/Drake, either of which would be a much better matchup for KU.
KU’s success will come down to health and shooting. The health is kind of out of their control at this point: if more players were exposed it’s just a matter of time before they test positive and wreck the roster. I’ve given up thinking this team will shoot as well as they should. But, as every KU fan knows, a team can get hot at any moment and go deeper than you expected.
So I’m calling a round of 32 loss. But not ruling out a Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 run if the three-point shooting swings from cold to hot.
I know the question many of you are asking this morning: with all the games in Indiana, will I be making an effort to get out and support the Jayhawks? The answer is no, and not just because the ticket situation is weird and I’m guessing none of my KU buddies will be willing to come back to watch a game this year.
The reason is we depart for Florida Saturday afternoon. I should just get to see KU’s first round game before we hop on a plane to spend a week on Anna Maria Island. I suppose I could attend a potential Elite 8 game a week from Sunday, but that’s not worth considering for longer than it took to type this sentence.
Also at first glance, it’s tough not to go chalky with my Final Four picks. There are a couple one seeds I’d like to pick against, but when I look at the twos and threes in their regions, I can’t get fully onboard either. It will take some more research and investigation before I lock those picks in.