LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – It started with the resignation of Kansas soccer coach Les Miles on charges of sexual harassment while at LSU. It continued days later with the resignation of the Athenian director Jeff Long for his role in the fiasco.
It ended with the Jayhawks pulling out of the Big 12 tournament when the men’s basketball program, which was finally peaking, returned a positive COVID-19 test after a quarterfinal win over Oklahoma.
Now, after some of the worst work the Jayhawks can imagine, Bill Self’s team – at least those who are healthy enough – traveled to Indianapolis on Monday to prepare for the NCAA tournament. They earned number 3 in the West Region thanks to their late-season fee and will play number 14 in East Washington on Saturday.
For a fleeting few weeks, they can give their fans a reason to forget about all the other problems in Lawrence.
“I think they were honestly proud of themselves. I think they feel good about themselves, ”said Self. “It’s not good that we’ve achieved something, just so far, so good. We put ourselves in a decent position. We have to take advantage of that. “
It will not be easy.
The Jayhawks have already been without starting center David McCormack and substitute striker Tristan Enaruna for the Big 12 tournament after being quarantined early last week. Then came the positive test on Friday, which means at least three players were not on the team when it flew out of Kansas City.
Self believes McCormack and Enaruna returned the seven straight days of negative testing to get back on the team before round one, but the other player will likely miss the opening weekend – Eastern Washington and a potential game with USC No. 6 or one of them The two # 11 seeds are playing a First Four game, Wichita State and Drake.
“I’ve never been through this before. I don’t have a plan, ”said Self. “I think a lot of it depends on the feeling. A lot will depend on what our medical staff can possibly do. I know there are some people who have been through this and have really worked through it for a while, especially those with Symptoms and Severe Symptoms. And there are some who have been through this and have basically not had any severe symptoms anywhere near full strength.
“So it’s bullshit I don’t know,” said Self, “and it’s a stranger right now.”
At least the Jayhawks have an NCAA tournament to attend.
They were big favorites to finish number 1 overall last season, and behind Star Guard Devon Dotson and injured tall man Udoka Azubuike, they were the pick to cut the nets in the Final Four. But when the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic, one of Self’s best teams wondered what could have been.
“We know we weren’t allowed to play in March Madness last year and this year we’re just ready for the opportunity,” said senior Marcus Garrett, who was a member of the 2018 team that lost in the final to eventual champions Villanova Four.
Another trip to the Final Four? That would make people forget everything else.
The Jayhawks are only looking for a new sporting director for a few days and only then will they start looking for a soccer coach, which means spring training starts with an interim coach and a lot of uncertainty.
There are also encumbrances within the Self program, pending an independent panel decision on whether Kansas will face NCAA sanctions for alleged Level I violations related to an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.
“You know,” said Junior Ochai Agbaji, “looking back on January we made our way and saw that we got a 3-seed – it was good for us to enter this tournament. It got a lot of people excited. Everyone in the team is enthusiastic too. “
However, the way to last weekend will not be easy. Eastern Washington is a brave first-round opponent, and USC has an All-American candidate in Evan Mobley who will be a problem inside as both teams advance. If the Jayhawks hit the sweet 16, they could face Luka Garza and Iowa with the number 2, and Gonzaga with the number 1 leads the region west.
The Bulldogs defeated the Jayhawks in a fun game in late November to start a season like no other.
“Since this is the draw we got, I might as well be comfortable with it,” said Self. “I don’t think anyone but Gonzaga will choose anyone for the Final Four team. To get to the Final Four, you have to beat them. “
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