NCAA

Kansas Jayhawks Just Got Really Bad News on Eve of Big 12 Tourney

The Kansas Jayhawks 2020-21 college basketball season will be remembered for multiple reasons, and not all of them good. In addition to a schedule full of fits and starts due to it being played in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, for just the second time since 2004, the Jayhawks didn’t win the Big 12 regular-season title.

Despite the team’s struggles in the middle of the season, Bill Self managed to refocus the squad and finished strong, winning seven out of eight, including an impressive upset of the then-No. 2-ranked Baylor Bears at home. Now, on the eve of the Big 12 Tournament, the Jayhawks got a big dose of bad news that could dramatically affect their chances of claiming another conference tournament title.

Kansas Jayhawks 2020-21 season filled with ups and downs

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The No. 6-ranked Kansas Jayhawks started the 2020-21 basketball season with a tough opener against the No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game remained close midway through the second half before Gonzaga pulled away for the 102-90 victory. 

Bill Self and his Jayhawks squad then reeled off eight straight, including a pair of wins in conference action over two ranked Big 12 teams in Texas Tech and West Virginia. Kansas suffered its first conference loss, with the Texas Longhorns blowing out the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse 84-59. 

That loss to Texas was the start of a rough 10-game stretch where the Jayhawks went a disappointing 4-6, including a loss to Tennessee in the middle of the Big 12 schedule. 

Kansas has rebounded nicely since and won seven of eight, including wins over ranked teams in Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Baylor. The Jayhawks finished the regular season with a 19-8 record and 12-6 in the Big 12. 

The Kansas Jayhawks lose second-leading scorer 

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The Kansas Jayhawks had a balanced offensive attack throughout the season, with no real superstar but multiple players who averaged a dozen or more points, including Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, and Jalen Wilson. 

On Tuesday, Bill Self announced that the 6-foot-10 McCormack and guard Tristan Enaruna would miss the Big 12 Tournament due to entering the COVID-19 protocol.

This season the junior forward was the second-leading scorer for the team, averaging 13.4 points as well as 6.1 rebounds. He ranked third in the Big 12 this year with six double-doubles and reached double figures in scoring in 17 games, including 11 of the last 12. 

The sophomore Enaruna has averaged 2.8 points per contest in a much more limited role.    

What is plan going forward?

Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks will have to find offense elsewhere in the absence of McCormack and Enaruna. Self said the team would potentially lean on seldom-used freshman big man Gethro Muscadin, but the idea of playing a smaller team has some appeal simply due to the success the team had implementing that style earlier in the season. 

“But, minus the foul situations, we actually played some of our best ball this year when we played small,” Self told KUSports.com. “We haven’t practiced that a lot. But (at) all the recent practices we put a lot of time in on that.”

Going with a smaller lineup will be a challenge against a slate of talented teams in the Big 12 Tournament, which includes seven ranked teams. But if there’s anyone who knows how to find a way and win the Big 12 Tournament it’s Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks who have won it five times in the last decade.