The University of Kansas basketball program started its season 4-0 and climbed to third place in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Many will not be surprised by the quick start to the season. However, some thought the start to the season might have been a bit tougher than it was.
Head coach Bill Self was not on the bench for any of those first four games due to a self-sanction from the University of Kansas for his alleged role in recruiting violations. Kansas hopes these self-sanctions will be enough for the NCAA to get their hands washed of this particular problem.
During Self’s absence, assistant coach Norm Roberts led the team to an undefeated start to the season. The season started with dominating wins over Omaha and North Dakota State. Then came a match in the Champions Classic against Duke. A gutsy win over the Blue Devils was impressive for Roberts and the Jayhawks.
Then, in Roberts’ final game as the team’s interim head coach, the Jayhawks struggled defensively in an 82-76 win over Southern Utah. Jalen Wilson led the way with a career-high 33 points and rookie Gradey Dick added 18, including a massive three-pointer on the streak, to propel the Jayhawks to their fourth straight win of the season and 11th straight win. dating back to last season.
Now Kansas will turn the page and move on to the next part of their non-conference schedule. It’s the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No one knows for sure, but Self’s return to action when the team goes on a trip to an island nation seems questionable at best. In all seriousness, the Jayhawks will welcome Self with open arms and they’ll be ready to roll Wednesday morning against North Carolina State.
The 11:00 a.m. (CT) announcement on ESPN will kick things off in Battle 4 Atlantis with three more games playing from early afternoon until prime time on ESPN2. If Kansas wins, they will face the winner of the Dayton vs. Wisconsin game on the winner’s side. If Kansas loses, they will play the loser of that same game and move to the consolation side of the bracket.
On championship Friday, Kansas will face one of four teams on the other side of the board: USC, BYU, Tennessee or Butler. The game will hinge on whether Kansas wins or loses on Wednesday and Thursday. They hope to play against one of those teams in the championship game to be played at 6:30 a.m. CT on Friday, November 25.
Something to watch out for will be Self’s starting formation. Will he continue to deploy the same starting five he rolled with in the first four games of the season? Jalen Wilson, KJ Adams, Gradey Dick, Kevin McCullar Jr. and DaJuan Harris have started every game so far and it’s assumed that Self will keep the same roster, but that’s never a certainty.
Another thing to watch will be how Self uses his bench. So far through four games, rookie Ernest Udeh Jr and MJ Rice are two guys who haven’t had a ton of runs yet but played sparingly off the bench. They showed promise in these limited reps, but there’s also plenty of room for improvement. Bobby Pettiford appears to be the sixth man and he has shown promise as a ball handler and even a scorer at times. Self will make sure to keep their starters fresh as the season unfolds and they have new players available to them.
Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Kansas and its players and fans will be happy to have Coach Self back in the fold as they prepare for conference play. The Jayhawks are already ahead of schedule with a top-three finish and they will continue to have a goal on their backs as they look to repeat as national champions for the first time in club history. school.