Why Kansas Could Win March Madness and A Self Examination

  With an overall record of 27-3 and conference record of 16-1, the Kansas Jayhawks sit atop the Big 12 Conference and currently are ranked by the AP as the nation’s number one team. These aren’t unchartered waters for Kansas Coach, Bill Self, who possesses one of the most successful records in modern day NCAA basketball. Through early, February 2020, Coach Self had guided the Jayhawks through 602 games. Over the course of those games, there are only thirty-eight, six percent, of the Jayhawk’s games were unranked.    

      Since 2000, the team has captured or shared fifteen Big 12 regular season titles and have won eight Big 12 Conference Tournaments. They’ve made three trips to the Final Four and in 2008, the Jayhawk’s claimed the ultimate achievement when they captured the National Championship by outscoring the Memphis Tigers, 75 -68, in the title game.  

     2018 was the last time the Jayhawks made it as far as the Final Four, but this year’s team not only has the potential to make it to the Final Four, they have the talent to make a legitimate run at the grand prize.  

     For starters, they have eight players who have played in twenty-eight to thirty of the thirty games played to date. The average playing time for those eight players is, twenty-five minutes. The team is deep. Deep, healthy and obviously well-conditioned. Those three ingredients are very key to a team’s ability to perform well and succeed in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a little insight to Coach Self’s squad. 

     Senior Center, Udoka Azubuike. While not exceptionally mobile, Azubuike is a strong defensive presence in the middle. Not much of a shooter, he still gets the ball in the net and averages almost 14 points per game. Barely averaging forty-four percent from the free throw line, he would also be the player that teams will want to foul late in the game when it’s a one or two possession situation. Don’t be misled by the mobility and shooting remarks. The big man more than makes up for these things with his inside play and ability to defend. In addition to the 14 PPG average, he’s averaging ten rebounds, (3/Off, 7/Def). He’s played in all thirty of the Jayhawk’s contests and averages twenty-eight minutes per game. Azubuike is as solid as it gets in the middle. 

     Supporting Azubuike is, Sophomore Forward, David McCormack. At 6’10”, 265, he provides great back-up when Azubuike takes a breather or when additional Kansas wants to enhance the play int the middle.   

     Led by, Sophomore, Devon Dotson, Kansas boasts five solid guards on their roster. That’s the type of depth that allows a team to rotate the line-up frequently and wear down opponents. Dotson has played in twenty-nine of the team’s thirty contests averaging thirty-five minutes of playing time. To go along with his 18 PPG average, he averages four assists and two steals per game while shooting eighty-three percent from the free throw line.  

Solidifying the guard play are:  

Ochai Agbaji – 30 games played, 33 minutes per game, 10 PPG, 33 percent from three-point range  

Marcus Garrett – 30 games played, 32 minutes per game, 9 PPG, 33 percent from three-point range 

Isaiah Moses – 29 games played, 24 minutes per game, 9 PPG, 35 percent from three-point range 

    Christian Braun – A sleeper to some, Christian has played in all thirty contests averaging 18 minutes of playing time. Along with a respectable 43% FG average, he is 45% from three-point range. 

     As team, Kansas plays solidly. The players work together and compliment each other very well. The turnover ratio is a little suspect averaging 13 per game, but that is not red flag territory. Offensively, the Jayhawks average 75 PPG. Due to Azubuike in the middle along with solid perimeter defense, Kansas has the #9 ranked defense in the nation allowing only 60 PPG. On the boards, they hold a rebounding advantage of 38-32 average per game; 28 defense, 10 offense. The offense number could be stronger, but it’s not a variable which causes concern. Overall, the Jayhawks should make a nice run through rounds, 64, 32 and even 16. How the brackets are aligned will paint a more clear picture for the Elite 8 and Final Four, but it won’t be surprised when they show up in both of those rounds.  

     For all of the team’s accomplishments, the program is staring down the barrel of some fairly significant NCAA violations. Five in total, all Level 1 or the most severe that can be issued. These stemming from  

an FBI investigation involving Kansa (for one) and Adidas. A former Adidas employee has gone on record that they made a payment of, $90K, to the family of a Kansas recruit, Billy Preston. He also payments totaling, $22.5K, to the guardian of, Silvio De Sousa. De Sousa is the Kansas player who earlier in the season was suspended twelve weeks for his involvement in a brawl between Kansas and Kansas State.   

     At this stage it’s the finger pointing battle. The FBI did their investigations and due diligence, the NCAA reviewed and handed down the sanctions and now, the Counsel for the university are drafting and submitting their denials. In the body of one response, Kansas stated, ‘While there’s no denying those with Adidas have broken criminal law, the University of Kansas and its employees should not be held responsible for their conduct.’ Never mind there seems to be proof that Coach Self was fairly familiar with the Adidas bagman. Or that, representation for, James Gatto, former Adidas executive, told a jury that his client did make payments to families only after it had been requested by, Coach. There’s more of the story that is readily available online and in court transcripts. 

     Coach Self takes the position he was unaware of anything. H also indicates it hasn’t gotten in his way or distracted him and he doesn’t see where it will in the near future. After all, there’s basketball to be played, tournaments to be won and most importantly, incentives to collect. 

     One element to consider in evaluating Kansas chances is if they will get the “whistle” in the Tournament. Will the NCAA instruct the Referee to in a subtle way give the opposing team the close calls in crucial situations ? 

     This situation can work at least two ways for the team. It can distract them or motivate them as they look into the future of potential sanctions which could ban them from post season tournament play. The latter part of 2020 will hold the answers to the future of the program. Coach Self, can feign ignorance or defer to the University’s Administration, who are also electing to feign innocence and ignorance, but it’s difficult to fathom. 

      Maybe I’m just a control freak, but as head coach or the guy in-charge of anything, I’m going to ask my support team to provide regular reports on each of their respective areas and I’m going to do my due diligence to make sure the business of the program is on the up and up. Either way, whether you were privy to and condoned payments or if you were unaware of how your staff was operating, you weren’t doing your job. Unfortunately, in the big dollar world of NCAA sports, it seems to be accepted that ethics and moral conduct can be manipulated as long as it gives one’s team the upper hand.   

By Raider Jim Martinez   

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