The University of Kansas Basketball program is off to a 4-0 start to their season and have moved all the way up to #3 in the latest associated press Top 25 poll. Many will not be surprised by the fast start to the season. However, some thought the beginning of the season could have been a bit rockier than it’s been.
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 is hoping these self-sanctions will be sufficient enough for the NCAA and that their hands will be washed of this particular issue.
During Self’s absence, assistant coach Norm Roberts led the team to that undefeated start to the season. The season tipped off with dominant wins over Omaha and North Dakota State. Then came a matchup in the Champions Classic against Duke. A gritty win against the Blue Devils was impressive for Roberts and the Jayhawks.
Then, in Roberts’ last game as the interim head coach for the team, the Jayhawks struggled defensively in an 82-76 win over Southern Utah. Jalen Wilson led the way with a career-high 33 points and freshman Gradey Dick added 18, including a huge three-pointer down the stretch, to boost the Jayhawks to their fourth straight win of the season and 11th win in a row dating back to last season.
Now Kansas will turn the page and move on to the next part of its non-conference schedule. It’s the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No one knows for sure, but Self jumping back into action when the team takes a trip to an island nation seems questionable at best. In all sincerity, the Jayhawks will welcome Self back with open arms and they will be ready to roll on Wednesday morning against North Carolina State.
The 11:00 am (CT) tipoff on ESPN will get things going in the Battle 4 Atlantis with three other games being played from early afternoon through primetime on ESPN2. If Kansas wins, they will play the winner of the Dayton vs Wisconsin game on the winner’s side of the bracket. 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 play one of four teams on the other side of the bracket: USC, BYU, Tennessee, or Butler. The matchup all depends on Kansas winning or losing on both Wednesday and Thursday. They’ll be hoping to play against one of those teams in the championship game which will be played at 6:30 CT on Friday, November 25th.
Something to keep an eye on will be Self’s starting lineup. Will he continue to roll out the same starting five they’ve been rolling with through the first four games of the season? Jalen Wilson, KJ Adams, Gradey Dick, Kevin McCullar Jr., and DaJuan Harris have started every game thus far and it’s assumed Self will keep the same lineup but it’s never a certainty.
Another thing to keep an eye on will be how Self utilizes his bench. So far, through four games, freshman Ernest Udeh Jr and MJ Rice are a couple of guys who haven’t got a ton of run yet but have played sparingly off the bench. They have shown promise in those limited reps but there’s also plenty of room for improvement as well. Bobby Pettiford appears to be the sixth man and he’s shown promise as a ball handler and even as a scorer at times. Self will make sure to keep his starters fresh as the season continues to play out and he has some new players at his disposal.
No matter 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 gear up for conference play. The Jayhawks are already ahead of schedule being ranked in the top three and they’ll continue to have a target on their back as they attempt to repeat as national champions for the first time in school history.