After KU Basketball’s Season Ends, What’s Next For 2023-24?
The Jayhawks entered March Madness with the third best odds to win the title at 8-1, behind only behind Houston at 6-1 and Alabama at 7-1.
In their second-round game against Arkansas, Kansas was –179 moneyline favorite. Despite that, the Jayhawks struggled down the stretch and lost the game to the 8th seeded Razorbacks 72-71.
After entering the tournament as the top seed in the West division, Kansas beat No. 16 Howard 96-68. But the Razorbacks’ defense down the stretch prevented the Jayhawks from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Kansas was not the only team upset in this year’s March Madness tournament.
The tournament, which along with Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series was labeled by USALegalBetting “as one of the top sport betting events in the US” has already seen Perdue, Arizona Virginia, and Missouri all knocked out before the third round.
In many ways, the parity in college basketball has created incredible March Madness Tournaments in recent years, with plenty of upsets.
Bill Self’s Absence and Future are Worth Discussing
Perhaps the biggest mystery concerning the Jayhawks’ inability to make the Sweet Sixteen comes down to the loss of head coach Bill Self. During the first two rounds, Self was missing from the sidelines due to his continuing recovery from surgery to place two stents inside arteries connecting to the heart.
Self made the trip with the team to Des Moines, where Kansas played their first two games, but did not feel well enough to man the sidelines in either tournament contest.
Self’s longtime assistant coach Norm Roberts took Self’s place. For Roberts, the Arkansas loss was the fifth straight game as the interim head coach for Kansas.
Roberts made no excuses after the game concerning the lack of their head coach.
“Our guys have been terrific all year,” Roberts said according to ESPN. “They fought to the very end, made huge plays. It was tough not having Coach here, but we don’t make any excuses. We have to line up and get it done, and we came up a little bit short today.”
Despite 28 total wins, Kansas did not come close to being the first back-to-back National Champions in over 30 years.
And now with Self’s health of concern, questions will arise this offseason as to what his short and long-term plan might be when it comes to his coaching tenure at KU. He’s one of the top coaches in the sport with one of the best jobs in the sport, but we’ve seen more coaches, such as Villanova’s Jay Wright, hang it up at a similar age in the last year.
The pressures have always been there for coaches, but add in Name, Image and Likeness, along with the chaotic transfer portal, and it’s fair to wonder if coaches will want to continue on at the same pace they have in the past.
On the Court in 2023-24
Only two players were on honored on senior night — Wilson and McCullar. Wilson has a COVID waiver he can use, but he seems likely to take his shot at the NBA. McCullar is out of eligibility.
But Kanas has two other players listed as seniors or super-seniors on the roster — Michael Jankovich and Cam Martin. Jankovich is an invited walk-on who has been on the roster for four years. Martin missed most of the season due to injury, but he’s used his redshirt and his COVID waiver. Unless he gets an injury waiver, he may well be done. Self said in March that Martin will pursue an injury waiver.
Gradey Dick is the other player to watch. A projected first-round pick in the NBA Draft, he could opt to leave early. He would not say which way he was leaning after the Jayhawks’ loss to Arkansas.
Harris and Adams will be the core returnees next season. If Dick returns, that’s a bonus for Kansas. From there, the Jayhawks expect to have Pettiford, Yesufu, Udeh, Ejiofor, guard Kyle Cuffe Jr., guard MJ Rice, guard Wilder Evers, guard Charlie McCarthy, forward Zach Clemence and forward Dillon Wilhite. We should note that Evers, McCarthy and Wilhite are walk-ons. So that’s nine scholarship players without Dick. If he returns, that’s 10. If Martin gets his waiver, that’s 11.
The Jayhawks hauled in a pretty typical recruiting class. All three recruits are in the Top 100 in 247Sports.com’s rankings — point guard Elmarko Jackson, combo guard Chris Johnson and shooting guard Jamari McDowell. The class was ranked No. 10 by 247Sports.com.
Oh, make that four. The day after Kansas lost its second-round NCAA Tournament game, the Jayhawks got a gift — 2024 commit Marcus Adams Jr. announced he was going to reclassify for the 2023 Class.
So, as they say, the rich get richer.
Kansas will be a contender in 2023-24, but the questions around Bill Self and Gradey Dick are huge ones that will determine the short and long-term success of the program.