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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Kansas coach Bill Self determined to find the right way to honor 2019-20 Jayhawks

Kansas head coach Bill Self laughs with members of his coaching staff as Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) tells a story about him during the senior speeches.

Kansas head coach Bill Self laughs with members of his coaching staff as Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) tells a story about him during the senior speeches.

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During the week that followed the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, the debate about whether to hang a banner at Allen Fieldhouse raged on among Kansas basketball fans.

And, in a way, KU coach Bill Self was right there with them.

photo

Nick Krug

Kansas head coach Bill Self hugs Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) as he is introduced to the Allen Fieldhouse crowd on Senior Night.

While Self, during a season-ending conference call with reporters earlier this week, did not come right out and say whether he thought KU should hang a banner for finishing as the No. 1 team in the country in nearly every meaningful ranking, the KU coach made it clear that finding some way to honor the 2019-20 team was weighing on his mind.

“There’s a ton of things that need to be done short term and long term,” Self said during the teleconference. “But the one thing that can’t be forgotten is how do you memorialize (the season)?” That’s something that has been talked about in the few staff meetings we’ve had since (the tournament was canceled) and that’s got to be something key for us to do.”

To date, no one has come up with an answer quite good enough for the Hall of Fame coach — including him.

“I don’t know exactly how we do it,” Self said. “I don’t know if we just do it within our own fan base. I don’t know if you do it through different podcasts or whatnot. But whatever we’ve come up with so far pales in comparison to (what) they actually deserve.”

Winners of 17 of 18 Big 12 Conference games and all but three of 31 games total, the top-ranked Jayhawks capped the season with a 16-game winning streak that both brought the Big 12 trophy back to Lawrence and positioned Kansas to enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

photo

Nick Krug

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) confer with officials during a second half timeout, Wednesday, March 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Per KenPom.com, KU ranked second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency. Kansas was the only team in the country to finish in the top 10 in both categories.

Beyond that, KU delivered the kind of stingy performance that registered as one of the best defensive seasons by a college basketball team in the past couple of decades.

Led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Garrett — who won the same honor from a couple of national outlets — the KU defense became the one thing this group could count on during good times and bad.

When the KU offense struggled, Garrett, Devon Dotson, Udoka Azubuike and Ochai Agbaji found a way to deliver on the defensive end.

When the KU offense was clicking, the Jayhawks absolutely crushed their opponents.

“How do you give credit to that effort and have it be recognized,” Self asked recently. “You’ve got a couple of players, or three players, that will not be back. Two of them are seniors (Azubuike and Isaiah Moss). One of them (Dotson) I’m sure will declare (for the NBA draft) even though it hasn’t happened yet.”

In short, no matter how good Kansas is next season or in the years ahead, Self and his coaching staff will never again have this exact version of the team in the locker room or on the court.

From banners and rings to future celebrations and even special recognition inside the KU locker room or men’s basketball offices, all ideas are on the table. And the only thing that Self truly cares about is that one of them, whatever it winds up being, seems fit to honor all of the things the 2019-20 team accomplished during the past five months.

“For this team to bring so much positive attention in a year in which we desperately needed positive attention, and to operate under pressure, operate with expectations and operate (with so many) distractions, I mean, this team deserves as much credit as any team I’ve ever coached,” Self said. “To think that could kind of get lost is very disappointing. We’ve got to find a way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Comments

Bryan Barton 1 week, 2 days ago

How could KU NOT hang a National Championship banner? We finished #1 in both polls, we would have been the #1 overall seed if there were an NCAA Tournament, and also #1 on KenPom, as well as #1 in the BPI. I say screw any critics and hang a banner. This team is that special. They deserve it.

Tony Bandle 1 week, 2 days ago

You certainly add 2020 to the conference titles banner and, maybe, all you have to do is hang a banner with the numbers 2019-2020.

Everyone in America will always know what it means, it does not violate any concerns regarding involvement with the NCAA and, in a way, it will stand out unique from every other banner in the Phog, just like the season it will represent.

Matt, maybe this is the answer Bill is looking for!!

Robert Robinson 1 week, 2 days ago

I'm not one to hand out participation trophies, but I agree with Tony, a 2019-2020 banner should be hung. Nothing more, nothing less. A reminder of a great team and a wild season

Art Jefferson 1 week, 2 days ago

Great idea Tony! I think any banner should say something like:

2019 - 2020 Final AP #1 Final Coaches #1 NCAA #1 Seed Overall

I don't know whether or not it should mention anything about not having a tournament.

Bville Hawk 1 week, 2 days ago

We already have national championship banners hanging for seasons pre-1939 (when the tournament started). There is no reason not to hang one now.

Chad Smith 1 week, 2 days ago

I hate to rain on the parade, but no, KU should not be awarded the national championship. Bill Self has already said as much. You can point to 1922 and 1923, but the that is 100 years ago and they have played the NCAA tournament since 1939, this has determined the champion ever since then. KU has gotten to that mountain top 3 times since then and it's the best way to determine a champion. It's the greatest single sports tournament in the world.

I agree with coach self that they need to be recognized in some way, but even he would agree you can't hang a national championship banner for this season. They didn't go through the gauntlet and earn that. It would feel disingenuous and serve only to appeal to our fanbase. It would also piss off every other team in the country as 67 other teams could lay claim to the opportunity.

Kansas basketball is full of leaders and winners and has a legacy and accepting something they didn't earn quite frankly just wouldn't be right. I love this team and loved this season, but let's not accept or campaign for something that we didn't earn through the method that is widely known and celebrated.

If you're a true KU Fan you know we can't claim the national championship, just be honest with yourself and celebrate the wonderful season we did have and celebrate the Big 12 Title that we did earn. Is that not enough for people?

Jeff Coffman 1 week, 1 day ago

In every year that there was not a tournament, votes were used to determine the champion. This year there was not a tournament, so just like pre-1939 we should vote on it...and would you believe it has been done and KU was voted the top team. Notice our banners don't say tournament champion or helms champions. They say national champions. Just like this team is...National Champions. No differentiation needed. 2019-2020 National Champions just like the other 5.

Blake Brown 1 week, 1 day ago

Hang a banner:

C- Champions O- over all V- Virus I- issue D-decisions 19-20 season

Gary Wirsig 1 week, 1 day ago

OK, I have to admit that took me a bit to figure out what you were saying. Pretty clever, though!

Blake Brown 1 week, 1 day ago

I had it linear which is much easier to discern, but it came out horizontal.

Kenneth Johnson 1 week, 1 day ago

Some say that, since there will be no tournament, KU will not (nor any pretenders) be named NCAA national champions this season. But, consider that there is no doubt that Kansas had the best regular season among all of Division I basketball teams. The Jayhawks defeated two of the other most accomplished teams, Dayton and Baylor (although Baylor got them once, as well). The Jayhawks had the best overall record, losing only three games and finishing on a 16-game winning streak, and they won the tough Big 12 Conference regular-season championship by two full games.

Among computer rankings, Kansas was No. 1 in the KenPom ratings (ahead of Gonzaga), No. 1 in the Sagarin ratings (ahead of Gonzaga), No. 1 in ESPN’s BPI (ahead of Duke), and No. 1 in ESPN’s Strength of Record (ahead of Baylor).

Even though KU is clearly the best team this year, some say it does not make them the champions, since in this sport, championships are won on the court. But, I say that, since there is no tournament, the championship can’t be won on the court, so why not officially say that KU is the national champion this season?

One problem for sure is that the NCAA will likely do everything they can to keep Kansas from being named national champs. Even though KU has no reason to cheat, the NCAA has postured bogus charges, and is actively pursuing them.

So, it’s obvious that the only answer is for the fans to decide. So, I’m casting my vote for the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team.

Kenn Johnson, Ph.D., (KU MS ’70) Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends (2013) and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends (2014), both published by The History Press, and available at KU Bookstores and Amazon.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

Kansas should hang a banner that the NCAA cannot take away. It should not say National Champions necessarily, but it should recognize their finish as the nation’s top team because these players earned that on the court. And there’s no doubt they were.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

Kansas 2019-2020 Consensus #1 Basketball Team (AP/Coaches)

Tony Bandle 1 week, 1 day ago

My compromise suggestion would be to hang a banner with the 2020 plus whatever ranking notation on it if you feel that is necessary [frankly, I don't], but do not hang it with the five official NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP Banners. Instead, hang it in a different prominent location where it will be easily recognized.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

Hang it with the rest of them. The asterisk can easily be signified by having blue lettering on a crimson field instead of white.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

100% historically accurate. And the best part? The NCAA can't touch it. (The polls are what the polls are, even if the wins are vacated.) This honors the team appropriately. It's the kind of banner you don't have to argue (e.g., whether or not Kansas was the National Champion or not). It simply states the reality at the conclusion of the season. Kansas for the win!

Joe Joseph 1 week, 1 day ago

If the shoe were on the other foot, how would we all be reacting? If Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina finished the year #1... Would we be, like, "yeah, that makes sense" or would we mock them and laugh at their silly self-gratifying banner?

Genuine question.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

Hold the phone.

Are you suggesting Duke, Kentucky, and UNC haven't acted in their self-interest before? Or that we haven't mocked any of them?

I don't get your point.

Joe Joseph 1 week, 1 day ago

Are you being intentionally obtuse?

The banner would mean nothing to anyone else. It’s meaningless. We would never recognize any other program as “national champions” that wasn’t awarded by the NCAA or other outside organization. It would be a joke.

Recognize the team. Make a plaque or something. But don’t raise a banner next to the other ones.

Joe Ross 1 week, 1 day ago

Obtuse?

Here's a news flash.

WE DON'T HANG BANNERS IN OUR ARENA FOR OTHER PEOPLE!

The meaning of the banners in Allen Field House is for JAYHAWKS. No one else.

"Obtuse". laughs

Joe Ross 1 week ago

Are you interested in answering my question or is this deflection? Once again, are you suggesting Duke, Kentucky, and UNC haven't acted in their own self-interest at times when they could have potentially opened themselves up to mockery?

Dane Pratt 1 week ago

I like Tony's idea but hang it next to the national title banners, everyone will know what it means. As much as I want a title and think we deserve it, we shouldn't give one to ourselves. It needs to be from a third party like the AP, Coaches poll or NABC and does not require an endorsement from the NCAA.

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