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Monday, January 18, 2021

Notebook: Pandemic continues to alter Big 12 schedule, TCU becomes latest team to pause basketball activities

Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) and Kansas forward David McCormack (33) reach for the tip off in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) and Kansas forward David McCormack (33) reach for the tip off in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

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The open week plugged into the end of Big 12 Conference men’s basketball schedules for potential make-up games is starting to get a little crowded.

As all 10 Big 12 teams continue to push on toward March, all but three of them (KU, Texas and Texas Tech) have been forced to pause basketball activities because of the ongoing pandemic at one point or another so far this season.

Even those programs that haven’t, including Kansas, have seen non-conference games canceled because of COVID-19 issues at other programs.

And as of Monday, the pauses have cost the conference eight games — three involving Iowa State this week alone, three involving West Virginia, two involving Oklahoma State, two involving Baylor, two involving Texas and one apiece for Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU.

TCU revealed Monday night that head coach Jamie Dixon tested positive, dragging the Horned Frogs into the group that has been forced to press the pause button.

There have been two main reasons for pausing basketball activities thus far.

The first and most obvious is players or coaches testing positive. The second is a program being unable to meet the roster minimums outlined by Big 12 protocols because of a combination of injuries, positive tests and contact tracing efforts that require quarantine.

When the 2020-21 season schedules were remade in late October, Big 12 Conference officials elected to begin conference play in early- and mid-December so the conference could use the week of Feb. 28 through March 7 to schedule make-up games, anticipating interruptions because of the pandemic.

Kansas coach Bill Self has said all along that he did not expect his team, or any other, to play all 18 Big 12 games on its schedule this season. And now that the Jayhawks are coming off of their first postponement — last Saturday versus Iowa State — that reality has hit a little closer to home.

The goal remains to get them all in, but that plan will become tougher and tougher with each new postponement in the weeks ahead.

From KU’s perspective, the goal is simple: Stay positive, test negative. That mantra is one Self and his coaching staff have lived by throughout the season.

“Sometimes that's a draining, zapping type deal,” Self said on a recent episode of “Hawk Talk” with Brian Hanni. “It’s different for coaches. I know it's different for fans. So there is something to the (idea that the) team that's the most disciplined and that can adjust and adapt would probably have the best chance for success.”

MLK honored

The Jayhawks warmed up on Monday night in black Adidas shirts that featured their favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, written in white on the front below the Adidas logo.

The special pregame gear was an initiative of the newly formed Big 12 Black Assistant Coaches Alliance, which was formed before the 2020-21 season.

The group was formed to work in concert with each member institution’s student-athlete development unit, with its goals being “to assist in educating, unifying, serving and supporting all Big 12 student-athletes and coaches.”

Baylor, a Nike school, featured similar shirts worn by its players during the pregame and on the bench.

Big Monday history

Most years, thanks to their national brand and the ratings they draw, the Jayhawks are automatically penciled in for four Big Monday games on ESPN.

This year, however, in a season with fewer games and uncertain schedules, Kansas is slated for just three Big Monday games total, including Monday’s matchup with Baylor.

The Jayhawks’ next two Big Monday battles — Feb. 8 vs. Oklahoma State and Feb. 22 at Texas — will provide the team two opportunities to avenge losses.

That has rarely been the case during KU’s time playing on ESPN’s showcase event.

Since the inception of the Big 12 during the 1996-97 season, KU is 73-19 all-time on Big Monday.

KU, which is 43-1 at home on Big Monday and 32-0 under Self on its home floor, has won 36 consecutive Big Monday games inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Jayhawks fall to No. 9 in AP poll

Kansas remained in the Associated Press Top 10 this week, falling three spots to No. 9 after a last week’s loss at Oklahoma State.

KU pushed its NCAA Division I record for consecutive weeks in the poll to 229, this coming on the same week that fellow blue blood program Duke dropped out of the poll for the first time since 2016.

In fact, neither Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina is ranked in this week's poll, marking just the 14th time in 1,213-week history of the poll that none of the three were ranked, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The last time it happened was Dec. 18, 1961, when the AP poll consisted of just 10 teams each week.

That fact is even more remarkable when you consider that those three teams ranked No. 9, No. 10 and No. 16 in this year’s preseason poll.

Unbeaten Gonzaga (14-0) and Baylor (12-0) held onto their spots at the top of the polls, with the Zags losing a first-place vote this week to Baylor. Villanoava (8-1) also stayed put at No. 3, with Iowa and Texas flipping spots at No. 4 and No. 5.

Texas Tech (12th) and West Virginia (14th) round out the Big 12 teams ranked in this week’s poll. Oklahoma State received 119 votes, essentially putting the Cowboys at No. 28.

This and that...

Monday’s loss dropped KU to 10-4 or worse for the first time since the 2013-14 season. KU had started 11-3 or better in each of the past six seasons... The Jayhawks are now 4-3 this season against ranked teams... KU also is 2-2 in true road games and 4-3 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse... The Jayhawks now lead the all-time series with Baylor, 33-7, including a 14-4 mark in games played in Waco, Texas. The Bears, however, have won three of the last six meetings between the two Big 12 powers and are 2-2 against the Jayhawks in their last four games at home... KU’s latest loss moves the program to 2,312-866 all-time (511-113 under Self), leaving them 10 wins behind Kentucky for the most in NCAA history.

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