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Kansas planning to fill open dates on men's basketball schedule created by Pac-12 postponement

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Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) gets past Colorado's McKinley Wright IV, right, to shoot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) gets past Colorado's McKinley Wright IV, right, to shoot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) by Associated Press

Schedules were in flux around the nation this past week after the Pac-12 Conference canceled its sporting events through at least the end of the year because of COVID-19 — and Kansas was no exception, with two Pac-12 foes on the men's basketball slate.

But about 24 hours after the Pac-12's announcement on Tuesday, Athletic Director Jeff Long was already in discussions with head basketball coach Bill Self and KU administrator Sean Lester about how to fill the open dates left by USC and Colorado.

“We’re looking at it; we’re trying to look creatively at how we might handle those, (and) we are certainly engaged in (filling) that basketball schedule,” Long said during a Wednesday teleconference with local media members.

Kansas was originally scheduled to host USC and play at Colorado in mid-December, and Long said he hoped to fill both open dates but that no moves had been made at this point.

“We have many options that we can choose,” Long said. “It’s just kind of what coach Self wants to do to build the schedule, whether we play them at home, whether we get a creative tournament. All things are on the table at this point.”

One factor that Long said would weigh heavily into the decision was how soon KU officials would know how many fans would be allowed in Allen Fieldhouse for games.

KU is still finalizing its attendance plans for football games at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in 2020, and Long said Wednesday that he expected the approved attendance capacity for KU’s home football games to be below 50%. But that number has no direct bearing on what might happen with basketball.

“We’re a long way from knowing what those numbers are,” Long said. “Because we’ve got a lot of time before we play that first game.”

KU is currently scheduled to open the season on Nov. 10 in Chicago, with the first home game slated for Nov. 13 against Southern Utah at Allen Fieldhouse.

Early last week, NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt told college basketball analyst Andy Katz that the NCAA was eyeing an on-time start for the 2020-21 college basketball season. That was before the Pac-12 announced its plan to shut things down until January.

The Pac-12’s recent decision created another potential wrinkle in KU’s men’s basketball schedule. Kansas is slated to play in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, Calif., in November, but Long said it's hard to see that event happening, because UCLA was one of the four teams (along with KU, Georgetown and Virginia) scheduled to be at the event.

“I think, sitting here today, it would be very difficult for that game to be played due to the current COVID virus situation,” Long said.

Pairings for the Wooden Legacy tournament have not yet been announced.

As for the start of the season, which typically tips off with Late Night in the Phog in early October, Long said on Wednesday that he had "no knowledge that we aren't going to have Late Night."

"That's the best way I can answer that," he said. "Our team works on that many, many, many months in advance, and I know they've been working on it. But I haven't heard anything recently about a date and anything beyond that."

One possibility, if an in-person Late Night at Allen Fieldhouse is not possible because of the pandemic, is for KU to host some kind of virtual Late Night.

Several KU athletic programs have conducted virtual recruiting visits throughout the past few months, and KU broadcaster Brian Hanni, who annually hosts the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, has changed the format of that event to a virtual 3-point shooting contest between some of the best shooters in Kansas history.

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