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Jayhawks jump 2 spots to No. 7 in latest AP poll

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) looks for a foul while celebrating a bucket by the Jayhawks with Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) looks for a foul while celebrating a bucket by the Jayhawks with Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A pair of home victories over Iowa State and West Virginia vaulted the Kansas men's basketball team (14-2) up two spots in this week's Associated Press Top 25.

Former No. 1 Baylor (15-2), which dropped home games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State last week, remained the top-ranked team in the Big 12, falling four spots to No. 5.

Three other Big 12 programs — No. 15 Iowa State, No. 18 Texas Tech and No. 23 Texas — also landed in this week's Top 25, with West Virginia, Oklahoma and TCU also receiving votes.

KU will play at Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN.

Gonzaga jumped into the top spot, with Auburn climbing to No. 2, marking its highest ranking since the 1999-2000 season. Arizona, Purdue and Baylor rounded out this week's top five, with Duke, KU, Wisconsin, UCLA and Houston filling spots 6-10.

After falling on the road to Texas Tech on Jan. 8, the Jayhawks (14-2) bounced back with a tough win over No. 15 Iowa State three days later and a runaway win over West Virginia last weekend.

KU led WVU by just two at halftime but responded with one of its best halves of the season in the second half to win 85-59.

After traveling to Oklahoma and Kansas State (3 p.m. Saturday) in its next two games, the Jayhawks will jump into what could go down as their toughest stretch of the season, with five consecutive games against ranked teams on the schedule between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7.

Here's a look at this week's complete AP Top 25:

1 - Gonzaga, 14-2, 1,486 (25)

2 - Auburn, 16-1, 1,482 (36)

3 - Arizona, 14-1, 1,320

4 - Purdue, 14-2, 1,255

5 - Baylor, 15-2, 1,238

6 - Duke, 14-2, 1,205

7 - Kansas, 14-2, 1,192

8 - Wisconsin, 14-2, 1,056

9 - UCLA, 11-2, 1,041

10 - Houston, 15-2, 1,036

11 - Villanova, 13-4, 908

12 - Kentucky, 14-3, 804

13 - LSU, 15-2, 738

14 - Michigan State, 14-3, 681

15 - Iowa State, 14-3, 665

16 - USC, 14-3, 618

17 - Illinois, 13-3, 521

18 - Texas Tech, 13-4, 509

19 - Ohio State, 11-4, 465

20 - Xavier, 13-3, 427

21 - Providence, 14-2, 350

22 - Loyola Chicago, 13-2, 193

23 - Texas, 13-4, 185

24 - Tennessee, 11-5, 98

25 - UConn, 11-4, 73

Others receiving votes: Iowa 56, BYU 50, Davidson 34, Alabama 26, San Diego St. 25, Miami 21, Oregon 15, West Virginia 14, Colorado St. 13, Texas A&M 10, Oklahoma 7, TCU 4, North Carolina 2, Indiana 2.

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How KU plans to handle, enforce latest mask mandate at Allen Fieldhouse

The Kansas student section looks to disrupt a Missouri free-throw during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas student section looks to disrupt a Missouri free-throw during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Late last week, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod sent a message to the campus community stressing that Douglas County’s new mask mandate does include Allen Fieldhouse.

But there’s more at stake for Kansas basketball fans who don’t comply with the mask mandate than just disappointing Girod.

According to a page on the official Kansas Athetics web site titled “Mask Mandate – Implications for Allen Fieldhouse,” there is a strict set of rules and consequences for wearing and not wearing masks at upcoming KU basketball games. Those fans who violate those rules could be removed from the venue.

The page notes that “if fans do not comply with the mandate, additional measures will have to be taken, (including) closing concessions and decreasing fan attendance at men’s basketball games.”

But the Q&A section spells out in much greater detail everything that will go into the mask requirement and KU’s policing of it, starting with Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game against Iowa State.

The most noteworthy part of that section is what KU calls a “Three strike policy,” which carries a maximum penalty of fan removal from Allen Fieldhouse.

Here’s a look:

Strike 1: Usher warning

Strike 2: Event Staff Supervisor warning

Strike 3: Removal team (public safety and event supervisor)

Under the section explaining Strike 3, the site notes that “these employees are trained in the art of ‘ejection.’”

“If fans do not comply with this mandate, they will be removed from Allen Fieldhouse,” the site reads.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic — be it when Allen Fieldhouse had a mask recommendation or a mask requirement — KU notes that fans must be wearing a mask at all times except while actively eating or drinking.

The word “actively” is written in all caps for emphasis, and the rule references that if too many fans “try to pretend they are actively eating or drinking” that could lead to the closure of concessions stands at future games.

“There are a number of arenas around the country that have closed concessions at basketball games for this exact reason,” the site notes.

When asked about Girod’s message last week, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said the mandate was not a threat but rather reflected the reality of the current landscape, with the omicron variant pushing the latest COVID surge.

Self said last Friday that he would coach in a mask if those were the rules, and he did exactly that during KU’s loss at Texas Tech over the weekend.

“It is important to remember the reason behind this mask mandate,” the site reads. “KU and Allen Fieldhouse are looking to play an important role in protecting the community by doing our part to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant. If our fans comply, as we expect them all to, our hope is to significantly slow the spread of this virus.”

For his part, Self made a plea for fan cooperation by reminding them of what they could be missing out on if people do not comply.

“If you like attending KU basketball games, which 16,000 do every single time we play, then you’re going to have to mask up and respect that,” Self said. “And if we respect it and handle it right, hopefully in the very near future that will be given back to us (and) we don’t have to do that (anymore).”

The KU men are scheduled to play back-to-back home games this week against Iowa State on Tuesday and West Virginia on Saturday. They’ll play two more home games at the end of January — Jan. 24 vs. Texas Tech and Jan. 29 vs. Kentucky.

The KU women’s team is on the road for its next two games but still has two home games scheduled this month — Jan. 16 vs. Baylor and Jan. 22 vs. Texas Tech.

Reply 15 comments from Dirk Medema Rodney Crain Bill Pitcher Ben Berglund Chris Fleck Bryce Landon Sae36 Mallory Briggans Bret Eckert

KU senior Ochai Agbaji enjoys jersey retirement ceremony at old high school

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) smiles after a three pointer over Stephen F. Austin guard Latrell Jossell (10) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) smiles after a three pointer over Stephen F. Austin guard Latrell Jossell (10) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji on Thursday night was back at his old high school as one of the guests of honor for a special ceremony featuring his old uniform.

Agbaji, who starred at Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., before continuing his basketball career at KU, watched with pride as his jersey was retired at Oak Park during the school’s game against North Kansas City.

With the blast from his past encased in glass, with his No. 30 in light blue on the white jersey, Agbaji shared the moment with fans on hands and then shared his thoughts with a couple of local television stations.

“It means a lot,” he told KMBC 9 News.

“This is my why, why I keep striving to be great, because I know all these people are watching,” he told FOX 4. “I feel the support, I feel the love and that’s what keeps me going.”

Agbaji’s Oak Park story is as unique as it is special. He left the school’s halls as its all-time leading scorer but did not become a target for Kansas or many other Division I basketball programs until his senior season.

Unranked by all of the national recruiting sites, Agbaji jumped into the rankings in the big way after committing to Kansas, climbing into the Rivals.com picture at No. 141.

His story from there is now well-known by Kansas fans. He planned to redshirt as a freshman, but came into the picture midway through the 2018-19 season to help a roster impacted by injuries. Immediately, he showed off his athleticism, charisma, drive and personality.

He has started 90 games in a row since then — good for eight all-time on KU’s consecutive starts list — and, on Thursday, was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List, featuring the top 25 players in college basketball this season.

His 1,183 career points have him in a tie for 40th place on KU’s all-time scoring list — with room to climb — and his 184 career 3-pointers currently have him in the top 10 on KU’s all-time 3-point shooting list.

Beyond that, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had him listed at No. 14 in the 2022 NBA Draft in his most released mock draft which was published on Thursday.

“I’m not sure what more Ochai Agbaji has to do to get people to buy into him in the public sector,” Vecenie wrote. “He’s averaging 20 points and five rebounds while shooting 50% from the field and 45% from 3. He’s a potential first-team All-American. These guys go in the top 20 typically when they fit well within the NBA construct.”

With his size, strength and athleticism, Agbaji does just that. But talk to anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you that, through it all, he has remained the same friendly, outgoing, people-person type of player he was when he was wearing Oak Park colors all those years ago.

None by PJ Green

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Kansas great Mario Chalmers set to rejoin the Miami Heat

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives around Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives around Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

As a wave of positive COVID-19 test results takes it toll on the NBA, the predicament has opened the door for one former Jayhawk to jump back into the league.

According to a repot from The Associated Press, the Miami Heat have used 15 players this season and right now, no more than five of those are available to play.

As a result, the Heat signed three replacement players on Thursday and were closing in on other deals, including one with former Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers — who started on the Heat's NBA championship teams in 2012 and 2013.

Chalmers last played for Miami in November of 2015. His last game in the NBA at all came with Memphis in April of 2018.

Injuries and age in recent years caught up with the hero of KU's national-title-game victory over Memphis at the 2008 Final Four. That drove him out of the league and left him looking for other places to keep playing. Between rehab stints and opportunities overseas, Chalmers kept working and always kept hope alive that he would return to the NBA for at least a small stint before calling it a career.

On Christmas day, Chalmers tweeted that he was "playing for a call up," adding, "That's all I want, Santa lol."

Nobody could've foreseen the pandemic as the event that would lead to him reaching that goal, but now that it has, Chalmers is excited about the opportunity.

“I'm ready," he told The Associated Press. “I think this is more emotion than anything, showing that I've been really working behind the scenes and not just talking about it. I definitely feel good enough to help the team win."

Chalmers' contract is believed to be of the 10-day variety, like many of the players the Heat recently signed. At least temporarily, he will join former KU guard Marcus Garrett on Miami's NBA roster.

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Former Kansas forward Gethro Muscadin involved in serious car wreck

University of New Mexico coach Richard Pitino on Thursday sent out a request for prayers for former Kansas basketball forward Gethro Muscadin, who was involved in a serious car wreck Wednesday night.

Details about the accident were initially scarce, but KU coach Bill Self, who rarely tweets, said on Twitter that it was a one-car accident involving Gethro and a friend.

The rest of Self’s tweet read: “He, his friend, and their families need a miracle. Please lift them up as Gethro fights for his life.”

Pitino also classified Muscadin’s condition as “fighting for his life.”

“Every prayer matters right now. So tragic and devastating,” Pitino added.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the accident took place near Topeka. It is believed that Muscadin and a friend were on their way to Wichita.

On Friday, Self provided an update on the situation, noting that Muscadin's friend was driving the vehicle.

“It’s not good guys," Self said Friday. "Fortunately, the driver is, I believe, going to be OK, but Gethro, he’s definitely fighting for his life. And it would be a very, very, very, very long recovery if he’s able to get through this. So, praying for a miracle.”

The incident comes just a few days after Pitino announced that Muscadin was leaving the Lobos program, citing that the two agreed it was not the right fit for him.

The 6-foot-10 native of Haiti transferred to New Mexico after electing to leave Lawrence following his true freshman season at KU earlier this year. He was one of five underclassmen on KU’s 2020-21 roster who transferred to a new school after last season.

In 12 games so far this season, Muscadin was averaging 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He was the team’s fourth leading scorer and had started nine of the 12 games in which he played.

None by Bill Self

None by Richard Pitino

None by coach Von

None by Jeremy Kipness

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Kansas basketball coach Bill Self confident season will continue; says patience and ‘scrambling’ may be necessary

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs gestures during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against St. John's on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Elmont, N.Y. Kansas won 95-75. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs gestures during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against St. John's on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Elmont, N.Y. Kansas won 95-75. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

You don’t earn an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame without being able to think ahead a little bit.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self showed recently that his ability to do just that extends beyond anticipating an in-game adjustment or tweaking the scouting report.

He also can use the skill to his advantage when it comes to KU’s schedule.

Speaking on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show on Monday night, Self explained to listeners that he actually anticipated the cancellation of the Harvard game and had developed a plan to combat it.

It involved a rematch with Stephen F. Austin and, according to Self, the game had been agreed to by both Self and longtime friend and SFA coach Kyle Keller.

“I saw their (Thursday) game (vs. Rio Grande Valley) was already canceled and I said to him, ‘If ours (vs. Harvard) is canceled, why don’t we just play again?’ He agreed to it.”

Everything was in place for a fairly easy transition and when Harvard pulled out of the game on Sunday night, Self called Keller and told him the game was on. There was, however, one problem. Keller’s SFA squad had experienced a positive COVID-19 test of its own, forcing the Lumberjacks to shut down for a few days and making a return trip to Allen Fieldhouse impossible to execute.

From there, KU administrator Sean Lester moved quickly to identify Nevada as an option — “scrambling around” was the way Self worded it — and the two schools moved forward with hammering out the details of the game, which will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Self said finding pilots and a crew to fly the Wolf Pack in was the biggest obstacle, but once they did, Nevada was scheduled for a Tuesday arrival ahead of Wednesday’s contest.

The sixth-ranked Jayhawks (9-1) returned from a four-day holiday break on Sunday and practiced once Sunday night and twice on Monday.

Self did not reveal whether the Jayhawks all tested for COVID upon their return but he did indicate that most college programs, including KU, were testing only when symptoms were present.

“It’s different with the big boys and how they do it,” Self said of testing protocols with professional teams. “A lot of (universities) are testing whenever you have symptoms or you test the unvaccinated or unboostered. Fortunately for us, we’ve had good success there. When you have symptoms you have to get tested. We had six of us, including myself, who all had symptoms two weeks ago. (All six) tested (positive) for the flu. Nobody tested obviously for the variant or COVID. It’s a different protocol. If you have the flu you are out 48 hours. You can’t have a fever (and return).”

Self expressed confidence in the fact that the Jayhawks season would remain in tact even if it requires some creative scheduling and patience.

“We’re going to have a season,” he said. “It’s just going to be kind of messy for the next three to four weeks probably. I really think by the end of January this will all even out and we’ll have a pretty regular season. It’s just going to be uncomfortable for the next month, in my opinion. It could be longer. The way this thing (variant) is spreading, I’d be surprised if not too many don’t have it or haven’t had it by February.”

As for filling the hole left by the cancellation of the Colorado game on Dec. 21 that started the wild stretch of scheduling adjustments, Self said the Jayhawks could find another opponent to fill that slot if more cancellations take place during the Big 12 season, leaving the Jayhawks with a single game or less during any given week.

The new game, if it happens, will not be against Colorado and likely will be the result of the same type of “scrambling around” that Lester and the KU program did this week to land Nevada. In all likelihood, any added games from this point forward would take place at Allen Fieldhouse.

“It’d be a home game and a bonus game, so to speak,” Self said Monday night. “If it’s best for our team, we’ll try to do so. If there are no cancellations the rest of the way that game will not be replaced. I’m not going to play three games in one week just to get in another game.”

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Oklahoma State — KU’s 2nd Big 12 opponent — reschedules conference opener because of Cowboys’ COVID issues

Members of the Kansas basketball team warm up Jan. 19, 2016, at Gallagher-Iba Arena, in Stillwater, Okla., prior to the Jayhawks' game at Oklahoma State.

Members of the Kansas basketball team warm up Jan. 19, 2016, at Gallagher-Iba Arena, in Stillwater, Okla., prior to the Jayhawks' game at Oklahoma State. by Nick Krug

Citing “basketball game threshold guidelines,” the Big 12 Conference on Monday announced that the Oklahoma State men’s basketball program’s conference opener against Texas has been moved to Jan. 13.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, when the rest of the conference opens Big 12 play, the game was moved because of COVID-19 issues with the OSU program, according to a Monday report in The Oklahoman.

Oklahoma State’s Big 12 opener — and next game — is now slated for Jan. 4, when the Cowboys play host to No. 6 Kansas at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Tipoff for that game is slated for 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Like Kansas, the Cowboys’ most recent game took place Dec. 18, when they lost to Houston in a neutral-site contest in Fort Worth, Texas.

OSU (7-4) was supposed to play USC in Oklahoma City on Dec. 21, but that game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the Trojans’ program.

The Big 12 recently tweaked its 2021-22 season COVID-19 protocols to allow teams to adjust and better manage the surge of the omicron COVID-19 variant. Rather than the afflicted team being forced to forfeit in the event of a cancellation, the conference said efforts would be made to reschedule games impacted by the pandemic.

The Oklahoma State women’s program also canceled a Tuesday contest with Tulsa because of COVID-19 issues.

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Creighton, Nebraska, Washburn and other possible Harvard replacements for Kansas basketball

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It’s virtually impossible to know what the Kansas men’s basketball program might be thinking as it seeks to find a replacement for Wednesday’s canceled game against Harvard.

But the Jayhawks are determined to fill the slot. And common sense tells me that there are two important factors that will go a long way in dictating who — if anyone — the Jayhawks bring in to take Harvard’s place.

1 – Proximity

2 – Availability

Given the current landscape of college basketball, it would make a great deal of sense for the Jayhawks to look local before expanding their search outside of a 200- to 300-mile radius.

Kansas coach Bill Self said last week, after the Colorado cancellation, that the Jayhawks could play anybody — even a program like Division II Washburn — if it became necessary to fill a spot in their schedule.

It’s worth noting that Washburn is off until Jan. 1, but with the Big 12 Conference opener arriving on Jan. 1 (4 p.m. vs. TCU at Allen Fieldhouse), it would make more sense for seventh-ranked Kansas (9-1) to try to find a Division I opponent first.

Washburn coach Brett Ballard, a former KU guard, told the Journal-World late Sunday night that the Ichabods were not an option because they had already exhausted their annual limit of exhibition games. The two teams played each other last season, as part of KU's remade schedule, and the game counted for Kansas but did not count on Washburn's overall record.

Still, the Jayhawks could look fairly local in their search.

Programs like Missouri State, Kansas City, Creighton, Nebraska, Drake, St. Louis and even Wichita State all would make a ton of sense.

Of that group, Creighton might make the most sense. The Bluejays, who were slated to play host to Georgetown on Tuesday, just saw that game get canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the Hoyas program.

So, like Kansas, Creighton is now off until Jan. 1.

Former Big Eight/Big 12 brother Nebraska also would make some sense. The Huskers don't have another game on their schedule until Jan. 2, and there's already a relationship between NU coach Fred Hoiberg and the KU program.

The Huskers already have played Colorado, Creighton, NC State, Michigan, Indiana, Auburn and Kansas State this season and are 6-7 heading into the week.

Missouri State plays Thursday vs. Evangel and then Sunday vs. Drake. And Drake has a home game slated for Tuesday. So they’re both out.

SLU, which had its Dec. 22 game against Drake in Las Vegas canceled, is slated to travel to UMass on Thursday.

Wichita State is scheduled to play at East Carolina on Wednesday, so the in-state clash is out, as well.

A source told me late Sunday night that Kansas City coach Billy Donlon would be interested in the game, but the Roos are slated to play host to Omaha on Thursday. Although the home game makes it easier — and the paycheck makes it appealing — the logistics of that could be tough.

Remember, last year, when the Jayhawks added UTEP to the schedule late in the season, one of the big factors was whether the team being added to the schedule could follow Big 12 testing protocols.

With vaccinations in play this season, that might not be quite as critical. But there’s no doubt that proper testing would factor in in a big way.

If you're looking for a team to keep an eye on that's outside of the area, Nevada, which just lost its Wednesday game against San Jose State, would be a good program to monitor. The Wolf Pack, like Creighton, would be an absolute upgrade on the schedule and likely would provide KU with the kind of challenge they covet in the final tune-up before Big 12 play.

Nevada is ranked No. 77 in the current KenPom.com rankings, while Creighton sits at No. 46. KenPom currently lists Harvard at No. 173.

Nevada is coached by former Indiana standout Steve Alford, who is in his third year leading the program after stints at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA.

Stay in touch with KUsports.com for the latest on KU’s attempt to find a replacement for Harvard.

Reply 11 comments from Marc Bryant Sae36 Rodney Crain Armen Kurdian James Miller Dirk Medema Benny Armstrong Gmill888 Ashwingrao Doug Roberts

Jayhawks still 7th in latest AP poll

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) comes to congratulate Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) after Martin got an and-one bucket during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) comes to congratulate Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) after Martin got an and-one bucket during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The team that finished the 2020-21 college basketball season on top remains in the No. 1 spot in this week’s Associated Press poll.

The unbeaten Baylor Bears (10-0) received 60 of the 61 first-place votes in this week’s poll, with No. 6 Arizona (11-0) getting the other.

The Kansas Jayhawks, winners of five in a row since their late-November loss to Dayton, stayed in the No. 7 spot.

Baylor, Duke and Purdue all stayed put in the top three spots in this week’s poll, with No. 4 Gonzaga and No. 5 UCLA flip-flopping spots to round out the top five.

USC, Iowa State and Alabama joined Arizona and Kansas in this week’s top 10.

In the Big 12, Texas (8-2) moved up one spot to No. 16 and Texas Tech (8-2) stayed at No. 25. Oklahoma and West Virginia were the first two teams receiving votes, putting the Big 12 on the verge of having six teams in the top 25.

Oklahoma State was also on the “receiving votes” list, putting the Cowboys in the top 40 nationally.

Here’s a look at the complete poll:

1 – Baylor, 10-0 (60), 1,524

2 – Duke, 10-1, 1,445

3 – Purdue, 10-1, 1,360

4 – Gonzaga, 9-2, 1,313

5 – UCLA, 9-1, 1,294

6 – Arizona, 11-0 (1), 1,230

7 – Kansas, 9-1, 1,210

8 – USC, 12-0, 937

9 – Iowa State, 11-0, 926

10 – Alabama, 9-2, 897

11 – Michigan State, 9-2, 822

12 – Auburn, 10-1, 782

13 – Houston, 10-2, 780

14 – Ohio State, 8-2, 744

15 – Seton Hall, 9-2, 693

16 – Texas, 8-2, 569

17 – LSU, 11-0, 542

18 – Xavier, 11-1, 469

19 – Tennessee, 8-2, 447

20 – Kentucky, 8-2, 428

21 – Colorado State, 10-0, 328

22 – Providence, 11-1, 266

23 – Villanova, 7-4, 222

24 – Wisconsin, 9-2, 182

25 – Texas Tech, 8-2, 86

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma 65, West Virginia 57, Connecticut 55, Illinois 49, Loyola Chicago 42, Arkansas 9, Michigan 9, BYU 8, North Carolina 7, San Francisco 6, Wake Forest 5, Oklahoma State 4, Virginia Tech 4, Iowa 3, Minnesota 3, Creighton 2, Memphis 1

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Kansas guard Remy Martin gets what he needs to do to become more consistent; can he do it?

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) defends against a three from Stephen F. Austin guard David Kachelries (4) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) defends against a three from Stephen F. Austin guard David Kachelries (4) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Up to this point, it has always seemed like the Kansas men’s basketball team had time to allow transfer guard Remy Martin to get comfortable and find his footing.

And, in many ways, he has done just that. Although he'd be the first to tell you that he has not be perfect, that adjustment time, in good moments and bad, has been used wisely.

But time is quickly running out. The tune-ups are fast disappearing and conference play is now just 12 days away. We all know that what happens during the Big 12 regular season is not the end-all, be-all of any Kansas basketball season.

But there’s also no denying that the program puts a great deal of emphasis on it, both because it’s the first opportunity to win a championship each season and because of the preparation it provides and lessons it teaches for the big tournament in March.

There will still be time throughout the 18-game Big 12 gauntlet for Martin to learn and grow. But the margin for error will be much smaller than it has been thus far. And Kansas coach Bill Self’s patience with his talented guard’s head-scratching moments and miscues figures to wear a little thinner, as well.

Martin knows that. And his comments following Saturday’s tough win over Stephen F. Austin demonstrated that getting it right and putting it all together sooner rather than later does mean something to him.

In a matter of 30 minutes, Self and Martin stepped to the postgame podium separately and said awfully similar things about Martin’s game, which featured a game-clinching 3-pointer.

Asked about his less-than-enthusiastic reaction to looking at the box score in front of him, Martin said his frustration with himself, despite the victory and big shot late, went beyond anything that was recorded on that piece of paper.

“(It’s about the) little things that I know in a game that I just have to be better at,” Martin began. “I really do. And I know that.”

The tone of Martin’s voice during the, “I really do,” portion of that comment demonstrated how much it matters to him.

Remember, this is a guy who came to Kansas for his final season of college basketball because he always dreamed of playing here and he believed he could win a national title with the Jayhawks. His desire to do right and win big cannot be questioned.

But by being asked to focus more on defending and emphasize different elements of the game than he’s used to, he’s being asked to break at least 4 years — and quite possibly as many as 8-10 years — of habits that had become second nature to him.

He’s a gambler. He’s a high-risk, high-reward ballplayer. He’s a flashy, flamboyant, fiery competitor. And for the most part, every coach or teammate he has been around for the past decade or so has absolutely loved that about him. Self loves it, too. He just wants him to be more sound and consistent while doing it. Particularly on defense.

Again, that’s something Martin understands. And if it were as simple as flipping a switch to fix it, he would have hit the darn thing back in August. It’s not, though. It takes time. And both Martin and Self have done a pretty darn good job of allowing the process to play out as naturally as possible during the past couple of months.

But now, as the Jayhawks prepare to shift to a new portion of their season following Tuesday's game at Colorado and next week's nonconference tilt versus Harvard, the expectations will change ever so slightly.

Self will expect Martin to be better and more consistent, from possession to possession and game to game. Martin, who suddenly has a maximum of just 30 games remaining in his college career, will expect the same and try like heck to make it happen.

“I’ve just got to be better on the defensive end and be smarter on some plays,” he said after the Stephen F. Austin victory. “It’s on to the next game. We won. But I’ve got to be better, making sure I’m held accountable. When I pick up the energy and play defense and do the little things, I think that helps us a lot.”

Asked on the ESPN+ broadcast after Saturday's win how important connecting with the fans on game night is to him, Martin again showed that, despite the win and the clutch shot, he still has higher expectations for himself and his game.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "I play this game with a lot of emotion. I genuinely love these fans. I love the sport. That's No. 1. I just love playing. But these fans give me some type of energy that I can't explain. I played terrible, man. I didn't like the way I played. My energy was off the first half. But seeing this, it's hard not to want to give your all to the fans and to the game itself."

Martin now has two more nonconference opportunities to do that — starting with Colorado in Boulder at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night — and then it's on to the games that matter just a little more, in Big 12 play, where Self's expectations for all of his players rise to an even higher level.

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