With the spring signing period arriving Wednesday, a potentially monster week awaits the Kansas basketball program.
But while there’s a chance that Kansas could pick up a pair of primetime players ranked in the Top 35 in the Class of 2019 in the week ahead, there’s an equally good chance that KU could miss out on both Cassius Stanley, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound, 4-star shooting guard ranked No. 33 overall by Rivals.com and Matt Hurt, a 6-9, 200-pound, 5-star forward ranked No. 7 in the class.
Landing both would bring KU’s 2019 class, which currently features 4-star guards Christian Braun (6-7, No. 94, Blue Valley Northwest) and Issac McBride (6-0, No. 104, Baptist Prep in Little Rock, Ark.), into the Top 20 and near the Top 10. Landing one or the other would give Bill Self and company the signature player they need in a suddenly critical rebuilding class. And watching the two commit to other programs would be a significant blow to the 2019 class and would send Kansas in an entirely different direction.
Stanley is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday and Hurt has plans to announce on Friday. Many national recruiting analysts are predicting Duke for both players.
Self was scheduled to be in Minnesota on Sunday to visit with Hurt one final time and the versatile and talented forward from Rochester, Minn., lists Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina as his final four.
Regardless of how the decisions go this week, Self and the Jayhawks have been planning for all outcomes for months.
“We have an idea (of how many we need to sign in the 2019 class) and we’ll recruit with worst-case scenario or most-case scenario, whatever our options will be,” Self recently told the Journal-World.
What that essentially means is whether it’s KU adding players like Hurt and Stanley — or potentially Class of 2020 point guard R.J. Hampton, who is ranked in the Top 5 and exploring the idea of reclassifying into the current class — or adding lesser-heralded players and graduate transfers, Self and company are ready to build whatever kind of class the market dictates.
“We’ve cast a wide net, but it’s been pretty narrow in scope,” Self said. “But there’s some things, whether it be grad transfers or things like that, that could come up depending on what our numbers are.”
With Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson transferring out and Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson all declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft, KU could have as many as five more scholarships to fill in the 2019 class.
There’s enough reason to believe that at least one of those players will return for the 2019-20 season — most likely Dotson — but there’s also reason to believe that junior center Udoka Azubuike and possibly sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa could follow in their footsteps and announce their departures, as well.
If that happens, KU will need to add 4-6 more players to the 2019 class, which would set up a scenario much like the one the Jayhawks faced during the 2018-19 season, when seven first-year Jayhawks filled key roles in the team’s rotation.
While that certainly would be a challenge for Self in terms of roster construction and building team chemistry, the KU coach said that adding a few veterans might not be the worst thing for the program.
“It could be (grad transfers) or it could be a juco kid,” Self told the Journal-World. “But it would probably need to be immediate eligibility. (You could be) losing a lot, so we’ve got to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, but also understand that that creates a lot of opportunity, too.”
For the second year in a row, a future Kansas Jayhawk has hoisted the DiRenna Award trophy, given out annually to the top high school basketball player in the greater Kansas City area.
KU signee, Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, brought home this year’s honor, following in the footsteps of current Jayhawk Ochai Agbaji.
"Congrats CB," Tweeted BVNW coach Ed Fritz after Braun won the award. "You make us all proud."
First established in 1954 by Dr. James A. DiRenna, the award has recognized the top male and female basketball players in the Kansas City area for decades, with names like Jaron and Kareem Rush, along with Clayton Custer recently winning the award.
After DiRenna’s death in 1996, his son, Dr. James A. DiRenna Jr., carried on the legacy and paired with the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association to keep the honor rolling.
Braun, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound shooting guard who signed with KU in November, led the Huskies to a 27-2 record and the Class 6A state championship this season, averaging 27.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, including 16 points and 10 rebounds in the title-game win over Washburn Rural High.
He also was named the Gatorade Boys Baksetball Player of the Year for Kansas and was a two-time all-state selection during his 1,000-point prep career.
Braun is one of two future KU players currently signed in the 2019 class — Little Rock, Ark., point guard Issac McBride is the other — and the Jayhawks currently have four scholarships available to hand out in the 2019 class with Charlie Moore, K.J. Lawson, Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes all electing to move on from the program in the past couple of weeks.
It’s far from a given and might not amount to anything, but the recruitment of Class of 2020 guard R.J. Hampton is a shining example of how things are never as bad as they might seem in recruiting because angles always exist and coaches never stop working.
With the start of the spring signing period now one week away and the Kansas men’s basketball program sitting with just two players signed in its 2019 class — a group that figures to come with some serious importance both next year and beyond — many KU fans have begun to grumble about what’s going on with KU’s recruiting.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Big surprise, right? Aren’t fans always grumbling about recruiting in one way or another?
Although that does seem to be the case — mostly because fans of all programs always seem to believe their school should sign three or four of the top 10 players in every class — it makes a little more sense this time around, given that both of KU’s 2019 signees, guards Christian Braun and Issac McBride, are ranked outside of the top 100, leaving a sizable hole in the area usually filled by an Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson or Quentin Grimes.
There is, however, still time, and the Jayhawks remain in the mix for some of the top talent in the country.
Top 40 shooting guard Cassius Stanley will make his decision between KU, UCLA and Oregon on April 17. I read recently that he hasn’t heard from UCLA in weeks and, with a new coach in the mix out there, this one could be down to the Jayhawks and Ducks.
Top 10 prospect Matt Hurt, whom many have trending hard toward Duke down the homestretch, will announce his choice on April 19.
Those decisions we’ll know soon enough. And landing either player — let alone both — would be a huge boost to KU’s current class.
The rest of the list remains a bit uncertain, none more so than Hampton, who is ranked as the No. 5 overall player in the 2020 class and considered by many recruiting analysts to be the top prep guard in the country regardless of class.
Hampton recently trimmed his list to a final four, with KU, Duke, Kentucky and Memphis making the cut and in-state TCU being eliminated.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In a couple of different interviews and on his own blog on USAToday.com — "The RJ Way" — Hampton said recently that he was back to considering reclassifying into the 2019 class, which would put him on a college campus in a matter of months and give one of those four finalists yet another shot at hitting the jackpot.
All four have compelling pitches to make, and all four can promise to put other elite talent around Hampton. The biggest thing that many have pointed to as the factor that could make Hampton’s decision is his desire to play point.
But with Devon Dotson expected to return to KU and freshman point guards Tre Jones and Ashton Hagans recently announcing their intentions to return to Duke and Kentucky for their sophomore seasons, it looks like that could be less of a given no matter where Hampton goes.
Good thing, too. Because, according to the 6-foot-5, 175-pound 5-star prospect from Little Elm, Texas, that requirement is not actually that big of a factor after all, and he addressed it in his recent blog entry.
“A lot of people think I just want to run the point and that’s it,” Hampton wrote. “I do want to do that too, but if the coach needs me to play off the ball sometimes and guard the two or the three at times I’m fine with that too. I actually think playing with another elite point guard is a more attractive option because either one of us can bring it down and I can do what I do best and score the ball. I think that makes us a more dangerous team. Like you just saw today that Tre Jones is staying at Duke and I think that’s great. Kansas has Devon; all of the schools have really strong point guards, so, again, that only makes it a more attractive option for me.”
If you’ve watched any of Hampton’s highlight videos (see below) and know how Dotson plays, it’s not hard to get excited about the prospect of the two running the floor together for the Jayhawks next season. In many ways, the pairing seems like a perfect fit.
It only has a chance of happening, though, if Hampton reclassifies.
He also addressed that in the blog and said he expected to make a final decision in the next couple of months.
“I’m considering reclassifying to 2019 at this point,” he wrote. “I just wanted to see how the teams’ seasons ended and how the rosters were stacking up. What I’ll really be looking at with this decision is who’s there and how I’ll fit in with next year’s squad. I just really want to know how I’d be used in the system.”
In both his Monday blog and a recent sit-down interview with Krysten Peek of Rivals.com, Hampton broke down all of his finalists and had this to say about Kansas.
“With Kansas the main thing I like is the culture and the family vibe that Coach (Bill) Self and Coach (Jerrance) Howard have presented to me,” Hampton wrote. “They’ve been there since my freshman year and I love what they have going on.”
On camera with Peek, he added: “The Kansas relationship has been great. I mean, Coach Self, Coach Jerrance Howard, all the coaching staff has just been great. And when I go down there, all the players treat me like family and the fan base is amazing. They probably have the best fan base in the country when it comes to basketball.”
KU and Memphis are the only programs on his list of finalists that Hampton has used official visits to see, and there’s some chatter that both that fact and the crowded backcourt situations at Duke and Kentucky could leave KU and Memphis as the current leaders.
Time will tell how all of this plays out. And, again, if Hampton elects to stay in high school and waits until 2020 to go to college, that could change things drastically.
But if he reclassifies and joins the 2019 class, landing him in the coming months would be a big time get for a Kansas recruiting class that, at least on paper, appears to be off to a start that's slower than usual.
Here’s a quick look at Hampton’s interview with Peek, which was recorded during Final Four weekend and before he eliminated TCU. It’s still worth watching to get a feel for Hampton's personality.
Dedric Lawson: ‘People are definitely going to see that I’m better than what they’ve got me projected’
Outside of his friends and family members, you’d be hard pressed to find too many people who believe Dedric Lawson is destined for a long and strong NBA career.
“He’s not explosive,” many have critiqued. “He’s too slow,” others say. “He’s a nice player, but he’s not strong enough to play in the league,” is another common breakdown of Lawson and his game.
None of it matters to Lawson, though.
“It most definitely fuels me,” Lawson told the Journal-World in a Monday afternoon phone interview from Los Angeles after declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft. “I’ve always been a guy who has been in the gym and put in the work, but when you see the naysayers and hear people say, ‘He’s not going to do this, he’s not going to do that,’ it just makes me want to put forth my best effort. It’s not that I’m trying to prove anyone wrong, I’m just trying to prove to myself that I do belong in the league.”
Most current mock drafts have Lawson slated as a second-round pick in the June 20 NBA Draft in New York City.
ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony has him going off the board with the 43rd pick to Minnesota. And SI.com’s latest mock draft, which came out Tuesday morning after Virginia topped Texas Tech for the 2019 national title in Minneapolis, sees Lawson going No. 48 overall — with the 18th pick of the second round — to San Antonio.
And those assessments have been fairly consistent throughout the 2018-19 season, with Lawson moving up or down just a few spots but staying mostly in the 40-50 range for the past several months.
The goal of every NBA draft hopeful is to wind up in the land of guaranteed money known as the first round, where the first three years of your rookie contract are set in stone and outline exactly how many millions you’ll make to jumpstart your pro career.
Lawson’s hopes are certainly along those lines. But after spending four years in college — three on the court — and with his 22nd birthday arriving in October, Lawson is pairing his confidence in his own ability with a much more mature mindset to the start of his NBA journey.
“I think I can definitely get into the first round if I just do well at the combine,” Lawson told the Journal-World. “But it’s not all about being in the first round. It’s about having the best fit for your game. So finding the team that loves me and has faith in me and is going to develop me, that’s my goal in the whole thing.”
To that end, Lawson will spend the next four or five weeks in Los Angeles working on getting stronger and developing a more consistent NBA 3-point shot while also fine-tuning his conditioning and all-around game.
What he likes most about his current position is not the chip on his shoulder or the me-against-the-world mentality. Lawson’s too friendly and happy of a guy to let those things dominate his thoughts.
Instead, he said he was driven by the evaluations his camp heard from people plugged into the NBA scene. And he believes the best part is the fact that improving his perceived weaknesses is now totally in his hands.
“I was getting some good feedback and hearing some things I needed to work on,” Lawson said. “I felt like all of the things that they said were things I could control and I’m just ready to work on those things. … People are definitely going to see that I’m better than what they’ve got me projected.”
Virginia’s thrilling, overtime victory over Texas Tech in Monday night’s national championship game officially brought the curtain down on another season of college basketball.
I’m not sure we’ll ever get tired of telling the stories of the remarkable journey from first 1 seed to lose to a 16 one year and national champion the next, nor will we ever fully be able to comprehend exactly how the Cavaliers did it.
Facing win probabilities of 9 percent with 16 seconds to play in the Elite Eight against Purdue, 4 percent with 17 seconds left against Auburn in the Final Four and 11.7 percent with 22 seconds to play in the title game on Monday night, UVA somehow won all three games and claimed a remarkable national title.
The odds of winning all three of those backs-to-the-wall battles in consecutive rounds are an astonishing 1 in 2,500. And the Cavs did it. Hats off to them and the Red Raiders, who made a heck of a run and showed the college basketball world that there’s more in the Big 12 than just Kansas.
Having said that, with the world quickly shifting to the first glimpses of the 2019-20 season, it’s worth noting that Las Vegas odds have KU and Texas Tech as the two Big 12 teams with the best odds of winning the 2020 national title.
Neither are particularly good, either. KU and Tech are both listed as 30-1 favorites to win it all next season, with Texas, at 40-1 and Iowa State at 60-1 just behind them.
The six other Big 12 programs all have odds of 100-1 or worse, including 2019 co-champ K-State, which checks in at 500-1.
Rosters will change, time will pass and those numbers — along with all of the rest — will go up and down, down and back up in the next 11 months. And nothing will really matter until next March.
But in true end-of-season tradition, it’s time to take a quick look around the college basketball landscape to see where several national media outlets have the 2019-20 Jayhawks ranked entering the offseason.
I’ll be honest. When I started looking at these late Monday night, I was expecting Kansas to check in somewhere in the 17-23 range on most rankings. The fact that the Jayhawks were listed higher than that in all eight polls was somewhat surprising considering the roster is not anywhere close to set or complete.
The average KU ranking in the eight polls shown below is No. 11, with a high of No. 8 and a low of No. 14.
That early praise clearly speaks to the talent of the players expected to return and the faith that so many have in Bill Self and his coaching staff to not only put the right pieces together but also to coach them up once they’re on campus and in uniform.
Plenty of time to sort all of that out in the days, weeks and months ahead.
For now, here’s a quick glance at a few of those way-too-early Top 25 lists for the 2019-20 season, including KU's first-glance ranking and an explanation from each site about why they put the Jayhawks where they did.
KU’s ranking: No. 13
Why this high: "For the first time in 15 seasons, Bill Self is not coaching the defending Big 12 regular-season champions. Can the Jayhawks start a new streak next season? There are a lot of questions to be answered in Lawrence. Lagerald Vickis gone, Charlie Moore is gone, Dedric Lawson is likely gone, KJ Lawson is likely gone. What will Quentin Grimes and Udoka Azubuike decide to do? If both Grimes and Azubuike return, they will join high-level point guard Devon Dotson and part-time starters Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett and David McCormack."
KU’s ranking: No. 12
Why this high: "It’s hard imagine coach Bill Self is done roster-building with no signed impact recruits and so many players elsewhere lined up to transfer schools."
KU’s ranking: No. 8
Why this high: "There are plenty of question marks here regarding whether Quentin Grimes, Udoka Azubuike and even Silvio De Sousa (pending an appeal) return. However, Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack are all back."
KU's ranking: No. 14
Why this high: "To say this program is swirling in uncertainty is a vast understatement. Lawson and Grimes both have eligibility left, but from what I am hearing both are intent on entering the NBA Draft and staying there. Azubuike most likely will at least to test the waters. If he returns he will give the Jayhawks a badly needed anchor in the middle. Bill Self has yet to land a significant recruit, but KU is in the mix for several of the nation’s top unsigned prospects, most notably Matthew Hurt and Precious Achjiuwa. It is not clear just how much the program’s recruiting efforts are being impaired by the ongoing imbroglio with the NCAA stemming from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, but it’s certainly not helping."
KU’s ranking: No. 11
Why this high: Although there’s no real blurb written, it’s worth noting here that Gary Parrish is taking into account the fact that he expects both Udoka Azubuike and Quentin Grimes to return to Kansas next season. I don’t see it — at all — but if they’re both back it’s easy to see how KU could have a Top 10-type team.
KU’s ranking: No. 12
Why this high: "Both Lawson brothers are out the door and Kansas’s season was weird as it was, but it's also getting a decent amount back. Udoka Azubuike, Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett should be back, and Quentin Grimes should probably stay. Although the Jayhawks' recruiting class looks underwhelming, this group should be expected to build on what was an uneven year overall. They may need a grad transfer or two to fill out the rotation."
KU’s ranking: No. 9
Why this high: No blurb given in this video breakdown of the Top 25, but there’s little doubt that Yahoo putting KU in its Top 10 is an indicator that they, too, are expecting the bulk of KU’s rotation — outside of Dedric Lawson — to return next season.
KU's ranking: No. 9
Why this high: "First-team All-American Dedric Lawson intends to keep his name in the NBA draft and that leaves coach Bill Self with a roster of youngsters that never fully developed this season.. Where it gets interesting is if 6-11 big man Udoka Azubuikecomes back for his senior campaign. That'd give Kansas a much-needed size. Quentin Grimes should break out as a sophomore."
Late in the Big 12 Conference basketball season, Kansas coach Bill Self provided an update on junior center Udoka Azubuike, who missed all but nine games of the 2018-19 season with a hand/wrist injury.
In it, sometime in early March, Self explained that Azubuike still had a screw in his injured hand, was limited in the weight room, was forced to wear a cast for precautionary reasons and had not participated in any contact drills since injuring the hand in early January.
None of that, of course, came as much of a surprise. When Azubuike injured the opposite hand in the same manner in late December of his freshman season, he was not cleared to resume full basketball activities until June, and a similar timeline is expected this time around.
The one difference this time, however, is the question of whether Azubuike will still be at KU when he’s cleared to get back to basketball.
Self’s comments from a few weeks ago hinted at an answer to that, too.
When asked if he thought Azubuike would be a better player after using the bulk of the 2018-19 season to study the game with his mind and later use his observations from the bench as part of his attack, Self briefly addressed Azubuike’s future.
“There’s so many things that he has been so limited on that it would be hard to get better,” Self said. “What you would be hoping for would be maintaining. He’ll be a better player next year than he would have been this year, not because of that, just because he’ll be a year older. He’s still real young. I doubt we’ll get a chance to witness that, though.”
Because Azubuike was out and therefore could not impact KU’s seed or postseason hopes, the comment kind of came and went with little to no attention. But Self’s statement was not all that surprising, given Azubuike’s past.
For one, he took his decision to stay in the draft or return to Kansas for his junior season down to the wire — announcing his return roughly 11 hours before the deadline — and spent most of the month of May trying to find a home in the NBA so he could make the jump.
It never happened, and Azubuike returned to KU with the goal of working on the areas the NBA folks told him he needed to improve. It’s worth noting that Azubuike continued to work hard in the areas he could work — mostly cardio — often running stairs or sprints while the Jayhawks practiced.
Nine games is not enough of a sample size to show whether the work Azubuike did in the offseason significantly addressed the improvements NBA officials wanted to see, so it’s hard to know whether the 7-foot Nigerian actually improved his standing in the eyes of NBA scouts and GMs.
But at the time of his injury, the junior center looked an awful lot like he did as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 70.5% shooting in just more than 20 minutes a game.
His final numbers from the 2017-18 season were strikingly similar, albeit over a much longer period of time — 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on 77% shooting in 23.6 minutes per outing.
What all that means for Azubuike is anybody’s guess. And there’s no doubt that even with his latest injury, Azubuike has done everything he can to keep his body, conditioning and mind in the best basketball shape possible.
We saw that often during the postseason, with Dok running sprints or stairs on the side while the rest of the team practiced on the floor.
But based on Self’s recent comment and the fact that the big fella was so eager to leave a year ago, it’s not hard to envision him foregoing his senior year and turning pro.
Best case, he catches on with an NBA squad — drafted or not — and finds a way to parlay his mammoth size and ability at the rim into a nice career.
Worst case, he heads overseas and makes a bunch of money that way.
There is, of course, a chance that Azubuike could elect to return to KU for his senior season, but the native Nigerian always has struck me as a guy who’s more eager to be a pro than a four-year college player.
Either way, we should have a better idea of the 7-footer’s future plans in the next week or so.
Recent NCAA/NBA rule changes made it possible for college prospects to test via the combine and pre-draft workout stuff more than once, and it would make perfect sense for Azubuike to look to take advantage of everything at his disposal.
Over the past couple of years, as the transfer trend has become more prevalent with the Kansas basketball program, I’ve done periodic updates on what the transfers-in and transfers-out situation has looked like during Bill Self’s time in charge of the program.
For the most part, the breakdown has been pretty cut-and-dry, with a certain number of players coming into the program from other schools and a certain number of players leaving KU for opportunities elsewhere, be them via a better fit, more playing time or because of closer proximity to home.
Today, however, after the recent news of a pair of current Jayhawks transferring out during the upcoming offseason, we’re looking at a third category altogether and one that is as interesting as it is a head-scratcher.
Both moves make sense. Neither came as much of a surprise. And both players figure to gain what they’re looking for by joining another program.
What’s crazy about it though is the fact that those two players are now firmly in that third category, which includes players who transfer in, players who transfer out and, the new one, players who both transferred in to KU and later transferred out.
That list is still relatively small, but it’s growing. And thanks to this most recent transfer news, that group now has four members — Moore and K.J., former KU guard Sam Cunliffe and former KU power forward Dwight Coleby.
This transfer movement is certainly not limited to KU and head coach Bill Self. Programs big and small, all over the country, are taking more and more transfers on an annual basis, with the grad transfer route fueling the recent spike.
A recent proposal to change the rule for the grad transfer system, which would require programs to give grad transfers a scholarship for two years if they’re in a 2-year graduate program — even if their eligibility runs out — remains on hold. If passed, it likely will have a significant impact on the number of grad transfers hitting the market year in and year out.
According to a recent NCAA study, roughly 80 percent of grad transfers, across all sports, enroll in 2-year programs at their new schools.
Specific to men’s basketball, the number of grad transfers has grown at a rapid rate, from 15 Division I grad transfers in 2011 to 94 Division I grad transfers in 2017.
Beyond that, the mere fact that we now have something called the “transfer portal,” which is little more than a massive data base for coaches and athletes to keep track of available transfers is an indication of where things have gone with the transfer route nationwide.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the updated list of transfers — from one Division I program to another — at Kansas during the Bill Self era:
Transferring In (14)
Rodrick Stewart – 2006 – USC
Jeff Withey – 2009 – Arizona
Justin Wesley – 2010 – Lamar
Kevin Young – 2011 – Loyola-Marymount
Hunter Mickelson – 2013 – Arkansas
Tarik Black – 2013 – Memphis
Dwight Coleby – 2015 – Ole Miss
Evan Maxwell – 2016 – Liberty
Malik Newman – 2016 – Mississippi State
Sam Cunliffe – 2017 – Arizona State
Dedric Lawson – 2017 – Memphis
K.J. Lawson – 2017 – Memphis
Charlie Moore – 2017 – Cal
Jack Whitman – 2017 – William & Mary
Transferring Out (19)
David Padgett – 2004 – Louisville
Omar Wilkes – 2004 – Cal
J.R. Giddens – 2005 – New Mexico
Alex Galindo – 2005 – Florida International
Micah Downs – 2006 – Gonzaga
C.J. Giles – 2006 – Oregon State
Quintrell Thomas – 2009 – UNLV
Royce Woolridge – 2011 – Washington State
Milton Doyle – 2012 – Loyola (Chicago)
Merv Lindsay – 2012 – New Mexico
Anrio Adams – 2013 – Ohio/Eastern Kentucky
Zach Peters – 2013 – Arizona
Andrew White III – 2014 – Nebraska/Syracuse
Conner Frankamp – 2014 – Wichita State
Carlton Bragg Jr. – 2017 – Arizona State/New Mexico
Dwight Coleby – 2017 – Western Kentucky
Sam Cunliffe – 2018 – Evansville
Charlie Moore – 2019 – TBD
K.J. Lawson – 2019 – TBD
It’s been on the schedule for a couple of years and was merely folded into the new initiative between the Big 12 Conference and the BIG EAST.
Still, next season’s KU-Villanova game in Philadelphia will be the headliner in the inaugural Big 12-BIG EAST battle, which will take place in December, with specific dates and times to be announced later.
The Big 12 Conference revealed the matchups for the rest of the challenge, which will feature all 10 Big 12 teams facing the top 10 teams in the BIG EAST, in the same way the Big 12 and SEC wage their challenge every season.
The matchups were jointly determined and include four games that were previously scheduled. According to a release announcing the pairings, the home school will have the right to determine the venue of its game, with broadcast rights of the games being determined by the home team in conjunction with the national television rights agreement in place for each conference.
The Big 12 television rights are controlled by ESPN and the BIG EAST’s men’s basketball television rights are controlled by FOX Sports.
The two conferences have signed a 4-year agreement, which will run through the 2022-23 season, with an equal number of games played in each conference’s home market each year.
The 2019-20 KU-Villanova matchup, slated to take place at Wells Fargo Center in Phily, is the second leg of a home-and-home series between the two college basketball powerhouses. Kansas won the first matchup this past season, 74-71, in a rematch of the 2018 Final Four battle and a meeting of two nationally ranked teams at Allen Fieldhouse.
Because that game was not part of the challenge, it’s conceivable that Villanova and Kansas could face off one more time in the second edition of the deal between the Big 12 and the BIG EAST. But no future matchups have been set at this time.
Here’s a look at the rest of the head-to-head games on tap for the 2019-20 season:
2019-20 Big 12/BIG EAST Scheduling Alliance Matchups
Butler at Baylor
Seton Hall at Iowa State
Kansa at Villanova^
Marquette at Kansas State^
Oklahoma at Creighton^
Georgetown at Oklahoma State
Xavier at TCU
Texas at Providence^
Texas Tech at DePaul
West Virginia at St John’s
^ = Pre-existing matchups
Senior Night took place on March 9 and went by with very little fanfare seeing how the 2018-19 Kansas basketball roster had no seniors in uniform that night.
But Thursday afternoon, just before 1:30 p.m., the lone senior on the 2018-19 KU roster finally got to say his goodbye.
“I truly appreciate everyone who supported me and embraced me during my 4 year stay at the University Of Kansas,” former KU guard Lagerald Vick wrote in a Twitter post. “Thank You to my coaches, family & friends, but most importantly thanks to the best fans in the world!!! #RockChalkJayHawk”
Vick’s farewell Tweet was accompanied by a highlight video of his time at Kansas that ran for 2:20 and featured moments from all four seasons of his 1,000-point KU career.
Vick, who delivered an up-and-down college career packed with highlights and head-scratchers, missed the final 13 games of the 2018-19 season after taking an indefinite leave of absence in early February to tend to a personal matter back home in Memphis.
At the time, and for the better part of the next 3-4 weeks, the door remained open for Vick to return to the team. But it never happened and KU’s loss at Kansas State on Feb. 5 went down as the final official game in Vick’s KU career.
Here’s a look at the Tweet and video of Vick saying goodbye.
With the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season now a thing of the past, most KU fans are probably more than happy to move on.
And who could blame them?
The Jayhawks’ most recent basketball run was full of rocky moments, rough patches and tough stretches, and the Jayhawks, at 26-10, finished tied for the most single-season losses in the Self era. What's more, at .722, the team recorded the second-worst winning percentage of Self’s 16 seasons at KU, coming in just behind the 2013-14 team that finished 25-10 for a .714 mark.
The 2018-19 season was also just the seventh in Self’s 16 seasons in which KU failed to win at least 82 percent of its games.
But it wasn’t all bad.
Freshmen became familiar faces and a fun part of the future. The tough schedule produced serious battles night in and night out. And KU coach Bill Self had to dig deep to find new ways to tweak his lineup, adjust his game plan and inspire his players to overcome more adversity than any one KU basketball team had faced in years.
All of that worked at times and didn’t at others, while still leading to 26 wins and a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the best moments of the 2018-19 season.
Best Home Win – Feb. 25 vs. Kansas State
Backs against the wall and needing to put a little pressure on K-State at the top of the standings, the Jayhawks played one of their best games of the season, holding the Wildcats to 31.6 percent shooting in a 64-49 win at Allen Fieldhouse.
Best Road Win – Jan. 12 at Baylor
No one knew at the time that the Bears would be a factor in the Big 12 race, but the Jayhawks made sure early that they weren’t a factor in this one. Kansas jumped out to an 18-2 lead and held BU without a field goal for the first 10:26 of the game en route to a 73-68 victory in Waco, Texas.
Best Neutral Site Win – Nov. 6 vs. Michigan State
There were a bunch of these and KU finished the 2018-19 season with a 6-2 record on neutral courts, 7-2 if you count the December win over New Mexico State at Sprint Center. But few were as impressive as this team’s season debut. Playing as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the country against a Michigan State team that wound up in the Final Four, the Jayhawks controlled things from the jump and knocked off Tom Izzo’s club, 92-87, at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Best Comeback – Win vs. Marquette in Brooklyn
Trailing by 9 at the break and as many as 12 during a rough first half, the Jayhawks ripped off a 22-0 run in the first 9 minutes of the second half to put an end to Marquette’s upset bid at the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center. Kansas won, 77-68, thanks to a dominant 39-21 second-half showing.
Best Overall Game – Win vs. Tennessee in Brooklyn
Two nights after their come-from-behind win over Marquette, the Jayhawks, with renewed energy, staged a classic with the Volunteers in the same venue, needing overtime to settle the score. Despite Tennessee leading by as many as 9 points in the second half, the Jayhawks found a way to get it to overtime, where they cruised to an 87-81 victory over the 5th-ranked Vols.
Best Single Shot – Vick’s That Forced OT vs. Stanford
This one came with seven seconds to play and KU’s Allen Fieldhouse winning streak on the line. With the play drawn up to go to Dedric Lawson, KU senior Lagerald Vick cut it short, jumped 3 feet into the air and dropped a dagger through the net that helped send the game to OT, where KU won 90-84 to improve to 6-0. The shot, which was made so spectacular because of the ridiculous degree of difficulty in front of the Kansas bench, was just one moment during Vick’s torrid start to his final season as a Jayhawk. The only other one I considered was the shot Lawson hit while sitting on the ground in the lane against Louisiana.
Best Dunk – Agbaji Lob vs. TCU
Ten seconds after checking into the game for the first time in his KU career — 15 games into what was supposed to be his redshirt season — Kansas City, Mo., freshman Ochai Agbaji caught a lob from Devon Dotson and flushed it, marking the explosive beginning of Agbaji’s strong second half to his freshman season. There were more highlight-worthy dunks that followed, but none will be remembered quite like this one.
Best Senior – Lagerald Vick
OK, so Vick was the only senior on the KU roster this season, but he still did enough — for a while — to earn this distinction. Without him, KU might have lost more like 12 or 13 games during the 2018-19 season. Before his leave of absence that ended his KU career 12 games shy of the finish line, there was plenty to remember about Vick’s final year with the program. He finished the season averaging 14.1 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point range, numbers that left him near the top of the Big 12 in both categories.
Best Junior – Dedric Lawson
When all was said and done, the numbers the KU All-American produced during his first season with the Jayhawks rivaled those put up by some of the biggest names in KU history. In addition to averaging a double-double — 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game — Lawson recorded 22 double-doubles and became just the ninth Jayhawk in the history of the program to score 700 points in a single season and the fifth player in program history to record 700 points and 370 rebounds in the same season.
Best Sophomore – Marcus Garrett
I’ll be honest, I was tempted to go with Silvio De Sousa here just because of how well he handled his uncertainty and eventual suspension all season and continues to handle it to this day. But Garrett actually played so it has to be him. Beyond that, had it not been for the ankle injury in early February, Garrett’s season — and KU’s — may have been even more solid than it wound up being. He still has some work to do to improve as an offensive player, but the groundwork is in place for strong junior and senior seasons the next two years.
Best Freshman – Devon Dotson
So tough, so strong, so fast and so reliable. Dotson had as good a freshman year as anyone could have expected and has put himself well ahead of the pace of former KU greats Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham in terms of being in the conversation as the best point guard to ever play for Self. He still has to become a better and more consistent shooter to land on that list — Mason, Graham and Sherron Collins all could shoot the lights out — and another year of maturity and strength training will help him a ton, as well. But Dotson handled the role of running the show and playing major minutes incredibly well as a true freshman and there’s plenty of reason to think his best is still ahead.
Best Celebration – Locker Room at TCU
There were some Mitch Lightfoot roars and a few Ochai Agbaji demonstrations that could have contended for this spot, but as far as the best celebration by the entire team, that had to come after the Jayhawks’ tough road win at TCU, which kept them alive in the Big 12 race and temporarily answered the question of whether this Kansas team could find a way to win away from Allen Fieldhouse. Even KU AD Jeff Long got in on the locker room fun, and Self said in the postgame press conference that it was the best locker room the Jayhawks have had all season in terms of energy and pure elation.
Best Quote – Bill Self after January loss at Kentucky
Playing at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for the second time in the past few seasons, Self was asked after the Wildcats’ win over the Jayhawks what he thought of Rupp’s atmosphere and environment. His answer? “It’s good,” Self said. “It’s no Allen Fieldhouse, but it’s good. It’s a terrific atmosphere. I said before the game, this is why you go to Kentucky or go to Kansas.” Even in defeat, Self found a way to try to pick up a victory over KU’s national rival.