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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Kansas coach Bill Self believes NCAA Tournament bubble will have familiar feel for players

The Jayhawks line up before tipoff against North Dakota State in their second game at Allen Fieldhouse without fans, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks line up before tipoff against North Dakota State in their second game at Allen Fieldhouse without fans, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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The Kansas men’s basketball program did just about everything imaginable this season to keep its players safe while playing in the middle of a pandemic.

Strict rules for the locker room, meals, travel and day-to-day life helped the Jayhawks navigate the regular season without incident.

So even with COVID-19 creeping into the KU huddle this week — David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna missed the Big 12 tournament after entering COVID-19 protocols and KU had to pull out of the event after a positive test on Friday morning — the idea of moving into a bubble environment next week at the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis is not all that intimidating to the Jayhawks.

“I don't think the bubble will be anything (other) than positive,” Kansas coach Bill Self said recently. “Anything could happen; something could go wrong. But I think the bubble will be safer than not being in the bubble.”

The big key for Kansas will be getting there.

NCAA Tournament protocol requires negative tests on seven consecutive days for players and coaches to be eligible to compete. And the NCAA said teams need a minimum of five eligible players to be able to field a team in the bracket.

Self told the Journal-World on Friday that the team had been testing every day “for a while” and that the plan was for Kansas to depart for Indianapolis on Monday. Multiple national reports also have indicated that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee was planning for Kansas to be in the bracket.

Prior to the weekend wrinkles that brought KU’s inclusion into question, Self discussed the challenges of living in a bubble during the postseason.

“I don't see the bubble as what we can't do,” Self said prior to the start of the Big 12 tournament. “I mean, I've been doing this for a long time and I can never remember, once the NCAA (Tournament) starts, ever allowing a team to do anything other than sleep, eat, watch tape, listen to music, maybe read, those sorts of things. So I don't think it's going to be as different as what everybody thinks it will be.”

Self also believes that following whatever rules are put in place so there can be a tournament is completely worth it given the fact that the memories of missing out on a tourney run in 2020 are still fresh.

“I don't see this as being anything other than a sacrifice that everybody needs to make in order to get to do what you really love to do,” he said.

This year’s NCAA Tournament bracket is slated to be revealed at 5 p.m. Sunday, and the first round of the tournament will be played next Friday and Saturday entirely in and around Indianapolis.

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