Saturday, March 13, 2021

Selection Sunday about more than just the bracket this year for Kansas

Kansas coach Bill Self meets with players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

Kansas coach Bill Self meets with players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)


Despite withdrawing from the Big 12 tournament Friday morning after a positive COVID-19 test result, the 11th-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team is projected to be seeded among the top 16 teams in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field.

Most of the latest projections have the Jayhawks (20-8) as a 3 seed, but there are still some prognosticators out there who believe that Kansas could be a 4 seed.

Before the Big 12 tournament, Kansas coach Bill Self said the 3 line would be “a great place to be.”

“But, depending on who you’re matched up with, you may be better off being a 4 or 5,” he added. “For us, I think this year is more about the matchups than it is most years, just because of knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

The biggest difference between the two spots would present itself in the Sweet 16, if the Jayhawks could win two games to get there.

As a 4 seed, Kansas would potentially have to square off with a No. 1 seed in the third round, during a season when the top three or four teams in college basketball have separated themselves for most of the journey.

As a 3 seed, Kansas would potentially have to face a No. 2 seed in the Sweet 16, which not only would allow the Jayhawks to avoid one of the top dogs but also would pair them, at least potentially, with a team much closer to them in the national polls and rankings.

COVID concerns

On this Selection Sunday, Kansas fans have a little more to worry about than just where their favorite team will be seeded.

After an entire regular season free of COVID-19 troubles, the Jayhawks encountered two such issues this week. First, junior forward David McCormack and sophomore guard Tristan Enaruna were ruled out of the Big 12 tourney before it even began after entering COVID-19 protocols earlier in the week. And on Friday, an unnamed player tested positive the morning after KU’s quarterfinal win over Oklahoma.

On Friday, Self voiced optimism about being able to take a team to Indianapolis next week. He said the team was scheduled to fly there on Monday.

NCAA Tournament guidelines require all eligible players to produce negative COVID-19 test results on seven consecutive days leading up to their arrival in Indianapolis, and a program needs just five eligible players to be able to compete.

But it takes more than five players to make a deep run in the tourney, so the status of McCormack and Enaruna, along with the player who tested positive on Friday, will be important to watch as Kansas prepares for the Big Dance.

Self has said throughout the season that he’s mostly just happy to be playing, and he reiterated that earlier this week.

“I think everybody in college basketball should be applauded for the sacrifices and the efforts they made to get to this point,” he said. “I think the players, the coaches, and primarily medical staffs have done an unbelievable job navigating it.”

The protocols

Some other programs — including defending champion Virginia, which won it all in 2019 — are in situations similar to the Jayhawks. And the NCAA has established a set of protocols and contingency plans for teams that run into significant COVID-19 issues before and during the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Here’s a look at the NCAA’s plans:

• All teams will be housed in designated hotels for the duration of their participation in the tournament. Meals will either be in-room or in physically distanced meal rooms with assigned seating.

• All Tier 1 participants (student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials) will be required to wear masks at all times, except for at pre-arranged and approved mealtimes, practice, competition time on the court and when they’re alone in the hotel room.

• While at practice and in games, players will wear devices that track their locations and can monitor people they’ve been in close proximity with, which can be helpful in contact tracing efforts in the event of a positive test.

• According to NCAA and CDC guidelines, players who are out after testing positive are eligible to return on the 11th day after symptoms first surfaced. Those players who are close contacts of an infected person — defined as being within 6 feet of a person who tests positive for 15 minutes or longer in a 24-hour period, as tracked by bracelets worn by Tier 1 personnel — can return as soon as they can produce negative test results for seven consecutive days.

• If any single-bid conference’s automatic qualifier is unable to participate because of COVID-19, the league may replace it with a preapproved replacement team, but only if that team can produce seven consecutive daily negative tests. The replacement team will be in the same spot on the bracket as its fellow conference member was.

• If any multi-bid conference has a team that can’t participate, that team will be replaced by one of the last four teams not selected as at-large teams for the original field. The four replacement teams will be ranked 1-4 and entered in that order as needed. The replacement team shall be placed in the bracket in the position left vacant by the withdrawing team.

• The deadline for replacing a team that’s unable to participate because of COVID-19 is 5 p.m. Tuesday. No replacement teams will be introduced after the deadline. Programs also had until 10 p.m. Saturday to inform the NCAA if they did not have enough players to field a team.

• Once the tournament has begun, if a team has a COVID-19 issue and can no longer participate, there will be no replacement. Instead, the opponent will advance to the next round via the no-contest rule.


Eric Dawson 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks for this, Matt, much appreciated!

Matt Tait 1 year, 8 months ago

You bet, man. Lots to keep track of. But it'll all become a little clearer here and the tourney will be under way real soon. Enjoy!

Ted Hume 1 year, 8 months ago

This suggests that the unnamed person who tested positive is someone other that McCormack or Enaruna. If it's a player who's currently in KC with the rest of the team, isn't exposure now a real issue for travel to Indy? Any details about this Matt? thx

Ted Hume 1 year, 8 months ago

Obviously the player who tested positive on Friday is out of the picture for 10 days after he recovers and stops testing positive, which takes time, which means a couple of weeks for that player at least, right?

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 8 months ago

Ted, it's been reported all over the place that the positive test took place in KC and was someone who played against OU. Dave and Tristan are not in KC so it of course is not them. It's Jalen Wilson who tested positive (as Tyon stated on social media).

Yes, Wilson is out at least 11 days from when he tested positive (unless he had symptoms start before that, in which case the 11 day count starts when symptoms showed up). We can assume he had no symptoms considering he played the day before though. Either way, he'll miss the first weekend of the tourney regardless.

Since Dave & Tristan didn't test positive, they were just exposed to someone who did, they will be clear to travel mid-week, assuming they don't test positive between now and then. They should be available for the tournament as long as they continue to test negative.

Chad Smith 1 year, 8 months ago

not having Jalen Wilson for the first weekend is very concerning to me. he has been rock solid most of the season and a guy who can hit outside shots and has crashed the offensive glass as well as anyone. agbaji and braun better be locked and loaded and ready to play at a very high level. we need both of them to lift their game up.

Benny Armstrong 1 year, 8 months ago

Matt, can you provide some clarification to the above? The protocols noted in the article state that "players who are out after testing positive are eligible to return on the 11th day after symptoms first surfaced." What is the protocol for those players that test positive but were asymptomatic? Is the same timeline applied to these players as well?

I ask because if it was Jalen that tested positive as is being reported on social media, but he is not showing/has not shown any symptoms, then do you start the clock with the first positive test or back it up to account for the incubation period as well?

Matt Lacey 1 year, 8 months ago

Dave is going to have to board if we don’t have Wilson. I wonder if any of the deeper bench could step up as a specialist - though they’d be a liability in other facets.

Tim Orel 1 year, 8 months ago

My hope for all the players is that they don't have any lengthy illness. Covid can cause a variety of damages, not just to the lungs, but I've heard of heart problems, mental issues due to lower oxygen and other symptoms that might linger for months. Please don't hurry anyone back just for a game - it's not worth the risk to their long-term health.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 8 months ago

3 in the West vs Eastern Washington with Iowa lurking down the line!!!

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 8 months ago

Benny, It doesn't change anything. The timer starts at the onset of symptoms, or the time the positive test was administered (whichever is first). If there are no symptoms, there is no way to know if his incubation period was 3 days or 7 days so you start at the first actual evidence of infection (the test). Furthermore, the amount of time between infection and when you would test positive is similar to the amount of time between infection and getting symptoms (if you do get them). You don't get symptoms the day you were infected or anything. So regardless which method you use, the time you start counting is about the same.

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