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