Kansas remains focused on pursuit of No. 1 seed as Bill Self’s sudden hospitalization weighs on program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Less than an hour after it was announced Thursday that Bill Self had been hospitalized overnight, a local sports talk show had already moved on to the real concern: speculating on the impact of the absence of the Hall of Fame coach on the Jayhawks’ top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

You know, the real important stuff.

To be clear, the Kansas coach’s health remains the number one concern for the Big 12 tournament and college basketball. Yet there are other not-so-parallel issues at hand.

Those Jayhawks TO DO look like they could be the first college basketball team in 15 years to win back-to-back national championships. Earning that No. 1 seed East important to this lawsuit, given its implications.

“It is very important,” Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson said after KU’s 78-61 Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal win over West Virginia. “Why not have the opportunity to cut the nets in that same gym?”

It was a reference to the Midwest Regional being played in two weeks at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, 45 miles from the KU campus. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee could even make the Jayhawks even stronger by putting them three hours away from here in Des Moines, Iowa, for the first two rounds.

At least that’s the guilty pleasure KU fans had to factor in while their coach recuperated in a local hospital.

After Thursday’s game, kansas clarified that Self “underwent a standard procedure which went well” and is expected to “recover fully.” He also shot down misinformation that Self had suffered a heart attack.

It’s a tribute to what Self built that the program was put on cruise control against WVU. Veteran assistant Norm Roberts is now 5-0 in place of Self this season, having also coached the first four games. The school self-imposed a suspension from Self during an ongoing NCAA investigation.

“Honestly,” said first-year guard Gradey Dick summing up Roberts’ style, “[there was] a little less shouting.”

It doesn’t matter who is coaching these Jayhawks right now. Kansas has won a No. 1 seed 15 times in its history. Two of Self’s four national championships (2008, 2022) have come from a No. 1 seed. That doesn’t count the COVID-19 year of 2020 when the tournament was canceled and the Jayhawks likely would have been n ° 1.

Now it seems the only questions are whether Kansas will be A No. 1 or THE No. 1 and whether it matters that Self is unavailable beyond the Big 12 tournament.

You can chat with CBS Sports bracket expert Jerry Palm where the Jayhawks belong in the No. 1 starting line — he currently has them at the top — but being No. 1 overall after the draft on Sunday is a real advantage. and perceived. This team plays close to home. This team has the label of the committee as being the best in the country. This team’s path through support is supposed to be easier.

Then there’s the math: 23 times since the group began being ranked in 1979, a No. 1 seed has won the national championship. The No. 1 seeds are 147-1 in first-round matches.

“Our resume, whichever way people look at it, is pretty impressive,” Self said after Wednesday’s pre-tournament shootout. It was the closest he had campaigned.

More than two-thirds of the Jayhawks’ 32 games (22) have come against Quadrant 1 competition. Their 16 Q1 wins lead the nation. Last week, Self clinched his 17 regular-season Big 12 title in his 20 seasons at Kansas.

All of Thursday’s immediate shock fell on the laid-back Jayhawks. They were briefed on Self’s situation during a team meeting at 11 a.m. There were no distractions. Wilson posted another double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Elite point guard Dajuan Harris had one of his best games with 13 points, 8 assists and 5 steals. A few alley oops knocked the fans out of their seats in the second half.

“I’m not worried at all,” said senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. “They’ve given us a ton of updates. I know he’s a fighter. The main thing for us older guys, we try to be there for him and coach him on the pitch.”

“I know he’s a little sad not to be here, but I know it’s going to make him feel better that we keep winning,” forward KJ Adams said. “…I don’t really know as much as I would like.”

But this East sports where priorities are sometimes twisted when a championship is at stake. Kansas’ Big 12 tournament title would be his 10th under Self. KU’s semifinal opponent Iowa State will ensure the arena rocks again in what has become the nation’s top conference tournament inhabited by the nation’s top basketball conference.

“We definitely need him,” Wilson said of Self. “Our motto is kind of: ‘Faces will always change, but not expectations.’ That’s the key to this tournament, no matter who we’re up against, no matter what happens, we play our game.”

There must still be a level of uncertainty in Kansas. The truth is, we still don’t know exactly what Self is suffering from.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins went philosophical late Thursday afternoon. During his post-match press conference, the 69-year-old manager recalled suffering a heart attack in 2002. In 2017 he clutched his chest while on the sidelines when his defibrillator went off.

“I think it would be really difficult for Bill at this time of year. [to miss games]”, Huggins said. “Them trying to make another run for another national championship and him being in the state he is in, I think that would be very difficult.

Huggins was then asked how he prioritized his own mortality over wanting to be back on the pitch.

“I’m not a very good listener,” he said. “…I want Bill out of there like he always was.”

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