Kansas basketball: Why Bill Self and the Jayhawks need a championship run

Mar 17, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self motions to his team during the first half against the Texas Southern Tigers in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self motions to his team during the first half against the Texas Southern Tigers in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

For most teams who have had the type of season Kansas has had up until this point, this season would already be considered a resounding success. A Big 12 Championship, a Big 12 Tournament Championship, and a Sweet 16 appearance is a lot to be proud of.

But for Kansas, there’s still a lot left to accomplish and a lot more on the line. And they need to take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of them.

Good fortune

The Jayhawks have had some luck so far this NCAA Tournament with their region breaking in a favorable way.

For starters, the teams seeded two through four that were largely perceived as more dangerous than KU’s (Kentucky, Villanova, Purdue, UCLA, and Texas Tech) were placed in other regions. Then the No. 5-seed Iowa Hawkeyes – whom many picked to beat KU in the Sweet 16 – fell in the First Round to Richmond.

In the Round of 32, both the No. 2-seed Auburn Tigers and the No. 3-seed Wisconsin Badgers fell to No. 10-seed Miami and No. 11-seed Iowa State respectively.

No. 4-seed Providence still remains obviously as they are the Jayhawks’ opponent in the Sweet 16, and they’re a very formidable team who will give Kansas a fight, but you really can’t ask for a more favorable path to the Final Four if you’re KU.

With how hard this tournament is to win, you need a bit of luck on your side, and the Jayhawks have gotten that thus far. The bracket hasn’t always been and won’t always be this kind, so the Jayhawks need to capitalize on their good fortune.

Self’s legacy

In many ways, head coach Bill Self’s legacy is already set. He’s in the Hall of Fame and he’s already considered by many Jayhawk fans to be the best coach in school history over the one-and-only Phog Allen.

But there will be contrasting narratives about Self if he wins the national championship this year versus if he doesn’t.

If he does win it all, that second title would put him in even more elite company among his peers and the coaches who came before him, as only 15 coaches all time have won more than one NCAA Tournament Championship.

Winning a title this year would also negate the past 10 years that were largely full of disappointing finishes for Self’s teams in the NCAA Tournament, except for the title appearance they made in 2012 and the Final Four run of 2018.

If he doesn’t win a national title this year, especially with the Jayhawks earning a No. 1 seed and the bracket falling the way that it has, then the “yeah but” arguments will start to grow louder.

“Yeah, Bill Self’s teams have earned so many one seeds, but he has only one national championship…Yeah, Bill Self has coached multiple All-Americans, but he has only one national championship…Yeah, Bill Self wins the Big 12 most years, but he has only one national championship.”

Self has one of the best NCAA Tournament winning percentages in college basketball history, but if he ends his Kansas career with only one championship, that will be seen by many as a disappointing asterisk on what was otherwise an incredible career.

If he wins this year, there will forever be no asterisk and there will be no “yeah, but.”

Uncertain future

Another reason why the Jayhawks to need to capitalize on their opportunity to win a championship this year is because of the uncertain future that lies ahead for the program.

Kansas is likely to receive their punishment for their involvement in the college basketball FBI investigation shortly following this season. It’s unclear what that punishment will be, but based on the allegations they received, it could result in scholarship losses, vacated wins, or worse – a postseason ban for 2023.

With that being a very real possibility for the program, it’d be almost poetic if the Jayhawks could win the title this year before having to potentially sit out of the NCAA Tournament until March 2024.

The Kansas roster is also going to be drastically different after this year.

Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Remy Martin, Mitch Lightfoot, and Jalen Coleman-Lands will all be gone. It’s also unlikely that both Jalen Wilson and Christian Braun will be back.

That’s a lot of talent, experience, and cohesiveness that the Jayhawks will be losing this offseason.

Kansas does have a top-five recruiting class coming in – including Gradey Dick, who was just named Gatorade National Player of the Year – but next year’s team will be a lot younger and inexperienced, causing uncertainty for any lofty postseason aspirations.

And with the transfer portal vastly changing the college athletics landscape, it’s also very possible the Jayhawks lose a player or two to another school. KU could certainly pick up a transfer player or two to replace them, but as we’ve learned this year with Martin and Joe Yesefu, it’s not always easy getting transfers to mesh right away.

Veteran teams like the one KU has this year, with guys that have played together for three to four years, are the ones that typically have a lot of success under Bill Self. But that kind of team is becoming a rarity thanks to the transfer portal and growing professional options, making it even more critical that KU take advantage of the roster they have in this NCAA Tournament.

The Jayhawks have a great chance to win it all this year, and if they don’t, it won’t take away from the great season they’ve already had.

But with the way the bracket has fallen for this team, with the roster they currently have, and with the uncertainty that lies ahead, they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring another championship banner back to Allen Fieldhouse.