Kansas Jayhawks basketball under Bill Self was due for down season eventually

In year 21, the Kansas basketball program has suffered its worst season under Bill Self. It was bound to happen eventually, right?
Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self
Kansas basketball head coach Bill Self / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

Almost every school in the nation would be ecstatic if they could claim a 22-win season and a probable six-seed in the NCAA Tournament was a down year. It's all relative, but this has been the worst season in a lot of ways for the Kansas basketball team since the probation season in 1988-89.

Yes, Kansas has great wins over Kentucky, Tennessee, UConn, Indiana, Baylor, and Houston. They've also been beaten by UCF, West Virginia, Kansas State, and BYU at home. They also have a pair of crushing 29-point defeats at the hands of Texas Tech and Houston.

Under Bill Self, Kansas has never been seeded lower than four in the NCAA Tournament; they'll be lucky to get a six-seed this year. Since that probationary season in 1988-89, Roy Williams' first year at Kansas, the Jayhawks have never gone without at least one three-game winning streak in conference play. Until this year, that is.

Kansas will make the tournament, just as it has every season since 1988-89, a record-setting streak. Self still has as many home losses as Big 12 championships. A down year was inevitable; every coach has had at least one. As far as down years go, this one is pretty mild.


This isn't an easy question to answer. There are several factors which figure into the equation that led to the results, but the all-compassing reasons are simply recruiting and retention.

First of all, the NCAA investigation dangled over Self's head like the sword of Damocles for way too many years. There was a shadow of possible sanctions looming around the program, though the NCAA was never able to prove a case that warrant ed much of a penalty. Other programs, however, were able to use that in recruiting against Kansas for several years.

One of the eventual penalties accessed to Kansas eventually was a reduction of scholarships, with which Self has jad to deal with over the past couple of seasons.

There is also the transfer portal. Self has always used transfers judiciously, filling holes here and there when needed. That landscape changed very quickly and Self was a slight step behind the pack on his adjustments to it. Yes, he added maybe the best transfer player yet in Hunter Dickinson, but he didn't seem prepared for the ease with how his own players could take advantage of the portal.

Some of this was undoubtably caused by his health scare last March. He was rightfully concentrating on his health rather than basketball to a certain extent, but he seemed caught off-guard with the mass departures after the season. In hindsight, he didn't seemed prepared for the desertions of all the big men - Ernest Udeh Jr., Zuby Ejiofer and Zach Clemence (who later returned and redshirted)..

He didn't have anyone lined up behind those three. He ended up having to take Parker Braun just to have a body. Braun has done as well as could be expected, but he has seldom been more than a live body.

Self also whiffed on two big recruits. First, he gave a second chance to Arterio Morris, and that backfired on him horribly. He signed Chris Johnson, but that youngster grew homesick and didn't seem to fit in and ended up leaving and going to Texas.

Suddenly, Kansas was down to just eight scholarship players. Luckily, Self was able to pull in Johnny Furphy in August, an incredible talent to add that late. It's hard to imagine this team without Furphy right now.

All of these things came together, and coupled with the fact a player or two failed to meet expectations, and how injuries have played a big factor in conference play, it has led to a season of disappointment.

No one should panic, though. Self is clearly the best coach on the college level. He has shown the incredible ability to adjust his methodology in both his coaching style and recruiting strategies. You can be sure he'll adjust.

He's already locked down three recruits for next year in Flory Bidunga, Rakease Passmore, and Lebaron Philon. There is a chance KU can land the recently available, top-20 prospect, Liam McNeeley, too. Look for more to follow.

The portal is also due to evolve some more. The extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 is ending. That will curtail the number of veteran players available in the portal. Coaches will still need to deal with players who transfer multiple times, as the courts are preventing the NCAA from restricting this activity. You can be sure that Self will be ready for this in the future.

The best sign that Self will make adjustments moving forward is that he seems absolutely aware of the recruiting mistakes he's made in recent years. ESPN analyst, Fran Fraschilla has indicated during recent broadcasts that Self understands what went wrong and will do everything in his power to prevent these roster issues from being a problem again.

Expectations at Kansas are always going to be extremely high, rightfully so. The fans are spoiled and have the right to voice their disgruntlement, but they should also be patient. Trust Self to fix this issue moving forward. They should also remember that 22 wins is still a great win total and if that is the worst Self does at Kansas, everything will be all right!