Kansas had to withdraw from the Big 12 Tournament last week in the middle of bracket play after a positive COVID-19 test within the program. Now the Jayhawks -- still dealing with fallout from that -- will begin their NCAA Tournament run this week at less than full strength.
Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday that leading rebounder and starting forward Jalen Wilson will not be available for the team's first round game on Saturday against Eastern Washington, striking a blow to an already-thin frontline. He also added that starting center David McCormack, who missed the Big 12 Tournament because of COVID-19 protocols along with reserve guard Tristan Enaruna, did not travel with the team but is expected to arrive in Indianapolis a day before Kansas' tourney run begins.
"Good news bad news," Self said. "David [McCormack] will arrive here Friday morning, so he will practice with us Friday. Tristan will not make the trip. Tristan tested positive this week after numerous negative tests in a row. So he will remain in Lawrence until the following week if we're fortunate enough to advance. And then Jalen [Wilson], it looks like he'll be coming to Indy on Monday."
McCormack would be eligible to play on Saturday if all goes according to plan. Should the team advance to the second round, Wilson "could be" in uniform on Monday, Self said.
"But you're not going to be able to count on him for a significant number of minutes I don't believe on Saturday," he added of McCormack. "Even though it'd be nice if he could."
It's a precarious position for Kansas. Without its leading rebounder (Wilson) and second-leading rebounder and scorer (McCormack), it leaves the team in a spot where it will have to play almost exclusively small. They Jayhawks would start 6-foot-10 big man Mitch Lightfoot as the de facto big. Starting 6-foot-6 wing Christian Braun, starting 6-foot-5 guard Marcus Garrett and Tyon Grant-Foster -- a junior college reserve who has played 168 minutes all season -- could all see time as small ball bigs.
"We're extremely, extremely small," Self said. "I don't know if we've ever run a team out there this small. We're going to have to be very scrappy and aggressive."