Kansas is hoping Jalen Wilson can shake off the quarantine rust as well as David McCormack. Or, at least, better than Virginia did in an early NCAA Tournament exit.
The return of McCormack helped propel the third-seeded Jayhawks into Monday’s West Region second-round matchup with Southern California.
Wilson is on a tight timetable to make it back in time for Round 2. Kansas’s leading rebounder is scheduled to finish his quarantine period on Sunday.
The regional got a shakeup Saturday when positive COVID-19 tests for VCU forced a no-contest with Oregon, moving the Ducks into the next round.
And another one came hours later when No. 13 seed Ohio eliminated No. 4 Virginia with a 62-58 victory. The Cavaliers didn’t arrive in Indiana until Friday because of their own COVID-19 issues.
“What is it with us Virginia schools?” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said when a reporter told him about the decision regarding VCU.
McCormack at least got to practice Friday before he collected 22 points and nine rebounds during Saturday’s 93-84 comeback victory over Eastern Washington.
“Gives me some hope now with Jalen coming back,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Maybe he can provide some key minutes for us on Monday because we’ll need everybody.”
Kansas and Virginia both had pulled out of their respective conference tournaments. Kansas survived and advanced despite its own issues.
So did Oklahoma, missing second-leading scorer De’Vion Harmon for the first two games. The Sooners still edged Missouri 72-68 behind Austin Reaves’ 23 points and six assists. That earned them a date with No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga.
Self isn’t sure the Jayhawks can make a deep run without everybody back. Reserve Tristan Enaruna remains out.
“What we had was enough,” Self said. “I’m not sure that it is to go deep in the tournament. We need to have our full complement of guys.”
The next test is for Kansas is Evan Mobley and Southern California, which smothered Drake defensively in a 72-56 win. The 7-foot freshman, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in his NCAA Tournament debut, is a second-team AP All-American and projected NBA lottery pick.
Southern California coach Andy Enfield isn’t expecting to have an edge against Kansas because the Jayhawks are short-handed.
“They’re just exceptional,” Enfield said. “They have so much talent. They’re so experienced. They have veterans at different positions. And so we’ll have to play a great game to have a chance to beat them on Monday.”
Oregon advanced after the Ducks’ game with VCU was declared a no-contest under COVID-19 protocols.
“We’ve been tested every day for the past three weeks, but within the past 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said in a statement. “We are devastated for our players and coaches. It has been a dream for all of us to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
Next up for the Ducks is No. 2 seed Iowa, an 86-74 winner over Grand Canyon. The regular-season Pac-12 champions had their game called a little more than three hours before the scheduled tip-off.
“It’s one of those things where for one full calendar year, it’s just deal with whatever happens,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I feel bad for VCU. In some ways, I feel bad for the Oregon players. I bet you they wanted to play. But it’s just the circumstance, and we’ll both move on and we’ll play each other in the next game and be happy to be here.”
Oregon has been to seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments. The Ducks have four scholarship seniors — Chris Duarte, LJ Figueroa, Eugene Omoruyi and Amauri Hardy — who are averaging 49.9 points per game collectively.
USC’s Enfield called the news “really heartbreaking.”
“But it is a reminder that we just have to stay safe,” he said. “And sometimes, the COVID takes twists and turns. They’re unexpected. And so I’m very sorry to hear that.”
Creighton has been through a lot late in the season, from coach Greg McDermott’s four-day suspension to a 25-point blowout loss to Georgetown in the Big East championship game. Now, the Bluejays are trying to make the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1974 on the heels of a 63-62 win over UC Santa Barbara
They have made it to Round 2 six times in the past 20 years, going 0-6. They’ll try to end that drought against Ohio.
McDermott served a suspension for the final regular-season game after comparing his program to a plantation on Feb. 27. Coming back from the 73-48 loss loss was much easier.
“We’ve been through a lot, and the reason we’ve been through a lot is on me,” said McDermott, in his 11th season at Creighton. “And I’ve had to work to repair some of those relationships with the people that I hurt, some inside the program and some outside the program and that process, it’s just beginning.
“It’s certainly not even close to over.”
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