No. 3 Kansas has already had some fine results this season, and now the Jayhawks are retrieving their coach and heading into a high-profile tournament.
Bill Self will be on the bench for the first time this season when the Jayhawks take on North Carolina State in the opening round of Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas on Wednesday.
NC State made strides in its own way earlier this season, but the focus for this tournament opener is the Jayhawks and Self. The coach ended a four-game suspension imposed by the varsity following an NCAA investigation in 2017.
Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend is also back from a ban linked to Self’s suspension. Norm Roberts had stepped in as acting coach.
This is Self’s 20th season with the Jayhawks. Though he was absent from the start of the season, this marks the ninth time Kansas has started 4-0 since taking charge in 2003.
Forward KJ Adams Jr. — at just 6ft 7 — has given the Jayhawks a boost up front. It’s unclear if he’s trapped in that starting role.
“That’s going to be a question for Coach Self, but I think KJ did a really, really good job for us,” Roberts said. “I can tell you this, KJ Adams will play many minutes.”
Redshirt junior Jalen Wilson leads the Jayhawks with a 24.5 point average. He has career-high marks in the last two games, scoring 25 points in the top 10 showdown with Duke in the Champions Classic and then 33 points against Southern Utah.
Now Kansas faces one of Duke’s neighboring schools.
NC State (4-0) leaves home for the first time this season. The inaugural homestand was probably useful for a team trying to establish an identity and figure out how newcomers fit into the system.
“I think we’re as prepared as any other team for the Bahamas,” said NC State Coach Kevin Keatts. “It’s a young season and anyone who’s going to be in the Bahamas has probably played four or five games. Anyone who goes to the Bahamas has had ups and downs in their first four or five games. I think we are prepared like everyone else.”
NC State didn’t get much respect early in the season — predicted 10th in the ACC preseason media poll — so this is the Wolfpack’s first chance to make a splash.
“We’re just looking forward to the next game,” said guard Jarkel Joiner. “Any opponent we take seriously, but we know it’s Kansas and we’ll be ready.”
The Wolf Pack had blowouts and less-comfortable late-game leads, a mix the team hopes will help the team develop.
“We’re going to fight our way through adversity that we’re all playing together,” said NC state guard Terquavion Smith, who is averaging a team-high 19 points. “We are a great team and we gel.”
The Wolf Pack appears to be built from the outside in: Of their 69 shots from the field in Saturday’s 74-63 win over Elon, 33 came from outside the 3-point arc.
“This is a 3-point shooting team,” Keatts said. “We’re probably going to average about 30 of them per game. We usually get 70-75 shots a game because we’re pushing the tempo and stealing and everything else.”
Smith, Casey Morsell and Joiner have all made 31 3-point baskets this season.
–Field level media