Like all college basketball teams, Kansas has been impacted by a recent surge of COVID-19 infections.
The No. 6 Jayhawks (10-1), however, have maintained their health and have faced more pressure arranging scheduling makeovers as another fill-in, George Mason (7-5), visits Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday.
To hear Bill Self tell it, any delay could cut into the development of what is beginning to look like a national contender with the Jayhawks beating opponents by 21.8 points on average during a six-game winning streak. They carry a 24-game home win streak over nonconference opponents.
“That’s what our players are dealing with right now,” Self said of scheduling complications. “We don’t know what’s happening day to day. We’re just rolling with it.
“This can be a fun team. They can play above the rim, shoot the threes pretty well, share the ball and are unselfish for the most part. More personality than we have had in years, maybe a little too much. But I would much rather have to corral than encourage something.”
An 88-61 romp Wednesday over Nevada proved again the difficulty containing a pair of active wings in Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. Attention they command provides openings offensively for teammates, too. Dajuan Harris fulfills a role as facilitator and on-ball defender yet erupted for 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting while dishing five assists against Nevada.
Kansas also has forced at least 20 turnovers in three straight games to trigger fast-break opportunities that often lead to dunks by Agbaji or Braun, who average 21.5 and 17.3 points, respectively.
“We have so many weapons, we’ll just kind of put our foot on people throughout the game,” Braun said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that learned how to play with each other, so I think that’s probably why you’re seeing us get better.”
Look no further than Jalen Wilson to see an acceptance of a role. The returning starter missed the first three games because of a suspension for a DUI arrest and now comes off the bench. Against Nevada, he still led Kansas with 10 rebounds and also scored seven points in 21 minutes.
“I’ve been trying to just think about how I can affect our team instead of myself lately and just play hard,” Wilson said.
George Mason had an opening Saturday after three scheduled games got scratched and an Atlantic 10 clash scheduled for Sunday got postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Duquesne program. The Patriots, who produced wins at Maryland and at Georgia, have not played since a 67-44 win over American on Dec. 21.
Ballhandling will be key against Kansas’ aggressive defense, though George Mason has committed fewer than 10 turnovers in four of its last five games.
After its last victory, George Mason coach Kim English acknowledged that American “created some challenges on defense, especially switching. I’m really pleased with our ball security, our passing and our grit.”
Josh Oduro (17.4 points) leads four Patriots averaging double-figure scoring. Davonte Gaines averages 7.8 rebounds and Xavier Johnson averages 4.5 assists.
–Field Level Media