Kansas made it through seven games before having to cancel its first contest due to Covid-19 concerns. Thankfully it was not due to an outbreak on the Jayhawks (and hopefully it is contained to just one positive test for Tarleton) and it was a game that would not have made an impact on selection Sunday.
From a health perspective, canceling games is obviously the smart decision. From a basketball perspective, it’s never great to not be able to play your full schedule. However, the timing of this cancelation, paired with what else happened last week on the court for KU, might have been the best result for the Jayhawks.
Sunday’s matchup was going to be the Jayhawks’ third game in six days and sixth game in 13 days. Yes, they are college kids, but those types of minutes of high exertion, especially when not having the same type of off-season training, wear on players. It’s a brutal stretch. And given that the Jayhawks start Big 12 play against three-straight ranked opponents, fresh legs will be critical.
So, the cancellation came at as good of a time as it could. Now the Jayhawks will have five days of rest before opening conference play on the road against a tough Texas Tech team. It also gives Bill Self five days to scheme up a game plan for the Red Raiders.
But what makes the cancellation better is how the Omaha game played out on Friday. Self mentioned that one of the benefits of playing games against opponents like Tarlton is to get his bench more of an opportunity to play and get experience. That’s why a quick and decisive blowout helps. Bryce Thompson, Dajuan Harris, and Tyon Grant-Foster all played 20+ minutes, while Tristan Enaruna logged 19. Grant-Foster was the biggest recipient of that time, with 13 points, four rebounds, an assist, two steals, and two blocks. Meanwhile, Mitch Lightfoot only played 14 minutes, but made the most of that time and had to build confidence in his best game of the season so far.
The improvement of guys like Thompson and Grant-Foster will be needed for Kansas to reach its ceiling in March. The Jayhawks will need a spark off the bench both offensively and defensively, especially if Ochai Agbaji or Christian Braun are having an off night. Having its starters rested and healthy as soon as possible is needed for Kansas to compete for a Big 12 title. The last few days were steps in the right direction for both of those to happen.