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The Case for KU's Fourth Banner in the Face of COVID-19's Cancellation of the NCAA Tournament

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Look, no one wants to see March Madness canceled and a season that looked wide open for a spectacular tournament fizzle to an end. You can rest assured that ultra-competitive Kansas coach Bill Self doesn't want to see it end this way. He is set to enter the tournament with his best team since his 2011 squad and with a real shot of winning his first tournament championship since 2008.

With all the pro sports leagues suspending their seasons, and the NCAA Conference Tournaments following suit, it's only a matter of time before they announce the postponement or outright cancellation of the NCAA Tournament as well. (Editor's note: Indeed, shortly after this published, the NCAA announced the cancellation of the 2020 Men's and Women's basketball tournaments.)

This whole last week the NCAA powers that be have kicked around several Frankenstein's Monster versions of keeping the tournament in play: no fans in attendance, switching to smaller venues, fewer venues, etc.

Nobody wants to watch that. It would suck to see a clutch three drained and the only thing you hear on the TV is the squeak of sneakers on the hardwood.

There has also been talk, most notably today from ESPN's Jay Bilas, about postponing the tournament. What would that even look like? Are the stars of the game with their pro futures on the line supposed to be expected to come back in late April or May to play in a shell tournament? How is that fair to a guy like Udoka Azubuike, the poor kid who has been so injury-prone his whole career at KU, whose draft capital has never been higher than it is right now to be expected to play in that dog and pony show? With depleted and changed rosters, this tournament will no longer accurately represent the season that was and the hard work teams put in to get to the tournament. It will be nothing more than a cash grab exhibition.

Either play the tournament or cancel it. Don't give us some crippled hybrid.

If the NCAA decides to cancel the tournament, then the University of Kansas should be awarded the trophy as the National Champions of the 2019-20 season. Here's my case for why such a move would be not only legit, but fair.

In a season that was wide open competitively, seven different teams have held the #1 spot at some point in both the AP and Coaches polls. Kansas is the only team to have held that spot twice at two different points in the season, and they reclaimed the #1 spot by beating the Baylor Bears, the team who held #1 the longest this season while also doing so on the Bears home court.

Additionally, Kansas finished the final two weeks of the regular season as the unanimous #1 team in both polls. They are set to be the inarguable overall #1 seed in the Tournament. Their three losses came against three teams who all finished in the top 10 of the final polls. In addition to having a win over Baylor, they also beat Dayton; both of those teams are expected to earn #1 seeds in the Tournament.

If all we are given as a true representation of what the season was, then Kansas won the regular season National Title. Hang the fourth (sixth?) banner, and then move on to next season. It would be justified given the circumstances. KU already hangs the Helms Foundation banners from the days that preceded the NCAA Tournament. All college football teams who won titles before the college football playoffs were in effect have done the same. Hell, before the 1980s, most of the national champions in college football were declared before the bowl games were even played. That's why Missouri gets mad at KU for the Bert Coan Game in 1960. Missouri was 9-0, #1 in the country, and all they had to do was beat rival Kansas on the last game of the season to be declared champs.

Personally, I hope the tournament tips and the Jayhawks earn it on the court. It's just hard to see that happening now in our current state of trying to stem the spread of Covid-19 across the nation. So if they cancel the tournament, then don't deprive Bill Self, Kansas, and its players a trophy that they already earned based on regular-season results.

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