Why Kansas should not be called the 2020 men’s college basketball national champions


Kansas finished No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 poll that published on Wednesday. The Jayhawks got 63 of the 65 first-place votes. Gonzaga also got one. Dayton also got one. But Kansas was at the top of 97% of all AP ballots — and deservingly so. Because nobody accomplished more this season.

The Jayhawks finished 28-3.

They had more Quadrant 1 victories (12) than anybody else. They had four more Quadrant 1/Quadrant 2 victories (20) than anybody else. They beat the schools that are No. 3 (Dayton), No. 5 (Baylor), No. 18 (BYU) and No. 24 (West Virginia) in the final rankings. And their three losses were to the schools that are No. 5 (Baylor), No. 10 (Villanova) and No. 11 (Duke) in the final rankings — meaning the Jayhawks were one of just five teams that never lost a game outside of the NCAA’s first quadrant.

Literally every team besides Kansas lost to a currently unranked opponent.

KU never lost to anybody ranked lower than 11th.

Meantime, Kansas finished No. 1 at KenPom, No. 1 in BPI, No. 1 in Sagarin, No 1 in KPI and No. 1 in Torvik. So it’s fine with me if you want to call the Jayhawks the best team of the 2020 season. It’s a sensible claim. There’s a lot to back it up. But, all that said, Kansas should not be called the 2020 national champion.

Can we put an end to this silliness?

In fairness to Bill Self, he tried to end the conversation earlier this week when he asked about Kansas possibly being the national champ based on polls. The Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer acknowledged he personally thinks it would be “great,” if only because he knew his Jayhawks would be No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 poll and Coaches poll. But, Self added, “there’d be a huge asterisk on our side, and I’d be the first to admit it.”

So that should’ve been that, right?

You’d think so.

But, after the final AP Top 25 poll published Wednesday, the debate restarted on social media with folks going back and forth about whether Kansas should in fact be called the 2020 national champion. And if you’re one of the people arguing in favor of it, here’s my first question for you: Are you insane?

The fact that college football crowned a champion by vote from 1936 to 1994 doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable thing for college basketball to do now. It just means college football was stupid from 1936 to 1994. In college basketball, things are settled on the court, in a single-elimination tournament featuring 68 schools. If you start in the First Four, you have to win seven games. Otherwise, you have to win six.

There’s no other way to become a champion.

If this NBA season never restarts, we’re not going to crown a champion based on the opinion of 65 media members. There just won’t be a champion. Same goes for the NHL. Same goes for MLS. So why anybody would suggest we’d handle college basketball differently is a total head-scratcher. In plain terms, it’s dumb.

Does it stink?

Of course, it stinks.

It stinks and it’s unfortunate.

I hate it for Kansas as much as I hate it for Gonzaga, Dayton, Baylor, San Diego State, Florida State and every other team that had a reasonable chance to win the 2020 NCAA Tournament. It’s an opportunity missed they’ll never get back — and some of those programs will never again be in as good of a position entering March to actually win a national championship as they were entering this March.

That’s a tough thing to accept.

But all of this is a tough thing to accept. And the only thing worse than not having a 2020 national champion would be labeling somebody as such in a way that runs counter to how things are decided in this sport — especially when you consider how infrequently the team we think is the best in the middle of March actually wins the NCAA Tournament in early April.

Kentucky in 2015 is but one example.

Kansas in 2020 could’ve been the next. In fact, strictly from a probabilities perspective, Kansas in 2020 likely would’ve been the next. And once you acknowledge that — i.e., the  annual randomness of the NCAA Tournament — it’s nonsensical to label Kansas or anybody else the champion of a season never completed.

Nobody.

That’s the 2020 national champion.

Nobody.

Forever and always, unfortunately.





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