Talk of Kansas basketball hanging a 2020 national championship banner seems tacky
While there are plenty of people out there — present company included — who still can’t quite comprehend that it’s over, it’s worth remembering that the Kansas men’s basketball team turned in an all-timer of a 2019-20 season.
Sadly, that season came to an abrupt and agonizing end on Thursday, when both the Big 12 Conference and then the NCAA Tournament elected to cancel the postseason amid concerns about the threat and spread of the coronavirus.
It’s hard to blame either entity for the moves. And it’s even harder to avoid sympathizing with the disappointment the players and coaches of the blue blood program must be feeling right now.
Throw the Kansas fans into that group, too.
Although none of them put in the same kind of work in the weight room or the gym as the KU players themselves, Jayhawk fans are a loud and proud group that lives for March. And many of them spent a good portion of their day on Thursday trying to make sense of what happened and, worse, trying to figure out what they were going to do to next.
Some of them — the Twitter types — began to clown around with the idea of Kansas hanging a “2020 national champions” banner at Allen Fieldhouse. They even went as far as to photoshop said banner into the AFH rafters. And while the images looked nice and clean, the idea just isn’t.
Sure, recognizing college basketball’s national champion through the polls may have worked way back when. The Helms Athletic Foundation crowned the champ from 1904 through 1937 by picking the team that had the best season.
KU got the nod twice, in 1922 and 1923, and has two banners hanging to show for it.
But then the NCAA Tournament became a thing in 1939 and that wonderful event has decided college basketball’s champion every year since. Until now.
College football may have survived, or even thrived, by naming a champion through the polls for decades. But that was largely because football did not have a postseason tournament and, therefore, could not crown its champion any other way.
Claiming otherwise would be akin to what Central Florida’s football team did a few years back by making rings, printing T-shirts and even hanging a freaking banner that proclaimed the Knights to be the 2017 champs.
The stunt was great for the fans. But it didn’t gain much traction anywhere else. And, in all honesty, it looked a little JV.
Everyone knows that Alabama won the title that year. We all saw it with our own eyes. Bama knocked off Clemson in the national semifinals and then beat Georgia, in overtime, in the national title game before the crimson and white confetti came raining down.
Beyond that, 13-1 Alabama finished ranked No. 1 in both major polls. Central Florida, which went 13-0, was ranked No. 1 in the Colley Matrix poll. But the Knights finished sixth and seventh in the AP and Coaches polls. Alabama was No. 2 in the Colley poll.
I’m sure KU’s players and coaches would love to celebrate the idea of being named the 2020 champs.
But even if they were, they would always know that they did not win their title the way all other modern day champions had won theirs — by grinding their way through six of the toughest games you could ever imagine playing and standing on the stage at the end of it all with “One Shining Moment” being put together as you celebrate.
Was that their fault? Nope. Would the Jayhawks have won it all if March Madness had not been canceled this season? I really think they were headed that way.
But it didn’t happen. And it’s better to just leave a blank space after the weird ending to a wonderful season rather than trying to force something that, at best, will always seem a bit awkward, and, at worst, would look tacky.
I get the argument that KU was the nation’s unanimous No. 1 team when it counted most and that most people who follow the sport agree that Kansas was college basketball’s best team entering March.
But how many times does college basketball’s best team actually win the title? It certainly isn’t every year.
That’s the beauty of March Madness, right?
Don’t get me wrong. There will be a time and place for the 2019-20 Jayhawks to be celebrated. Even if it’s not any time soon, let’s hope it’s one hell of a party.
This team was as much fun to cover as any team KU has had in the past six or seven seasons. And it was full of good, likable, talented kids who played the right way and for the right reasons.
They worked hard, played harder and improved a ridiculous amount throughout the season. And they deserve to feel not just good, but great, about the season they put together.
They just don’t need a T-shirt or knockoff banner to justify the feeling.