Kansas men’s basketball dealt significant blow ahead of NCAA tournament

Kansas men’s basketball head coach Bill Self shut down any hope that Kevin McCullar Jr. would recover in time for the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, telling reporters on Tuesday that the fifth-year player will miss the entirety of the tournament because of a knee injury.

McCullar, who spent three seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to Kansas last season, has missed six of the Jayhawks’ final 12 games of the season because of a bone bruise.

Kevin McCullar Jr., #15 of the Kansas Jayhawks, shoots a free throw against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum on Jan. 20, 2024 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

Self told reporters that McCullar attempted to play on the injury but said “he just couldn’t go.”

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“Kevin’s not gonna play,” Self said. “Kevin says his knee pain has not subsided any, and it’s too bad for him to be able to contribute. So Kevin will not play.”

The coach further clarified that the injury would keep McCullar out for the remainder of the tournament – not just the first round.

“We’re shutting him down for the tournament. If we’re fortunate enough to win two games we’ll have done it without him. He hasn’t practiced in six weeks, basically.”

Kevin McCullar Jr., #15 of the Kansas Jayhawks, dribbles the ball against pressure from Cam Carter, #5 of the Kansas State Wildcats, in the first half at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 5, 2024 in Manhattan, Kansas. (Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

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McCullar, who was voted an honorable-mention All-American earlier Tuesday, returned for his fifth season and was averaging 18.3 points before sustaining an injury. Self said Tuesday that he is traveling with the team.

“Kevin’s with the team. I mean, heck, he tried and we know he tried and was going through rehab, and it just didn’t get any better. The other weeks, it progressively got a little bit better. And this week it just didn’t.”

Self lamented the outcome but added there was “no decision” to be made because the injury itself ruled McCullar out.

Kevin McCullar Jr., #15 of the Kansas Jayhawks, reacts after drawing a foul during the 2nd half of the game against the Kansas State Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse on March 5, 2024 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“With consultation with doctors and with Kevin and where he is mentally and physically right now, it’s best for him to go ahead and shut it down, unfortunately for us, and more so for him, but there was really no decision to be made because he can’t go.”

The fourth-seeded Jayhawks will take on the No. 13 seeded Bulldogs on Friday at 9:55 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Paulina Dedaj is a Sports Reporter for Fox News Digital.

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