KU will be without McCullar in NCAA Tournament

The Kansas Jayhawks will be without their leader scorer, Kevin McCullar Jr., because of a lingering knee injury that has hobbled him for the past six weeks. Center Hunter Dickinson will return.



March 20, 2024 - 1:51 PM

Kansas' Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) shoots over Houston's Emanuel Sharp (21) and Joseph Tugler (25) during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images/TNS

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. has been ruled out of the NCAA Tournament because of a bone bruise on his knee that caused him to miss six of the past 12 games, including the Jayhawks’ one-and-done ouster in the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters Tuesday, two days before the fourth-seeded Jayhawks play No. 13 seed Samford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, that McCullar’s knee pain “has not subsided any” and he would not be available.

“It’s too bad for him to be able to contribute,” Self said upon the team’s arrival in Salt Lake City, “so Kevin will not play. 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 practice in six weeks, basically,” Self added. “He tried to (go play) and said that he just couldn’t go.”

McCullar, who was voted an honorable-mention All-American earlier Tuesday, had back-to-back triple-doubles earlier this season, and he was having the kind of season the Jayhawks had hoped when he decided to return for a fifth year. McCullar spent his first three seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to Kansas, and he was averaging 18.3 points this season.

“Kevin’s with the team,” Self said. “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 — 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.”

They Jayhawks will at least have second-team All-American Hunter Dickinson back for the NCAA Tournament.

The 7-foot center dislocated his shoulder in their regular-season finale against Houston, and he sat out their lopsided loss to the Bearcats in the Big 12 tourney. He has practiced every day since last weekend, including full contact the last two days.

Dickinson, who transferred to Michigan this season, is averaging 18 points and 10.8 rebounds. But more importantly, the Kansas offense often flows through him in the paint, and his importance was evident in the loss to the Bearcats.

It will be just as important against Samford, one of the smallest teams in Division I.

“The draw is hard, but the draw for any four-seed is hard,” Self said. “You’re going to play a team that can beat you in the first round and you’re going to obviously play either team in the second round that can beat you. So, yeah, the draw is hard, but I don’t look at it as being a positive or negative. I look at it being what it is.”