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The Kevin McCullar Injury: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and Where Kansas Goes From Here

Star Kansas forward Kevin McCullar has had a nagging knee injury that has sidelined him (aside from the Oklahoma game) since the contest with Baylor on February 10th. McCullar was on pace for an All-American season, putting up 19 PPG, 6.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and a 46.3% FG percentage. He and center Hunter Dickinson have been a deadly combo when they're on, however the Jayhawks have had to deal without him for some tough contests.

The Story So Far...

The Jayhawks beat Baylor without McCullar 64-61 and looked pretty good, yes, but then they proceeded to get run out of the gym versus Kevin's former alma mater the Texas Tech Red Raiders 79-50. While McCullar may not have won them the game, he potentially would have saved them from getting embarrassed like that. He would then be pushed back into action when the Jayhawks traveled to Oklahoma and performed below average, going 4-14, scoring 10 points, and grabbing 8 rebounds. He didn't really seem to show up until the 2nd half, which was odd considering with injuries you'd think it would be the opposite. McCullar was then ruled out AGAIN at the last minute versus Texas, where he wasn't really needed as the Jayhawks cruised to an 86-67 home victory, remaining undefeated at home this season. Originally, this injury was thought to be something minor that McCullar could easily bounce back from, however, it turns out McCullar is recovering from a bone bruise as reported by Bill Self after the Texas game. Self even went so far as to potentially rule him out for the season, telling media that Kevin "Wouldn't be worth a crap in the NCAA tournament" if he were to not return before tourney time. This would hurt McCullar's draft stock if he were to not return and play in the tournament, however, so would a more severe injury. Bone bruises are fickle injuries that can cause some discomfort and further damage if not treated properly. Kansas and McCullar need to treat this with fragility and patience, but also neither can really afford to have him out for an extended amount of time. The situation has been frustrating to deal with for both the Jayhawks and McCullar, and there are some questions to be answered before Kansas lets McCullar back out onto the court. Some have even gone so far as to compare this to the Jalon Daniels injury in its ambiguity and unusual nature, of which I am confident in saying this: It doesn't compare. It's unusual, it's nagging, and it's left many with questions, but it's more detrimental to the team and to McCullar, and it didn't and potentially DOESN'T have to be.

What We Know vs. What We Don't

Many have played the blame game regarding this situation, which frankly is ridiculous. As stated before, these injuries are fickle and unpredictable. No one is necessarily "at fault" for the re-aggravation of this injury, staff was told that McCullar was physically good to go for the game against Oklahoma. He played, and he didn't necessarily play badly. Rusty, yes, but not bad. Did playing help his knee? No, but how was the staff supposed to know given the information they were given and knew from both McCullar and the athletic training staff? The flip-flopping of availability has been frustrating, but I don't think anyone is truly "mad" at anyone or blaming anyone internally. There isn't necessarily any severe tension, to my knowledge, but rather subtle ultimatums. It's a weird and frustrating situation, but in the end, it's up to Kevin whether he wants to go or not. Self has almost drawn his line in the sand with his comments though, and it's potentially time for Kevin to make a tough decision. Self knows how to handle his players and the Kansas faithful needs to trust their coach of 20+ years. This isn't a simple situation and we don't know everything, but what is known for sure is that Self knows more than us and McCullar is the only one who decides how the rest of his season will go, provided that this injury is not more severe than originally thought. Self, I think, believes Kevin can play and is pushing him to do so, however, I don't think there's ill will between the two parties. It's simply an "Are you with us or not" type of question for Kevin. There's no blame for what happened and Kevin shouldn't get flack for "causing unnecessary drama", but the ball is in Kevin's court for how he is perceived both internally and externally for the rest of the season. Drama can certainly be caused by him still should he choose to sit with a manageable injury that he can play on, and that could bite him hard should he choose that path.

What Happens if Kevin Doesn't Come Back?

McCullar's injury, once again, is unpredictable. Bone bruises can have setbacks, especially if pushed back into action too early. Kansas and McCullar need to treat this situation, as I said before, with some grace and patience, but I think the general consensus is that McCullar has a decent probability of coming back should he want to. Emphasis on the "want to" aspect, as Kevin may choose to sit out to protect his draft stock. This being said though, does it, or will NBA scouts look at it as a negative for him essentially not being tough enough? How does that affect his legacy and reputation? Much of this is an internal discussion Kevin needs to have with himself and his inner circle, so there will be unknowns that remain even when all is said and done.

What is all but known though, is the impact McCullar will have if he is NOT on the court come tournament time. This leaves the already thin Kansas bench depleted even further, as Nick Timberlake has started in Kevin's absence. While Timberlake has done better than in past games, that truly isn't saying much. Timberlake averages 4.2 PPG, 1.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and holds a 37.6% FG percentage on an average of about 13 minutes played. A far cry from the numbers McCullar was putting up, but again, he has been improving. He's probably the guy the staff is highest on coming off the bench, him or Jamari McDowell. Whether Kevin comes back or not a lot of weight will be put on both those guys' shoulders come March, we'll have to see if they can carry that weight. Kevin being out will hurt this team immensely, to the point where there's potential Kansas could see a poor tournament performance. They've survived some tough matchups without McCullar, but his absence is felt hard. Not every game can be played at Allen and Hunter, Dajuan, and Furphy can't play hero ball every game...Kansas will need a complete team effort no matter what.


Kevin McCullar's injury comes at an extremely inopportune time for the Jayhawks. Right before tournament time, going into a tough stretch the Jayhawks will need to be perfect to be able to even have a shot at the Big 12 regular season title and already having a thin bench has not boded well, but McCullar also does need to care for his health and his future. The Kansas staff knows this, which is why it's so tough to determine where to go from here. In the end, the preseason #1 curse for the Jayhawks has reared its ugly head, whether Kevin McCullar gets back or not. They have struggled on the road, they've struggled to maintain their grip on the Big 12 this year, and everything that happened in the preseason regarding the transfers and freshman leaving/getting arrested and kicked off the team has come back to bite them. They still have as good a shot as any to be in contention for the Final Four, March is unpredictable, but not having one of their star players does not help their chances. We will just have to wait and see...

Burn Notice: 8/10 IcyHots and R.I.C.E. y'all...

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