Freshman forward Cliff Alexander was not with the Kansas basketball team Wednesday when the Jayhawks stepped off a bus at their downtown hotel, two days before their NCAA Tournament opener.
Alexander, who remains sidelined while the NCAA investigates his eligibility, was not expected to play this weekend, beginning Friday against No. 15 seed New Mexico State. But Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday that the school elected to keep Alexander at home in an effort to play it safe against NCAA rules.
“I think it was kind of left up to us to determine it, and based on prior history, the smart thing has always been to not travel,” Self said.
Self said there was no update in the NCAA case, which appears to be at a standstill. The NCAA is investigating possible impermissible benefits received by Alexander’s family from a third party, and according to a statement released last week from an attorney representing Alexander, the NCAA is waiting on more documents before investigators speak to Alexander.
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“I hate it for Cliff, but it is the reality of it,” Self said. “So he’s not traveling in the tournament as long as he’s not cleared to play. That’s the way it usually works with all guys that are ineligible.”
While junior forward Perry Ellis recovers from a sprained knee, Self said sophomore big man Landen Lucas was also limited in practice this week. Lucas, who is playing through a nagging hip injury, did not practice Monday or Wednesday, Self said. Lucas, though, is not expected to miss any action this weekend.
Self hopeful about KU fans
Consider Self a fan of the NCAA Tournament setup in Omaha, which features a downtown arena — the CenturyLink Center — and plenty of hotels in close proximity.
Self also expressed hope for a solid turnout from Kansas fans, especially with the presence of No. 1 seed Wisconsin and No. 7 Wichita State in the same building.
“I would think if they’re creative, they could still get” tickets, Self said of KU fans.
“Because I know Iowa State fans figured out a way to get them in Kansas City (at the Big 12 Tournament). I think our fans have always been creative.”
Kansas has played its early-round games in Omaha twice in the last seven years. In both 2008 and 2012, the setting served as a springboard to Final Four runs.