Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. Out for 2024 NCAA Tournament With Injury; KU’s Top Scorer

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. Out for 2024 NCAA Tournament With Injury; KU’s Top Scorer

MANHATTAN, KS - FEBRUARY 05: Kansas Jayhawks guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) in the first half of a Big 12 basketball game between the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats on Feb 5, 2024 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas men’s basketball team received a major blow to its national championship aspirations on Tuesday, as head coach Bill Self told reporters star guard Kevin McCullar Jr. has been ruled out of the NCAA tournament due to a knee injury.

Shreyas Laddha @shre98

Per Self, he hasn’t practiced and the knee pain continues to persist. Self says Elmarko or Nick will play in his place.
He adds that he tried going through rehab, but this week it just didn’t get any better. #KUbball

McCullar, a senior, leads the team with 18.3 points per game while also averaging 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals.

Self added that Hunter Dickinson “looks great” after he missed the team’s loss to Cincinnati in the second round of the Big 12 tournament with a dislocated shoulder, but that McCullar was simply unable to play through his knee pain.

CBS Sports College Basketball ? @CBSSportsCBB

“Kevin is not going to play. … He said his knee pain has not subsided any and it’s too bad for him to be able to contribute.”
—Bill Self on Kevin McCullar missing the NCAA Tournament pic.twitter.com/8JUrAAlMy2

The Jayhawks were already on upset watch after finishing the season with four losses in five games while going just 7-8 down the stretch after a 15-2 start. Those losses included a 30-point blowout embarrassment against Houston and the loss to Cincy, with both McCullar and Dickinson out.

Without McCullar, they’ll likely be a trendy pick among the higher seeds to be upset in the first weekend. And if Dickinson isn’t close to 100 percent, the odds only get worse.

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

Per @JordanGuskey, Kansas coach Bill Self says Kevin McCullar is out for the NCAA Tournament. I was already pessimistic about the Jayhawks, and that’s a big blow. https://t.co/ZLyVNE1HdS

Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello

Already had Samford over Kansas in the first round and McNeese over Samford in the second round — no wholesale changes needed due to the Kevin McCullar injury news. https://t.co/wsEDGM2IFB

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

(Kansas wasn’t going far anyway this year but a loss to Samford is very much in play.)

On a human level, it’s hard to see a player like McCullar—who returned to school for a fifth season to seek a national championship—lose the chance to play in one last tourney.

“How about one more year Jayhawk nation,” he wrote on social media in May of 2023 when he announced his return for the 2022-24 campaign. “To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog. Rock Chalk! Let’s do it!”

Self was thrilled to see him return.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” he said in a statement at the time. “We’ve had a lot of good things happen through recruiting this offseason, but nothing that has transpired this offseason was bigger for KU basketball than having a seasoned veteran like Kevin McCullar return to our program.”

Expectations were immense for this Kansas team—the Jayhawks entered the season atop the AP’s preseason top-25 poll. After Tuesday’s news, however, it doesn’t appear likely they’ll live up to that hype.

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