March Madness: After loss to Gonzaga, KU's Bill Self admits he's 'been thinking about next season' for the past month

Self made it clear that he wasn't bullish on Kansas' national title chances as the Jayhawks struggled down the stretch

Kansas coach Bill Self wasn’t too optimistic about his team’s March Madness chances over the last part of the season.

In the minutes after No. 4 Kansas lost 89-68 to No. 5 Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, Self admitted that he’d been thinking about the 2024-25 season for a while.

“I think for the last month I’ve been thinking about next season to be honest,” Self said when he was asked about when his attention would turn to the future. “Not in the moments during the game but obviously we played — we had eight guys on scholarship that were healthy there late, and injuries are part of the game so that’s not an excuse, but we could have done a much better job as a staff of putting more guys out there that we could play.”

“And so that’s something that I’ve thought about for a long time. And the thing about it is in basketball, early on you can play some things. But the course of a season, there’s a grind that goes with it and bodies get run down, injuries occur, that’s all part of it. And when you don’t have as much firepower that maybe you’ve had in past years it certainly showed this year.”

Kansas played its NCAA tournament games without leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr. The senior played in just six games since the end of January as he’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his knee.

Both McCullar and Hunter Dickinson missed the Big 12 tournament, too. The Jayhawks lost 72-52 to Cincinnati with both their stars on the sideline.

But even with McCullar on the floor, Kansas would have needed a lot to go its way to make another national title run. Kansas started the season at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 after McCullar came back for another season and Dickinson transferred from Michigan. But it became clear during conference play that this was not a serious national title contender.

Kansas finished sixth in the Big 12 and went 10-8 in conference play after losing three of its final four regular-season games before the loss to Cincinnati. Kansas never put together a three-game win streak during Big 12 play and was 2-7 on the road.

KU said before the NCAA tournament that it hoped McCullar would be available, but oddsmakers weren’t sold on that possibility mattering too much. Kansas was +4000 — or 40-1 — to win the national title after the bracket was revealed. The Jayhawks officially entered the tournament as a long shot, and Saturday showed why.

Kansas’ hot 3-point shooting kept it in the game in the first half before it went cold in the second half as the team’s porous defense continued. Gonzaga abused Kansas on repeated high pick-and-rolls and consistently got open shots behind the arc or near the basket. After leading by one at halftime, Kansas was outscored 46-24 in the second half.