A ball was stolen, a layup was blocked, and Silvio De Sousa stood over DaJuan Gordon for what seemed like an eternity.
The ensuing brawl lit college basketball Twitter on fire and turned any comment section involving KU or K-State fans into a championship version of the blame game.
Whether you think De Sousa is 100 percent to blame or that he was just defending himself against a wall of purple doesn’t really matter at this point, as the conference officially handed down suspensions on Wednesday. (If you do want to get into more of that talk, the guys at Inside the Paint will have a full breakdown in their latest pod.)
The facts are that De Sousa is suspended for the next 12 games, including KU’s trip to Manhattan, and David McCormack will also be sidelined the next two games. That means Bill Self will have to navigate a large portion of conference play with only two true big men, McCormack and Udoka Azubuike, available to play.
De Sousa’s absence shouldn’t have too many implications for the Jayhawks on the court. His return from an NCAA suspension this season was a good story, but his play has been disappointing.
De Sousa is averaging only 2.6 points per game and has played a total of 14 minutes the last four games. Maybe this suspension will wake him up and get him closer to the player we saw at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
McCormack being out could have a bigger impact. He’s averaging 16 minutes a game and gives KU the ability to play two bigs at once. He also acts as a solid backup when Azubuike needs a break.
To compensate, Self will have to rely on four-guard lineups, something many have been calling for all year long. Christian Braun’s career night against the Wildcats couldn’t have come at a better time, as his and Isaiah Moss’ minutes will surely increase over this short stretch.
Luckily, KU’s next two games feature opponents with not much firepower down low. Out of Tennessee’s top-six scorers, only one of them is over 6-6. Kansas should still matchup well with the Volunteers.
The gameplan get a little tougher in KU’s next conference game against Oklahoma State. Yor Anei could prove difficult to deal with if he ever plays while Azubuike sits, but he’s taken a step back after breaking out last year.
Look for Self to match Azubuike’s minutes with the opposing teams best big over the next two games. That should help minimize the impact of McCormack’s absence. Azubuike’s vastly improved endurance is KU’s biggest saving grace through all of this. He’s averaging almost 31 minutes the past six games and is in by far the best shape of his career.
That means Kansas will need about 10 minutes of backup center minutes. Self could go super small and put Marcus Garrett against the opposing big man. Garrett is one of the best defenders in the country and is crafty enough to not get demolished in the paint for a few minutes.
Tristan Enaruna will likely see most of the backup minutes. The long and lanky freshman has been good in spurts this season but has looked lost at other times. If he can hold his own while Azubuike sits, the suspensions should have little impact for KU over the next two games.