TCU-Kansas Preview

For the second straight year, Kansas will enter the postseason with the status of a highly touted freshman in doubt.

This time around, though, coach Bill Self won’t be caught off guard.

Expecting to play the rest of the season without Cliff Alexander, the Jayhawks kick off their Big 12 Tournament on Thursday against TCU.

Alexander, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, will likely miss his fourth straight game while the NCAA investigates possible eligibility concerns. The freshman forward’s family reportedly may have received impermissible benefits from an agent.

Kansas (24-7, 13-5 Big 12) also dealt with availability issues last season with Joel Embiid, who missed both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments with a back injury.

In that circumstance, however, Self retained the hope that his big man would return.

"We prepared with the idea of Joel coming back and I think that was a mistake," Self said. "I think we should have prepared with the idea that we wouldn’t have Joel, and therefore we’re going to play this way, and then if he comes back, it’ll be a bonus … I’m not counting on Cliff coming back.

"No, the whole deal is let’s get our team ready and then if Cliff comes back, we’ll somehow plug him in, as opposed to him being a focal point."

A more pressing issue for Kansas may be the injury to Perry Ellis, who leads the team with 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Ellis missed Kansas’ 75-73 loss to No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday with a sprained knee, but expects to play Thursday against a TCU team he had 23 points and seven rebounds against in a 81-72 win Feb. 21.

Wayne Selden Jr. should also be available after dealing with an ankle injury, and small forward Brannen Greene will likely return from a one-game suspension.

Ellis had only eight points in the meeting with TCU on Jan. 28, but Frank Mason III scored 16 to help Kansas edge the Horned Frogs 64-61.

TCU (17-14), which has lost five of six against Kansas since joining the Big 12 in 2012, enters Thursday’s tilt following a 67-65 victory over Kansas State on Wednesday that snapped a three-game skid.

Guards Kyan Anderson and Trey Zeigler combined for 31 points, while Chris Washburn had 16 points and eight rebounds to clinch TCU’s first-ever Big 12 Tournament win.

"We ended the season on a high note. We felt like overall we played well, even though we didn’t finish our games," said Zeigler. "We came in here and we knew Kansas State was a good team, and me and Kyan just tried to make sure we did everything we could do as senior captains."

Before their recent losing streak, the Horned Frogs won three of four, including a 70-55 victory Feb. 14 over then-No. 21 Oklahoma State – their only win against a ranked team in 12 tries this season.

TCU shot 52.0 percent in that win and 47.4 percent Wednesday, but struggled to a 35.1 shooting percentage in its two losses to the Jayhawks.

Coach Trent Johnson knows his team needs an improved offensive effort Thursday.

"Premiere team in this league, one of the premiere teams in the country," Johnson said of Kansas. "No basketball program has a more storied tradition than they do and we’ve got to find a way to compete at a high level in a short period of time."