The NCAA tournament has been canceled amid the coronavirus crisis, and that means college basketball won’t have a national champion for the first time since 1938.

Unless the NCAA makes the decision to crown a champion based on the regular season.

If the NCAA were to do that, the likely choice would be Kansas. The Big 12 regular season champions were was ranked No. 1 in the last AP Poll, coaches poll, Basketball Power Index, KenPom ratings, Sagarin ratings and so many more indicators of college basketball’s top teams.

When asked about his reaction if the NCAA were to crown the 28-3 Jayhawks as the 2019-20 champions, Kansas head coach Bill Self did not reject the idea, according to ESPN’s Myron Medcalf. However, he did acknowledge the title wouldn’t exactly be pure:

“I would think, from our standpoint, that would be great,” Self said on a Monday teleconference. “But even if that occurred, and I don’t think it would, there’d be a huge asterisk on our side and I’d be the first one to admit it. This would be the year I’d be all in favor because there’s a great chance we’d be No. 1 in the country in most everything when all the rankings are turned in.”

If Kansas were declared national champion, it would technically be the second title of Self’s career after 2008.

Plenty of fans would have some thoughts on that if it were to ever come to pass.

Bill Self, like many other coaches, would take a national title if offered. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kansas is a deserving No. 1 overall seed, but not a champion

Self is correct in that Kansas would be No. 1 in most rankings, but the tournament is well-known for taking those rankings and stomping on them repeatedly while laughing in the faces of everyone who dared think they could predict the event known as March Madness.

Over the last 10 tournaments, the No. 1 overall seed has won only twice (Kentucky in 2012, Louisville in 2013). Maybe that variance would be represented by the asterisk, but it would still be seen as a sad attempt to get some sort of closure on the season. The Jayhawks would certainly be mocked for decades if they were to ever hoist a 2020 championship banner.

For a sport with a marquee, cultural event built upon such variance, declaring the No. 1 team as a real champion — even with an asterisk — would feel suspect at best.

Every season has a champion in part because every season wants a story seeking a central figure, that one last team in “One Shining Moment.” The sad truth is that it might be time to accept the coronavirus as the story that will define this season, and hopefully no others.

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