Kansas Jayhawks Q&A: Let’s talk about those SEC rumors, plus NBA Draft decisions

As the NBA Draft Combine (May 12-19) approaches, Kansas prospects Kevin McCullar and Johnny Furphy are in the midst of their predraft preparation.

Both McCullar and Furphy received invites for the event. NBA mock drafts project both KU stars as late first-round or early second-round picks — a recent mock from The Ringer has Furphy going No. 34 and McCullar two spots earlier at No. 32.

For McCullar, that’s quite a leap from this time last year. He wasn’t guaranteed to be picked in last year’s draft, and that’s ultimately why he returned to Kansas for another season.

Furphy, meanwhile, was an early entrant for the draft, meaning he has until 10:59 p.m. Central on May 29 to withdraw his name from consideration. If he does, he retains eligibility to play college basketball.

How will he make that decision?

The combine will be crucial for Furphy to get feedback from NBA teams and see how he stacks up against his peers. A source close to the situation told The Star that Furphy’s decision will likely hinge on if he is expected to be a first-round pick.

Kansas coach Bill Self certainly thinks he will be.

“Johnny probably had a better freshman year than what anyone would ever imagine,” Self told Andy Katz of “Chances are, I think he will probably stay in the draft because I think he will go in the first round.”

With that, let’s get to another Kansas Jayhawks Q&A...

I just heard something a little stronger than a rumor and much, MUCH weaker than a fact: Apparently, the SEC is vetting KU for membership whenever the next round of realignment rolls around. Any truth to this and what would it look like? — @gavinesq

I checked in with a couple of sources on this, and haven’t heard anything to substantiate those rumors, which were going around X/Twitter, too. That said, there’s certainly a chance the SEC is paying attention to Kansas, and why not?

The Jayhawks have a historic basketball program that’s won multiple championships under legendary coach Bill Self. The football program, which has struggled historically, is on the rise, with two straight bowl appearances. The Jayhawks will likely be contenders for the Big 12 title next season, and the stadium project is well underway, too.

According to USA Today, the Jayhawks also bring in the third-most revenue in the new Big 12 after Arizona and Arizona State. Throw in the fact that KU athletic director Travis Goff is determined to be the new leader of the Big 12, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if Kansas received an SEC invite one day.

With Kugel no longer attending KU, Philon decommitting and Furphy likely gone to the draft, there are two open scholarships. One can be sacrificed to fulfill the self-imposed penalty (or given to Furph if he surprisingly returns), but what will Self do with the other? @JonnyOrlansky

With the departure, I think the name to watch is Wooga Poplar of Miami. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Multiple reports say that the Jayhawks are interested in him, too.

Poplar is a 6-5 guard who has played three seasons of college basketball. He shot 38.5% from deep last season, so he provides much-needed shooting to this Jayhawks team.

He’d also provide some more depth, something Self has been seeking all offseason.

“I want eight starters,” Self said Monday. “Granted even though you can only only start five, obviously, but have eight guys that are good enough to be in the game at any point in time. You look at the teams that have won it for the most part and look at (two-time defending national champion) Connecticut.

“Connecticut had their main guys, there’s no doubt. You could bring a guy off the bench and rest somebody for a certain period of time ... and there’s not a dropoff.”

Well, Poplar would certainly help fulfill that vision. He would be a key bench piece — if not a potential starter. He’d also add to what is expected to be one of the deepest backcourts in the country.

The Jayhawks already have Dajuan Harris and former Wisconsin star AJ Storr as expected guard starters, plus portal additions Rylan Griffin and Zeke Mayo and returning players Jamari McDowell and Elmarko Jackson — who could improve greatly in their sophomore years.

If Poplar joined the Jayhawks, they could have the best guard rotation in the nation. Self would have the opportunity to play lots of different ways and finally have the shooting the Jayhawks were missing last season.

Sure! Conference realignment is always fun. Any rumblings? Kansas to the B1G? Check every box but football and that’s changing… — @BradleyDarin

I don’t think much of any rumblings at the moment, but considering fit and culture in a pure hypothetical, I believe the Jayhawks would fit better in the Big Ten than the SEC — if they were leaving the Big 12 and had a choice.

The location would make sense for Kansas, with many Midwest travel partners. As discussed above, there are plenty of reasons why a conference like the Big Ten or SEC could be interested in a school like KU.

But again, let’s pump the brakes for now.

Here’s what Goff told me when I asked him if KU was looking to join the Big Ten one day.

“So it’s a really complex question,” Goff told The Star in September. “But what I can tell you is we are really enjoying and embracing being members of such a strong conference right now. It has — far and away — never felt as good as it does right now for me as the athletic director ... being in the Big 12. ...

“We are focused on, ‘Man, how do we help make the Big 12 better and stronger? Then (the second part) is: How do we become ‘a’ or ‘the’ leader in the Big 12?”

Any updates on Duke in Las Vegas? @BillChane

I asked a KU Athletics official, but there isn’t anything definitive at the moment. I expect there will be an update on that when the schedule officially comes out, though.

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein previously reported the Jayhawks and Blue Devils were “working to finalize an agreement to play a neutral site game” in the fall.