Friday, October 29, 2010

No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks

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Last Season: 33-3, 15-1 (1st Big XII), lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Northern Iowa

Head Coach: Bill Self

Key Losses: Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich

Newcomers: Josh Selby, Royce Woolridge

Projected Lineup:

  • G: Josh Selby, Fr.
  • G: Tyshawn Taylor, Jr.
  • G: Brady Morningstar, Sr.
  • F: Marcus Morris, Jr.
  • F: Markieff Morris, Jr.
  • Bench: Thomas Robinson, Fr.; Jeff Withey, So.; Elijah Johnson, So.; Tyrel Reed, Sr.; Travis Releford, So.; Mario Little, Sr.

Outlook: Kansas loses as much talent as anyone in the country fro last season. Gone are early entry lottery pick Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich. Gone, with diploma in hand, is all-american point guard Sherron Collins. But the thing about Kansas, specifically last year's team, is that they were unbelievably stacked. How loaded was their roster with talent? Travis Releford, a top 50 recruit in the class of 2008, was forced to redshirt. Not because he was injurd, not because he needed an extra year to develop as a player, but because there simply would have been no playing available for the 13th man on the depth chart.

So while the three-headed monster of Collins, Aldrich, and Henry will be a lot of replace, there is enough talent on this roster from top to bottom to do it. Its going to start with Marcus Morris, a potential all-american. Marcus is the better of the Morris twins on the offensive end of the floor. He's more of a face-up four at this point in his career. His jump shot forces defenders to play him honest, and he's capable of putting the ball on the floor and getting by opposing big men. When he doesn't get all the way to the rim, he can hit a short runner/jumper that you rarely see out of a big man. Morris is not an incredibly explosive guy, but he is fluid, coordinated, and has excellent footwork. This allows him to be a good finisher around the rim despite having less than ideal athleticism. It also means that, with more post touches expected, he should develop into a good low-block scorer as well. You didn't hear much about Morris last season, but don't be surprised is he averages 18 and 9 this year.

Markieff Morris is a little bigger and a little more athletic than Marcus, but his offensive game is not as polished. At this point, he's more of a defender and rebounder than an offensive threat, but he has the same tools that Marcus does. Thomas Robinson will be a guy to keep an eye on this season. A terrific athlete with a strong frame, the sophomore was a top 30 recruit coming out of high school and should be capable of producing as he gets more minutes. The last member of the Jayhawk front court rotation is Jeff Withey, a 7'0" center and former top 50 recruit that didn't become eligible until last December. He's currently dealing with a broken foot, but when he finally does come back, he can provide shot blocking and rebounding at the least.

The Kansas back court will, once again, be stacked to the brim. Tyshawn Taylor returns, and should be counted on to play an expanded role this season. Taylor is a good defender and a capable play maker. If Josh Selby is eligible (more on that in a second), he'll be a very nice back court pairing, as he was with Collins. If not, Taylor will be asked to take on more of a leadership role, something he has never really done. Even in high school, he was a role player, as he shared a back court with Mike Rosario, Jio Fontan, and Travon Woodall. One thing that seems to be true, however, is that Taylor has grown up from last season's fighting and facebook incident, something that played a role in him coming off the bench for 11 games.

Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed also return. Morningstar is the kind of player every coach wants. He defends well, he doesn't turn the ball over, and he knocks down open threes. Reed, on the other hand, still hasn't quite lived up to his reputation. He's the best returning shooter on the team, but Self has also called him the best athlete on the team, period. The former Kansas state player of the year needs to be more productive and aggressive this season. It will be interesting to see how much time guys like Mario Little, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford get. All three are super talented guys that would start at 99% of the other schools in the country. But with as much talent as their is on this roster and in this back court, finding minutes might be tough.

Now, obviously the x-factor is going to be Selby. Will he be eligible? We've talked ad nauseum about Selby's situation, and the only thing that is apparent right now is that Selby has been cleared academically, but Self doesn't expect to hear about Selby's amatuer status until after the season begins. If he does suit up, Selby is going to be the replacement for Collins. He's taller and much more explosive Collins, but he will need to be a leader for Kansas to win games. If he isn't on the court, Taylor will be forced into more of a point guard's role, something I am not convinced he can do.

With Selby, Kansas is a team that will be good enough to win the Big XII and make a Final Four, although they won't be the targeted team this season. That may actually be a good thing.

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