Friday, October 14, 2011

2011-2012 Top 50 Countdown: No. 16 Kansas Jayhawks

Over the coming weeks, we will be counting down our Top 50 teams in the country. Teams 26-50 will be posted in groups of five, while we will count backwards from No. 25 to the No. 1 team in the country. You can find a complete schedule of our 2011-2012 Season Preview coverage here. To browse through the rest of the Top 50, click here.

Last Season: 35-3, 14-2 (1st Big 12), lost in the Elite 8 to VCU

Head Coach: Bill Self

Key Losses: Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Josh Selby, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed

Newcomers: Kevin Young, Naadir Tharpe, Mervyn Lindsay, Ben McLemore*, Jamari Traylor*

Projected Lineup:

- G: Tyshawn Taylor, Sr.
- G: Elijah Johnson, Jr.
- F: Travis Releford, Jr.
- F: Thomas Robinson, Jr.
- C: Jeff Withey, Jr.
- Bench: Kevin Young, Jr.; Naadir Tharpe, Fr.; Ben McLemore*, Fr.; Jamari Traylor*, Fr.

(*Waiting to be cleared by the NCAA)

Outlook: The 2010-2011 season was not an easy one for Kansas head coach Bill Self. It started with his star recruit Josh Selby enduring an investigation into his eligibility and, eventually, getting suspended for nine games. After Selby debuted with a bang, scoring 21 points and hitting the game-winning jumper against USC, his season fizzled out as he was unable to get unhealthy and unwilling to mold himself to fit what the Jayhawks needed. Tyshawn Taylor was, once again, suspended, this time for violating team rules. Mario Little was suspended as well, although his came as the result of an arrest. And, of course, there was the tragedy surrounding Thomas Robinson and his family.

Amazingly enough, that Kansas team was still able to win 35 games and take home both Big 12 titles before making history when they lost to VCU in the Elite 8. Things won't be that easy for the Jayhawks next season. For starters, they lose quite a bit of talent from last season's team. Gone are The Morrii. Gone is Selby. Gone are starters Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar. Making matter worse, Bill Self's recruiting class -- which was mediocre based on his standards to begin with -- will not be intact this season. Braeden Anderson was not cleared by the NCAA. Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor have yet to have a ruling come down as of October 12th. (UPDATE: McLemore and Traylor have both been ruled ineligible for 2011-2012. Its a huge blow to the Jayhawk's depth, as Bill Self will likely be forced to use a seven-man rotation. Foul trouble will be a major issue.)

There is still talent on the Jayhawk's roster, however, and it starts with Thomas Robinson. Robinson was terrific in the minutes that he played last season, putting up averages of 7.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg despite playing 14 mpg behind The Morrii while dealing with his family issues. He's a physical specimen, a 6'9", 240 lb junior that is fluid in the open floor and explosive around the basket. Robinson still has plenty of work to do to develop his skill set -- bettering his low-post moves, developing a face-up game, etc. -- but with his physical profile, the effort with which he plays on every possession and the fact that there are going to be a ton of opportunities available, I don't think its a stretch to say that Robinson can average 17 ppg and 10 rpg this season.

He'll be joined up front by Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Taylor, if he is eligible. Withey is a legitimate seven-feet, but he's never played consistent minutes in his collegiate career. Young may be an x-factor for this team if he can produce, particularly if Taylor is ruled ineligible. He's 6'8", and while he's skinny (185 lb), he is active, athletic and can score -- he averaged double figures as a freshman at Loyola Marymount before transferring to a JuCo.

Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson will share the ball-handling duties at the start of the season, although it will be interesting to see if either of them can develop into a leader for this team. Taylor has had his fair share of issues since he's been at Kansas. In addition to the suspension as a junior, Taylor also was heavily involved in the brawl that occurred between the football and basketball teams two years ago. That's not exactly what you look for from your senior leader. Johnson may not be any better. An immense talent, Johnson has struggled to find consistent minutes due to a variety of reasons -- attitude problems, shot selection, coachability. Both Taylor and Johnson have the ability to average in the neighborhood of 10-12 ppg and a handful of assists each. Given the versatility of the two, if Self can get them to buy into the team concept, they have the potential to be a dangerous back court.

The other guy on the Kansas perimeter will be Travis Releford. Releford is a talented player, a 6'5" wing that can do a lot of different things offensively. But with the amount of talent that the Jayhawk's have had on their roster the past three seasons, finding minutes has not been an easy thing. If McLemore -- who is more athletic than Releford -- is eligibile, he'll be a nice change of pace at the three. Another freshman, Naadir Tharpe, could be a factor in the back court as well. A pure point guard and a winner, he'll remind some Kansas fans of Aaron Miles.

So much about this Kansas team this season is unknown. How good is Robinson going to be? Can the Jayhawk back court show some maturity? Will the freshmen be eligibile? There is talent on this roster, but there is not a ton of big game experience. They'll compete for the Big 12 title, but there is certainly no guarantee that their streak of regular season titles continues.

1 comment:

T said...

Jamari's last name is Traylor.