Leading up to the start of the season Heartland College Sports will analyze each of the Big 12 men’s basketball teams. Today it’s the Kansas Jayhawks.
2017-18 Record: 31-8 (13-5 Big 12)
NCAA: def. Penn, 76-60 (round of 64); def. Seton Hall, 83-79 (round of 32); Clemson, 80-76 (Sweet 16); def. Duke, 85-81 (Elite Eight); lost to Villanova, 95-79 (Final Four)
Top returning 2017-18 leaders: G Lagerald Vick, 6-foot-5 (12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg), C Udoka Azubuike, 7-foot (13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), F Mitch Lightfoot, 6-foot-8 (3.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Silvio De Sousa, 6-foot-9 (4.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, currently not playing with the team), G Marcus Garrett, 6-foot-5 (4.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg).
Players lost: G Devonte’ Graham (17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, team-leading 282 assists, 40.6 percent from 3-point line), F Svi Mykhailiuk (14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 107 assists, team-leading 43.4 percent from 3-point line), G Clay Young (72 minutes in 13 games), G Malik Newman (14.2 ppg., left early for the NBA).
Recruits signed: G Quentin Grimes, 6-foot-5, The Woodlands, Texas (College Park HS); PG Devon Dotson, 6-foot-2, Charlotte, NC (Providence Day School); C David McCormack, 6-foot-9, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (Oak Hill Academy); SF Ochai Agbaji, 6-foot-5, Kansas City, Mo. (Oak Park); G Garrett Luinstra, Lawrence, Kan. (Lawrence Free State); G Elijah Elliott, 6-foot-3, Southland, Texas (Carroll).
Transfers eligible for 2018-19: F Dedric Lawson, 6-foot-9, Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis); G Charlie Moore, 5-foot-11, Chicago, Ill. (California); G K.J Lawson, Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis).
Transfers expected to sit out in 2018-19: None.
Looking ahead to 2018-19: When most teams lose a core like Graham, Mykhailiuk and Newman, well, you panic a little. But this is Kansas and the Jayhawks don’t panic. They just plan. And the plan last year was to work with a short bench and roll the dice while their transfers sat on the bench — and the Jayhawks still made it to the Final Four. The return of Vick, who flirted with the NBA before returning for his final season, gives the roster good experience in the backcourt. Azubuike, a dunk machine last year, hopefully spent the season improving his low post repertoire and free-throw shooting. The NCAA scandal has the potential to engulf De Sousa, who joined the Jayhawks in January and is now barred from playing pending further investigation of his eligibility. Garrett should grow as a player. But the transfers and loaded freshman class should pay off immediately. The Lawson brothers have the potential to start from Game 1, and Dedric will be the player the Jayhawks hope makes a huge impact early (Self called him the passer he’s had at Kansas). Moore should provide immediate depth. Grimes and Dotson both have the potential to play early, too. The Jayhawks are going from a team that was about seven deep last year to one that should be 10 deep this year. Not only that, the depth is high-shelf talent. The Jayhawks are No. 1 in both preseason polls and their perch atop the Big 12 going into the preseason isn’t in dispute (they’re the preseason favorite for the eighth straight season). Monitor the De Sousa situation closely, but even if the Jayhawks have to bench him due to the NCAA investigation, they have the depth to handle it.
Media Day quote: “I think the reason for the optimism within our program as much as anything else is because of the unknown of the three guys that are sitting out (the Lawson brothers and Moore). They’re nice players. They’re going to be good players, all those things, but we’re still a long ways away from being a team that can play to its ranking, trust me.” — Kansas head coach Bill Self.
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