The Kansas Jayhawks won 21 games and won a game in the NCAA Tournament. We take a look back in this Kansas Jayhawks 2020-21 basketball season in review.
Record: 21-9 (12-6 in Big 12)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament: def. Eastern Washington, 93-84 (first round); lost to USC, 85-51 (second round).
Seniors/lettermen losing: G Marcus Garrett (10.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.6 spg);
Note: NCAA rules allow all players to trigger an extra year of eligibility for the 2021-22 season due to COVID-19. These seniors have the choice to return based on that rule. Mitch Lightfoot, a senior, has already said that he intends to return in 2021-22.
Any NBA Bound?: None. Garrett is a good player, but he’s not NBA caliber right now. If he decides to leave, he could find a place in the G League and continue his development.
Any One-and-dones or early entries?: Junior Ochai Agbaji has been listed as a second-round pick in several NBA Mock Drafts, so it’s possible he decides to leave the program and try his luck in the pros.
Any transfers: G Tyon Grant-Foster announced he was entering the transfer portal on March 29.
Who’s Back and Who’s New?
Top players expected to return: G Ochai Agbaji (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 spg); F David McCormack (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 bpg); F Jalen Wilson (11.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg); G Christian Braun (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.2 spg); G Bryce Thompson (4.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.1 apg); F Mitch Lightfoot (3.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg).
The player(s) you don’t know about: You need playing time to make an impact, and at least Dajuan Harris got some of that after a redshirt freshman season. But, it wasn’t a whole lot of playing time as Self basically shortened his bench for most of the season. But in that first-round NCAA Tournament win over Eastern Washington, you caught a glimpse of what he can do. Self said Harris was one of the best players on the floor in that game and gave the Jayhawks some valuable minutes. Harris had 13 points and four assists in that game. That just happened to be his first game with double-digit scoring for his career. The Jayhawks hope it’s not the last. He finished the season averaging 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
2021 recruiting class: F Zach Clemence, 6-foot-10, Sunrise Christian (Wichita, Kansas); F KJ Adams, 6-foot-7, Westlake (Austin, Texas).
Both are Top 100 national players, per 247Sports.com. But, they’re not five-star recruits, and if this is the class it will mark the second time in three recruiting cycles that head coach Bill Self and his staff have failed to nail down a five-star player.
Commitments yet to sign: Sydney Curry, a 6-foot-8 forward from John Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, is a hard commit, according to 247Sports.com. He is listed as a Top 10 junior college recruit.
Summarizing the season
What a strange season for The Jayhawks. At one point in late January they dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. With their record-breaking streak of weeks in the AP Poll expired, all that seemed to do was light a fire under The Jayhawks. Once Kansas got back into the AP poll, it moved back into the Top 15, but the Jayhawks couldn’t catch Baylor and failed to win the Big 12 regular-season title for the second time in three seasons. The Jayhawks surged into the Big 12 Tournament, and then they were finally got hit with COVID-19 restrictions, as they lost two starters —McCormack and Wilson. The Jayhawks had to drop out of the Big 12 Tournament, but they managed an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas won its first round game, with McCormack back and having an incredible second half. Wilson then made his return against USC, but the Jayhawks had their worst game of the season, so it really didn’t matter. USC handed the Jayhawks their worst loss in NCAA Tournament history. Overall, considering everything that happened this year, The Jayhawks can call this season a success. But they were limited in their depth, and as it turns out they were limited in their ceiling in terms of what they could do in the Big 12.
Looking ahead to 2021-22
This is a young team, and Self is going to have most of it back next season. After the USC loss he told reporters the program needs to recruit better, develop better and “get longer” to be competitive. Right now, the Jayhawks should focus on development. That worked out well for McCormack, who was the Big 12 Most Improved Player of the Year, and Wilson, who was the team’s leading rebounder. Agbaji ended up being their best outside shooter. Braun was a nice, capable, do-everything fit on the wing. Now, it’s a summer of Self and his staff developing the rest of these players — Williams, Harris, Tristan Enaruna, Gethro Muscadin, and Latrell Jossell. Lightfoot has already made it clear that he’s going to use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is affording to all players, which is a nice value for the Jayhawks. The real question is whether Garrett will do the same. Garrett is one of the best defensive players in the Big 12. If he chose to come back, the Jayhawks would certainly welcome him with open arms. He’s a gritty defender, a great leader, and in many ways was the heartbeat of this team. If both Garrett and Lightfoot return, Self may be done working the recruiting trail this cycle. If Garrett leaves, then Self could try to dig into the transfer market, or bring in another freshman. But, what you see might be what you get next season. If that’s the case, then Self is banking on the continued improvement of Wilson, McCormack, Braun, and Agbaji, along with his younger players making big strides, to take The Jayhawks to the next level in the Big 12 and beyond.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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