The Kansas Jayhawks are preparing to open the 2021-22 men’s basketball season against Michigan State on Nov. 9. Here are some key points to consider as the season begins.
High Expectations for Remy Martin
In spite of head coach Bill Self putting Remy Martin on the bench for the Jayhawks’ exhibition game against Emporia State, Martin is going to start for the Jayhawks when they open the season and will be a huge part of whether or not Kansas makes a trip to the Final Four.
Martin comes to Lawrence with impeccable credentials. He’s a three-time All-Pac-12 player who averaged nearly 20 points per game last season. The Big 12’s coaches know it, too, having selected him as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year.
Self knows he has a stallion in Martin and he doesn’t want to break him. But he needs him to fit in, too.
Forward David McCormack knows what the Jayhawks have in Martin, too. And the returning starters are making sure that the newcomer knows the standard.
“We hold ourselves to that standard and we don’t expect anything less,” McCormack said. “He did an amazing job in the Pac-12 and we ask that he brings that same type of mindset and tenacity to the Big 12, and we expect nothing less from him.”
McCormack said that Martin has brought energy and intensity to practice, and that his facilitation as a ball handler will help the Jayhawks.
Will Kansas REALLY Use 10 Players?
That was the buzz in October. Self told the Kansas City Star’s Jesse Newell that playing 10 this season was a possibility.
At Big 12 Media Day, Self walked that back just a bit, saying that when he played nine he could get away with it because he played two forwards.
“It’s not quite like that now because we’re playing four guards,” Self said. “It will be harder to get to 10. I’m talking about 10 guys having a chance to play double-figure minutes.”
Whether it’s nine or 10 players, it’s clear Self has the deepest team he’s had in years. Armed with four returning starters and Martin, he has a clear starting five. Add to that holdovers like Mitch Lightfoot DaJuan Harris, and transfers like Jalen Coleman-Lands and Joseph Yesefu, and Self has plenty of options.
“The challenge to me is how do you get from 14 to 10 because, 1 through 14, we’ve probably never had a team with as many guys that are pretty similar to the other guys,” Self said. “Trying to determine who’s going to actually play will be the challenge.”
Versatility will be key
Self talked about wanting to play faster this season. But it’s possible the Jayhawks can play any number of ways.
McCormack talked about several players on the team that could help drive the Jayhawks in different directions, including Coleman-Lands and another transfer, forward Cam Martin, who was the Division II Player of the Year last season.
“We just have so many pieces in our lineup that we can play small, big, fast-paced slow, and I think that’s going to be the real key — we can adapt to any team that we play or any moment within the game,” McCormack said.
Getting the Fans Back in the Phog
No Big 12 team has the home-court advantage quite like Kansas. Allen Fieldhouse is one of the game’s truly incredible environments.
But, last season, due to COVID-19, the Jayhawks didn’t have that home-court advantage to lead on. During Big 12 Media Day, Self was asked about it and he noted that a good portion of his team, and a good portion of the Big 12’s players, don’t know what it’s like to truly play in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Unless you’re a junior, unless you’re Christian Braun’s age, nobody has felt what it’s like to play at Kansas,” Self said.
Self and McCormack arrived in Kansas City just after the team hosted a full house at ‘Late Night at the Phog’ to kick off the season.
“A packed Allen Fieldhouse, there’s nothing that compares to it,” McCormack said. “So, going back into the Fieldhouse during the late night and everybody’s screaming and yelling, it was amazing.”
The NBA Play
Kansas could have a huge year in next year’s NBA Draft. Both Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson applied for the NBA Draft for 2021, but the pair retained their eligibility and returned for another season to improve their stock. McCormack is entering his senior year and has an opportunity to impress scouts the way Udoka Azubuike did his senior year. Remy Martin was a prospect before he transferred to the Jayhawks.
With four players that have NBA aspirations, Self will potentially have to manage a few egos along the way.
Heartland College Sports Big 12 Basketball Preview
Top 25 Returning Players: No. 25 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua| No. 24 Christian Braun | No. 23 Rondel Walker | No. 22 Umoja Gibson | No. 21 Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe | No. 20 Nijel Pack | No. 19: Marcus Santos-Silva | No. 18 Mike McGuirl| No. 17 Jalen Bridges | No. 16 Kalib Boone | No. 15 Kevin McCullar | No. 14 Isaac Likekele | No. 13 Adam Flagler | No. 12 Jalen Coleman-Lands | No. 11 Sean McNeil | No. 10 Taz Sherman | No. 9 Matthew Mayer | No. 8 Jalen Wilson | No. 7 Courtney Ramey | No. 6 Mike Miles | No. 5 Avery Anderson III | No. 4 David McCormack | No. 3 Terrence Shannon Jr. | No. 2 Ochai Agbaji | No. 1 Andrew Jones
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
2021-22 Kansas Schedule
(all times central)
Nov. 9 vs. Michigan, [email protected]
Nov. 12 Tarleton State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 18 Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
Nov. 25 vs. North Texas, TBA-#
Nov. 26 vs. Dayton or Miami (FL), TBA-#
Nov. 28 vs. Alabama or Belmont or Drake or Iona, TBA-#
Dec. 3 at St. John’s, 6 p.m.-$
Dec. 7 vs. UTEP, 7 p.m.-%
Dec. 11 Missouri, 2:15 p.m.
Dec. 18 Stephen F. Austin, 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 at Colorado, 7 p.m.
Dec. 29 Harvard, 7 p.m.
Jan. 1 TCU*, 4 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State*, 8 p.m.
Jan. 8 at Texas Tech*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 11 Iowa State*, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 West Virginia*, 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Oklahoma*, TBA
Jan. 22 at Kansas State*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 24 Texas Tech*, 8 p.m.
Jan. 29 Kentucky, 5 p.m.-&
Feb. 1 at Iowa State*, 6 p.m.
Feb. 5 Baylor*, 3 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Texas*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 12 Oklahoma*, 12 p.m.
Feb. 14 Oklahoma State*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 19 at West Virginia*, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 Kansas State*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Baylor*, 7 p.m.
March 1 at TCU*, 7 p.m.
March 5 Texas*, 3 p.m.
March 9-12 Big 12 Tournament, Kansas City, Missouri
@-State Farm Champions Classic, New York, NY; #-ESPN Events Invitational, Orlando, Florida; $-Big East/Big 12 Battle; %-at Kansas City, Missouri; &-Big 12/SEC Challenge; *-Big 12 games.