The Kansas Jayhawks’ men’s basketball season is done. Here are five thoughts about the 2021-22 season and what’s ahead for the basketball program.
Well, in case you’ve been living under a rock … the Jayhawks won their fourth NCAA Tournament in April, defeating North Carolina, 72-69. The national title was actually the program’s sixth, if you count the two pre-NCAA Helms national titles in the 1920s. With the win, head coach Bill Self became the first Jayhawks head coach to win two national titles in the NCAA era. The Jayhawks finished the season 34-6, winning a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and winning the Big 12 Tournament title to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, guard Ochai Agbaji was the Big 12 Player of the Year and the NCAA Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, most likely securing him a place in the first round of the NBA Draft. Forward David McCormack saved two of his best games of the season for the Final Four, too, and guard Remy Martin fueled Kansas’ run to the Final Four, after fighting a knee injury for two months. Along with guard Christian Braun, forward Jalen Wilson and forward Mitch Lightfoot, the Jayhawks were one of the most experienced teams in the NCAA Tournament. And it showed in the big moments.
Lightfoot, Martin and transfer guard Jalen Coleman-Lands are out of eligibility. But they’ll likely have company. Agbaji and McCormack both have COVID years of eligibility to tap into. But Agbaji’s entry into the NBA Draft is a foregone conclusion at this point. McCormack might be better served spending one more year at Kansas, but there’s likely a place for him in pro basketball now. Braun and Wilson have decisions to make, too. Wilson tested the waters last year. There’s a distinct possibility that the Jayhawks will lose all of that experience, depending upon the decisions each makes.
Who’s Coming Back?
This will likely be a young team next season, assuming all of the players listed above depart. The one experienced member that seems certain to return is guard Dajuan Harris Jr., who started all season and will have a chance to take a huge jump in contribution next season. Guard Joseph Yesufu, forward Zach Clemence and forward KJ Adams all played some meaningful minutes and are in line to compete for starting spots and playing time. Forward Cam Martin, who transferred from Division II Missouri Southern, chose to redshirt and has one year left. Another freshman, Kyle Cuffe Jr., redshirted after suffering an injury. The rest of the freshman class includes guard Bobby Pettiford, guard Charlie McCarthy and forward Dillon Wilhite (who also redshirted).
Who’s Coming In?
Self and his staff signed a Top 5 class back in November — forward Zuby Ejiofor (Garland, Texas) and center Ernest Udeh Jr. (Orlando, Fla.), along with guard/forwards Gradey Dick (Wichita, Kan.) and MJ Rice (Durham, N.C.). Dick was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year and played in the McDonald’s All-American game, along with Rice and Udeh. I mean, that’s all you need to know, right? Three McDonald’s All-Americans in one recruiting class? Ejiofor is a four-star prospect. Given the Jayhawks’ overall youth, there’s a chance some of these players could play immediately.
What to Watch For
Decisions on pro basketball by the core of the upperclassmen of this team. Then, it’s time to watch as Self puts together one of the youngest teams he’s had since, well, that 2008-09 team that he coached right after winning the 2008 crown. Kansas could dip into the transfer portal, too. But it likely won’t be as big a dip as it was last season.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.