2012-2013 Overall Rank: #6
Conference Rank: #1 Big 12
Kansas Team Page
Kansas could not quite win a national title in 2011-2012, but this is Kansas and there is always next year. And next year is here. A lot of familiar faces are gone from the national championship game, but this could actually be a more talented squad. However, they are younger and players like senior Jeff Withey will have to become leaders on the floor. Withey stepped into a starting role last season and responded by averaging 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. Defensively he is a menace and the 7-0 center swatted away a ton of shots during the NCAA Tournament. But now he will be asked to do more scoring and the fate of the Kansas half-court offense may rest on Withey’s ability to be more aggressive offensively.
2011-12 Record: 32-7, 16-2
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bill Self
Coach Record: 269-52 at Kansas, 476-158 overall
Thomas Robinson exploded onto the national scene last year, averaging 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds. He parlayed that success into a career in the NBA. Without Robinson dominating in the paint, Withey must get the job done. Tyshawn Taylor is also gone after averaging 16.6 points and 4.8 assists. Taylor was the leader on the floor and did a pretty good job of getting the Jayhawks up and down the floor. Conner Teahan was mostly a shooter off of the bench, but his ability to create an offensive spark changed the course of some games. Merv Lindsay and Jordan Juenemann saw limited action during their final season in Lawrence.
Coach Bill Self is bringing in a slew of talent, but what else is new? The difference with this class is sheer numbers. The Jayhawks only went seven deep much of last season and that is a little light for a team that likes to run as much as Kansas. This class will allow Coach Self to have many more options than he did a year ago. Perry Ellis is, arguably, the best of the incoming freshmen. The 6-8, 225 pound power forward is a prep legend in the state of Kansas and will continue his legacy at the collegiate level. Jamari Traylor redshirted last season for academic reasons. He is a bit raw still, but Traylor is a superb talent and a high energy guy. Both Ellis and Traylor should be in the regular rotation. Zach Peters and Landen Lucas will add more frontcourt depth for now, but both are talented enough to crack the regular rotation at some point this season. The backcourt adds a couple potential impact players in Ben McLemore and Rio Adams. McLemore was supposed to have a huge impact last season, but was forced to redshirt for academic reasons. Now he will battle for the starting shooting guard spot and at least play a huge role off of the bench. Adams is a big time scorer who is brimming with potential. Andrew White will join the offspring of a couple KU legends, Tyler Self and Evan Manning, fighting for minutes off of the bench.
Who to Watch:
The newcomers in the backcourt will make a big push for minutes, but Kansas does have Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford to lean on this year. Johnson will run the point this year after averaging 10.2 points and 3.5 assists last season. Johnson committed far fewer turnovers than Taylor last season and should be able to keep things under control. He is not a true point guard by any means and will do plenty of scoring from everywhere on the floor, but as long as he keeps the turnovers down, the Jayhawks will be in great shape. Releford is a big guard who had a great junior campaign. Releford may not be as talented or athletic as some of the new guys, but he knows the system and plays smart basketball. Naadir Tharpe is a true point guard, but he only averaged 5.5 minutes per game as a freshman. Tharpe is a great talent who many expected to make a big impact last season. That impact could come this year if he is ready to spend more time on the ball, thus allowing KU to move Johnson to the shooting guard spot on occasion. Kevin Young was the sixth man last year, but the 6-8 forward could end up starting at the small forward position if Kansas wants to play big. Young is lanky 6-8 forward with good versatility and will always be a factor on the glass.
Justin Wesley joins Withey in the frontcourt. Wesley only averaged 8.6 minutes per game last season, but he is an experienced big man who can eat up some minutes. However, the freshmen will likely take over that role as the 2012-2013 season progresses and this season will depend heavily on the development of the new faces. Withey, Johnson, Relefrod and Young are all veteran seniors and they will provide more experience to Kansas than most top teams in the nation have, but the Jayhawks have to get production elsewhere and that will almost certainly come from the freshmen. Relying on freshmen is always tough, but at least Coach Self has many to choose from and by March a few will be at least proven role-players.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Elijah Johnson, Senior, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Travis Releford, Senior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Kevin Young, Senior, Forward, 3.4 points per game
Perry Ellis, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Jeff Withey, Senior, Center, 9.0 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#32 Elijah Johnson
#36 Jeff Withey
#91 Travis Releford
Madness 2012 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#31 Perry Ellis
#53 Andrew White