#8 Kansas Men's Basketball Preview

Kansas Jayhawks

Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #1 Big 12
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2010-11: 35-5, 14-2
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bill Self (237-46 at Kansas, 441-151 overall)

Kansas has some reloading to do, but they will not drop as far as many think. There are a handful of very talented players who have been waiting for their opportunity to play major minutes. The opportunity has come. One of those players, Thomas Robinson, likely could have been a first round draft pick had he opted to leave school after his sophomore season. The 6-9, 237 pound forward averaged 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a year ago. That may not sound too impressive, but he only played in 14.6 minutes per game, usually off of the bench. The coaching staff will turn him into a dominate interior force and he will go a long way in replacing the production left behind by the Morris twins.

Who’s Out:
And the Morris twins had a ton of production. Together Marcus and Markieff averaged 30.8 points, 15.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. That is a lot of production to replace. And it gets worse. The third leading scorer behind the Morris’ is also gone. Tyrel Reed was the team’s most prolific outside shooter and somebody will need to fill that role. The other starting spot on the wing was split between Josh Selby and Brady Morningstar, both of whom are also gone. Even Mario Little was a key player off of the bench at times. But this is Kansas, they lose players and others are ready to step up.

Who’s In:
Despite all the loss of talent, Kansas does not need to throw a bunch of freshmen on the floor, although this group could do pretty well on their own. Naadir Tharpe would be starting right away on most teams, but he will be a backup point guard for now. Christian Garrett and Merv Lindsay will provide some more depth on the wing and this is a team that could use some perimeter depth so they may be asked to contribute a few quality minutes here and there. The bigger issue is finding a partner for Robinson up front. Justin Wesley is a walk-on transfer from Lamar who will provide some depth, but Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young is the player who is expected to make a major contribution this year. A couple years back Young started at LMU and averaged 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. He may not put up numbers like that in the Big 12, but he is an experienced player who can hold down the fort for a while. The bad news is this class could have been much better, but wing Ben McLemore and forward Jamari Traylor are partial qualifiers and not eligible to play in 2011-2012.

Who to Watch:
The lone returning starter is Tyshawn Taylor. This will be his fourth season starting as the Jayhawks point guard. He is a decent shooter, but he can do a lot of scoring getting to the basket. On a team that did not need him to score much at all last season, Taylor averaged 9.2 points per game. His scoring output could go way up if this team ends up needing him to score more. But Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford are ready to explode onto the national scene. Both are high flying, athletic guards who can put up points in a hurry. Johnson, a 6-4 junior, did earn six starts last season, but still averaged only 13.7 minutes per game. Expect those numbers to increase this year. Johnson is even a very good ball handler and can run the point when necessary or be a secondary ball handler to Taylor, something KU lacked last season. But mostly Johnson will be this team’s shooter and another tough defender. Releford has proven to be a very effective all-around scorer when given the opportunity. Conner Teahan is back for his senior season after redshirting last year and will give this group some experienced depth.

Final Projection:
The backcourt has a star and a few more that are ready to become stars. The frontcourt has a few more questions, especially without Traylor in the mix, but with Robinson leading the way, the unit should be fine. The newcomers will have to play a big role, but Coach Bill Self has brought in a nice mix of talent and experience. Jeff Withey, a 7-0 center, has spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career stuck on the bench, but he could even start living up to his potential and play a more significant role. However, the newcomers are talented enough that Withey’s role could be relegated to its usual mop-up duty. If that happens, it means the Kansas frontcourt is doing very good and the Jayhawks will make another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Tyshawn Taylor, Senior, Guard, 9.2 points per game
Elijah Johnson, Junior, Guard, 3.4 points per game
Travis Releford, Junior, Guard, 3.7 points per game
Kevin Young, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Thomas Robinson, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#41 Thomas Robinson
#54 Elijah Johnson
#60 Tyshawn Taylor

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#40 Ben McLemore
#95 Naadir Tharpe

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