2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click heret.

Last Season: 31-6, 14-4 Big 12 (t-1st); Lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Bill Self (11th year at Kansas: 300-59 overall, 137-27 Big 12)

Key Losses: Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, Kevin Young

Newcomers: Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black, Connor Frankamp, Brannen Greene, Frank Mason

Projected Lineup

G: Naadir Tharpe, Jr.
G: Wayne Selden, Fr.
F: Andrew Wiggins, Fr.
F: Perry Ellis, So.
C: Joel Embiid, Fr.
Bench: Tarik Black, Sr.; Andrew White, So.; Justin Wesley, Sr.; Connor Frankamp, Fr.; Brannen Greene, Fr.; Jamari Traylor, So.

They’ll be good because …: Have you seen the amount of talent Kansas has on their roster? Let’s start with the obvious: Andrew Wiggins. This is the kid that has been talked about and written about for years as the best prospect in basketball, a guy that could, one day, find himself on the same level as the Lebrons and the Kevin Durants and the Derrick Roses. There’s a reason he’s gotten all that hype, so don’t be surprised when he ends up having an all-american caliber season.

But Wiggins is far from alone. Let’s start with Wayne Selden, a 6-foot-4 bulldog of a off-guard that certainly won’t have an issue attacking the basket. Then there’s Perry Ellis, a talented scorer at the power forward spot that should be expected to come closer to reaching his potential this season. Joel Embiid may not too much of an offensive option at this point, but he should anchor what will once again be one of the best defensive teams in the country. There’s a lot of uncertainty given the youth and turnover on this roster, but if everything works out, the ceiling for this team is as high as anyone.

source:
Andrew Wiggins (AP) and Joel Embiid (KUAthletics)

But they might disappoint because …: All the talent that Kansas has amassed is young. Wiggins, Embiid and Selden are freshmen. Ellis is a sophomore. Naadir Tharpe and Tarik Black are the only upperclassmen that figure to be in the rotation, and that’s a concern because it’s tough to peg the impact that freshmen will have. Embiid is raw. His value as a prospect is rooted in the long-term. The same can be said for Wiggins, who is still trying to develop the aggressiveness he needs to maximize his talent.

The other issue for Kansas is the point guard spot. Early reviews for Naadir Tharpe are that he’s made a jump since his sophomore season, when he was so inconsistent that he was forced to split time with Elijah Johnson as the team’s primary ball-handler. If so, that’s a big deal, because not having that point guard presence was one of the Jayhawk’s biggest issues a season ago. Tharpe doesn’t need to do all that much: get the offense into their sets, protect the ball, hit a jumper when he’s open and beat his man off the dribble enough to keep defenses honest. The question is, will he be up to the task?

Outlook: You all know the stat by now: in each of the last nine seasons, Kansas has won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. It’s a phenomenal run, and despite the talent up in Stillwater, Kansas will once again head into the season as the Big 12 favorite. That’s just the way it goes when you’re the nine-time champs; you’re picked to win it until you don’t.

But that’s anything but a guarantee. As mentioned early, Kansas still has plenty of question marks heading into the season, not the least of which is Wiggins himself. As talented and gifted as he is physically, there are still some question marks about how much his offensive repertoire is developed. There are concerns about his aggressiveness, about whether or not he has the killer instinct required to be able to take over game after game after game. His ceiling is nonexistent, but it’s also five years down the road. Will he be Kevin Durant or Harrison Barnes? That’s the difference between Kansas being really good, and Kansas potentially being a title contender.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.