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.
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
– 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.
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.