Kansas is going to enter next season as one of the nation’s top ten teams, the favorite to win their 11th straight Big 12 regular season title and a contender to win a national title.
In fact, the Jayhawks have a very good chance of being better next season than they were last season, when two of the projected top three picks in the 2014 NBA Draft were on the roster of a team that won the Big 12 regular season title.
But that doesn’t mean that Kansas will enter the season without question marks, as they have a number of players at key positions that will need to prove themselves. Can Perry Ellis be the go-to guy on a team that makes the Final Four? Just how good will Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander be in their first year at the college level? Can Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason or Connor Frankamp be the answer at the point?
And then there’s Wayne Selden. Selden was considered a potential lottery pick entering last season and likely would have gone in the first round had he decided to enter the 2014 draft, but that was more based on potential than it was his performance as a freshman. He averaged just 9.7 points last year, but it was a season that was hampered by a knee issue that he had surgically fixed this offseason.
From the Topeka Capital-Journal:
“You can’t really make excuses, because I’ve been playing with my knee like that for three, four years now,” Selden said. “So it became normal, and I didn’t really realize it.”
Selden has worked to rehab the knee over the summer and is still getting treatment for it.
“It’s feeling pretty good,” Selden said. “I don’t think I’m still fully 100 percent, but I feel like I’m getting really close to being there.”
Selden entered college with the reputation of being a powerful slasher, but the knee injury hampered some of that explosiveness limiting him, at times, to playing a role as a spot-up shooter. That’s not his strength.
But with a healthy knee and an offseason’s worth of rehabilitation, the hope is that we will get a chance to see a brand new Wayne Selden next season.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.