No. 1 Kansas: Loaded Jayhawks will look like Kansas teams of old

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25.

Today we dive into No. 1 Kansas.


Generally speaking, there are three ways for a college basketball program to be built.

One of them is the old school way: Recruit players that you know will be on campus for three or four years, develop them over time and, if the basketball gods are looking out for you, by the time they are upperclassmen they’ll be all-league players if not all-americans.

Another way is through the transfer market. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and there have been plenty of programs that have found gold with the castaways from another program, if not outright recruiting players from other rosters.

And then there is the one-and-done model, which is only really an option for the elite but has led to a pair of national titles in the last seven NCAA tournaments — Kentucky in 2012 and Duke in 2015.

What’s rare, however, is when one program utilizes all three methods at once.

That’s precisely what this Kansas program has done. Their best player is probably Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis that spent last season sitting out along with his brother, K.J., as well as former Cal point guard Charlie Moore. If Dedric isn’t the best player, then it will most likely end up being Quentin Grimes, a potential top ten pick that is a surefire one-and-done and looks to be joined in the starting lineup by another five-star freshman in Devon Dotson.

And while those guys are good and all, the leading returning scorer for Kansas is Udoka Azubuike, a center that averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 boards. He declared for the drafted but opted to return to school, as did senior LaGerald Vick, who will likely start at the three and looks to be the best shooter in the program.

Put all that together and what you have is the best team in college basketball.

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KANSAS WILL BE GOOD BECAUSE …

For the first time in three years, the Jayhawks have a roster that is actually suited to playing the way that Bill Self has always wanted to play.

Self is something of a throwback in this day and age of pace and space, three-pointers and small-ball. He likes having two big men on the floor. He likes getting the ball into the post. It wasn’t until recently that he really came around on the idea that shooting threes might actually be better than shooting twos.

That wasn’t necessarily by design, either.

In each of the last two seasons, Self’s roster has lacked the kind of frontcourt depth and talent that he would need to play the way that he wanted to play. In 2016-17 — the first season they played in the post-Perry Ellis era — it was Carlton Bragg that was supposed to slot into the role of the four-man, but between the legal issues that he dealt with and the fact that, you know, he wasn’t good enough, Self was forced to play small. Josh Jackson started at the four as Kansas played four guards, and it worked pretty well. Jackson was tough and physical enough to guard-up, and his skill-set on the offensive end gave Kansas another playmaker and created all kinds of mismatches. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 and reached the Elite 8, where Oregon picked them off.

Last season was much of the same. Jackson wasn’t there, but since Billy Preston was never able to get cleared and neither Mitch Lightfoot nor Silvio De Sousa were ready for that role, Self played even smaller. LaGerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk combined to play the two forward spots, and again, it worked. Kansas won the Big 12. They made it all the way to the Final Four, where it was the slow-footedness of Udoka Azubuike going up against the buzzsaw that was last year’s Villanova team that cost Kansas a shot at a national title.

This year’s roster looks much more like the best teams that Self has had in the past. Dedric Lawson, who averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 boards, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks in his final season with Memphis, might as well be Ellis. Or a Morris Twin. He can fill that role at the four perfectly. Azubuike is probably the best at-the-rim big in the country. David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot provide more than enough depth, while K.J. Lawson is there as well.

Then there is the KU backcourt. Self legitimately has five different players that deserve to start. Quentin Grimes is probably locked into a starting spot as the off-guard, while Devon Dotson and Charlie Moore will battle it out for point guard minutes and LaGerald Vick and Marcus Garrett will fight over playing time at the three.

This is a very good and very deep basketball team that is built precisely the way that Bill Self’s best teams have been built in the past.

It’s impossible not to like what’s on the table here.

Udoka Azubuike (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
RELATED: Expert Picks | CBT Podcast | Best non-conference games

BUT KANSAS IS GOING TO STRUGGLE BECAUSE …

The amount of noise surrounding this program right now is not going to be easy to deal with.

Outside of Louisville, who has already purged essentially everyone decision-maker involved with the basketball program, no one made more headlines with their involvement in the first college basketball corruption trial than Kansas. There were allegations that Adidas executives were funneling money to the family of two Jayhawk recruits, Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. There were text messages that seemed to imply — but did not conclusively prove — that the Jayhawk coaching staff (Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend) were aware of and approved those payments.

De Sousa is already being held out of competition pending an eligibility review. There are serious doubts about whether or not last year’s Big 12 title and Final Four banner will still be in existence by the time this process plays out. Kansas has not yet signed their new contract with Adidas. Self and Townsend are going to face repeated calls that they be fired throughout this season.

Distractions such as those are not ideal, and neither are the questions players currently on the Kansas roster are going to ask if they didn’t get what Preston and De Sousa got.

I don’t think it necessarily hurts this particular team, but I do firmly believe that it is going to be a constant headache for Self and his coaching staff.

How effective are you at your job when you constantly have a headache or distractions in your personal life?

THE X-FACTOR

The Jayhawks are almost too good to fail this season, and while I do wonder whether the change in scenery from the American to the Big 12 will have an impact on how good Dedric Lawson is, the x-factor for me here is going to be Grimes.

Grimes is probably the most talented player in the program. He is definitely the best NBA prospect on the Kansas roster. He is also a combo-guard that, at this point, is not a great shooter and is not a great point guard playing as one half of an all-freshman backcourt.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2VLXWWVsSA&w=560&h=315]

I believe that Self is going to run his offense through Lawson this season, but that’s simply what makes the most sense for him to do. Lawson is probably the best player on the roster, and he’s certainly the most-proven scorer they have. But the Jayhawks will need a secondary scorer, and they are going to need someone that can provide some firepower out of the backcourt.

Grimes is the best bet to be that guy.

But until we actually see what he is going to be capable of doing as a freshman, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect.

2018-19 OUTLOOK

Kansas is not going to lose the Big 12 this year.

I think we all just need to accept that as fact and move on.

They are a consensus top two team in the country. They have one potential first-team all-american on the roster, another potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and enough depth, experience and talent to allow Bill Self to focus all his stress on what’s going to happen as a result of the FBI investigation, the looming trials and any potential NCAA ramifications that may come with it.

Kansas, believe it or not, is my favorite bet to win the national title. Of the clearcut top four teams in the sport this season, they are actually the team getting the best odds at the moment.

All that said, I do think this will be the final year that the streak of consecutive Big 12 titles will remain intact.

Because De Sousa played last season, the Jayhawks are going to eventually be forced to vacate wins; I’d be shocked if they weren’t. And when they do, the 2018 Big 12 title is going to be erased and the 2018 Final Four banner is going to come down.

There’s no time like now to start up that new streak.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 2 Kentucky
No. 3 Gonzaga
No. 4 Duke
No. 5 Villanova
No. 6 Nevada
No. 7 Tennessee
No. 8 Virginia
No. 9 North Carolina
No. 10 Auburn
No. 11 Kansas State
No. 12 Virginia Tech
No. 13 Michigan State
No. 14 Florida State
No. 15 TCU
No. 16 UCLA
No. 17 West Virginia
No. 18 Oregon
No. 19 Syracuse
No. 20 LSU
No. 21 Mississippi State
No. 22 Clemson
No. 23 Michigan
No. 24 N.C. State
No. 25 Marquette

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.