While all the preseason hype will focus on Coach K’s INSANE recruiting class at Duke, the Blue Devils will likely be edged out at the top of most major rankings by the Kansas Jayhawks.
Around noon yesterday, Kansas coach Bill Self confirmed multiple reports that the Jayhawks 7-foot center, Udoka Azubuike (13.0 points, 7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks in just 23.6 mins per game), was removing himself from the NBA draft to return for his junior season. Despite an impressive showing at the NBA combine earlier this month, NBA scouts recommended Azubuike return for another year before pledging his future to the Association.
This announcement should come to the dismay of the Big 12’s 9 remaining teams. The Jayhawks are boasting one of its most talented front court’s since their ’08 National Championship team–a squad consisting of Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Cole Aldrich. The regular season conference title will likely remain in the hands of Bill Self for an unprecedented 15th straight year. The remaining bigs in the Kansas rotation are Memphis transfer–and likely Big 12 preseason 1st-teamer–PF Dedric Lawson, sophomore physical specimen PF Silvio de Sousa, junior PF Mitch Lightfoot, and incoming McDonald’s All-American center out of Oak Hill Academy–David McCormack.
The Kansas backcourt will enter the season as a very inexperienced group, however, the incoming talent should more than make up for that. College Park CG Quentin Grimes and Providence Day PG Devon Dotson are fellow McDonald’s All-Americans and rank in the top 10 and top 20 of most recruiting outlets. After sitting out a season, Cal transfer PG Charlie Moore is expected to compete with Dotson for the starting PG spot, while guards Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe, and freshman Ochai Agbaji will round out the rest of the rotation. K.J. Lawson– the one-year younger counterpart of Dedric–averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 boards in the 2016-2017 season at Memphis and should start at SF.
The balance of depth, experience, and talent that this Kansas roster brings will create tough matchups at each position for almost every team it faces this year. A State Farm Champion’s Classic showdown Nov. 6 against Michigan State, a Dec. 15 matchup against reigning National Champs–Villanova, and a road pairing with the Kentucky Wildcats on Jan. 26 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge will serve as great litmus tests for this Jayhawks team.
The departures of Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman to the NBA draft are the main reasons why Villanova will not start the season at number 1. Duke brings in arguably the most-talented recruiting class in the history of college basketball, but history says a team full of one-and-dones will not cut down the nets at the end of the year. Tennessee, Kentucky, UNC, and Nevada are all teams to keep an eye on as the season progresses, but expect to see the Jayhawks enter the season as favorites in both the polls and in Vegas.
We can only hope this season won’t be overshadowed by the FBI’s ongoing investigations. The talent pool entering the college ranks this year offers a very exciting crop of potential, and I will preview some of the names to watch as we inch closer to the season.
But for now, feel free to tell me why you think another squad belongs at the top.