Big 12 Team Previews: Kansas JayhawksPosted by cwilliams on November 13th, 2011
Predicted finish: 1st
2010-11 Record: 35-3 (14-2, Big 12)
Head Coach: Bill Self, 9th season
Key Losses: Marcus Morris (17.2 PPG), Markieff Morris (13.7 PPG), Tyrel Reed (9.7 PPG), Josh Selby (7.9 PPG), Brady Morningstar (7.1 PPG), Mario Little (5.1 PPG)
The 2011-12 Jayhawks face a daunting rebuilding task, after losing six players from last season’s 35-win team. If there is one coach who has proven he knows how to reload instead of rebuild, it’s Bill Self. The appeal of NBA riches hit the 2010-11 Jayhawk team hard with the early departure of the Morris twins and Josh Selby. That won’t stop Self and his squad from competing for a Big 12 championship, though, a title they’ve earned the past seven seasons. Kansas will not roll over, especially at home — Allen Fieldhouse has had 164 consecutive sellouts and has one of the most intimidating student sections in the game. Like always, the Jayhawks will thrive at home. Where we will see who they really are is on the road. Despite not being considered as talented a team as compared to those in recent years, Kansas will still have the bulls-eye pinned to their backs. All season long.
The Stars: All eyes will be on Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson this season. Taylor is the lone returning 2010-11 starter. He averaged 9.3 PPG last season with 4.6 APG. He will have to carry this team with his leadership this season, both on the court and off. Robinson was Kansas’s sixth man last season, contributing 7.6 PPG and 6.4 RPG. Robinson is more known for his personal tragedies off the court last season. We watched as the young man experienced the death of his maternal grandparents and his mother all in the course of a month (read the tragic yet inspiring tale here). He provided us with one of the more awe-inspiring sports comebacks, as he played the rest of the season as an integral part of his team despite the darkness resting on his shoulders. I expect Robinson to have an All-America caliber season.
The Veterans: Tyshawn Taylor is the lone senior on this Kansas team, and as previously mentioned, how well he plays the role of the leader could determine how far this Jayhawk team goes. He’ll have five juniors backing up his cause, however, a group that consists of players who can keep the younger players in check, both on and off the court.
The Newbies: While the freshman class took quite the hit with the ineligibility ruling on Ben McLemore, Braeden Anderson, and James Traylor, do not write this class off yet for the 2011-12 season. Naadir Tharpe is a 5’11″ guard who is expected to contribute immediately, a player who is the epitome of the word point guard, and can provide some help with the three-ball. Merv Lindsey is a freshman forward who has been touted a “pure shooter.” Christian Garrett will fill the role of one of my favorite aspects of college basketball, the walk-on. Kevin Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount available to play immediate, should see a good amount of playing team this season.Young is a lanky, tall player who is versatile and can play at the three or four spot.
Breakthrough Candidate: Thomas Robinson earns this title, as he has gone from a role player to a Naismith Award-contender in six short months. Markieff Morris said Robinson has “the speed of Kobe and a body like Lebron’s. Sky’s the limit.” Well said, Markieff. Robinson will have all eyes on him this season, as he is the anticipated star of the Jayhawk squad. He averaged 7.6 PPG last season, but expect that number to more than double, as he is now the focal point of the Jayhawks’ inside game.
Why They’re Better Than You Think: Because they’re Kansas. Every time they face the expectation of having an “off year” they make us all look stupid. It also helps they have two very talented players who are both likely going to be playing basketball for a long time in Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. If these two can get some help from the rest of this team, KU could go very far this season.
Points of Concern: If ever the Jayhawks were to have a roster that would experience a rebuilding season, it would be this team. Three of their highly-touted recruits will not be eligible to play this season. Tyshawn is a very good player, but he will have to prove he can provide the necessary senior leadership by himself. While I expect Robinson to have a huge year, if he does not receive much help from his teammates, it could be a disappointing season (by KU expectations) for the Phog faithful.