Big 12 Previews: Kansas & Kansas State

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2018

With tip-off now mere days away, we’re continuing our 2018-19 Big 12 coverage by going around the league team-by-team. Be sure to check in throughout the season and follow Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman on Twitter @BSGoodman.


Bill Self and Kansas want nothing more than to roll out the ball. (USA Today Images)

A few misses on the recruiting trail and Billy Preston’s compromised eligibility led last season’s Jayhawks to field one of their thinnest teams in recent memory. With Bill Self’s hand forced, he leaned into his team’s strength of perimeter play like never before. Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Devonte’ Graham each buried at least 85 three-pointers last year, and all three connected at a 40 percent or better clip in pacing the nation’s fifth-best offense, which also helped mask the worst defensive group of the Self era (47th nationally). There were a number of moments that Kansas fans would rather forget, such as losing to NIT-bound Washington in Kansas City and dropping three home games for the first time since boy bands dominated the Billboard charts, but the Jayhawks still won 31 games, still notched their 14th consecutive Big 12 title and still made the Final Four for the first time since 2012 without a single first-round pick, so they handled the adversity just fine.

Who’s Gone:

  • G Devonte’ Graham: 17.3 PPG, 7.2 APG, 40.6% 3FG
  • G Svi Mykhailiuk: 14.6 PPG, 44.4% 3FG
  • G Malik Newman: 14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG

Who’s Back:

  • C Udoka Azubuike: 13.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 BPG
  • G Lagerald Vick: 12.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 37.3% 3FG
  • G Marcus Garrett: 19.2 MPG, 4.1 PPG
  • F Mitch Lightfoot: 14.0 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG
  • F Silvio De Sousa*: 20 GP, 4.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG

*suspended indefinitely

Who’s Coming In:

  • F Dedric Lawson (transfer from Memphis): 19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG in 2016-17
  • G K.J. Lawson (transfer from Memphis): 12.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.8 APG in 2016-17
  • G Charlie Moore (transfer from Cal): 12.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 35.2% 3FG in 2016-17
  • G Quentin Grimes (five-star recruit)
  • G Devon Dotson (five-star recruit)
  • F David McCormack (four-star recruit)

Outlook: Even if De Sousa were available, he’d be no better than the team’s third-best big man (if that), so while a cloud of suspicion stemming from alleged improprieties revealed over the last several months may surround this team, it’s more likely to manifest itself in the form of increased vitriol from opposing fanbases and in local and national talk than in any real way on the court. That isn’t nothing, but the point is that this year’s team should be just fine, barring any new revelations. That’s a credit to the group of talent that Self has assembled in spite of any doubts circling its construction. Kansas is positioned to return to a classic two-big look, with Memphis transfer and preseason All-American Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike possessing the strength, skill and experience to overpower most of their match-ups, and Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack behind them. Whether it’s optimal to feature two bigs as prominent as Lawson and Azubuike in the era of pace and space is a conversation worth having, but we’ll leave it for another time. Another interesting question in Lawrence is how the point guard position will shake out after Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason gave the team so much production and consistency over the last four seasons. Charlie Moore has experience and some scoring ability, but Marcus Garrett has the defensive-mindedness and toughness that Self loves so much and Devon Dotson is the most decorated point guard prospect to come through Lawrence since Josh Selby. There shouldn’t be many problems at the two-guard slot, though, with Lagerald Vick returning and a blue-chip freshman in Quentin Grimes ready to contribute as well. The Jayhawks are a melting pot of program guys, transfers and stud recruits, making them an excellent bet to win their 15th consecutive conference title followed by another deep postseason run. 

Kansas State

Will Dean Wade and rise up and lead Kansas State to another deep tournament run? (George Walker/The Collegian)

Ask 10 different people how they feel about Kansas State this season and you’ll get 10 different answers. On one hand, the Wildcats made the Elite Eight last season with Dean Wade playing just eight hobbled minutes, gave Bruce Weber a break from the hot seat and return everyone. On the other, they went 0-7 against the three teams above them in the Big 12 standings, needed UMBC to make history to avoid Virginia in last season’s Round of 32, nearly lost to that same UMBC team themselves and then got obliterated by the Cinderella Loyola-Chicago the following weekend. Wildcat fans will take the final result (as they should), but objectively, last season was about as mixed a bag as there is in the game.

Who’s Gone:

  • F Amaad Wainright: 2.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG

Who’s Back:

  • F Dean Wade: 16.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 44.0% 3FG, 1.5 SPG, 123.3 ORtg
  • G Barry Brown: 15.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 SPG
  • F Xavier Sneed: 11.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG
  • G Kamau Stokes: 9.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG
  • F Cartier Diarra: 7.1 PPG, 40.5% 3FG
  • F Makol Mawien: 37 GS, 6.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG
  • G Mike McGuirl: 3.3 PPG, 17 points vs. Creighton in Round of 64 win

Who’s Coming In:

  • G Shaun Neal-Williams (three-star recruit)
  • F Austin Trice (three-star recruit)

Outlook: As alluded to above, whether you’re bearish or bullish on the Wildcats coming into this season, you’ll have strong evidence to support your position either way. In a year when Kansas’ top challengers from a year ago are retooling after losing their best pieces, there’s comfort in the familiar, which is exactly what you’ll find in Manhattan. Wade and Barry Brown are all-conference type of players, and Xavier Sneed, Kamau Stokes, Cartier Diarra and Makol Mawien are prototypical supporting pieces with Sneed even possessing some NBA upside even if he’s a ways away. No one questions Kansas State’s ability to defend, but Weber’s group absolutely has to improve its outside shooting and get a full, healthy season out of Wade in order to live up to its lofty potential. Kansas State has a high floor, but it’s on Weber and his guys to convince us that there’s a high ceiling, too.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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