This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas.
Where We Left Off: With seven minutes left in its Sweet Sixteen match-up with Michigan, Kansas led by 14 points. With 21 seconds left, the lead had dwindled but the Jayhawks still held a controlling five-point lead. Not long after that, Michigan guard Trey Burke’s last-second three-pointer sent the game to overtime, and the Wolverines held on to win the game, 87-85. That game was a microcosm of Kansas’ season, with senior point guard Elijah Johnson committing five turnovers without tallying a single assist. All five starters either graduated or, in freshman guard Ben McLemore’s case, declared for the NBA Draft. At the time, the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – led by five-star recruit Wayne Selden – softened the blow of another tough March loss for Bill Self. But a little less than two months later, everything changed when No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins committed to Kansas and transformed this year’s team from a top-25 squad into national title contenders.
Positives: The Jayhawks have more talent and balance than almost any team in the country. Andrew Wiggins is the CBSSports.com Preseason Player of the Year, an AP First-Team All-American, and the projected No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by the No. 12 overall player in the 2013 class, Wayne Selden, forming one of the best backcourts in the country. Freshman center Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few seasons but skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings during his senior year, ending up at 25th overall and a projected lottery pick next summer. He’s unlikely to even start at the beginning of the season. That looks to be Memphis transfer Tarik Black, who graduated early and is able to play immediately at Kansas. Even with three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup, Bill Self has said that sophomore forward Perry Ellis could lead the team in scoring. I wouldn’t bet on that, but Ellis did come on strong late last season, leading the team with 14.3 PPG in the Big 12 Tournament. There isn’t a big dropoff when Self looks to his bench, either. Three freshmen – Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, and Frank Mason - were four-star recruits and will be fighting for playing time this season on the perimeter behind Selden and Wiggins.