Kansas Basketball Preview: #31
Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #4 Big 12
2007-08: 37-3, 13-3, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Kansas does not have much left from their National Championship team. Eight players averaged over ten minutes per game and seven of them are gone. Even six of them were drafted, which goes to show just how good this group was. But now Coach Bill Self has to reload. Are some of last year’s bench warmers ready to step into a bigger role? Is the relatively unheralded group of newcomers, at least by KU standards, ready to emerge as big time players? We shall see.
Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur…those are five names that will go down in Jayhawk history. Sasha Kaun and Rodrick Stewart can be added to that list as well and Jeremy Case and Brad Witherspoon were at least in the right place at the right time.
Obviously this is going to be a long, important list and Kansas will need this group to pull their weight…and then some. The point guard spot is the least of the team’s needs, but Tyrone Appleton and Tyshawn Taylor will fit in nicely. Appleton, rated as one of best junior college players in the nation, can do more than just handle the ball. He is a good shooter and can certainly play at the two guard spot. Taylor, who originally signed with Marquette before Tom Crean left for Indiana, will give Coach Self plenty of options at the point…both now and in the future. Among the newcomers, shooting guard Travis Releford could play the biggest role in the backcourt. The 6-5 freshman is a great defender, but his shooting touch has been improving and he could emerge as a great offensive and defensive weapon sooner or later. Brady Morningstar, who redshirted last year after playing limited minutes in 2006-2007, will add emergency depth. Like Appleton, Mario Little is a very highly touted junior college transfer. The 6-5 wing needs to keep developing his shot, but he is an effective scorer around the basket. A few forwards will battle for a starting job in the paint. Quintrell Thomas, although slightly undersized at 6-7 by Big 12 standards, is the most traditional big man. He will use his 240-pound frame to battle in the paint, and he should be the toughest forward on the roster this year. Twins Markieff and Marcus Morris do not lack toughness and their versatility will be a huge asset for the Jayhawks. Markieff, at 6-9 and 232 pounds, has a little more size than his brother, but both have a surprising amount of perimeter skills despite their large size.
Who to Watch:
Sherron Collins has been waiting on the bench behind some major talent. However, despite being limited by players like Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers, Collins still averaged 9.3 points per game as a freshman and sophomore. This year, the point guard’s numbers will go through the roof. Collins is more than just a shooter and a scorer though; he ranked third on the team last year in assists and steals. The only thing that could possibly keep Collins from becoming a superstar is his health. Collins underwent knee surgery in April and has constantly battled weight and other injury issues. Conner Teahan and Tyrel Reed did not see many minutes last year, but the sophomores are the most likely returning candidates to battle with the newcomers for minutes off the bench.
Cole Aldrich had his moments while averaging 8.2 minutes per game as a freshman. Now he needs to turn those occasional moments into consistent production. The 6-11 center averaged 2.8 points and 3.0 rebounds during those limited minutes and he has the potential to emerge as a superb interior scorer. But Aldrich will need help in the frontcourt from the youngsters and this team will struggle early while the new guys get acclimated to life in the Big 12. By the end of the year the group will know how to win and have enough talent to compete for a conference championship.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Sherron Collins, Junior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Travis Releford, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Mario Little, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Markieff Morris, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Cole Aldrich, Sophomore, Center, 2.8 points per game