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Onward through the Phog

  • CorpusJayhawk
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1 month 1 day ago #23502 by CorpusJayhawk
The students have returned and the grind of classes is in full swing. Ah, remember the days of late summer, early fall in Lawrence? Throwing a frisbee by Potters on a lazy Saturday afternoon, unless of course the Jayhawk football team was playing a home game. It is still hot but the crisper cooler air of fall is just around the corner and that means the echoes of basketballs against the hardwood in Allen Fieldhouse will soon crescendo. I'm not personally sure how I feel about the new Miles football team. As an optimist I always hope for the best. But after a number of years of abject incompetence, hope is tough to muster. But hope I will and here's looking forward to a step up this season. After week 2 loss to Coastal Carolina it looked like the reboot was right back into the old decrepit operating system. But then we bust out with an offensive surge to earn our first road victory against a Power 5 conference team in about 50 years or something (at least it seems like 50 years). So who knows? Maybe there is hope.

Basketball, on the other hand, is never short of optimism and high hopes. The road to the 2019-20 KU basketball roster has been a weird and unique one. By late April, fears were setting in that the 2019-20 Jayhawks may be bereft of enough talent to compete for even a place in the top 25, much less a Big 12 Championship. Dotson, Grimes and Azubuike had declared for the draft. De Sousa had all but declared that, were he not granted eligibility, he would be gone. One top recruit after another announced there decision for someplace other than Kansas. Cassius Stanley and Matthew Hurt to Duke. Precious Aschewa to Memphis. RJ Hampton, perhaps the most important recruit of the bunch, had strongly indicated KU was his school of choice leading everyone to believe he would soon be announcing the Jayhawks as his choice. As it turned out, KU was his school of choice. The problem was “school” was not his choice, opting to play professional ball down under in Australia. And there were a few other recruits who left KU wanting. It looked like we would need to lean heavily on the newly minted transfer portal and bring in some players leaving other schools. But before we could land any significant transfers, the transfer portal drew Grimes away from Kansas where he ultimately landed at Houston. But that was also right around the time that we landed the three biggest recruiting wins we could have hoped for. Dotson and Azubuike withdrew from the draft and announced they would return to the Jayhawks. Right about that same time, De Sousa's appeal was granted and his eligibility was restored. Regardless of what happened after that, we were in really nice shape going into 2019-20. These three players represent the core of the upcoming team. Without these three players we are in the mix for contention. Without them, we are likely not in contention for much other than mediocrity. This was huge.

We had already landed a couple 4-star freshmen in Isaac McBride and Christian Braun. Neither was viewed as being a high probability starter but both were likely solid 4-year contributors. With Dotson, Azubuike and De Sousa we were very strong 3 deep with Lightfoot and McCormick giving us frontcourt depth. Garrett and Agbaji give us some oomph but not an elite backcourt depth. We still looked suspect in the backcourt. Just like the incoming freshmen recruits, our targeted transfers started announcing for other teams. This was a little easier to stomach since we were really looking for depth at this point. But out of the blue almost, Tristan Enaruna, a long and athletic 6-9" guy declared for Kansas. This was a nice addition although not really addressing our one glaring need for a shooter and backcourt assassin. Then we finally struck pay dirt from the transfer portal with Isaiah Moss from Iowa. He is not a classic star but sure seems to be someone who can shoot and give some quality minutes in the backcourt. He is not that desired assassin but certainly brings quality depth and shooting skills, not to mention a bit of senior swag. Right about that same time, John Belein announced he was leaving Michigan to head to the NBA. That prompted 4-star Jalen Wilson to back out of his commitment to Michigan and ultimately he chose Kansas. This really added depth to the backcourt. All of the sudden, the woes of late April turned into the riches of July. The final piece was when another 4-star commitment announced for Kansas, Dejuan Harris. It looks now like Harris will redshirt which makes sense with our newfound incredible depth. But wait, just as you’d expect from such a crazy off-season for roster changes, Isaac McBride announces he is transferring from Kansas as it is not a good fit. This is about as close to a non-event as this roster could have. Dotson is clearly the man at the point and KU is heavily recruiting a number of PG’s for next season. On top of that, Garrett can fill in as needed for Dotson at the point. McBride would very possibly had logged some minutes this season but not many. Best wishes to him.

Clearly Azubuike, De Sousa and Dotson will start. The question of the two remaining starters is still up in the air. It is a good bet that Agbaji will start given his defensive prowess and rebounding ability at the 2 guard slot., Word is that he has been diligently working on his shooting and hopefully will bring an improved percentage from deep to the 2019-20 team. Picking the 5th starter is a little tougher. Conventional wisdom would go with the Junior and team leader (along with Agbaji) Marcus Garrett. Marcus also is a defensive gem and a smart player that can rebound. But as the whole world is aware, Marcus is challenged at shooting the ball. Note carefully, I say he is challenged shooting the ball, not scoring. He is an effective scorer other than shooting from distance. In fact, with a big beefy space consuming frontcourt we will have this season, slashers will be at a premium and Garrett is a more than decent slasher. His defense and slashing/scoring could mark him as the 5th starter. But the door is open for another potential starter. Most likely to fill that hole would be senior transfer Isaiah Moss. Another possibility would be freshman Jalen Wilson who would bring size to the three spot. An outside long shot would be Tristan Enaruna if he can show a hustle and defensive prowess in the early practices. For now I am gong with Marcus as the likely starter at the 3. He simply has too much intangible value and, as I mentioned, given the rest of the lineup, his lack of shooting is not that big of a deal.

Regardless of who starts, it is likely that Moss will get a good amount of floor time as will David McCormack. In fact, the scuttlebutt is that McCormack is the most surprisingly improved player on the team and looks to be ready for prime time. It would not surprise me for McCormack to get 20 minutes a game even off the bench. Jalen Wilson and Christian Braun look like they will be competing hard for minutes as well. We certainly have depth. But to me, the success of this team seems to be largely on the shoulders of 2 players. Devon Dotson needs to up his game and show he is one of the premier PG's in the country. His freshman season surpassed every freshman PG under Self and that is a big statement. He was better than Chalmers, Taylor, Robinson, Collins, Mason and Graham as freshmen. His potential to be a huge impact player is very high. If he lives up to that we will be tough to beat and a strong favorite for the Final Four. The other key player is Udoka. First and foremost he has to stay healthy. Udoka gives KU a force that few, if any, teams can match. Having a chiseled 275 pound mass of muscle pound on you for 40 minutes takes a toll. With Udoka starting and McCormack off the bench, we are going to wear down a lot of bigs this year. But more than that, Udoka needs to show the super high efficiency he showed his sophomore year. He needs to shoot 75% of better. That contributes to an offensive efficiency that is a decided advantage. Any team that can score at 1.1 points per possession is going to be a contender. Shooting 75% is a 1.5 point per possession scoring efficiency. That is a huge huge huge boost for the team. Not to mention it will increase the fouls likelihood on the opponents bigs. Udoka staying healthy and doing what he did as a sophomore is a big key to our success.

Then you have guys like De Sousa, Agbaji and Garrett as icing on the cake. With Agbaji and Garrett you will have 2 of the best 5 (or at worst 10) defensive players in the conference. Dotson is no slack defensively either. With De Sousa and Udoka manning the paint and McCormack coming off the bench we should have good rim and paint protection. And Lightoot will get minutes and he is the best blocker on the team given his size. So defensively we may have the best team since 2015. And offensively, we will be very good if Udoka does his thing,. If we can add a perimeter game that is simply above average we will have a great offense as well. There is certainly a lot to look forward to.

One of the things to look forward to is a National Championship. I put the table below together showing the for each pre-season ranking how far a team is likely to go in the NCAA Tourney. The official AP Poll has not come out but we are currently second on the preliminary ESPN poll. Over the last 35 years since 1985 (when the tournament expanded to 64 teams) the No. 2 team in the pre-season has made it to the Final Four 37% of the time and has won the National Championship 14% of the time. Last year was a bust for Kansas, having been ranked Number 1 in the pre-season poll and losing in the 2nd round of the tourney. . Let's hope this season makes up for it.

Kansas has put together another crazy tough schedule. We open with Duke, we will play Villanova in December and likely play Michigan St in the Maui Classic. Colorado is also on the schedule and they are flirting with the top 25. On the schedule also is Stanford and KU will meet either BYU or UCLA in the Maui Classic. We will without doubt have another top 5 strength of schedule. It is amazing Self has such an amazing record, winning almost 82% of the game while playing consistently one of the toughest schedules year in and year out.

Finally, let’s look at the difference between last year and this year. Last year we we’re counting on Dok to anchor the team and Vick to be that senior stability. We had two freshmen in Dotson and Grimes who gave us hope but were unproven. Vick was HIGHLY suspect from the get-go even though he started the season like a house afire. De Sousa was the other key part and we spent a good part of the season in limbo. Dedric was supposed to be “The Man” and KJ and Charlie Moore were going to be solid contributors. Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned. on the positive side of the ledger was Dotson and Agbaji. Both exceed expectations. On the “as expected” side of the ledger was Dedric. He did all we could have asked. On the negative side of the ledger was Vick, Grimes, Moore, KJ, De Sousa and Udoka. That’s a big net negative. Let’s hope that this season things just work out as projected and hoped. I am just praying for no surfeit of negatives like last season. This season we have proven potential at every position with some freshmen who could surprise. We don’t need them for a successful season. We are in a hugely different position this season from last.

Okay, now for the 10,000 pound albatross in the room who is crying over spilt milk and crumbled cookies (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?). As many of you have read, rumor has it KU is soon to be served with “Notice of Allegations” from the NCAA. It will be what it will be. I’m going to do a Forrest Gump and say “That’s all I’m going to say about that. I am going to do my level best to enjoy the ride for this season. After last season, we are due for an enjoyable ride. Let’s hope the boys can put that all aside and focus on playing excellent basketball, beat Duke to open the season and win a National Championship.

Don

Don't worry about the mules, just load the wagon!!
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  • HawkErrant
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1 month 1 day ago #23504 by HawkErrant
Thanks, Don!

One other note to add — 4* freshman PG Issac McBride has left the program. Link

Self stated Issac reported him his concerns last Tuesday (with 3 days left to go in boot camp), and Issac confirmed them after talking with his parents. Reports he did not feel KU was a good fit for him.

NCAA concerns? The rumors weren’t flying until Friday.
Or just looking at the level of effort expected and/or the competition with Dajuan Harris now on board (and the staff apparently really, really liking Harris)?

No matter his reasons, wish the youngster well and good luck ... except when playing KU, of course.

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it” ~Albert Einstein
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