Yesterday, the Big 12 released it’s preseason men’s basketball coaches poll tagging the Jayhawks to once again win the conference for the 11th straight season. Kansas received 6 first place votes among the league coaches, with Texas picked second (3 first place votes), and Oklahoma third (1 first place vote).
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One could argue that the Longhorns are on par with equal talent with the Jayhawks this year, who lose the first (Andrew Wiggins) and third (Joel Embiid) overall picks in last summer’s NBA draft. Aside from Wiggins and Embiid, the Jayhawks lost Tarik Black, Justin Wesley and Niko Roberts (exhausted eligibility), Last year’s starting PG Naadir Tharpe intended to transfer and ended up declaring for the D-League draft, and junior Andrew White III transferred to Nebraska.
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From the above chart, you can see that Kansas is losing over 50 percent of its production in most every statistical category from last years team. That said, they do return a big cog in the middle, the “Cyclone Killer” in Perry Ellis. Ellis started all but one game last season and was voted third team all-Big 12. He led the team in rebounds (234) averaging 6.7 per contest and was second on the team in points at 13.5 ppg.
Kansas is losing over 50 percent of its production in most every statistical category from last years team.
You don’t win ten straight conference championships without being able to recruit a little, and Kansas head coach Bill Self is one of the best in the country. The prized recruit comes in the form of 6-foot-8, 240-pound PF Cliff Alexander. Alexander was a five-star recruit out of Chicago and the top rated forward in the 2014 class according to ESPN.
Aside from Alexander, the Jayhawks also tapped McDonalds All-American Kelly Oubre Jr. out of Findley Prep in Las Vegas. Oubre is a SF who averaged 23 points at Findley Prep and was rated No. 11 in the ESPN top 100 class. Devonte Graham initially committed to Appalachian State before signing with Kansas and was a top 50 recruit by Rivals. He averaged 17.2 points and 5 assist playing guard last season for Brewser Academy in New England.
And finally, Ukrainian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a 6-foot-8 guard who played for the FIBA Basketball World Cup this past summer.
The Jayhawks will be tested early. Mark your calendar for November 18th when Kansas plays Kentucky in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. This will give everyone an early glimpse as to just how good this team will be playing elite competition. Aside from the Wildcats, Kansas have back to back games against Florida (at home on Dec. 5th) and playing at Georgetown five days later.
Cyclone fans will want to pay attention to their January 4th contest hosting the UNLV Running Rebels, where former Iowa State target Rashad Vaughn takes center stage against their only elite opponent all season.
Overall, Kansas loses a lot of pieces from last year’s team which ultimately underachieved. Don’t be surprised to see them struggle early against the Blue Bloods of the country’s elite programs (Kentucky, Florida), but begin to build momentum as they enter Big 12 play in January. They may certainly win the Big 12 again for the 11th straight season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished second either. Texas is a dangerous team this year.