Top 68 Team Previews: #9 Kansas Jayhawks
Thomas Robinson is expected to emerge as a star for Kansas this season. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Friday, October 28, 2011
Last Season: 35-3 (14-2)
Key Losses: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby, Brady
Morningstar, Mario Little
Head Coach: Bill Self
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 Sr.
SG: Elijah Johnson 6-4 Jr.
SF: Travis Releford 6-5 Jr.
PF: Thomas Robinson 6-9 Jr.
C: Jeff Withey 7-0 Jr.
Key Reserves: Naadir Tharpe 5-11 Fr. PG, Jordan Juenemann 6-3 Sr. SG, Kevin Young 6-8 Jr. PF
Over the past two years, the basketball giant Kansas has had its season ended by Northern Iowa and Virginia Commonwealth. With a relatively inexperienced team this year, it will interesting to see if the Jayhawks can break that trend this year.
The Jayhawks will have to deal with a difficult question this year: How do you replace twins who were your team's top scorers and rebounders and who both went in first round of the NBA Draft? Coach Bill Self and Kansas may not have an answer for this question but they will try to deal with it this year.
Crimson and Blue fans: Don't fret, though. The Jayhawks still have their third best scorer from last year, Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor will bring experience to the squad as he has started almost every game since he came to Lawrence in 2008. The speedy guard averaged 9.7 points per game last year and has led the Jayhawks in assists for the past two seasons. Besides Brady Morningstar, who recorded 3.3 assists per game, Taylor was by far Kansas's best passer last year with 4.6 assists per game.
Taylor will have to mentor Elijah Johnson, who showed spurts of brilliance in 2010-11. Johnson, a very explosive guard, played in 36 games and started six last year. He posted a career-high of 15 points against Oklahoma State on February 21, going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Travis Releford has always been a productive reserve for the Jayhawks but will have to step into the starting lineup this year. Before suffering an ankle injury, Releford averaged 15.6 minutes and 6.1 points per game through the first 14 games, but his numbers slumped following the injury.
Thomas Robinson dramatically improved in 2010-11 to become one of the most valuable sixth men in the Big 12. Many remember the tragedy that Robinson suffered when his mother passed away, but his future looks promising as he is considered a solid NBA prospect. It appears Robinson will continue his upward trend. In June, Robinson impressed many viewers at the Nike Skills Camp as he shined playing against players like Jared Sullinger and Alex Oriakhi.
Eamon Brennan of ESPN said, "It was impossible to ignore Robinson's play. The Jayhawk flew down the court, challenged shots at the rim, finished inside rebounds and low-post moves with strength and athleticism, and threw down the indisputable dunk of the day -- a cocked one-handed fast break alley-oop that caused plenty of stone-faced NBA scouts in attendance to cast each other knowingly excited glances."
Joining Robinson in the frontcourt will be Jeff Withey, who will have to make the leap from playing only 6.2 minutes per game to starting every night. The 7-footer, however, did start one game last year and, as a former four-star recruit, has the skill set to be a major contributor.
Naadir Thorpe, another ESPNU 100 recruit, and Jordan Juenemann will have to backup for Taylor and Johnson. Transfer Kevin Young needs to play a role on the squad as the Jayhawks badly lack depth in their frontcourt.
It would be strange to have a year in which the Jayhawks do not compete for the Big 12 Championship, and they should do so again this year. Even though the Jayhawks have lost plenty of experience, they may have the ability to win their eighth straight Big 12 regular season title and even make a run deep into March.