As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, written by Torres Online. college basketball writer Zac Krull (with Torres pitching in to lend a helping hand here or there)
As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just a few days - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year.
In case you missed it, we've already previewed the Memphis Tigers, then hit the Illinois Fighting Illini, Wyoming Cowboys, Xavier Musketeers, Michigan State Spartans, Alabama Crimson Tide, Arizona Wildcats, San Diego State Aztecs, UConn Huskies, the Texas Longhorns and Auburn Tigers on Friday. We also covered Dayton, a Top 25 team at A-10 Media Days
Today, Jake Faigus looks at the reigning national champion Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas topped college basketball last season, now start largely from scratch with a mostly new - but talented - roster.
How it Went Down in 2021-2022
Let's not beat around the bush: The 2022 Kansas season ended in the best way possible for Kansas - winning the school's second national championship under Bill Self.
Heading into the season, there was a lot of optomism for the Jayhawks. Yes, they lost Marcus Garrett to the professional ranks, but outside Bryce Thompson (Oklahoma State) there really weren't any transfers of note. Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson came back after dipping their toes in the NBA Draft waters. They also added a big transfer in Remy Martin a two-time All-Pac 12 performer at Arizona State. David McCormack, Mitch Lightfoot, and Christian Braun were also back on the roster and stepped up in bigger roles this year too.
The Jayhawks started the season 4-0 with a good win against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, but then lost a stunner to Dayton in the ESPN Events Invitational. The Jayhawks would win the rest of their non-conference games and be 11-1 before Big 12 play started. In the middle of Big 12 play, they lost to Kentucky at home in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge where they looked lifeless at home, getting run out of the building by a Kentucky squad which was playing as well as anyone in college hoops at the time. Still, in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball (the Big 12) they lost just four games in league play to finish atop the conference. They would combine their Big 12 regular season title with a postseason title, just a few weeks later.
Heading into the NCAA Tournament the Jayhawks got a No. 1 seed, and blew out their first opponent, Texas Southern. The Jayhawks really didn't play elite basketball in the Round of 32 or Sweet 16, getting by a feisty Creighton team by seven and beating Providence College by five in the Sweet 16. In the Elite Eight they finally hit their groove, turning a halftime deficit into a route against Miami and pulled away from Villanova in the Final Four to win easily too. The National Championship Game against North Carolina was an all-time classic.
The Tar Heels started out hot and were up by as many as 16 in the game, but in the second half Kansas stormed back and got hot from the field.
The Tar Heels just ran out of gas and Kansas won the National Championship by three.
What You Need to Know About 2022-2023
Key Returnees: Jalen Wilson, Dajuan Harris Jr., Joseph Yesufu
Key Losses: Ochai Agbaji, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack, Remy Martin, Christian Braun
Key Transfers: Kevin McCullar Jr. (Texas Tech)
Key Recruits: Gradey Dick, M.J. Rice, Ernest Udeh Jr., Zuby Ejiofor
Kansas has two starters returning from last year and they had the No. 4 ranked recruiting class coming into the year too. The Jayhawks are betting a lot more on unproven talent this year as compared to last year.
The biggest loss for Kansas was Ochai Agbaji, who’s now in the NBA. He averaged 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 40.7 percent from three-point range, earning Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus first team All American honors. He was picked #14 in the 2022 NBA Draft for the Cleveland Cavaliers and then was traded to the Utah Jazz. He will be a big loss because of his experience and his talent level being a do-it-all guard for the Jayhawks.
A loss that might hurt the Jayhawks more than people think is Christian Braun. He also went to the NBA too. He averaged 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and he shot 38.6 percent from three-point range. He was picked by the Denver Nuggets in the 2022 NBA Draft at pick No 21. He was another do-it-all guard for Kansas, and the Jayhawks are going to miss his production too.
Kansas is losing a handful of guys from last year, but those two seem like they are going to be the most important. David McCormack, Mitch Lightfoot, and Remy Martin are all key contributors that won’t be on the Jayhawks either this year.
Among the returnees, DaJuan Harris Jr. is one of the two starters back for Kansas, and he’ll be the starting point guard again in his sophomore year. He’s a bit undersized and limited athletically, but he’s a huge factor on defense. Kevin McCullar will slide into the shooting guard spot after transferring from Texas Tech. He’s not the best career shooter but is very good on the defensive end and can still takeover a good amount of the offensive load. MJ Rice will likely be the sixth man off the bench as a freshman and McDonald’s All-American. Bobby Pettiford Jr. is another guard off the bench that will be good for depth, especially now that he’s back from injury after last year. Joseph Yesufu rounds out the guards after transferring from Drake last year. He’s another undersized guard but can be used as a spark plug for good minutes. Gradey Dick will likely be the lone freshman starter and was a McDonald’s All-American known for his shooting prowess in high school.
Still, the best player for the Jayhawks this year will be Jalen Wilson. He came back after testing the NBA Draft waters and he’ll be in line to be potentially one of the best players in the entire country. He can score from all levels and can defend multiple positions too.
Down low, the Jayhawks have Zach Clemence filling out the rest of the starting lineup. He presents a concern physicality, but he’s a stretch big offensively, and has enough athleticism to block shots and defend the pick and roll. KJ Adams Jr. is the main forward that we’ll see off the bench. He’s got a ton of athleticism and has potential to be very good in a limited role. Depth-wise, look for Ernest Udeh Jr., Zuby Ejiofor, and Cam Martin to all see limited minutes as well, with Udeh Jr. being the most likely to see time.
The schedule for Kansas is going to be very difficult this year. In just their second game of the season they will face Duke in the Champion's Classic, which will serve as the first marquee game of the Jon Scheyer era at Duke. Shortly thereafter they head to one of the pre-eminent "Feast Week" tournaments on the calendar in the "Battle 4 Atlantis." They will open with NC State, before facing either USC or BYU - two programs who should compete for NCAA Tournament bids - in Round 2. Should they advance to the final, they could face a Tennessee team which ranks No. 11 in the preseason AP Poll.
Upon returning to the States, it doesn't get much easier as on December 1st they'll take on Seton Hall in the Big East-Big 12 Challenge, and then face Missouri in the Border War. After a week off, they will then host Indiana, the preseason Big Ten favorite.
Oh, and if that weren't enough, they'll also get Kentucky, a preseason Top 5 team and favorites in the SEC, in the Big 12- SEC Challenge in February.
Of course, before that, Big 12 play will open - and the Jayhawks will again have a tough road ahead in what will likely be the toughest conference in college basketball. It’s a round-robin so Kansas will play and visit every team in the conference, and have every team visit them. The teams that stick out are Baylor, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. The conference is a gauntlet and Kansas’ main challengers are Texas and Baylor.
Between the Big 12 slate, Battle 4 Atlantis, home dates against Indiana and Seton Hall and a road trip to Kentucky, you could argue this will go down as the toughest schedule in college basketball.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
Kansas is losing a lot from a National Championship team. However, they have a few pieces returning, and are adding a good number of pieces. Kevin McCullar is a great addition to go with the No. 4 ranked recruiting class in the country.
Still, Jalen Wilson is the key for the Jayhawks this year. He’s poised to be a breakout player and be one of the best players in the country.
The schedule is tough, but they will be favored in every game except the game at Kentucky and maybe the road game against Baylor.
Don’t sleep on these Jayhawks, the defending champions are definitely primed for a potential repeat.
No. 30 - Memphis Tigers
No. 29 - Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 28 - Dayton Flyers
No. 27 - Wyoming Cowboys
No. 26 - Xavier Musketeers
No. 25 - Michigan State Spartans
No. 24 - Alabama Crimson Tide
No. 23 - Texas Tech Red Raiders
No. 22 - Arizona Wildcats
No. 21 - San Diego State Aztecs
No. 20 - UConn Huskies
No. 19 - Texas Longhorns
No. 18 - Auburn Tigers
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