Last year the Kansas Jayhawks won their 14th straight Big 12 regular season championship. This year they will very likely win their 15th. This is considering that there is a number of distractions around the program after the close of the FBI investigation, along with with the fact that that they will likely be without Silvio De Sousa as they are holding him out. It’s not that there aren’t any good teams in the Big 12 this year–Kansas State, West Virginia, TCU, and several others will all be good–but it frankly won’t matter. Kansas loses starters Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman, but that shouldn’t matter either.
Kansas returns just two starters, so how are they being picked by many as the preseason #1? Well, both of those starters are very good, they bring in a top-5 recruiting class, and they have three really good transfers eligible this season, one of which will be a National Player of the Year candidate.
The two returning starters are Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike. Both entered the draft but decided to withdraw and return for another season in Lawrence. Vick is a 6’5 guard returning for his senior season. He is very athletic with a solid shooting stroke and a good floater. He will also help the development of KU’s freshman guards. Vick averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds last season while shooting 37% from three. Azubuike is a seven-footer that cleans up the glass and dunks on everyone in his path. Few college centers have enough size to guard him, and with the further development of his skillset, he could be dominant this season. Last year Azubuike averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 77% from the floor. Both of these returning players are very important, but their additions could mean even more.
Kansas has three transfers that will contribute right from the start, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, and Charlie Moore. Dedric and K.J. Lawson are brothers that transferred to Kansas from Memphis and Moore comes to Lawrence from Cal. Dedric is a 6’9″ forward with guard skills. Two years ago at Memphis, he averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds along with 3 assists and 2 blocks. He has a decent shooting stroke but it was inconsistent at Memphis, with an extra year to develop and work on his skills, his three-point shot could be a valuable weapon in his game. Dedric has dominated Kansas’ scrimmages and exhibition games so far and has a lot of hype around him. His brother K.J. is no slouch either. K.J. is a skilled forward just like his brother. Although not incredibly efficient, in his last season he averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds. Charlie Moore is a 5’11” point guard from Cal that averaged 12 points and 4 assists as a freshman two seasons ago. He is quick with great finishing ability and a decent jump shot. All three are extremely valuable additions and Dedric Lawson could contend for the National Player of the Year award.
The Jayhawks’ incoming recruiting class is also very exciting. The best player in this class is Quentin Grimes, a 6’5 combo guard and a top-10 player in the class. Grimes is a complete offensive player with good handles, vision, and shooting ability. He can also finish around the rim as well as anyone but could stand to improve on the defensive end. The other 5-star in the class is point guard Devon Dotson. Dotson is a quick and aggressive player with good drive and dish skills, a true point guard. Another valuable addition in the class is 4-star big man David McCormack. He’s a physical specimen that will do the dirty work when he sees the floor.
That makes Kansas eight players deep with good players; that’s not even counting if Silvio De Sousa returns. Again, it’s not that the rest of the Big 12 will be bad this year, it’s just that Kansas will be dominant. The Jayhawks have some tough non-conference games to prepare them for a tough conference schedule. They play powerhouses like Michigan State and Villanova, as well as good mid-major teams like Vermont and New Mexico State, and some pretty good teams like Marquette and Arizona State. Expect Kansas to win another conference title and be one of the best teams in the nation once again.