Year after year, the Jayhawks sit atop college basketball as one of the favorites to win the NCAA championship. By this time of year, we’re all a little hungry for college basketball, so let’s take a look at just how good Kansas’ chances are of winning the title next year.
As he does every year, Bill Self has put together a squad that appears to be one of college basketball’s top teams entering the season. Devonte’ Graham, Udoka Azubuike and Svi Mykhailiuk lead a Jayhawks team that sits tied at No. 6 among the top ten favorites to win the 2018 national championship. The 14/1 odds for KU are about right, as it is impossible to predict an event as crazy as the NCAA tournament.
We know that Devonte’ Graham will be one of the country’s top players in his senior year. We know that Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick have played well at the college level before, and they should anchor another very strong backcourt.
But what about the frontcourt? Last year, the Jayhawks were one Landen Lucas foul away from an entire contest changing due to a lack of depth. This year, Kansas appears to be more balanced, but the number of dependable players doesn’t seem to be much higher at this point. Udoka Azubuike is raw and has played just 11 college games in his career, but he’s a physical freak that a lot of people anticipate breaking out in a big way. Incoming freshman Billy Preston is a five-star power forward that should play plenty, and Mitch Lightfoot will take a step forward as well. But other than that? Dwight Coleby is gone. Carlton Bragg is gone. Jack Whitman is gone just a few weeks after he arrived. The possibility of a late-season graduate transfer is decent, but the oddsmakers have to act as if this is it for the Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation.
I think it’ll be pretty similar to last year. If the Jayhawks stay out of foul trouble and their top players play well, they’ll win another Big 12 title and receive a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament. But as it was in 2016-17, the Jayhawks are flirting with disaster having only three dependable post players. Injuries and foul trouble will effect this team more than most Kansas teams in the past.
All that said, it’s college basketball. There are no Golden State Warriors super-teams. Every team is flawed. Kentucky is going to struggle to score at times. Arizona seems like the best team out there, but it can never get out of its own way, and I don’t think Duke and North Carolina will be as good as everyone thinks either.
The Jayhawks may have flaws, but they’re still one of the top bets to take home the 2018 NCAA title. Eventually, Bill Self’s squad is going to bust down that Elite Eight door and return to college basketball’s promised land. This team seems to have about as good of a chance to do that as any of the recent ones.