Kansas basketball is back soon!
After a long offseason break in which the team played overseas in Italy and rekindled the fire that was the Border War in a charity game, it will soon be time to lace up for some real basketball! The end of last season was disappointing (especially because I thought it was our year for sure). Losing to an Oregon team which we could have and maybe should have beaten was a heartbreak, but that is just the nature and the allure of the NCAA tournament. In the summer, we lost two of the most talented and exciting players in recent KU history, Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III. Frank Mason was possibly the biggest reason the Jayhawks were able to pull off some miraculous wins, and Josh Jackson added a youthful energy and explosiveness to the team which allowed for many exciting moments. Now we move into yet another year in Kansas basketball history, but for the first time in four years without fan favorite #0.
Don’t worry Kansas fans, when one great player leaves Allen Fieldhouse, another will always step up. Our backcourt may not have Jackson and Mason III, but we will again have an incredibly talented core of athletic guards. Devonte’ Graham, Lagerald Vick, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, transfer Malik Newman, freshmen Marcus Garrett, and more will all provide a mix of experience and youth. The most exciting thing for me, however, is the return of the bigs! Remember all those years with the Morris twins, or Thomas Robinson, or the legendary trio of Sasha Khaun, Derrell Arthur, and Darnell Jackson? No disrespect to Perry Ellis or Landen Lucas, who were great players for Kansas no doubt, but one thing is for sure, they did not provide that certain strength and power in the paint. This year with big men Udoka Azubuike and Billy Preston, I really believe that the strength which was once the bread and butter of Bill Self’s teams, might be back.
Our expectations as Kansas fans are always high and every season we believe we can cut down the nets in April. I don’t doubt the potential of this team but for a team which lost two of the most important playmakers from last season and with young Forwards and Centers, it would be a stretch to say that I would expect them to win a National Championship. I want this team to prove me wrong, and I will still be picking Kansas to win the tourney in my bracket come tournament time, but my prediction is not to win the National Championship. I do believe that we can win our sixth championship, but I predict that we make it to the Elite Eight again. Once we see this team play more, I will be able to make a more educated prediction and by that time I hope I can say that I believe we have what it takes to win it all. Of course, we will win the Big 12 again. I don’t see any of the other Big 12 teams causing any problems. Baylor will be decent but beatable, West Virginia will be dirty and tough to play (and probably steal at least one game from us), but aside from this, I think we will cruise to a 14th Big 12 title (though this is not a bold prediction at this point).
Break-out players this season:
Lagerald Vick: If last season wasn’t a break-out season for Vick, this one will be. I expect to see some sick throwdowns, clutch jumpers, and most likely seeing him go to the NBA after this season.
Billy Preston: This is an iffy pick for me as I know almost nothing about the young forward, but all the hype surrounding this guy has been exciting and I hope he proves to be an important playmaker.
Udoka Azubuike: Last year would have been a break-out year for the seven-footer if it weren’t for an unfortunate injury. I also think he could have helped us beat Oregon if he were healthy at the time. I think this will be the year for Big ‘Doke to shine!
For everyone reading this…
This is my first post, I know how to write history papers but sports columns are new to me. Leave me any suggestions on my writing or topics you want me to write about and I’ll do my best to adjust. I am a busy college student, but I am always keeping up with the ‘Hawks and I’m happy to be writing a column for Rock Chalk Blog! Thank you so much for reading, and as always RCJH!