There may be a lot of mouths to feed, but if Late Night in the Phog is any indication, the Jayhawks are loaded with riches at every position this year.
Saturday was Kansas’ annual Late Night in the Phog, and the scrimmage allowed each of the players to show off their unique talents. In years past, there are typically a couple of players that are particularly noteworthy. This year, that was different.
The reason? The team is so deep that literally every single player stands out.
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The Jayhawks head into 2018-19 with an even balance of six backcourt and six frontcourt players. Concerns heading into the offseason included three-point shooting and experience, but Lagerald Vick’s late return checked both of those boxes. Last year, the team had two scholarship, active big guys until mid-January. This year, they have six. They struggled to rebound, particularly on the defensive end, for the bulk of the season. Now they have so many bigs that Udoka Azubuike may legitimately be the fourth or fifth best rebounder on the team.
This is Bill Self’s best team, at least from an on-paper perspective, to start a season since 2009-10. They are thought to be a virtual lock to win a 15th straight Big 12 title, and with the Midwest Regional set to be in Kansas City come March 2019, there isn’t a better Final Four pick heading into the season. The squad is absolutely loaded, which prompts the simple question: what exactly can slow the 2018-19 Jayhawks?
The answer: can Bill Self, one of the best coaches in college basketball, find the right rotation of these players? He has two point guards, Charlie Moore and Devon Dotson, who each bring different skillsets and have different cases as to why they should start. He has so many bigs that David McCormack, a top-40 recruit and one of the best incoming centers in college basketball, is going to struggle to see 10 minutes per game this year. Lagerald Vick, his only senior, has been the team’s streakiest player over the last few years. How long of a leash do you give him? How much offense can the rest of the team provide so Marcus Garrett, your best defensive player, can play enough to make valuable contributions?
Self is a fabulous coach, and the issue of having “too many good players” is a problem other coaches dream of, but it’s tougher than some people think. The puzzle to make Kansas successful may be able to go together a variety of different ways, but in a sport where the margin between iconic success and crushing heartbreak is so razor thin, how can Self make the pieces go together as well as possible?
If Self, who has solved every puzzle that’s been thrown at him during his 15-year run as Kansas coach, can figure that out, the 2018-19 Jayhawks could go down as one of the all-time great teams in KU history.