All offseason, we heard about how deep this year’s Kansas team was, and we got to see what all the hype was about on Tuesday night.
The Jayhawks had 10 guys get playing time in the Champions Classic against Michigan State. Eight of them played at least double-digit minutes. Not only did all those Jayhawks see the floor, but they all contributed to the 92-87 win as well.
All 10 players scored and grabbed at least one rebound, and only two of the ten failed to tally an assist against the Spartans. Four Jayhawks also scored 16 or more points – something that would’ve been a rarity last season among a rotation that featured seven players until Silvio De Sousa’s emergence in late February. The depth of the Jayhawks was one of the main reasons KU was ranked number one in almost all of the preseason polls.
The redshirting of Ochai Agbaji and the unknown eligibility status of De Sousa could’ve poked a small hole in that reasoning. However, those doubts were quickly thrown out of the window.
KU’s deep bench was evident early on when three players were called for two fouls each in the first half. Last year, three rotation players getting two fouls early would’ve sent Kansas into DEFCON 1. Players whom fans had little confidence in would’ve had to check in for long stretches. Remember that in December 2017, Bill Self resorted to playing walk-on Clay Young when foul trouble mounted for his squad.
This year, that isn’t the case. Self was able to seamlessly plug in whomever he wanted to into any lineup and there was little drop off from one guy to the next.
Guards Marcus Garrett and Charlie Moore played double-digit minutes off the bench. Neither provided huge scoring numbers, but both veterans were able to come in and provide a steady presence when the starters were getting a break.
Forwards Mitch Lightfoot, K.J. Lawson and David McCormack subbed in and played solid defensive minutes against a good Michigan State front line. The two newcomers also showed promising flashes on the offensive end, as Lawson knocked down his only three-point attempt, and McCormack scored on a nice jump hook down low.
That production and reliability of KU’s bench must feel like a godsend after last year’s team. The 2017-2018 Jayhawks had to resort to grabbing a football player just to run a productive practice when KU’s front court was thinned out by eligibility troubles. This team is a totally different story. KU’s depth and talent off the bench is some of the best of the Self-era, and it is one of the reasons this team could go far in March.