Coach: Bill Self (169-40 at Kansas, 376-145 overall)
Kansas returns all five starters and all their key reserves from a team that went 14-2 in Big 12 conference play last year and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Obviously that was a young team since nobody was a senior and now this group is growing up and ready to take the next step. Add an amazing recruiting class to mix in with the veterans and you have yourself the favorites to take home the NCAA Championship Trophy.
Key Losses for the Jayhawks: none
It is on the wings where this team occasionally ran into problems last season. Tyshawn Taylor had a great freshman campaign, averaging 9.7 points and 3.0 assists and has cemented his starting spot, but Brady Morningstar averaged over 30 minutes per game and only tallied 6.5 points per game. With the addition of Henry, Morningstar could be relegated to a shooter off the bench role. Tyrell Reed is not quite as good of a shooter as Morningstar, but he does get to the basket as well. Mario Little was slowed by injuries last year, but the 6-5 wing can provide more size at the small forward position.
Cole Aldrich certainly laid to rest any uncertainties about his game during his sophomore campaign. The 6-11 center averaged 14.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Now that he is an upperclassman, even bigger things are expected from Aldrich. His presence under the basket opens up space for the Morris brothers. Marcus Morris tallied 7.4 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding last year. His ability to stretch out the defense with his mid-range jumper also helps get Aldrich more space in the paint. Markieff Morris is not the shooter that his brother is, but he is a tough player who will hit the glass hard.
Who’s In for Kansas:
Kansas does not need much production from their newcomers, but they will get it anyway. Transfers Jeff Withey, who will be eligible after the first semester, and C.J. Henry who came from Memphis, provide a couple dynamic options. Shooting guard Xavier Henry and combo guard Elijah Johnson will push the returning backcourt players for minutes. Henry is the most polished of the incoming freshmen and is expected to play a big role. Thomas Robinson gives the frontcourt yet another weapon, but he will have to fight hard for minutes as a freshman.
Obviously there are plenty of scorers on this team, but the guy who gets them the ball is also the best scorer. Sherron Collins is one of the best point guards in the country and is coming off a great season in which he tallied 18.9 points and 5.0 assists per game. He is a prolific outside shooter, but has more than enough strength to attack the basket and either finish himself or find one of his teammates.
Final 2009-2010 Kansas Projection:
This is Collins’ team and he is one of two seniors who will play a significant role on this squad. With Collins leading the way, the Jayhawks have a smart leader who can take over a game or give the ball off to Aldrich and let him dominate. Either way, Kansas will dominate and are the early favorites to win it all.