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KU Men's Basketball 2012-2013: An Early Look Ahead
55 Conference Championships, 14 Final Fours, 5 National Championships!
March Madness concluded several months ago, and the overachieving Kansas Jayhawks made supporters proud with their march to the championship game with this superbly coached team. KU played one of the strongest schedules ever in 2012, finding themselves matched up with Top Ten teams Kentucky (twice), Duke, Missouri (twice), Baylor (three times), Georgetown, North Carolina and Ohio State (twice). Thomas Robinson was a double-double machine and teamed with Jeff Withey on a front line to be feared. Withey also turned in some stellar performances while shattering the KU single season record for blocked shots. Tyshawn Taylor rebounded from a turnover-prone start to the season to become a clutch player and invaluable leader. He and Elijah Johnson made a skilled and athletic backcourt duo. Travis Releford was quietly efficient, scoring while taking very few shots and shutting down the other team’s top scorers. It was an amazing run, with KU securing their eighth consecutive Big 12 title, their 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and their fourteenth trip to the Final Four.
No one could have predicted how the 2012 campaign would turn out. Before each season starts, it is enjoyable to look ahead and consider the possibilities. With memories of last season’s overachieving Jayhawks fresh in our memories, let’s turn our attention to the 2012-2013 campaign and see what’s in store for the Kansas Jayhawks in the months ahead.
A Look Ahead
The Coaching Staff. Danny Manning accepted the head coaching job at Tulsa University, and Barry Hinson likewise departed for Southern Illinois. Self acted quickly in rehiring former KU assistant and Saint John's head coach Norm Roberts. Roberts has a strong resume as a recruiter and gained invaluable experience during his stint running the Saint John's program. He will be a fine addition to the staff. Former Nebraska Head Coach Doc Sadler replaces Hinson as Director of Basketball Operations. Sadler is highly respected as a coach and administrator and should be considered a steal for the Jayhawks. Sadler and Roberts will help make Bill Self's staff tops in the country.
Departing Players. Forward Thomas Robinson will take his skills to the NBA next season, joining the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich and Wayne Simien as exceptional big men coached by Danny Manning. Manning gained a deserved reputation as an outstanding big man coach, and KU players benefited greatly from his tutelage. Senior guards Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan and Jordan Juenemann exhausted their eligibility at the end of the season. Taylor has always demonstrated the quickness and athleticism to play at the next level. A reliable jump shot and vastly improved decision-making give Taylor a realistic shot at making an NBA roster. Teahan is a fifth-year senior and the last player remaining from KU’s 2008 championship season. KU forward Merv Lindsay made the decision to leave KU and transfer to the University of New Mexico.
Draft update: Thomas Robinson was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the fifth pick in the NBA draft, and has played well in the summer leagues so far. Robinson should team with DeMarcus Cousins to form one of the most physical front lines in the NBA. Tyshawn Taylor was selected by the Portland Trailblazers with the 41st pick in the NBA draft and sent to the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets for cash considerations. Taylor recently signed a 2-year guaranteed contract worth $1.26 million. He will earn $473,604 his first year and $788,872 in his second season. Taylor will become a restricted free agent in his third year with a chance to earn $1,115,243.
Returning Players. KU returns a trio of experienced players in 2012-2013. Center Jeff Withey has the tools to become a star in his senior campaign. Withey doesn’t have the strength and bulk of former KU center Cole Aldrich, but he may have more skills. Defenders Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson also return to give KU three seniors who have made a major contribution to the Jayhawk’s success. Johnson’s strong performance in the NCAA Tournament leave fans expecting big things from the 6’4” guard in his senior year. These three will form the nucleus of next year’s team, and provide both ability and leadership. Key returnees off the bench are Naadir Tharpe, Justin Wesley and Kevin Young. Tharpe was mistake-prone as a rookie and often made Bill Self nervous, but has the tools to be a solid performer. Kevin Young developed into a reliable frontcourt reserve in 2012, hustling for rebounds and making timely shots. Young might not possess the skills to become a starter, but he should continue to provide solid play off the Kansas bench. Wesley is athletic but raw, and must work on his game to earn minutes in 2013.
Also on the KU roster are 6’3” Christian Garrett and 5’11” Niko Roberts. All played sparingly in the 2012 season and will need to improve greatly to see court time.
Trivia note: Justin Wesley is set to play a young Wilt Chamberlain in "Jayhawkers", a local movie about Kansas in the 1950s. Anyone watching the movie that only knows about Wilt from his NBA career might be astonished to see him portrayed as the thin, athletic young man he really was. I look forward to seeing this film--it should be fun to watch.
“New” Players. Two players in the freshman class of 2012 were allowed to practice but not play for the Jayhawks, and their debut next season will be eagerly anticipated. Ben McLemore is a 6’5” guard from Saint Louis. McLemore is athletic and a fine shooter. When he arrived on the KU campus, he was considered the Jayhawk most likely to go pro—ahead of Thomas Robinson. Coach Bill Self has compared McLemore with Brandon Rush, and that’s some pretty good company to be in. Sitting next to McLemore in street clothes his first year was Jamari Traylor, a 6’8” forward Coach Self likened to a young Thomas Robinson. Traylor isn’t as tall or strong as Robinson, but he might have more athleticism. Bill Self seems adamant that both will be good players for Kansas.
2013 Freshman Class. Coach Self recruited five players to join KU next season, and his efforts place KU’s class among the 10 best in the nation, according to ESPN. Three players joined the Hawks in the early signing period while three others made their decisions later. The biggest name is five-star recruit Perry Ellis, a 6’8” forward from Wichita. Ellis is a McDonald’s All-American and excels both on the court and in the classroom. He won state titles in Kansas four years in a row. Joining him on the front line will be three-star forward Zach Peters of Plano, Texas and three-star forward Landen Lucas of Portland, Oregon. Peters committed to Kansas early and gained more notoriety for his work on the football field than the basketball court, but he has been compared to Tyler Hansbrough for his hustle and skills. Lucas is said to be a powerful player that could be relied upon to spell Jeff Withey at the center position. Andrew White, a four-star player from Virginia, boasts a strong shooting touch and could earn court time immediately. The 6’6” forward was rated the number 56 overall player in the class of 2013 by Rivals.com and the number 12 small forward. Anrio Adams is the newest backcourt player for the Jayhawks, and the three-star combo guard from Seattle is the type of player Bill Self likes: he possesses a capable outside shot and can help with ball-handling duties. Finally, Bill Self's son Tyler will join the Jayhawks as a walk-on next season, and so will former Coach Danny Manning's son Evan.
All five scholarship players could see action early in next year’s campaign as Bill Self settles on his rotation. These freshmen will join McLemore and Traylor to give KU a vastly different look when they take to the courts next November. The newcomers are so good that forecasters are already predicting KU to be rated as high as #3 in polls at the start of the season.
Most recently KU signed 6'4" Milton Doyle, who originally committed to Florida International. Doyle reopened his recruiting when FIU coach Isiah Thomas was fired in April. Doyle accompanied the Jayhawks on their trip to Europe, but elected to leave the team before the fall semester began. Doyle and his mother had nothing but positive things to say about KU, and it is believed Doyle left to join a program where he would have a chance to make an immediate contribution. It was rumored that Self saw Doyle as a possible red-shirt candidate for the upcoming season, and Doyle subsequently elected to depart.
With these players locked up in December, Bill Self was free to concentrate on next year’s class. Conner Frankamp, a four-star point guard and a junior at Wichita North has already committed to Kansas for 2013, giving the Jayhawks an early jump on the following year’s recruiting. Frankamp is currently ranked 28th in his class by Rivals.com. KU also has an oral commitment from 6'7" forward Brannen Greene, a five-star recruit ranked #22 in the nation by Rivals.com. Most recently, KU received a commitment from Virginia native Frank Mason, a 5'11'' point guard that has been compared to Sherron Collins. Mason is ranked #131 by Rivals.com. This is a great beginning to what should be another talented recruiting class for coach Bill Self. Self has four scholarships to fill next season, and he is said to be looking to bring in a big man to replace Jeff Withey, and "the best player possible". He believes that if he can score one more high profile player, his team will be ready to make waves once again in the 2013-2014 season.
The Schedule. KU’s basketball schedule for 2012-2013 has not been finalized, but KU will travel to Ohio State for another game with the Buckeyes. KU will also play the Spartans of Michigan State on November 13th in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and Temple in Allen Field House. In a surprise move, the Jayhawks also agreed to play the Colorado Buffaloes next season. CU bolted from the Big 12 to the Pac 10 last year, so the move caught fans somewhat off-guard. Bill Self defended the decision to play Colorado, citing a positive relationship with Colorado coach (and ex-Jayhawk) Tad Boyle. Self also noted that games at Colorado are well-attended by KU supporters, giving fans in Western Kansas an opportunity to see the Hawks in action. KU also arranged an overseas trip for the preseason and played four games in Paris and Switzerland in August, similar to their games in Canada several years ago. KU won both games in Switzerland but lost twice in France. In the final game Self elected not to play his seniors. These trips are considered valuable for integrating freshmen into their new teams as it gives them extra opportunities to learn and compete. With so many new faces on the roster, the timing was perfect for this type of excursion. Bill Self sought to give everyone on the roster equal minutes. He stressed that winning these games is nice, but it was not the only goal. Self allowed Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend to run the team in Paris, offering them the opportunity to gain experience as a bench coach. Senior Kevin Young provided some nice moments for KU, offering some last minute heroics in several games.
Outlook. It is difficult to predict the same level of success Kansas achieved this year, but basketball experts are learning never to count out a Bill Self-coached team. The talent level will be similar to what KU fans are accustomed to and the blend of youth and experience should make for a solid team. KU has won at least thirty games in five of the last six seasons, and the possibility of adding to that record seems strong. Look for the Jayhawks to win their 2,100th game and add a tenth conference title to their illustrious record.
Oh, and Jeff Withey will shatter the KU record for single season and career blocked shots next year.
Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU!
KU Historical Facts
1. Kansas won thirty or more games for the fifth time in the last six years. Their 32 wins give the Hawks 2070 wins all-time, second only to Kentucky's 2090 wins. North Carolina is third in all-time victories with 2065. KU is third in all-time winning percentage, winning 72% of the time. They are tied for third in the number of seasons they have won 30 or more games, winning 30+ eleven times. They are second in the number of seasons with 35 or more wins (4 times).
2. KU is 4th in NCAA Tournament appearances with 41 bids, trailing Kentucky (52), North Carolina (43) and UCLA (42). They are third in NCAA Tournament games played with 133 appearances, trailing Kentucky (157) and North Carolina (149). Their 93 NCAA Tournament victories is fifth all-time.
3. KU has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 23 consecutive times, which is currently first among Division-I teams. The Hawks are fifth in Final Four appearances, Final Four games played and Final Four victories. KU is 93-40 in NCAA Tournament games, a 69.92 winning percentage.
4. Kansas is first in NCAA Division-I basketball with 55 conference championships. Their 8 straight titles is the most by a team from a power conference since UCLA won 13 in a row from 1967-1979. KU is first in the nation in seasons with a winning record (93), seasons with a non-losing record (96), Consensus first team All-American selections (28) and consensus first team All-Americans (21). They are fifth among teams ranked first in the AP poll, topping the charts for 58 weeks overall.
Make Your Predictions
How will the Kansas Jayhawks do in the 2012-2013 season?
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- KU Basketball History and Traditions: Their Greatest NCAA Tournament Victories
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- KU Men's Basketball 2011-2012: An Early Look Ahead