We go over what next season will look like for the runner-up Kansas Jayhawks. Can the Jayhawks contend for the NCAA Championship again next season, and where have the college basketball odds makers listed them?
So close, yet so far away. That was the story of Kansas’ NCAA tournament run in 2011/12.
All in all, the Jayhawks had a terrific season, exceeding all expectations right from the beginning. Not many believed they’d be as good as they were, but Bill Self brought these guys together and made them believe in one another.
Boy did that work. Kansas rolled through conference play – winning the Big 12 regular season crown – and then beat Purdue, NC State, North Carolina and Ohio State to make the championship game of the Big Dance. You can’t think for one second they had an easy road.
Then, we saw what happened when Kansas faced the Kentucky Wildcats. But do the Jayhawks have a legitimate chance of contending for the title once again? Of course they do.
The college basketball odds have Kansas at +1800 to win it all next year, and they’re at the same level as San Diego State, just ahead of Michigan State and Memphis who are at +2000.
There may be no Thomas Robinson or Tyshawn Taylor, but the Jayhawks can still look forward to a good chunk of their core coming back.
Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson, who really came into their own during the postseason run, have already stated they will return next season, as has Travis Releford. Kevin Young should get much more playing time next year too.
Withey was a defensive powerhouse, averaging over five blocks per game during the NCAA tournament, including a 10-block outburst against NC State in the Sweet 16. If he can develop his offensive game, he’ll be a force inside.
Johnson saved his best play for the end of the season as well, scoring in double figures in every one of Kansas’ tournament matchups. He seemed fearless on the court, unafraid to take big shots down the stretch.
In terms of recruiting, it’s not Self’s best class, but there are a couple jewels in there. Perry Ellis should step in and contribute right away, while Andrew White is an intriguing prospect too.
Don’t expect a dropoff
Then you’ve got Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, who were both ineligible this past season. Self will be ecstatic to have those two at his disposal, with McLemore a tremendous guard talent and Traylor providing depth in the frontcourt.
As you can see, this will be one of the Jayhawks’ deepest teams in years. There may not be a (future) NBA star around anymore, but they’ll still have a seven-footer inside and plenty of quality surrounding him.
The experience of such a great tournament run will also serve those returning and provide some extra motivation to get there again.
Self will have his crew believing that a repeat appearance is certainly within reach, and as he’s proven in the past you can never count out any team he coaches.
Kansas will have a nice mix of experience (Withey, Johnson, Releford) and bright, young talents (Ellis, McLemore) and I see no reason why they can’t make some significant noise in March yet again next year.
Sportsbooks may be a little bit more pessimistic of their chances, but just remember not to be surprised when you see the Jayhawks among the elite in 2012/13.