Even by Kansas standards, Jayhawks receiving tons of preseason praise
As the 2018-19 college basketball season draws closer, prognostications, bold picks and preseason rankings have started flooding the Internet.
Whether you’re talking about preseason rankings, player of the year candidates or any number of players or teams who could surprise this season, pretty much everything you want, and then some, is out there for folks to digest.
For fans of Kansas basketball, that means staying busy.
Four Jayhawks already have been named to preseason watchlists for point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center of the year.
The Jayhawks are ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the preseason polls by nearly a dozen different publications, including holding down the top spot in the eyes of ESPN, NBC Sports and Sports Illustrated.
Famed college basketball analytics guru, Ken Pomeroy, who released his preseason rankings over the weekend, put Kansas in the No. 1 spot, ahead of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Villanova.
Including Villanova, which will come to Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 15 for the first of a home-and-home series with Kansas, KenPom's initial 2018-19 rankings include six KU opponents in the Top 16 and nine in the Top 30.
Beyond that, I have yet to see anyone out there who is picking anyone but Kansas to win the Big 12 for a 15th consecutive year. That includes the conference’s coaches, who, on Friday, revealed that KU was the unanimous pick to win the Big 12 once again.
In many ways, this is all business as usual for Kansas basketball this time of year. But even by Kansas standards, the Jayhawks’ depth, talent, experience and potential puts this team in rarified air entering the 2018-19 season.
Despite what the experts say, the Jayhawks will not have a free ride to anything. The Big 12 Conference has talent — just look down I-70 to Manhattan for proof of that — and winning on the road in conference play is never a guarantee. Add to that a typically tough non-conference schedule that figures to test the readiness of a host of newcomers right off the bat, with games against Michigan State, Marquette, (likely) Tennessee, Villanova and Arizona State on the road all looming before Big 12 play begins in January.
But even with all of those things going for the Jayhawks and the typical roadblocks, along with the distraction of the federal trial into corruption in college basketball, standing in their way, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody picking against the Jayhawks this season.
Take, for example, the recently released Big 12 preview by Sports Illustrated, which included some heavy praise for the Jayhawks, as a team and as individuals.
In The Skinny, which provides a basic overview of what’s ahead, SI.com writer Michael Shapiro writes, “... the Jayhawks won’t be aching for talent. It’s Kansas’s conference to lose once again.”
Heck, even the title of SI’s Big 12 preview says all you need to know: “Revamped Kansas Still the Team Everyone's Chasing”
In addition to the obvious and easy move of picking KU to win the league, Shapiro pegs Memphis transfer and current KU junior Dedric Lawson as the Big 12 Player of the Year and KU freshman Quentin Grimes as the conference’s Newcomer of the Year.
Don’t just take Shapiro’s word for how good this KU team could be, though. Even the section titled, “Scout’s Take,” which looks at the Jayhawks through the eyes of an anonymous opponent or scout, gushes about Bill Self’s 2018-19 squad.
It reads: “They lose three big shooters on the perimeter, but I expect Kansas to pick right up where they left off... Bill Self will be happy to get back to inside smashmouth basketball... When you run them off the 3-point-line, that’s where Azubuike really hurts you on the lob... Azubuike became a much better passer in the post last season, he may face some double teams this year... Lagerald Vick is the old man but Marcus Garrett is better suited to start... Garrett’s an active and effective defender, he brings them a real energy... Vick’s best value comes as a shooter, doesn’t pose a huge threat breaking you down... Quentin Grimes is the jewel of Kansas’s class. He has size, he can stroke it, and a quality leaper, too... Grimes can get you 30 in a game as a freshman... Devon Dotson is so smooth... Dotson will fill in nicely for the guys Kansas lost, he’s a legit lead ball-handler even with his size... The title still runs through Lawrence, no doubt about that.”