Is this the year...or are we a year away?

  • To me this upcoming season reminds me a bit of our 2006-2007 squad. We have a number of highly touted sophomores who may or may not be ready to get over the hump and put us into the Final 4. The 2006/7 team that lost to UCLA was an incredibly tough team to watch lose but the entire season I thought that we were a year away from something really special. B Rush getting injured over the summer ended up being the main ingredient for 2008 but a number of other things factored in. Sherron was a year older and wiser…as were Chalmers and Shady. Russ Rob and Sasha were very battle tested and the early departure of Julian Wright allowed for Darnell to have a career year as a senior. Personally I don’t think we win the championship with Wright. He was too up and down and what that team needed was a steady force like Darnell.

    The reason I bring this up other than slow sports news day is I see some similarities for next year. We are going to have a huge Junior class whether or not Wayne stays. We are going to have multiple seniors and Perry and Jamari will be playing their hearts out. We are going to have at least Oubre or Alexander back (just my opinion). This looks like a ferocious lineup as yet again this year I consider us pretty young. In our starting lineup we are going to have an unproven PG no matter who gets the start. We are going to have an unproven 3 and probably an unproven 5. Our bench is more or less completely unproven with the exception of Jamari. They are all possibly waiting for breakout years but not a lot of actual positive results in real games from anyone else off the bench.

    Those are my reasons for thinking we may still be a year away from cutting down the nets as we did in 2008. I’d love to be wrong and do it next April.

  • @joeloveshawks Very interesting stuff. I have long pondered that 2007 team, and felt like they were better than the 2008 team. They probably weren’t better, but I felt like that was Bill’s first “super team”, and we were flat loaded at every position. We were the number 1 ranked defense in the nation that year. I was simply crushed by Julian leaving early, so maybe your theory with Arthur is correct. It simply gets down to poise in the NCAA tourney. I have never seen a worse two year sequence in the tourney as we have just endured. In my mind, this is truly a low point, tournament wise, in our 30 + years of the modern era for me. Would I take an Elite 8 finish like 2007? Yes, I would.

  • My short answer is if Joel was healthy for the dance, we make the final four last year. Are we better this year? I have to see them play but I don’t see us losing more than 5 games before the dance. At a glance-I’d say the next years team will be better unless too many (more than one) jump to the NBA early.

  • @joeloveshawks THIS is the year!!

    Disclaimer - you probably shouldn’t count my vote because THIS has been the year every year since 1968 or so.

  • Banned

    We will mostly likely have the best starting five in the country. Having said that I if feel we really need Traylor, Conner and Greene to really take their game to the next level for this year to be the year. Either way I’m all in. 😉

  • Summer speccing now seems fraught with too much unknown about other teams’ potentials to have much predictive significance. Nevertheless, it would seem very tough to beat UK, when UK’s apparent possible future Nike endorsers starting would have had a season under their belts, whereas KU’s apparent possible future adidas endorsers starting would be rookies. I am not sure how a coach overcomes seasoned potential endorsement talent with unseasoned potential endorsement talent.

    But another way to look at this year’s KU team may be to recall Self’s comments about his first KU team. In the face of high expectations, when Roy left after reaching the finals, Self said it was unrealistic to think the team could be as good after losing 3 draft choices without adding 3 players as good as those lost.

    So while many of our returning players should be better with an another year of experience, as were players returning on Self’s first team, the calculus may reduce to this: are Oubre and Alexander better than Wigs and Joel?

    On the surface, no way.

    But recall Joel sat the last month and Wigs down the stretch appeared to alternate between big numbers in meaningless games like WVU and merchandise protection vs. Stanford.

    So if Oubre can play better late than Wigs did against Stanford and Alexander can avoid injury the last month, KU this year could be much better the last month of the season than KU was last season, after not being as good most of the season.

    Anything is possible in March.

    But winning another conference title will be a real chore, unless the talent level falls way off around the B12.

  • KU’s talent level is only 2nd to UK and that’s really only outside of our starting 5. I think KU’s core is tougher and has what it takes to tear down UK’s primadonna cry babies (I mean the Harrison sisters). I see this team competing until April if both Freshmen stay healthy and we have good PG play.

  • The current roster will have something that last years’ team did not have, experience. At a few games last season, KU started 4 freshmen and one sophomore; that is a really young and inexperienced team, talent notwithstanding. A lot more option available this year; It will interesting to see who end up in the top 7-8 players that will get most of the playing time.

  • If this team doesn’t compete for a national title, there is something wrong. Next season may or may not be better. We’re on the OAD merry go round. Where it stops, nobody knows. We could have multiple players leave. Or maybe not. Predicting the following season is a pot shot.

    This season, we should certainly contend. Again, unless we win the title, I’ll be disappointed. We have title winning talent, we’re recruiting the high level guys Self wants – he needs to win a title then with those guys.

    What I dread is the “we’re young” excuse that Self plays all the time. That excuse is completely hollow when he has structured his recruiting targets so we have “young” guys in important positions.

    We have as much talent as any team. This is a national championship season until it isn’t.

  • @HighEliteMajor We’re only as good as our guard play, and the last two years, our guard play has been abysmal, for the most part. I ask this rhetorically: Did we look like a team with the number 1 pick in the draft when we were almost throttled by Eastern Kentucky ( OMG if we had lost to the 4th or 5th place team in Kentucky), or when we got beat by a team with no point guard? As I recall, a junior led the meltdown in both games, a junior who is no longer here. So, the “we’re so young” meme didn’t hunt last year, and it won’t hunt this year, either. So, my question is : have we done enough to shore up our weaknesses with an extra year from Mason and CF, and the addition of Graham? Will Wayne’s surgery allow him to become more of a factor than last year? I think the answers to those questions is also the answer to how far we go in the tourney this year.

  • I want to say first that this is a great question for great debate. It’s always hard to predict what next year is going to hold when KU’s off-season has as much story-lines as the regular season. I mean who could have predicted we’d get a young Ukrainian sensation, Devonte Graham, and almost signed an unknown Canadian Big.

    Not to mention the departure of Wig’s (we knew that) somewhat less JoJo, and the transfer’s of White and Tharpe. If you could have told me all that would happen after the season ended I would have told you to put down the bottle.

    What could happen could be just as bad or good, or eventful we just don’t know. We could lose Selden, Ellis, Oubre, & Alexander. If Wayne, Cliff, and Kelly have the seasons I’m predicting then we will have 4 open spots. I don’t think Ellis is on the NBA 1st round radar and because of this I think he will come back to school and possibly have a chance to finish in the top 5 in Points. Then we have to worry about transfers, or transfers in.

    It’s hard to say that last year was a big disapointment with winning 10 straight conference title, but the 2nd round NCAA loss always stings no matter how you put it. The Big 12 was crazy good last year, and our non-conference slate was probably the tuffest ever! I mean who doesn’t play a home game for a month unless you are a mid-major trying to play good teams.

    This year our schedule is still tuff with games against Michigan St. (Izzo has had our number lately) and Kentucky with the deepest lineup in recent memory. Not to mention Florida and others I’m forgetting and our chances of running the non-conf. slate is slim to none. The big 12 once again will be good. Texas is really going to give us a run for our money unless Barnes finds a way to mess it up. Oklahoma is solid, K-State will be fine, Iowa St will play us tuff so that’s 8 conference games that will not be easy.

    To really answer the question we need to assume that a couple of things will happen in KU’s favor this year. One, an established PG will emerge or all 3 or 4 if you include Selden will bring stability we have missed for over 2 years. The other will be that our Defense will go back to being dominate again.

    With most of our team a year older we will need Selden and Ellis to take over this team. I really think they can both avg 15 pts a game or more. Selden I think will be dynamic now that he is healthy. He doesn’t have to be the supporting cast next to Wiggins anymore. This is his backcourt. Ellis we know what we are getting. It’s the improvement on D, and the continued aggressive nature that we need consistently from him.

    I’m also assuming that our Freshman Oubre and Alexander will start from day 1 and be our 3rd or 4th scoring options. We don’t need them to be the guy, like we needed Wiggs and Embiid. I think that’s an advantage over last year. I think Oubre has a great chance to help us forget how good Wiggins was for us. Alexander while not a traditional 5, will fill the role just fine. His rebounding, physical nature, and shot-blocking are all things we will need from him.

    Our 2nd unit should also be better this year. Traylor is a beast and his continued improvement is a beautiful thing. Greene should do good things with more minutes. Will Frankamp play more this year or have similar output to his freshman year. Mickelson and Lucas will also help us out as the 4th and 5th Bigs. What can Svi bring?? Such an unknown right now until hes on campus.

    I think this year is the year we really can contend if our PG play is good, and our defense is like it usually is. Self always finds a way to maximize players into roles.

    With the unknown that off-seasons have brought us, its hard for me to believe if we lose Selden and 2 freshman to the NBA that we will sign better replacements. I know we are in with some serious talent in the 15 class but most are PF’s and C’s. We haven’t really zoned in on replacements for Oubre or Selden if that does happen. A lot can change from today til then but I think this years squad is better suited to a farther NCAA run at the moment then next years.

  • @KUSTEVE I think if Tharpe would have just been benched to start the NCAA tourney, and hadn’t played at all, we would have advanced past Stanford (despite our severe tactical errors/inaction related to that game).

    CF and Mason are much better players than Tharpe had digressed to. And I think this season they will be a good bit better than Tharpe was last season (understanding Tharpe won us at least one game, and was an excellent shooter for a good stretch). Tharpe just went in the tank.

    But I don’t think our guard play was the main issue in our loss vs. Stanford.

    Actually, this season, I’m more worried about our post play to be honest. I think we have the best perimeter group in the nation. Would anyone trade this group for another perimeter group? I wouldn’t.

  • @HighEliteMajor Fully agree on CF / Mason. I think together they are a far better tool than Tharpe was last season.

    As far as our perimeter being the best in the country I guess I’ll believe it when I see it. Wayne is the only member of the perimeter that has had any huge performances at the college level. Mason and CF were solid at times last year and Greene has shown us what he can do. Oubre was obviously a stud in high school as was Graham and Svee. I just can’t get too excited until I see these guys go out and put up 15-20 in a real game against serious Div. 1 defense.

  • @HighEliteMajor HEM, you make a good point about the post play. Defensively, I am concerned. Cliff is inexperienced and Perry has not been a good defensive player. We don’t have the tall rim protector we have had the last several years. This means we will have to be better defensively on the perimeter. We will, of course, but will that be enough to offset the interior defensive dropoff? Will be interesting to see. Also, how will Cliff’s offensive game develop?

  • @HighEliteMajor

    “This is a national championship season until it isn’t.”

    Can a comment be labeled a “contraption?”

    HEM, there is always something clever in your posts. Well done!

    I think @KUSTEVE nailed it. Will we have guard play competitive enough to win in March? I guess we won’t know until March, and if we do know before then, it is because we don’t think they can cut the mustard.

    I get a good feeling from this bunch of guys, including our guards. I was a huge TT, EJ and Naa fan… however… there was some kind of funk that started with TT and carried right through with EJ and Naa. It was like an under current of bad juju. It was some kind of low esteem issue that never got resolved. I really thought TT was there his senior year. But what followed with his protege EJ clearly showed me different. And then Naa seemed to be just another disciple of that same esteem issue.

    I finally feel like that chain is broken. We have a new start. We have players that are not looking back at those guys and ready to follow their mistakes.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean we have an answer for the Harrison twins. Those guys will be freaks this year!

    But anything can happen, and that is what I like about this time of year. We can dream about winning in March and we are in position to win another National Championship.

    HEM got it right… “This is a national championship season until it isn’t.”

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