Kansas Basketball: Bill Self's 5 Biggest Concerns for 2013-14 Season
With a national championship, nine-straight Big 12 titles, an elite coaching staff grooming a stellar recruiting class, and a $5 million salary, how many concerns does Bill Self really have?
As Michigan fell in Monday's national championship, the Wolverines' John Beilein would soon walk into a media firestorm following his decision to sit the foul-plagued Trey Burke. The sixth-year head coach led a tired program back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994, but will receive little credit for a 31-win season.
John Beilein is a victim of college basketball. While a beautifully glorious game, big-name coaches at big-name schools always have concerns, with KU's Bill Self being no exception.
A roster overhaul for Self is only an umbrella for his concerns for the 2013-14 season.
Are Joel Embiid and Landen Lucas Ready?
The Jayhawks lose a seven-footer inside but will get even bigger next season?
Yes, by way of a 6'10" redshirt freshman in Landen Lucas and a four-star 7'0" defensive menace in the little-known Joel Embiid.
Unfortunately, the learning curve might be a little slow and both surely will not have a Withey-type impact until at least the 2014-15 season, one that is shaping up to be a fantastic one.
Embiid's raw and relatively inexperienced game has been highly publicized across the recruiting world and must capitalize on his tremendous assets if he expects to provide 15-plus minutes per game at center.
Self will likely experiment with both Lucas and Embiid in various lineups but it is difficult to imagine either are ready to dominate opposing Big 12 frontcourts in his defensive system.
Travis Releford's Defense Will Be Missed
Bill Self isn't shy in criticizing his KU teams, especially their defense, even if they are leading the nation in field goal percentage defense.
"People are saying too much about our defense," Self said in early January when Kansas was holding opponents to sub-35 percent shooting. "It's not that good. It's not."
Losing Jeff Withey, winner of numerous conference and national defensive awards, will be monumental, but the importance of lockdown perimeter defender Travis Releford is often overlooked. The departed fifth-year senior had excellent size to match up physical forwards but also tremendous agility and discipline to contain diminutive guards or explosive swingmen.
A combination of Brannen Greene, Wayne Selden and potentially Andrew White III will likely draw these matchups but each are known more for their offensive repertoire than as a defensive stalwart.
Who Is the Vocal Leader?
With Self facing his second mass exodus in six years, the Jayhawks once again lack experience and an established floor leader, a position that Sherron Collins filled quite eloquently in 2008.
Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis are suddenly the seasoned veterans at a perennial power program, but each will arrive next fall without noteworthy reputations as vocal leaders.
Ellis, an in-state product and fan favorite, is a light-spoken, humble future star but makes Sasha Kaun look like a loudmouth chatterbox.
This is Naadir Tharpe's team for the next two seasons. He must become Self's vocal leader.
Can Naadir Tharpe Provide Stability at Point Guard?
Poor point guard play arguably cost the Jayhawks an Elite Eight trip and an immensely advantageous road to the title game.
Elijah Johnson showed flashes of efficiency and timely shooting but an awful assist-to-turnover ratio ultimately cost the senior point guard a return Final Four trip. Naadir Tharpe, on the other hand, recorded a satisfactory 2.22 assist-to-turnover clip, good enough for 46th in the nation.
He is the most experienced and stable returning floor leader since Sherron Collins. A major roster overhaul could either inhibit Tharpe's development in Self's pass-heavy system or allow him to become the Jayhawks' best point guard since Aaron Miles.
Nine straight Big 12 titles, a record approaching an unprecedented level, is fine and dandy, but we all know what writes legacies in Lawrence.
Any elite program has borderline unrealistic expectations, expectations that are dashed with pre-Final Four losses to the likes of VCU, Northern Iowa and even Michigan. A season culminating in anything but a Final Four berth is inadequate at Kansas, as is a Sweet 16 loss to an eventual national runner-up loaded with talent.
Losses are magnified at the Kentucky's, North Carolina's and Duke's of the world. National title runs are expected at least twice a decade, realistic or not.
National championship No. 2 for Bill Self is surely on his mind, but can he get there with a roster chucked full of inexperienced talent?