It is never too early to pontificate about the upcoming hoops season. Many college basketball pundits have already deemed Kansas worthy of a deep run in the tourney. For what it is worth, here are a few reasons why the experts may have it right this time.
No one would have predicted the success the Jayhawks enjoyed last season. Coming off of a National Championship, and losing five front line players to the NBA would cause anyone to jump off of the bandwagon. Still, KU won the regular season Big XII title, and made an improbable run to the Sweet Sixteen in March.
Returning from last year's team are All-American candidates, PG Sherron Collins and C Cole Aldrich. Most schools would be delighted to have one All-America candidate coming back, let alone two. If you were constructing a championship team, you would want to start with a point guard and center, and Kansas has the luxury of having both.
The Jayhawks have a big, deep, athletic bench returning. Headlining the bench are sophomore forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris. Speedy PG/SG Tyshawn Taylor is a match-up problem for many teams at 6'3".
Also returning for KU are steady reserves Brady Morningstar, Tyrell Reed, and Mario Little. Adding to the mix at small forward will be 6'5" Travis Relaford, who earned valuable minutes down the stretch for Kansas.
The incoming class of recruits will have as much to do with how far the Jayhawks go in '09 as anything. It helps to have Xavier Henry at the top of your list of recruits, who in many circles is considered to be the top recruit in the class of '09. Henry will be joined by his brother, 23 year old CJ Henry, who spent time in the minor leagues with the Yankees.
The incoming class also has the likes of 6'8" PF Thomas Robinson, 6'3" PG Elijah Johnson, and 7'0" Jeff Whitey. All of these numbers could spell trouble for the rest of the Big XII and large tournament teams. With the size, athleticism, and depth at the fingertips of Coach Bill Self, KU should be considered among the favorites to win it all in '09-'10.
If the Jayhawks want to play small-ball, their line-up could be Collins at the point, Taylor at shooting guard, Little at small forward, Xavier Henry at power forward, and any combination of reserve guards in a three guard line-up. The small unit could also use any of the bevy of big bodies to play the post as needed.
Kansas could also play a huge line-up, with Taylor or Robinson at the point, Henry at off-guard, 6'10" Markieff Morris at small forward, and Whitey and Aldrich playing at the big forward and center positions.
There are many other line-up combinations that could be dreamed up by Self, all of which could be in play for the Jayhawks this coming season.
Although the season is still months away, based on the talent at KU's disposal, the sky will be the limit for the current edition of Jayhawk hoopsters. Oh, and the future looks very bright as well.