Will Kansas Ever Let Go of the Big 12 Title?

Max GoodwinContributor IIINovember 2, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 13:  Head coach Bill Self of the Kansas Jayhawks watches highlights on the videoboard after the Jayhawks defeated the Kansas State Wildcats to win the 2010 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship on March 13, 2010 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Kansas Jayhawks have lost their three most well known players to the NBA draft. Kansas is still the six-time defending conference champions and it will not be easy for any of the other teams to take the title this season.

There was a lot of talent lost from last year’s team but this will be a team that will surprise people with how deep they still are.

Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry all brought something valuable to the 2009-10 Jayhawks. There is obviously the scoring aspect. Those three represented a large percentage of the points for Kansas. They were three of the top four scorers for Kansas.

Marcus Morris is the only one of those four top scorers to return, but don’t let that distract you from the depth of talent that Kansas will have this season. Coach Bill Self will benefit from having a much more versatile team with a wide range of talent to chose from.

As a result of a deep team with many interchangeable pieces, this Kansas team will look to speed up the pace of the game. I think the Kansas vs. Mizzou game will be exciting games this season, these two teams will get up and down the court as fast as any teams in the country.

If you are wondering who will replace Cole Aldrich on defense for the Jayhawks, don’t waste your time.

There is nobody who could possibly replace what Cole brought to the Kansas defense. He was able to alter the game plan of opponents simply with his wing span and ability to block shots. He lead the team in that department. He had eight more blocks than the rest of the team.

No, not eight more than any other player on the team, that is eight more than the rest of the team… combined.

It is not all bad though, if there was one thing Cole Aldrich did not help, it was the tempo of the Kansas offense. Without Cole they will be able to push the pace of the game a bit more. Markeef Morris will most likely start at center. He has bulked up in the weight room but still provides a much quicker option at that position.

The same situation goes for the point guard position. Sherron Collins brought leadership and confidence to Kansas last season and that will be nearly impossible to replace, but if Tyshawn Taylor takes over at the point it will increase the tempo of the offense drastically.

Tyshawn does not like to slow up the game and set up the half court sets as much as Sherron did. In fact I think it will be interesting to see how he handles that role.

I still have my reservations about Taylor. His fast paced style of play was out of control many times last season. But the overall faster offensive game plan that has been discussed by coach Self could be just what Taylor needs.

If the rest of the team can keep up with him, he can be a big weapon with the ball in his hands. If not he will most likely push the ball anyways and turn it over.

Even some of the most loyal Kansas followers have forgotten how much of an impact the two red-shirts from last season could potentially have on the team. Travis Releford and Mario Little were both considered a big addition in the recruiting class of two years ago.

Now they have both improved each of their games against the highest level of college competition for two seasons. One of the two will be starting at the 3 for Bill Self this season, but both should get a good amount of playing time.

Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar will serve as the perimeter shooters, as they have for the past two seasons. They are both very good shooters and with so many other scoring options they will get some open looks from deep. However losing Sherron Collins could hurt them in this aspect as well. He was the perfect candidate for a player to drive and dish the ball to open shooters.

The biggest question right now for the Jayhawks is whether or not the highly rated recruit, Josh Selby, will be cleared to play. As of today the NCAA has declared him academically eligible but they continue to investigate his amateur status. Which means that he is one step closer to starting this season, but as of right now Selby is still not eligible.

Without having seen anything more than jaw dropping high school highlights it’s hard to speculate what Josh Selby brings to the team, but it seems pretty clear that he is one of the best guards in his class. It would add yet another up-tempo guard to the mix.

Even without Selby, Kansas has a talented young point guard in Elijah Johnson. He has looked like he could also be an impact player if given the opportunity. That is what this season will be about for Kansas. Who will take advantage of the opportunity to play a bigger role on the team this year?

Taylor, Reed, Morningstar, the Twins, Releford, and Little are all capable of this but there are also other options from the bench. Thomas Robinson could certainly surprise a lot of people with his athleticism. Robinson is a sophomore post player. Another post player to watch out for is Jeff Withey, if he can stay healthy he would provide a deep front court to go with the back court that Kansas has.

There are certainly questions about this year’s Kansas basketball team, the good news for Kansas fans is that there are also a lot of possible answers.

The Kansas State Wildcats have been picked as the favorite to win the conference championship this season and that gives Kansas something to prove. That is something they did not have last season,  going into the tournament most people believed they were one of the two best teams in the NCAA.

The six-time defending conference champs have a team that will not go down easy, but you will not find a coach in the Big 12 that will say the route to a Big 12 championship does not go straight through Lawrence, Kansas.