It figures to be the usual basketball season for the Kansas Jayhawks.
A 30-win season. 16,300 at Allen Field House every home game. A Top 10 national ranking (maybe Top 5 most of this year considering the absence of super powers). Another Big 12 championship (but don’t discount Iowa State and Oklahoma), though KU fans have come to take those for granted even though it's often a grind.
Yet, Jayhawk fans have only one goal in mind — a national championship.
Bill Self puts out team after team that appears to have the goods, but then develops an allergic reaction to wins in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 or even in the field of 32. While the image of Mario Chalmers' "Memphis Miracle" is still fresh in the minds of loyal Jayhawks, by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around this year it will have been eight years.
That’s too long for KU fans.
Remember, though, they once had to go 20 years between championships. You had "Danny and the Miracles" in 1988 and it wasn’t until Self’s 2008 veteran-filled team did the Jayhawks taste the national champagne again. Not that they didn’t have chances (the loss to Syracuse in the 2003 NCAA title game still burns), as Self has had other Final Four-worthy talent.
This year’s Kansas team appears to have Final Four written all over it. Youth can’t be used as an excuse anymore, not with such a top-heavy roster of seniors and juniors. Perry Ellis is a cinch Top 10 player if the mood strikes him and he doesn’t revert into his passive shell that has marked his career. Frank Mason is the ultimate bulldog in the backcourt and maybe this is the year Wayne Selden lives up to his considerable hype that for two years has produced pedestrian, underachieving numbers.
The Jayhawks have outrageous depth. At this point, it appears DeVonte’ Graham and Jamari Traylor are the other starters, but there’s a wealth of bodies Self can throw at teams and we haven’t even seen the most heralded freshman, Cheick Diallo, who has found himself enveloped in red tape and may not see the light of day. No matter, Self already has a nice rotation of big men, though Diallo would be a rim protector on the defensive end that masks his raw offensive skills.
Of the other Jayhawks, there are the invariable questions. Will Brannen Greene ever learn how to play defense or even give an indication he wants to try? Can Svi Mykhailiuk ever translate his pure shooting prowess from practice consistently to games? Can Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson provide proper post backup? Is Carlton Bragg Jr. the real deal, or is his success during the exhibition season a product of inferior competition? Should Legerald Vick redshirt since his minutes are going to be limited, unless Greene’s hip injury turns into a season-long problem? Will Diallo ever get cleared by the bumbling NCAA, which has had months to get this done?
These questions and more will be answered beginning Friday when the Jayhawks open their season against Northern Colorado.