Sometimes you have to wonder if Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has too much depth, which is normally a good problem to have.
On Tuesday, his Jayhawks made their final tune-up before the start of the regular season by dismantling Division II fodder Emporia State, 109-56.
Self legitimately has 11 players still in his rotation, down one since the fundamentally sound Conner Frankamp saw the writing on the wall and decided to transfer. Frankamp’s departure drives home the point there’s just not enough minutes to go around as he’ll be a 30-minute player once he decides a final destination (Wichita State, Creighton?). He appeared to be a breakout performer for KU in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but apparently didn’t believe he was going to receive the quality minutes he desired.
Self has a collection of players who are used to being the focal point. He could probably enter two teams in the Big 12 race and his second team would be highly competitive.
Perry Ellis is a given. He’s now a junior and the most virtual lock in the lineup. Frank Mason clearly has established himself as the point guard, while Wayne Selden started all season as a freshman and he’ll be in the floor for the start of the Santa Barbara game on Friday.
After that things get somewhat muddy. A lot depends on how Self wants to go, but my bet is that Jamari Traylor will get the call because Ellis needs some help on the boards. That leaves a host of contenders for the fifth spot.
Svi Mykhailuk, the 17-year-old European sensation, started against Emporia State, but don’t read too much into that. He showed a lot of skills, though his primary skill — outside shooting — deserted him on this night.
Then there’s Cliff Alexander, the most heralded freshman. I find it improbable that Self would put three players in the 6-8 range on the floor at the same time. Because of his high motor and ability to attack the glass, I expect he’ll be the first sub in to provide instant energy.
Landen Lucas has made rapid gains, but he’s an inside backup. Then there’s the wild-card, Brannen Greene, who is an explosive scorer but has problems at times with maintaining concentration. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets the nod because the Jayhawks need for one of their athletic wings (Greene, Kelly Oubre, Svi) to be able to knock down shots.
Then there’s Devonte Graham, who will be Mason’s caddy. And yet to be mentioned is Hunter Mickelson, the long-armed Arkansas transfer who primarily will be on the floor for interior defense.
That’s a lot of talent for Self to sift through. The weaknesses last year were ballhandling and outside shooting and I think he’s alleviated those problems. Mason may be the most improved player, and I think Green, Oubre and Svi will provide the outside shooting that drug this team down last year. For all his hype, Andrew Wiggins was barely an adequate outside shooter, while Selden and the departed Naadir Tharpe weren’t much better.
Remember, this is a KU team that lost the No. 1 pick in the draft (Wiggins) and No. 3 pick (Joel Embiid). Yet, you won’t find any KU fans thinking less than 30 wins. Such are the expectations of Kansas basketball.