2011-2012 College Basketball Preview Series – Kansas Jayhawks (AKA: “One and a Half Men”)

(EJSIC is previewing several college basketball teams.  Check out our writers’ takes on Memphis and Duke.)

The 2011-2012 Kansas Jayhawks will see Bill Self hit the court with just six returning scholarship players from last year’s Elite 8 squad. In addition to this core group are nine eight seven six new faces – Freshmen, redshirts and transfers – looking to contribute.

Yo dawg, are we it?

The ultra-thin Jayhawks should still, somehow, be in the mix for a conference title in what’s left of the Big XII. Tough non-conference match ups against Kentucky and Ohio State are presumable losses, and the first-time full round robin conference schedule is likely to take a toll on the young Kansas team.  They will lose games they shouldn’t, possibly win games they shouldn’t and end up winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament come March.

This season will be dominated, however, by anxious Kansas fans collectively holding their breath every time forward Thomas Robinson steps onto the floor. If he happens to get hurt, the team will be entirely on the shoulders of guard Tyshawn Taylor.  And nobody wants to see that.

2011-2012 College Basketball Preview Series – Duke Blue Devils

(EJSIC is previewing several college basketball teams.  Check out Michael Street’s Memphis preview here.)

One of the most fascinating teams in college basketball to watch this season will be the Duke Blue Devils.  Replacing four year stars Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, as well as one-third-and-done Kyrie Irving would seem a nearly overwhelming challenge for many coaches.  However, when you’re an all-time great coach, like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, it’s hard to get rattled.

Last season’s results:
ACC Runner-Up
ACC Tournament Champion
Lost 93-77 to Arizona in Sweet 16

Key departures:
Kyle Singler  (34.8 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Nolan Smith (34.0 mpg, 20.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.2TO, 35% 3PT)
Kyrie Irving (27.5 mpg, 11 gps, 17.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.5 TO, 47% 3PT)

59% of scoring, 39% of rebounding, 63% of assists

Key returnees:
Mason Plumlee (25.6 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
Seth Curry (25.0 ppg, 9.0 ppg, 2 apg, .9TO)
Ryan Kelly (20.1 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

Notable non-conference matchups:
Michigan State (likely to be the game in which Mike Krzyzewski breaks Bob Knight’s all-time wins record)
at Ohio State (a true road game!)
Maui Invitational (possible matchups with Memphis and Kansas or UCLA)

Before we go much further, I should mention that as a lifelong Tar Heel fan, a hint of subtle bias may occasionally creep into this analysis.  But I’ll try to keep my personal feelings out of this entry as much as possible.  I’ll let you watch Duke play, and you can form your own opinions about the way Coach K and his staff approach the game. Continue reading

EJSIC’s Big Ten Review & Preview

Come on down, Missouri!

In what has been a fairly lackluster start to the season for the Big Eleven Ten, perhaps the biggest news has been that the greatest ten team conference in the land is looking to add a twelfth team in order to make more money playing football.  This addition would of course affect basketball too, as the league would probably be divided into two divisions and begin a clusterfuck schedule similar to that of the ACC, SEC, and Big 12.  This author would prefer that the Big Ten pilfer Syracuse or possibly Rutgers from the Big East since those schools suck at football and probably always will, but Missouri seems to be the league’s first choice (assuming Notre Dame continues its arrogant tradition of football independence).  So consider this an early welcome to the richest conference in America, Missouri.  Let’s get into the basketball season review.

Team Assessments:

Illinois -The Fighting Bruce Webers have been a disappointment in 2009 and will have to step their game up in 2010 if they want to make their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years.  Illinois already owns embarrassing losses to Utah, Bradley, and Georgia.  The Illini have beaten two of the three good teams they have played this season, overcoming a 23 point deficit to win at Clemson and handling Vanderbilt at home, before losing to Big Ten member-to-be Missouri in an 81-68 neutral court game that was never really close.  Their other wins all came at home against the likes of SUI-Edwardsville, Northern Illinois, Presbyterian, Wofford, Boise State, and Western Michigan.  Illinois opens Big Ten play on December 30 against blossoming basketball rival Northwestern, who Demitri McCamey beat on a runner at the buzzer in the teams’ lone meeting last season.  They will have to win that game and about ten more if they want to avoid the NIT.  Non-conference Grade: C-

Indiana -The Hoosiers have shown great improvement from last season, but they are still not what could be described as a good basketball team.  They have played a tough schedule, but they haven’t won any of the big games on that schedule because they lack elite talent and coaching.  Indiana is 5-6 with respectable losses to Mississippi, George Mason, Maryland, and Kentucky, and embarrassing losses to Boston and Loyola.  Their only win of note came against Pittsburgh, but like the Hoosiers, the Panthers are probably NIT bound.  Indiana will be hard pressed to win more than four games in the Big Ten.  Non-Conference Grade: C-

Iowa -The Big Ten’s bitch.  Iowa has been defeated by Texas-San Antonio, Duquesne, Texas, Wichita State, Virginia Tech, Northern Iowa, and Iowa State, and has no wins over any team you have ever heard of.  Coach Todd Lickliter seems like a good guy, but he may be in over his head.  The Hawkeyes are terrible and one conference win will be cause for celebration.  Non-Conference Grade: F

Michigan -Another disappointment.  This was supposed to be Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims’ breakout year.  Those two players will be in the NBA soon, and they are surrounded by a solid cast of shooters and defenders.  The problem is that Zack Novak and Stu Douglas’ shots are not falling and no one is playing defense.  The Wolverines have wins over Houston Baptist, Creighton in OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Detroit, and Coppin State.  Meanwhile, they have lost to all four Big Six conference teams they have faced (Marquette, Alabama, Boston College and Kansas) and managed to get blown out by Utah too.  It’s going to make the Big Ten look bad when this team finally gets their act together and beats a few top teams en route to nine or ten wins.  Despite being 5-5 with zero good wins, Michigan has the talent to make the tournament.  They’ll have a good chance to get a run going when they open play at Indiana on New Year’s Eve.  Non-Conference Grade: F

This guy just wins.

Tom Izzo just wins.

Michigan State -Tom Izzo’s team has lost to the three best teams they’ve played: Texas, North Carolina, and Florida.  They’ve beaten Gonzaga and no one else of note.  Goran Suton and Travis Walton graduating may have affected this team more than expected.  The team seems to lack toughness at times, and doesn’t really have a post player.  Nonetheless, they have one of the best coaches in the nation, and slow starts are nothing new in East Lansing.  The Spartans lost two non-conference games last season and ended up in the National Championship Game.  Don’t write them off yet.  Non-Conference Grade: C+

Minnesota -The Big Ten’s northernmost team had a ho-hum non-conference season;  Four wins over no-name teams and Butler, then three straight losses to Portland, Texas A&M, and Miami, then five more wins over nobodies.  They open the Big Ten season at home against Penn State on December 29 and will hope to win about ten more games and earn a second consecutive NCAA Tournament at-large bid.  Non-Conference Grade: C

Northwestern -The team representing the Big Ten’s nerdy private school is ranked for the first time in 40 years and is well on its way to playing in the first NCAA Tournament game in the program’s history.  Northwestern is not afraid to chuck up shots, and Micheal Thompson and John Shurna are each averaging 16 points per game as the team wins without injured star Kevin Coble.  The Wildcats have played five notable teams, losing to Butler and beating Notre Dame, Iowa State, NC State, and Stanford.  They are 10-1 with likely wins over Texas-Pan Am and Chicago State still to Continue reading

EJSIC College Basketball Preview Series: Kansas

Kansas players emerge from the locker room shortly before a routing practice

Kansas players emerge from the locker room shortly before a routine practice.

The fighting Jayhawks will take to the court this season as the preseason number 1 and a heavy favorite to reach the Final Four next March in Indianapolis.  Writers, coaches and pundits are all touting Kansas as the odds-on team to beat.

So, who are we, here at EJSIC, to disagree?

Bill Self’s squad is gearing up for a special season in Lawrence.  Led by the BigXII preseason Co-Players of the Year, guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich,  the team will be ready to face all comers.  Sophomores Tyshawn “Thumbs” Taylor, Travis Releford and twins Markieff and Marcus Morris look to improve on their solid freshman campaigns and become the solid core of the rotation that fans and coaches wanted them to be last year.  Added to the mix this year, of course, are the talented freshmen Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson and Xavier “Don’t Call Me Zay-Vier” Henry.  Jeff Withey and Xavier’s brother, C.J., also look to contribute as redshrit freshman transfers.

The only major question that surrounds this team will be whether there are enough minutes to go around.  Self has not ruled out, but also not directly alluded to, a possible redshirt or two this season.  Either way, the team will be (rock) chock-full of talent, athleticism, size and depth.  However the active roster and starting line up play out, the Jayhawks and their fans have plenty to be excited about.

Kansas will move quickly through the early part of their non-conference schedule, facing and dismissing mid-major fodder like Hofstra, Tennessee Tech, Central Arkansas and Memphis.   These games will build confidence for the ‘Hawks and end abruptly when they get too cocky and drop an embarrassing game to either Alcorn State or Radford at home.  To regain focus as a cohesive unit, the team will attempt to knock over a liquor store together.

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