The Kansas Jayhawks did not win or share the Big 12 Conference title last season, marking the first time since 2005 that’s happened. However, the media selected the program to win the title and start a new streak in the preseason.
While the program’s chance of ending their one-year drought looks good, here are three reasons why they won’t do it.
1. Baylor and Texas Tech will be the better teams
Both the Bears and the Red Raiders return a great group of starters and as well as key bench players this season. Meanwhile, Kansas lost huge parts of their offense in Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick, as well as some transfers in KJ Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Charlie Moore.
The Bears finished 20-14 last season, but it was good enough to make the NCAA Tournament and even advance to the Round of 32, beating Syracuse to get there. The Red Raiders made it to the National Championship Game, losing to Virginia in a close game. They lost Jarrett Culver to the NBA Draft, and have some new faces to integrate into the team, but should still be a strong team.
The Bears will get two key transfers eligible (after they sat out last season) in MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell. Those two will shore up the backcourt and give them some great depth there to go along with Devonte Bandoo, Mark Vital and Jared Butler. Flo Thamba should make a leap in his sophomore season along with Freddie Gillespie to help out the studly Tristan Clarke.
For Texas Tech, they may have some growing pains to start the season with all of the freshmen projected to get minutes. However, Chris Beard will get this team gelling before the end of the season and it should be dangerous by the time Big 12 play rolls around.
2. The threat of sanctions will become a distraction
Kansas was hit a notice of allegations by the NCAA in late September, claiming the school committed three Level I violations — the most severe kind of violation possible. The Jayhawks were also hit with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” that generally brings down the big hammer from the NCAA; along with a responsibility charge against coach Bill Self.
With possible sanctions looming and the decision likely to come in the spring, it could be weighing on the players and coaching staff. While it isn’t likely that the NCAA would smack down with a postseason ban for this specific campaign, there is a small and infinitesimal chance Kansas would self-impose to try to get ahead of the sanctions.
To be absolutely clear, they are more than likely not going to do that because they have already publicly responded to the sanctions and refute everything in them. Still, if they feel they might lose their case down the road, it could be a good move to cover themselves.
3. The away woes of last season could continue
Kansas struggled mightily on the road last season against unranked opponents. There were six losses against unranked opponents last season with five of them coming away from home and one to start off the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
While the Jayhawks bring back some players that should help them avoid those struggles, they also lost some key players — as mentioned previously — that would help with avoiding those kinds of losses. They are going to have to integrate some of the freshmen from their 2019 recruiting class as well.
It’s unlikely they’ll lose 10 games like they did last season, but there are some tough stretches if the schedule. They have back-to-back away games at Villanova and Stanford who should both be better than they were last season (even if it isn’t much for the Cardinal).
This team could also face Virginia Tech, Georgia, Dayton or Michigan State in the Maui Jim Invitational, depending on how the other side of the brackets plays out in November.
There is also a 10-day window where they play four games and three of them are away from Lawrence. January 8th they play at Iowa State, come home to play Baylor three days later, go to Norman to play Oklahoma three days after that, then play at Texas four days later.
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