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Kansas Jayhawks: Three story lines for the college basketball season

Kansas Jayhawks: Three story lines for the college basketball season

The Streak died at age 14, a victim of fate and karma, not tragedy. Last season, for the first time since 2004, Kansas didn’t finish on top of the Big 12 standings. Injuries, attrition and a dysfunctional roster led to the Jayhawks finishing behind co-champions Kansas State and Texas Tech and a second-round NCAA Tournament exit.

An NCAA notice of allegations will hang over this season (with no outcome until late spring or early summer) but the roster has been replenished and KU is again the favorites to finish on top of the conference. The Jayhawks are a top 10 team and could well end up in the Final Four.

Bill Self and the school have made it clear they plan a spirited fight against the NCAA charges.

“I don’t see it as being a distraction at all from a player standpoint,” Bill Self said. “I see it as being a gift to me, from a personal standpoint, that it’ll motivate me in a pretty competitive way. I plan on coaching this team better and harder than any team I’ve had here at Kansas.

Top 3 story lines

How to play. Self’s preferred offensive scheme has always involved playing two big men. However, over the last half dozen years, injuries and roster limitations have led to him using lineups with four guards/wings and a single big. This season he has a powerful center in Udoka Azubuike and a strong power forward in Silvio De Sousa. But with most teams using four perimeter players, playing two bigs means one must guard on the perimeter. A good conundrum but one KU will need to solve.

Who can shoot the three? Kansas needs to replace its top three 3-point shooters from last season. Isaiah Moss, a 6-foot-5 grad transfer from Iowa, made 42 percent of his threes last season. Junior guard Marcus Garrett is a glue guy and the team’s best defender but in his first two seasons has been a liability from the perimeter (12-of-49 last season). If he improves into the low 30s on his shooting percentage, that would be a huge bonus.

Is Devon Dotson the next great KU point guard? The sophomore toyed with the NBA Draft and his return was a huge bonus for the Jayhawks. He started every game last season, averaging 12.3 points and 3.5 assists per game. Dotson’s confidence and production improved over the last half of the season as he proved adept at driving and finishing. He’s following the path of Frank Mason and Devontae Graham.

Number to know

Udoka Azubuike, a 7-foot senior, lost most of his freshman and junior seasons to wrist injuries. In 56 career games, he is shooting 74.4 percent from the field. A big reason for his accuracy is that 168 of his 288 field goals have been dunks.

Reasons to hope

The Jayhawks can zig while other teams zag. KU’s big men could dominate and overpower teams that play small-ball lineups. Unless injuries intrude as they did last season, Self has one of his deepest and most-versatile rosters.

Reasons to doubt

When Kansas made the 2018 Final Four, its big men were exposed by Villanova’s perimeter attack. That could be a blueprint for opponents this season. While the roster has depth, there are questions about who will provide consistent scoring from the perimeter.

KenPom.com preseason rank: 10.

Next: Kansas State.

Previous: Baylor, Iowa State.

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