This is the kinda team KU is more likely to win a championship with. Or maybe I should say, this team is more like the team that DID win the National Championship at the University of Kansas. That team was not filled with stars, but a collection of good players that all played together.
A humorous hindsight: The biggest worry from the 2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks team was a fear of who would take the big shot when the situation called for it. I'm still confident in my Brandon Rush pick.
When Bill Self spoke about this year's team at the media conference a few weeks ago, he had this to say, which I found very interesting....
Last year, Sherron needed to know he was responsible for everything...This year doesn't have anyone like that. This team is closer than last year's team.This quote stuck with me. Were we catering to one player too much? Maybe a more balanced team leads to more success in the NCAA Tournament. Duke's National Championship team would definitely be evidence of that fact. The quality of that team that stuck out above all else was how well each of their players knew their role. They didn't step outside of their talents, played with a great chemistry, and probably ranked in the lower half of the Top 25 in terms of pure talent. Kansas may have had a more talented team last year, but this year's team may be better built for success when it matters most.
The leaders of this Jayhawks team begins, but doesn't end, with the Morrisi (oh, it's back baby!). Here's what Marcus Morris had to say after losing to Northern Iowa last year....
I know I’ll be back next year, and I’ll be a leader of this team next year. Summertime, I’ll work as hard as I’ve ever worked in my life and try to bring a national championship to KU before I go anywhere.I can remember my head filling with confidence for the 2010-11 season immediately after hearing this. I felt like he was speaking on the entire team's behalf. A team that figured out that things aren't handed to you in the NCAA Tournament. You have to go out and earn it. Now they know.
Marcus Morris elevated his game from last year in the exhibition game on Tuesday, pouring in 28 points and 7 rebounds (and perhaps more importantly, 11-11 at the free throw line). Combine that with brotha man Markieff's 12 points and 8 rebounds, and there might be quite the brotherhood (eh eh?) building on the low block this year. I expect the Morrisi to thrive without Cole clogging up the lane (yea, I said it). Traditional centers aren't the way to win in College Basketball. I'd much rather have, ahem, athletic big men that can get out and run the floor as well as bang inside. Give me all the 6'8 power forwards you got! I'd start five of them if I were running things.
I have high expectations for Mario Little this year as well. Remember, he was the National JUCO Player of the Year before coming to KU in 2008. He had a few injury problems that year and was forced to play catch up the entire season. I also believed he was playing out of position and would be moving back to his more natural "3" spot on the wing this year. However, exhibition night, against them dang Ichabods, there he was down low again. Why? Put him out on the wing Bill! He reminds me of a Michigan State style wing player, which is a definite compliment. Little needs to become a major factor for this team to be something, and 18 minutes and 8 points (vs. Washburn) isn't going to get it done.
How about the freshman from last year? Thomas Robinson is very mobile down low, but still raw. He will be allowed to develop off the bench this year, and hopefully has things figured out come conference play. Elijah Johnson will most likely be starting alongside Tyshawn Taylor in the backcourt, at least until the Selbinator shows up. Eli-souljah Boy provides some much needed athleticism in the backcourt, offsetting the Tighty Whiteys' (it's backkkk) abilities. And seriously, Bill, it was cute and all starting both of them for the first game, but we've got to move on. I'm cool with lil' Tyrel chucking up 3's, but Cornbread hasn't been the same since this unfortunate, yet hysterical, incident....
Bill's pissed about something else and demands to know why everybody is laughing, Dooley is beside himself because he once hit 127 straight free throws, Cole doesn't want to be the first person to laugh because his Pa would yell at him, while Markieff can't find his brother to commence immediate cackling. What a great, great video. Go ahead and watch it again, with an eye on the players in the backcourt while it's happening. Fantastic! Oh yea, but Cornbread's career ended right there. Hey, more than most of us have ever accomplished.
I have yet to really comment on the Josh Selby situation, which I haven't really been following at all. I assume he is going to play at some point. I also assume that I'm the only person hoping that he doesn't. The Jayhawks don't need him. Let me remind you of my thoughts on one-and-done players, with an anecdote from my reaction to the Northern Iowa loss.....
I don't ever want a one-and-done player at Kansas EVER AGAIN! It is a set back for the program. It is a stepping stone for players that have very little-to-no interest in the college game. They play the Tournament with one eye on their stats and one eye on the signing bonus that is 2 months away. In the case of JR Giddens II (Henryzation X), he was so hyped coming into the year, that he never even had anything to prove. Show up, wait a year, get paid. I understand Self going after him for this year with the idea that he is the missing piece to an almost complete team. I hope he learned his lesson. The worst part is that they don't breed championships. Carmelo Anthony is the exception, not the rule. Now, if a player leaves after one year following a deep Tournament run that is fine, but no more players that are assured to leave after one year. Get 'em out!Geez, Dirkness, tell me how you really feel. I have to stand by my beliefs, and have done so, voicing my displeasure to anybody that would listen since first hearing about Selby potentially signing with KU. I truly hope it doesn't cost KU again, but I do believe it was a major factor (in a bad way) on last year's team.
I'll leave you all with some predictions for this year's Kansas team. I believe they will win the Big 12, because I see no reason to believe they won't. (This isn't a shot at K-State, who I think will be really good, but KU just seems to always win it. I will say if Curtis Kelly gets better and becomes an elite player, they have the potential to win it all). I'll say that KU earns a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, makes the Final Four, but loses in the National semifinals. I'll take it. Final Four is my expectation/goal for the season.