Putting an end to one of the most long-running sagas of the summer, Brandon Rush committed to Kansas and was ruled eligible by the NCAA. With that addition, the Jayhawks become a team that is on the fringe of being in the Top 25. They have the most young talent in the country, with nine of their top ten players either freshman or sophomores. Rush rounded out a recruiting class that rivals the best in history. The four-man class included three McDonald's All-Americans and four Top 20 recruits. They also add Rodrick Stewart, an athletic transfer from USC. If all of the talent meshes and comes together, the Jayhawks could be a team to be reckoned with come March.
At the point, freshman Mario Chalmers should come in and start right away for Bill Self. He is a good scorer and can get into the lane with ease. Sophomore Russell Robinson got good minutes at the beginning of last season, but saw his playing time decrease as the year wore on. There were rumors of him transferring, but he decided to return to KU for another year. Senior Jeff Hawkins got Robinson's minutes at the end of the season. He shot nearly 50 percent from behind the arc.
On the two wings, four newcomers will get the minutes. Rush and Julian Wright will most likely start. Rush is a good scorer that can get to the basket using his athleticism. He has developed a solid mid-range game to complement his driving ability. Wright is the most versatile player on the roster. He can play any position the floor, and might do that sometime during his tenure at Kansas. Wright has the potential to be a match-up nightmare for opponents. Another McDonald's All-American, Micah Downs, will come off the bench on the wing. He is a very good shooter, but is known to have some attitude problems. Stewart, the USC transfer, is an athletic player who can dunk anything. He is a solid defender and will be excellent on the fast break.
Inside, four returning players will hold down the fort. Christian Moody, who Billy Packer said was "the best walk-on player" ever, will start at power forward. He is a hard worker and is a good passer. He will be the leader of the young team as the lone returning starter. CJ Giles will most likely start at center. He started five games last season. Giles is an excellent shot blocker and will be a defensive presence in the paint. Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun will back up the post players. Jackson started one game last year, and averaged only seven minutes per game. He is a hard worker and a good rebounder. Kaun started getting more minutes as the season went on, and developed into a good inside player. He can block shots and get some easy buckets in the post.
The Maui Invitational starts off the season for Kansas, and I wouldn't be surprised if they went 1-2 and finished in seventh place. They open with Arizona, which is always a tough game. If they lose, they get either Arkansas or UConn. The Jayhawks just aren't experienced enough to beat these teams on a consistent basis. Before Big 12 play, Kansas also plays Nevada, Cal, and Kentucky. A tough schedule gives them a limited time to get used to playing with each other, but gives them the experience of playing NCAA Tournament-caliber teams early.
The Jayhawks have enough talent to compete with any team in the country. If there aren't any chemistry problems as a result of the lack of enough minutes to go around, KU will be a work in progress in January but definitely prepared for the NCAA Tournament in March. I think Bill Self will have his team ready.
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