In my third of four profiles of the four teams remaining in college basketball, especially now that the NIT has finished (congratulations, Stanford!), I will look at the Kansas Jayhawks. In some ways, the Jayhawks are my favorite team of the four. Coach Bill Self believes in an offensive scheme that requires much passing and little dribbling. It is fun to watch how the offense mutates slightly to accentuate the team’s strengths.
On the other hand, I am not sure how much I like the team’s current personnel. Thomas Robinson is a bit of a bully and Tyshawn Taylor has to rein in his wild three-point shooting. They should have a great game against Ohio State, especially with Jared Sullinger actually in the lineup. The big Buckeye missed the team’s visit to Lawrence on Dec. 10 and the Jayhawks came away with a nice win. Had Sullinger been able to play, we would have had a Final Four preview.
There are many reasons to like Robinson. He plays hard and has a nice array of skills for a big man. The 6-foot-9 junior can bully his way to the basket and is one of the best rebounders in the nation. His match up against Sullinger should be something to watch and could be a preview of two future pros. He is nicely priced for Jousters because he has scored at least 15 points in eight of his last nine games. Robinson has not shot well in his last three games, going 15-for-45 (33.3%) against Purdue, North Carolina State, and North Carolina. He will see the teeth of the Buckeye defense as well, but may have more success against Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.
Taylor has had his best season in every conceivable way for the Jayhawks as a senior. Prior to the NCAA tournament, he had even been shooting threes at a career high clip. In the Jayhawks four wins in the Big Dance, however, the senior has gone 0-for-17 on long range shots. He has always tended to be streaky in terms of threes, but will he be able to loosen the Buckeye defense with a three-pointer or two? If not, he has shown that he can be productive without long range bombs. He had 22 points in the win over the Tar Heels and went 10-for-14 on two-pointers. The Buckeyes have terrific perimeter defenders, so Taylor is appropriately priced.
Johnson was able to take advantage of Taylor’s struggles to become the top perimeter option for Kansas for a few games. He scored 15 or more points in four straight games, including a season-high 26 points in the Big 12 tourney opener against Texas A&M. Johnson cooled off against the state of North Carolina with 21 points in the wins over the Wolfpack and Tar Heels, but managed to go 3-for-8 from three-point range. Like Taylor, Johnson will meet up against either Aaron Craft or William Buford and find open looks hard to come by.
In many ways, the seven-footer is the x-factor for the Jayhawks. Withey’s shot blocking is a key component of the Jayhawk defense and he erases shots almost as well as any other player in the Final Four (not as well as Anthony Davis). The Jayhawk center had ten rejections against North Carolina State and three more against the Tar Heels. More to the point, he made all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 15 points in the win over UNC. He had only scored 19 points in his first three games in the NCAA tournament, so he is hardly a lock for offensive production, but he may be a decent flyer.
Releford’s main contribution to the Jayhawk cause is sticky defense. He hounded Harrison Barnes into a tough shooting game in the Elite Eight and will likely be charged with slowing down William Buford in the Final Four. Buford has not been playing very well, but Releford will give him even more headaches. In his last three games, the junior guard has also scored 28 points. He is not a volume shooter and has only made one of his last six three-pointers, but he is a good bet to score at least eight points.
Lindsay, a 6-foot-7 freshman guard, may be a part of the Jayhawks’ future, but he is not part of their present. His salary is greater than $40,000 because he scored nine points in a Dec. 29 blowout win over Howard. He has scored two points since and has not played more than three minutes since conference play started.
Young has been playing a nice amount of minutes off the Jayhawk bench to provide low post defense. The Loyola Marymount transfer played 18 minutes against North Carolina, but only scored two points. He has only hit double figures three times this season. Because there are so few bench options who actually get playing time, Young is a decent option even though he has scored more than five points just once in his last ten games.
Like Lindsay, Juenemann rarely plays. The 6-foot-3 senior scored seven points on Feb. 18 in a big win over Texas Tech. He has combined for 12 points over the rest of the season and has played seven minutes in March.
Teahan is a very good option off the Jayhawk bench. The 6-foot-6 senior plays perimeter defense and can hit three-pointers from the corner. His conversion rate of 20% (3-for-15) during the tournament has been low, but at least he is shooting. He has played at least 13 minutes in every game this season, which gives him a big leg up on his low-priced competition.
Roberts, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, did not score all season. He wasn’t even mentioned in the Blue Ribbon preview of the team.
Like Roberts, Tharpe is 5-foot-11. He played a bit more than his sophomore teammate and even scored three points in the win over Purdue. Tharpe did not play against either UNC or NC State. He is a better play than Roberts, but very marginally.
Garrett did not score this season. He played a total of 15 minutes and last appeared in a game for more than a few seconds on Feb. 18 in that win over the Red Raiders. No reason to add him to your team.
Wesley sees a few minutes each game as frontcourt support. During the NCAA tournament, he has played a total of ten minutes and scored three points. The sophomore transfer from Lamar is a better play than most of the other minimum salary options.