Bill Self‘s Kansas Jayhawks ended a promising 2010-2011 season losing to the No. 11-seed VCU Rams. If that wasn’t bad enough, Kansas lost five key players, including Marcus and Markieff Morris and Josh Selby to the NBA. The Jayhawks, ranked No. 13 in the USA Today preseason poll, are ready for another crack at the tournament, only this time with a new core of players.
Junior Thomas Robinson, who elected to return to Kansas after being projected as a first-round pick, is one of the most athletic big men in the country. Robinson is a physical specimen at 6-9, 237 pounds. He started to come into his own last season, averaging 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in less than 15 minutes a game. His explosiveness at his size makes him a mismatch for defenders. Look for Robinson to be one of the most exciting and promising forwards in the country this season. Besides Robinson, senior Tyshawn Taylor, the only returning starter from last season, is back at point and provides good speed and a fast tempo for the Jayhawk offense. With juniors Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, this Jayhawk team should be a fun team to watch with the way these two guys attack the rim.
Although Robinson is a gifted athlete, he still needs to improve on his game on both sides of the floor. However, his athleticism and strength will help him be a top rebounder in the conference. Kansas needs players to step in immediately to fill the roles of Brady Morningstar, who did a little bit of everything last year, and the knockdown shooting of Tyrel Reed. Kansas has big expectations for Johnson to fill some of the void left behind by Morningstar and Reed. Johnson is a solid combo guard with a strong finish and a good shooting touch. The 6-4, 195-pound guard got only limited PT last year in a deep Kansas backcourt, but this is a player that can really impress people in 2011-2012. He’s has the potential for a breakout year. Releford should also help replace the production of Morningstar and Reed, as he will get increased minutes from the 10 he got last season.