- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject? Kansas. Up next? No one. This is the last buzz of the summer. Stay tuned for more previews from us very soon, though.
Kansas will still be very, very good.
When you think about it, that's kind of insane. After all, Kansas just waved goodbye to its three best players -- the heart-and-soul captain in senior Sherron Collins, one of the most intimidating big men in the country in Cole Aldrich, and a preternaturally smooth scorer in Xavier Henry -- and, even with teams like Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri in hot pursuit, Jayhawks fans still have reason to like their conference title chances.
Last season, commentators sometimes joked that if Kansas only played its second five, it would still be a top 25 team. This year, we get to test that theory for real.
Of course, it's not quite that exact. There's the addition of uber-recruit Josh Selby, who will compete with Duke's Kyrie Irving and Kentucky's Brandon Knight for the John Wall Memorial Freshman Point Guard of the Year award in 2010-11. That is, if Selby plays; the NCAA is still investigating his relationship with Carmelo Anthony's business manager and hasn't yet indicated whether Selby will be able to play by the time the season starts.
Kansas also has the benefit of keeping a pair of starters -- guard Tyshawn Taylor and forward Marcus Morris -- who have been resigned to role player positions for much of their careers. This season, both could prove their stardom.
Morris is perhaps the better candidate. He was the No. 56-ranked player in the country in offensive rating last season; his 120.7 was far and away Kansas' best. At 6-foot-8, Morris isn't the intimidating defender or shot blocker that Aldrich was, but he's far more skilled on the offensive end, and his outside touch has extended almost to the three-point line in recent seasons.
Taylor, for his part, isn't the offensive player Collins or Henry was, even in limited possessions. But he does have two major advantages: Speed and defense. Taylor can get to the rim on the break as quickly as any guard in the country, and his steal rate of 3.2 in 2009-10 counted as a major defensive contribution.
In many ways, Kansas is better prepared to deal with the loss of Cole Aldrich -- last season's most dominant interior defensive player -- than their personnel would indicate. That's because Kansas was already guard-dominant, even with Aldrich in the lineup. Assuming Selby gets eligible, Kansas will have a coterie of guards -- Taylor, Brady Morningstar, newcomer Royce Woolridge -- with it they can push the pace. With Morris' range, transitioning to a faster, more diverse Jayhawks attack team might be the only way forward.
The biggest hole to fill, then, will be Aldrich's defensive presence. The center blocked 12.97 percent of his opponents' shot attempts in 2009-10, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Even with Marcus' taller brother Markieff Morris sliding into a starting role, the Jayhawks are not going to be able to recreate Aldrich's dominant shot-blocking ability. That's tough ... but it's also where better defensive ball pressure and depth at the guard positions can come into play. Since 2005-06, a Bill Self-coached Kansas team has never finished outside of the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency; even with Aldridge gone, that statistic seems unlikely to change in 2010-11.
In other words, Kansas will look remarkably different in 2010-11, but the results, if not quite as impressive as last season's, should look similar.
For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun.