Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series previewing the 2013-14 Big 12 men’s basketball season and examining each of the 10 conference teams.
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
Most any other college team that lost five starters would be in deep trouble repeating a championship run. But not Kansas. All Jayhawks’ head coach Bill Self did was go out and sign the second best recruiting class in the country, including the country’s No, 1 overall prospect and four other recruits rated in the top 50 in the nation.
Kansas was Kansas again in 2012-13. The Jayhawks went 31-6, 14-4 in the Big 12, and shared with Kansas State its ninth consecutive Big 12 championship. The last time Kansas did not win outright or share the conference crown was in 2004, when Oklahoma State took home the Big 12 men’s hoops championship.
The Jayhawks have lost all five starters from last year’s Big 12 co-champions and NCAA Sweet 16 squad. This is nothing particularly new for the school with the second most wins all-time in college basketball. The new player everyone has been raving about is No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins, a 6-8 freshman guard from Huntington, W.V., who is already being touted as the probable No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Some college basketball preview magazines have written that a Kansas player hasn’t commanded this much national attention and interest than the great Wilt Chamberlain, back in 1956.
In addition to Wiggins, you will want to make note of the names Joel Embiid, a seven-foot center, and small forward Wayne Selden. Self is also counting on a stron second season from Perry Ellis, one of last year’s prized Jayhawk recruits.
Even with all the build-up and national attention focused on Wiggins, Self cautions that he’s still just a kid and that he hasn’t done anything yet at the college level. The Kansas head coach also has told the media, though, that he has never recruited a player with the talent and phenomenal potential he has witnessed in Wiggins.
And Wiggins won’t have to do it all by himself. His supporting cast is pretty good, too, Self pointed out.
“We’re going to make mistakes, and we’ll struggle in some areas, and I assume closing close game out could be a struggle until you learn how to win and that kind of stuff,” Self said about his young, talented first-year players at Big 12 Media Days. “But I would hope by conference play we don’t allude to these guys as young kids, inexperienced and that kind of stuff. Because the games that we play non-conference, if that can’t get a freshman ready to become a sophomore by mid-season, I’m not sure there is any schedule out there that can.”
Kansas is off too an expected fast spart, going 4-0 in the early going of the new season, including an extremely impressive nine-point win over then No. 4-ranked Duke. After defeating the Blue Devils in the Champions Classic in Chicago, the Jayhawks jumped from No. 6 to the second spot in the national polls behind top-rated Michigan State.