Key Departures: Marcus Garrett (Grad); Bryce Thompson (–>Oklahoma St); Tristan Enaruna (–>Iowa St)
New In Town: Remy Martin (<–Arizona St); Jalen Coleman-Lands (<–Iowa St); Joseph Yesufu (<–Drake) Zach Clemence (#49); KJ Adams (#73); Bobby Pettiford (#92); Kyle Cuffe Jr (#112)
State of the Program:
After being the best team in the country in 2020, last season was a bit of a “down” year for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. Finishing 2nd in the Big 12 and being a 3 seed in the tournament would be a success for most major programs, but Kansas is on another level, winning 13 of the last 15 Big 12 Conference Championships they’ll be looking to return to the top again in 2022. And boy do they have the roster, on paper, to do just that. They welcome back 4 of 5 starters and a couple other role players to go along with a monster incoming group of both transfers and Freshmen. Leading scorers Ochai Agbaji (SR), Jalen Wilson (SO), and David McCormack (SR) return to lead this loaded Kansas squad, who will be the clear cut favorite in the Big 12 and arguably the best team in the country, certainly one of a handful who can legitimately make the claim at least. Kansas was an elite defensive team a year ago, and return many of the pieces who helped them accomplish that, but where they need to make improvements is on the offensive side of the floor. They were 52nd in offensive efficiency a year ago and Self took to the transfer market to add some offensive punch. Those moves have absolutely put Kansas in prime position to be a favorite to get to the Final Four and vie for a National Championship.
The prize of the transfer market was Arizona St transfer G Remy Martin (SR), who was a 3x All-Pac 12 team selection and is a straight up bucket. He averaged 19 ppg each of the last 2 seasons for the Sun Devils and is one of the best pure scorers in the country. He will start in place of the departed Marcus Garrett, and while the defense may take a hit with that swap his scoring ability is exactly what this team needed. Another transfer coming in hoping to provide a scoring punch is G Jalen Coleman-Lands (SR). He is entering his 7th season in college hoops, no joke, and comes in as an elite shooter that averaged 14 ppg a year ago. He will battle Christian Braun (JR) for the 5th starting spot, but even if he doesn’t start he will be huge for the offensive production of this team. The last transfer coming in is G Joseph Yesufu (SO) out of Drake, who absolutely exploded onto the scene down the stretch a season ago. In his last 9 games for Drake he averaged 23 ppg including 21 in their tourney win against Wichita St, and 26 in the loss to USC. Again, in Yesufu Self gets another proven scorer and a guy that’s not afraid to take the reins in big moments. Leading the Freshman class is 6’10 C Zach Clemence (#49). He is more of a traditional big, excelling with his back to the basket but he does have a promising looking shot that he will surely work to develop. His mobility and length help him be a positive impact on defense as well and he’ll compete with Mitch Lightfoot (SR) for backup C minutes behind McCormack. Also coming in looking to compete for minutes is 6’7” F KJ Adams (#73), who reminds me of former SMU star Semi Ojeleye. His physicality and strength help him excel at finishing inside, but he also has a nice looking jumper that should develop well and can attack off the bounce. He has star written all over him and he’ll compete to backup Jalen Wilson as a small ball 4. Next up 6’1 G Bobby Pettiford (#92). This kid is a freak athlete who can absolutely ball, but was a late bloomer and subsequently fairly under-recruited. Kansas found a diamond in the rough with Pettiford in my opinion, and while he may struggle to find consistent minutes this season, if he sticks it out then 2023 will be a breakout year for him for sure. Rounding out the class is another freak athlete in G Kyle Cuffe Jr (#112). Cuffe can fly and is lethal in transition, but his offensive game will need to develop, as he will likely redshirt this season.
The Jayhawks have it all this year, a big man to control the paint, athletic wings that can rebound and defend and several guards who can absolutely fill it up. I expect all 3 transfer G’s to be key contributors offensively, with Martin likely starting alongside Agbaji, Wilson, and McCormack. Either Braun or Coleman-Lands will take the 5th spot and complete a dangerous starting group. What really puts them at the top of the country to me is the depth that they have. To have say, Coleman-Lands, Yesufu, Dajuan Harris (SO), who didn’t get a ton of minutes but produced when he did a year ago, along with the talented freshman coming in all off the bench is an amazing thing for Self. If there’s a major concern it would be how do the transfers gel, especially defensively? Agbaji and Garrett a year ago were a nightmare for opposing offenses, so Martin JCL and Yesufu will come into a program that prides itself in defending at a high level. If that becomes a problem there could be some friction. Ultimately I think these guys have to know what they’re in for, and Self is able to find some cohesion with this group. Candidly, I’m putting a futures bet on Kansas to get to the Final Four and that’s precisely what I expect at this stage. All eyes on Phog Allen Fieldhouse as the king reclaims his throne in the Big 12.