Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/28/13
For more preseason coverage of the 2013-14 college basketball season, click here. You want to know how great Kansas coach Bill Self is at recruiting and developing talent? The Jayhawks hold the unique distinction of being the only team in our Preseason Top 25 rankings to return none of their five starters from the previous year, and yet they still landed in the top five. Last year's squad, which earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament and reached the Sweet Sixteen, essentially went seven deep. However, the entire starting five is gone, including NBA first-round draft picks Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey, point guard Elijah Johnson, guard Travis Releford, and forward Kevin Young. Self has reloaded with an extremely talented recruiting class. It was already considered one of the best in the country, with Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Conner Frankamp, and Brannen Greene coming to Lawrence. That was, of course, before May 14, when Self landed a guy named Andrew Wiggins (you may have heard of him by now). With the nation's top recruit on board, the sky is the limit for this team. Think about this: Sports Illustrated called Duke's Jabari Parker the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, and then Wiggins reclassified to the class of 2013 and immediately leapfrogged Parker as the number one recruit. The do-it-all forward is an athletic freak, who himself has drawn comparisons to LeBron. It's easy to get caught up in the Wiggins hype, but don't think that he completely overshadows the other freshmen. Greene may not play much his first year, but Frankamp is a sharpshooter capable of stretching defenses and providing a quick burst of scoring off the bench. Selden is a physically imposing wing player (he weighs 30 pounds heavier than Wiggins despite being three inches shorter) who can finish well at the basket and defend perimeter players of any shape or size. With the nation's top recruit on board, the sky is the limit for this team. And despite only beginning basketball at 16, Embiid quickly rose up the ranks to become the No. 1 center in the 2013 class according to ESPN. He's quite raw offensively, but could be a similar type of defensive stopper that Withey was for the Jayhawks. The only reason Embiid won't start is because of Kansas's other new addition, Tarik Black. He averaged 9.3 PPG and 4.9 RPG in three years at Memphis before graduating, giving him the most college experience of anyone on Kansas' team. As a graduate transfer, Black is allowed to play right away for the Jayhawks, and he will offer much needed depth inside to go along with Embiid. The only returning players who garnered significant playing time last season are Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis. Even though the Jayhawks' newcomers are gifted, the team will still lean on these two. Tharpe, a junior, will take over as the Jayhawks' point guard and on-court leader. Ellis, a sophomore, was efficient in limited stretches, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in just 13.6 MPG. Considering the balanced attack, Self will likely employ with this team and the extra opportunities that will surely come Ellis' way, it's not unreasonable to think he could lead this team in scoring. Despite the team's inexperience, Kansas is still expected to earn its tenth consecutive win or share of the Big 12 crown. Oklahoma State is the only legitimate challenger in the conference, but even a second place finish will have the folks in Lawrence disappointed. Self certainly won't be resting on his laurels until league play, though, giving this young group a tough non-conference slate. The Jayhawks will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and also have dates with Duke, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico. Still, you have to wonder if this team is prepared to be a true title contender. A great recruiting class doesn't necessarily imply a good year; just ask last year's Kentucky and UCLA teams. Scouts and fans alike can drool over the potential these kids have all they want, but potential doesn't win games. All that matters is how talented this team is right now. The Jayhawks will have to grow up quickly; their schedule and the expectations placed upon them demand they do.
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