Published April 19, 2010
Don't expect Kansas to be this year's North Carolina.
The Jayhawks will lose as much as any team in the nation not named Kentucky, but Bill Self's program won't take a tumble much like the one that Roy Williams and the Tar Heels experienced this season.
Self loses senior point guard Sherron Collins, junior big man Cole Aldrich and he will say good-bye to freshman wing Xavier Henry.
That's two potential lottery selections and another possible first-rounder.
But with the addition of talented freshman floor leader Josh Selby, who committed to the Jayhawks over the weekend, to a team that entered this past season with as much depth as anyone, Kansas will likely still be a Sweet 16 and maybe even a Final Four team this year.
Former Kansas and current Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers, better known as the one who made The Shot to give the Jayhawks the national championship, appeared shocked when I mentioned that to him the other night.
"I think they will be good, but Final Four?" he questioned. "Really?"
It's not out of the question.
Especially with another ho-hum, lackluster freshman class making its way into the college basketball ranks.
Selby will join a guard corps that includes veterans Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and promising freshman Elijah Johnson.
That's a backcourt in terms of depth and talent that could rival just about any in the entire nation.
The frontcourt will be formidable as well.
The Morris Twins -- Marcus and Markieff -- are back up front along with a couple of big men who should get an opportunity to showcase themselves: 7-footer Jeff Withey, who transferred from Arizona, and athletic, relentless power forward Thomas Robinson.
Marcus Morris emerged as one of the nation's most underrated players a year ago and Markieff could be ready to do the same this season with the departure of Aldrich. Withey is long and athletic and Robinson's work ethic will make him invaluable to the Wildcats.
Then there are guys like Mario Little and Travis Releford who sat out last season as redshirts, but should fight for significant playing time this year.
That's 11 guys by my count who can contribute.
The major question comes, though, in the form of leadership and toughness.
Selby, who hails from Baltimore, will bring toughness and could wind up being a more talented version of Collins down the road. He's athletic, a little bigger than Collins, can get his own shot virtually whenever he wants and is also capable of making his teammates better.
You can make an argument that he is the most talented guard in the country -- although most would give the slight nod to Kentucky-bound Brandon Knight.
But it's highly unlikely Selby will turn into the leader that Collins became over his four years in Lawrence -- largely because Selby won't have a chance to mature into one since he's expected to try and bolt as quickly as possible for the NBA.
The Morris twins aren't exactly leaders, either.
That means it'll fall to guys like Taylor and Morningstar, who both endured their fair share of adversity last season.
Taylor was involved in the fracas with the football team in the preseason, suffered a thumb injury that hindered his play and was also the subject of discontent with his role. Morningstar was suspended for the first semester after being caught driving while intoxicated.
Kansas may have to do it next season with leadership by committee.
Self has been through this before. He rebuilt quickly after winning the national championship three years ago, but he was able to do so primarily because of Collins and Aldrich.
This time it may come without a bona-fide star -- and instead with power in numbers.