It’s game day (one that counts) for the first time in months, so we are kicking off the season with 21 questions to ask about this year’s Jayhawks. Yesterday, we dove into questions 1-9. Now, get ready for KU-Michigan State with questions 10-21.
Question 10: Who will be the Jayhawks’ MVP?
As you’ll see from the next three questions, we are breaking out the different definitions of MVP/best/best scorer so that there is no confusion (though there is still absolutely debate). Here, we are talking about literally the most valuable player (even though MVP usually means best). So, I’m approaching this as “Who is the guy whose play or absence impacts the team the most?”
For that definition, I’m going with David McCormack. Kansas is loaded with depth on the wing and at guard, but outside of Cam Martin and Zach Clemence, who are both unproven at the Big 12 level, McCormack is the guy down low. He may not have the best stats at the end of the year or be the All-American choice, but the Jayhawks must have McCormack at a dominant level to reach their ceiling.
Question 11: Who will be the Jayhawks’ best player?
So, now we get to who will be best—aka, who will be the face of the team and the guy who dominates all aspects of the game. There are no shortage of choices—including McCormack—but the choice for me here is Agbaji. A bit more consistency in his shot, some extra aggressiveness on the boards, and continued excellence on defense and Agbaji is on the lists of the nation’s best players. And the thing is, he’s not far away already. Now is the time to make that next jump after testing the NBA waters in the offseason.
Question 12: Who will be the Jayhawks’ leading scorer?
Don’t be surprised if entering postseason play, the Jayhawks have six guys averaging double figures and the leading scorer is at 15 or 16 points per game. Agbaji has to be near the top of the list here, but let’s talk about Remy Martin. Because purely based off usage and shots per game—which Self is trying to curb—Martin is going to have plenty of chances to score this year. And while Agbaji should be very consistent from game to game, I could see Martin being streakier and having games where he explodes for 25 points. I’ll put him at the top when it’s all said and done, but again, Agbaji, McCormack, and Wilson should be fairly close behind.
Question 13: What is the best non-conference game of the year?
If Missouri was going to be better this year, the return of the Border War to Allen Fieldhouse would be hard to beat. And it’s still going to be an unbelievable atmosphere. But the answer has to be Kentucky coming to Lawrence in late January as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Question 14: What will be this team’s identity?
Balance. I already mentioned that we could see six guys averaging double figures. But it’s not just about the offense. KenPom has KU starting the year as the fifth-best offense and fifth-best defense in the country. There will hopefully be plenty of firepower on offense, but don’t overlook the defense shutting teams down.
Question 15: What will be this team’s weakness?
Playing above the rim. While there are some good athletes on this team, this has not been a high-flying, above-the-rim-finishing team. McCormack isn’t going to posterize people like Doke did, and while Agbaji is good for one or two alley-oops a game, that’s about it. Hopefully KJ Adams changes this dynamic a bit.
Turnovers will also be something to watch. Last year, Kansas turned it over 12 times a game, and the Jayhawks had 10 in the exhibition game against Emporia State. Part of this is going to be the fact that so many new faces are being worked into the rotation, and it’s going to take time to get on the same page.
Question 16: How many victories will it take to win the Big 12?
Kansas, Texas, and Baylor are all in the top eight of the preseason AP Top 25, Texas Tech should be an NCAA Tournament team, and Oklahoma State would be if it weren’t for NCAA violations. Meaning, the Big 12 is going to be really good once again and unlike last year, there shouldn’t be the gap between the conference leader and the rest of the pack. In an 18-game conference season, it feels like 13-5 can get you a Big 12 title.
Question 17: Will we learn the fate of the NCAA investigation during the season?
Given that this has been going on this long and there’s no clear resolution makes me want to say no. Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star has a good breakdown, but knowing that Louisville and Arizona are ahead of KU on the timeline and still don’t know their fate, I think no is a good bet.
Question 18: Who is currently the biggest KU rival that the Jayhawks will play this year: K-State, Missouri, or Kentucky?
This is a fascinating question depending on what you believe is most important. K-State is the only rivalry where the teams still play every year, but the purple Wildcats have been so bad in basketball that I don’t think KSU can be the answer. Missouri is in a similar boat, but the history and hatred is so much stronger than with KSU (who is often looked at as a little brother) that it makes up for any imbalance in basketball talent. Meanwhile, Kentucky and KU are fighting for the most wins of all time and are always in competition for bragging rights as one of the best programs in the country.
Given that many of us who are reading this are living in fairly close vicinity to Missouri fans who like to talk trash as much as they throw it, I think Missouri narrowly edges out Kentucky. Just think about who would be the most insufferable if Kansas lost. It has to be Missouri.
Question 19: Will K-State or Missouri keep the final score within eight points in any of the games?
Speaking of rivalries with imbalances in talent...Missouri is currently 96th in KenPom, while K-State is 82nd. A lot could change by the time that KU and KSU play for the final time on Feb. 22 in Allen Fieldhouse, but I think the only chance of this being a close game at the end is in Manhattan on January 22. KenPom has KU by eight in that game. I’ll say no, though K-State keeps it to nine or 10 in Manhattan.
Question 20: Will KU be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
It seems difficult to imagine Gonzaga not getting one of these coveted spots. The winner of the Big Ten (whether Michigan, Purdue, or Illinois) would likely get another, unless it’s complete cannibalism, in which case Duke or Villanova could be in play. So, if you think Kansas wins the Big 12 over Texas and Baylor, the Jayhawks will get a one seed wrapped up. And while Nova, Duke, and a few others will make a push, there’s also a scenario where Kansas and Texas both get the last two spots.
Question 21: Will Mitch Lightfoot actually leave campus after the season?
We shouldn’t believe it until we see it.