Time for one of my favorite times of the year: way too early predictions! Yes, I’m one of those guys that likes to speak his mind on the team at the beginning of the season so that I can take credit (rare) for such brilliant foresight (or, you know, ignore that I wrote such a terrible prediction piece). While I have high expectations for the 2011-12 Kansas basketball team, I feel like I’m kind of alone this year.
Sure, we lost a ton of talent from last year. You’ve seen the numbers. Something like 60% of our scoring, 70% of our rebounding. 80% of our swag. Nevermind, Tyshawn is still here. Regardless, we lost a lot of guys. But we’ve been through this before. And, like before, we return two absolute studs in T-Rob and Taylor.
I have already written at length about how I believe these two will be an even more dynamic duo than Cole and Sherron were. I’m not going to get into that again, but what I will say is that we are still really talented. We have great leadership. And we still have a hell of a coach.
So without further adieu, allow me to give you 10 predictions for the season (**based on assumption that team stays relatively healthy**)
(1) Big 12 Champs! How can you bet against KU on this? You can’t. And neither did I. In fact, I even put my money where my mouth is, laying a bet down on KU at 7:4 odds to win the Big 12. For as much as people have hyped up Baylor and A&M and Texas (and to a lesser extent Missouri and Oklahoma State), I’m just not buying it.
(2) T-Rob is all-league and Tyshawn and Elijah are second-teamers. These three are going to be special to watch on the court together.
(3) We lose 4 games in the Big 12 and win the league outright. I think the next closest team will be Oklahoma State followed closely by Baylor, Texas, and Texas A&M.
(4) We will lose a couple of games that we really should not lose. I believe we’ll be hyped for all of the big names, and I think we’ll perform well in those. But I think one possible drawback to this team will be focus (and just too much swagger), and therefore a less talented team may sneak up on us. It will be important for our team leaders to keep our guys mentally hungry for every single game.
(5) Regardless of what the talking heads say, KU will hang with Kentucky. It may even go down to the last shot. I think it’s a much lower scoring game than most will predict, so watch the over/under. Also, if they press like they have been early on, we will absolutely win the game. I just like our upperclassmen vs. their freshmen, no matter how talented they are. Huge stage for this early in the season, and I think we’ll be more ready for it.
(6) Tyshawn will be a lot of fun to watch. Sure, he’s going to have his “Tyshawn moments,” but I think he realizes how important this year is for him. He’s going to rise up to the challenge.
(7) Robinson is going to lead the NCAA in put-back dunks. COUNT ON IT. I also think he’ll average around 17 and 10 for the year.
(8) KU will be a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. And we’ll probably be in North Carolina’s bracket…
(9) I think we’ll run quite a bit of the 3 guard lineup with Tharpe on the floor with Taylor and Elijah. I think we’ll see Travis at the 4 a lot during this set as well. Assuming T-Rob is in the game with the other 4, it’s got to be one of the most athletic lineups in the country (and in KU history).
(10) I’m a believer in this group. I really do think the sky is the limit assuming we can stay healthy. We have Final Four talent and we’re only going to improve as the season goes on. I think we’re due for some good luck in the tournament, and this team might just have what it takes to build a run.
So there you have it. You won’t find any bigger KU realist than me. I’m always happy to call the team out and tell it like it is. I am not looking behind crimson and blue colored glasses. I really truly believe this team is underrated and extraordinarily talented. Just be patient. It’s not always going to be pretty. But it sure as hell is going to be fun.