Posts Tagged predictions

2013-2014 KU basketball preview and predictions

Posted on: November 8th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments

My favorite quote about predictors and prognosticators comes from former Kansas City Star columnist, Bill Vaughan. He wrote: ”The groundhog is like most prophets; it delivers its prediction then disappears.” I generally have the same feeling about sports handicapping and preseason predictions.

They’re all made by groundhogs.

So let’s get this out of the way. I’m not a handicapper. I’m a fan. But I also hold my team to a higher standard than just about anyone else because I want what is best for them. In short, I like to think I can make impartial predictions, and I am happy to stand by them for the season and beyond.

This is the third iteration of the Jayhawk Talk season predictions blog post. The 2011-12 and 2012-13 predictions are linked. In 2011, I predicted KU to be a #2 seed in UNC’s bracket. Also predicted T-Rob to go from a 7 and 6 guy to a 17 and 10 guy. Nailed those. In 2012, I predicted KU’s non-conference and conference records accurately and said Withey wins defensive player of the year easily. Nailed those too.

I also predicted Big 12 championships for those two years, but that isn’t much of a prediction these days.

To be fair, I missed a bunch of stuff too. Namely that OSU would be #2 behind KU in 2011 (7th) and that Perry Ellis would lead us in scoring last year early in the season (lost his starting job). But the misses aren’t any fun to talk about. The same goes for this intro.

Let’s get into the 2013-14 Jayhawks, shall we?

(1) This Wiggins Fella. Forget talking about the Big 12 season or postseason. No Kansas blog post would be complete without spending an exorbitant amount of time on Andrew Wiggins. My prediction? He has a terrific season. Every reasonable college basketball fan will praise his athleticism and impact on the game. But to many, he’ll be a disappointment. That’s because I think he’ll average something like 15.5 points, 5.5 boards, 2 blocks, and 3 assists. He’ll potentially affect the game more on defense than offense (I think he’ll lead the team in blocks). And his presence on the court alone will open up the offense in other places. In short, I think he’ll be a difference maker. Even if his stats don’t bear it out.

(2) Non-Conference Record.  There are 13 non-conference games with marquee matchups against Duke, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Georgetown. It is a ridiculously difficult schedule — one that will be nearly impossible to navigate without yielding a loss. My prediction is that KU ends up at 11-2, which I think most reasonable fans would take. Most likely losses include Duke and Florida. The good news is that the Big 12 season should be an easier slate than the non-conference season, leaving the possibility for a great tournament seed and very high ranking by the end of the year.

(3) Conference Record. KU has an enormous advantage over the Big 12 due to its ridiculous home court advantage. Barring injury, the Jayhawks will be favored in every game played at home. With a 9-0 head start on the league, the team only has to go 6-3 or better on the road to pretty much guarantee a share of the season title. I believe that will be the exact record at the end of the conference season, 15-3. Losses could occur @KSU, @ISU, @OSU, or @Baylor. I will say this… I don’t think TCU will be one of the losses for the second year in a row.

(4) Big 12 Champs. It’s impossible to predict any other team to win the Big 12 regular season title until it actually happens. And, well, I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. It’s not that KU is overwhelmingly better than teams like OSU, Baylor, or ISU. There are some really good players in the league this year. The difference is KU’s incredible home court advantage, Bill Self’s in-season coaching, and the general pedigree of winning these things. The only remaining question is how long it takes to see a picture of Self wearing all ten rings.

(5) Rotation. The rotation seems to be the hot button topic among KU diehards. For the first time in a long time, there is a ridiculous amount of depth on this KU team. We know the starters are going to be Ellis, Tharpe, Black, Wiggins, and Selden. What we don’t know is how deep Self will go on the bench. I predict the main rotation to include Embiid, Traylor, White, and Mason. That’s 9 guys. Rarely has a Bill Self team gone beyond 8 or 9, much less 10. As a result, I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of Greene or Frankamp this season, except when the team needs a spark.

(6) Don’t forget about the veterans. This team has a great deal of hype, largely due to the best recruiting class Bill Self has ever brought to KU. Wiggins, Selden, and Embiid will all play a lot of minutes and will be a huge part of the success of the team. But even though KU returns no starters from the 2012-13 season, it does have legitimate veteran presence. Perry Ellis is a monster (more to come on that) and if the two exhibition games are any representation at all, Naadir Tharpe is a different player (15 assists, 0 turnovers). Jamari Traylor also has a role on this team (reports are that Self has been having him watch tape of Kevin Young to show him the type of energy he needs to bring to get minutes). In short, the vets will be just as important as the freshmen, especially early on when the lights are still bright.

(7) Perry Ellis. This is a bad, bad man. He may be quiet. He may not do anything flashy. But Perry is a true assassin with the basketball in his hands. The last third of the 2012-13 season was his coming out party, even if some fans expected to see it earlier. My prediction is that he will lead this team in scoring. Even over that Wiggins guy. Sure, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson have been named Preseason All-Big 12 first teamers and Ellis was not on the list. I predict Ellis will force voters to remove one of these guys at the end of the season.

(8) Offense. I believe the normal Bill Self offense will be on display most of the time. In fact if you aren’t watching closely, it may seem similar to past years. You’ll still see the high-low motion. You’ll still see the same ball movement and inside-out attack. There will be a few differences, though. Self will most certainly install a “Wiggins Package” of plays, designed to get Andrew one-on-one against a single defender. The same can be said for Selden, though his plays may revolve more around posting up his (much smaller) defender. These two players are too valuable on the offensive end not to feature them in NBA-type isolation sets. It will be interesting to see how often these plays occur and how they assimilate into the overall offense. It is also worth noting that because of the team’s depth, there are multiple opportunities for mismatches on the offensive end that could change game to game. We have the low block banger bigs (Black, Jamari), the skilled and quicker bigs (Perry, Embiid), the jet off the bench (Mason), and the 3-point assassins (Greene, Frankamp, White). Depending on the defense, the game plan could change from game to game when it comes to the rotation.

(9) Defense. It is impossible to replace Jeff Withey. His impact on the defensive side of the ball was immeasurable. He allowed our guards to gamble a bit because the guards knew Withey was behind them scaring penetration away from the paint. This team will need to be much more sound when it comes to on-ball defense because there isn’t a bonafide rim protector in the paint this year. Through two exhibition games, you have probably heard Self mention more than once that on-ball defense is the area where the team could use the most improvement. The good news is the starters should, in theory, be great on-ball defenders. Tharpe was a bit of a liability on the defensive end last year, but hopefully he has improved. Wiggins and Selden are both so long and athletic that they should, in theory, be able to learn to play great defense. Black also provides a new dynamic on defense that we did not have before he transferred to KU. Remember how Perry got knocked around the block by bigger guys last year? That won’t be the case with Black. He is the one who knocks.

(10) Overall Record. For those math majors out there, I have predicted 11-2 for the non-con schedule and 15-3 for the conference slate. That’s a lovely 26-5 record, good for a #2 seed in the tourney.

(11) Tourney. Last year I said the Jayhawks were an “Elite 8 caliber” team. This year is different. While college basketball as a whole has some great teams this year, it’s hard to argue with the sentiment that this team has the talent to compete at the very highest level. Success in the tournament has so many variables, including luck of the draw, so it is often difficult to predict. That said, I think most KU fans would be disappointed not to make it out of the second weekend this year. KU ran into a buzz saw with Michigan last year. I predict this team has a little bit of luck and the Jayhawks reach the Final Four in Dallas. Dallas…an enormous KU alumni city.

From there, you never know what could happen.





2012-2013 KU basketball preview and predictions

Posted on: November 12th, 2012 by jayhawktalk 1 Comment

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).

I wrote this piece on November 12, 2011 last year. In that piece, I predicted KU to be a #2 seed in North Carolina’s bracket. Nailed that one. Also predicted we win the league (shocker) and that we’d finally have some good luck in the tourney. In the interest of full disclosure, I also predicted Oklahoma State would be good and that we’d see a lot of Tharpe, so what the hell do I know.

I do think predictions will be much tougher this year. We had a pretty good idea what we had in last year’s group. We knew T-Rob was a beast. We knew Tyshawn had all the talent in the world if he could keep his head on straight. This year there are so many unknowns.

Can Withey function absent Thomas drawing all the defense’s attention? Can Elijah run the offense? How will the freshmen react to playing huge roles right away? There are a million questions.

That’s what makes the predictions for the season all the more fun. Here we go:

(1) Big 12 Champs. Listen, there are challengers once again. But there have been challengers each of the last 8 seasons. Baylor looks phenomenal on paper. K-State will actually be really good. Once again, I’m a fan of Oklahoma State’s team. Texas and West Virginia both look legitimate. But I’m not looking through crimson and blue glasses here. I will not bet against Bill Self. Make it nine straight.

(2) Freshmen will lead. I believe a freshman will lead the Jayhawks in scoring this year. I think it will likely be Perry Ellis early (non-conference) and Ben McLemore late (conference). Perry will be 2nd team Big 12 by the end of the year and Ben will be Newcomer of the Year. They’re two very different players though. Perry is so polished. Ben has the crazy high ceiling. They’re going to be a blast to watch.

(3) Withey. I think KU fans might be expecting a little too much from Jeff this year. I think he’ll have a great year, but he may not meet the expectations some appear to be setting for him. He is a preseason first team all Big 12 selection and probably deserves to be. He can average 12.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game and be the best player on this team. What he brings to the defensive end cannot be overlooked or replicated. He is a true rim protector and if he rebounds and plays efficiently on offense, he’ll be perfect for this team. And he will be defensive player of the year in the Big 12.

(4) Rotation. We know the starting 5, and I expect it to remain the same all season: Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Perry Ellis, and Jeff Withey. I believe Kevin Young will be the first man off the bench and will average the most minutes outside the starters. Naadir Tharpe will likely be the first guard off the bench. That makes 7 and generally Self doesn’t go beyond an 8 man rotation. Traylor will certainly get minutes, and I think that leaves Andrew White III and Rio Adams somewhat on the outside in terms of playing time. I think they’ll both play roles, though. Just not regular rotation guys.

(5) Non-Conference Schedule. KU has a 13 game non-conference schedule with marquee games against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Colorado. There are certainly some potential losses in that bunch, and we all saw through the exhibition season that this team will struggle at times. The good news is that this team will improve with every week of practice and should be primed for a great conference season run. I predict the Jayhawks will be 12-1 when Big 12 play opens against Iowa State.

(6) Big 12 Season. I predict we’ll have 4 losses in Big 12 play and will once again win the regular season championship. The Big 12 is strange this year in that there are quite a few teams that are “good” but I’m not sure there are any “great” teams. But here’s the deal. KU has 18 conference games, 9 at home and 9 on the road. At worst, KU wins 8 games at home, and will likely win all 9. That leaves 9 road conference games of which the Jayhawks will be favored in at least 7. I believe 4 losses sounds about right. And it should be enough to at least grab a share of the Big 12, if not win it outright.

(7) Postseason. For all the math people out there, I have thus far predicted 5 losses in 31 tries, which would give the Jayhawks a 26-5 record going into the Big 12 tourney. I believe that will be good enough for a #2 seed in the Midwest bracket. It ought to also be enough to give the Jayhawks a great chance to make a run in the tourney. This is an Elite 8 caliber team and anything above that will be absolutely house money. If McLemore ends up reaching anywhere close to his ceiling, it could be a very special year.



(8) Defense. They Jayhawks will have the best defense in the nation when Withey is on the court. It may not be all that close. The only weak link is Ellis, but with Withey on his other side, the paint will be covered against most teams. This particular team seems far more advanced on the defensive end early in the season than on the offensive end. They’re only going to improve from here. As I mentioned in my last post, we’ll struggle to score at times this year, but we’ll always be in the game because of defense.

(9) Offensive strategy. The key to Bill Self’s offense is ball movement. When the ball is swinging and the offensive is going inside-out, there will always be a wide open jump shot available. The difference between this team and last year’s team will be whether we settle for that jump shot or attempt to feed the post. We don’t have a replacement for Thomas Robinson. It will have to be a combination of multiple guys that will all need to step up. I said before that I believe Perry could lead us in scoring early and Ben could lead late. Elijah will also be a big factor in scoring. Beyond that, I believe Kevin Young, Withey, and Releford will all be around that 7-13 point range every game. I think the offensive breakdown will actually mirror the 2008 championship team relatively closely, where a different guy will lead in scoring each game.

(10) Overview. As far as expectations, I am somewhat lower on this team than I was last year’s team. I think we’ll struggle at the point guard position and will routinely rely on jump shots. I think we’ll go through periods in games where we just can’t score. The good news is our defense will always keep us in games and Self will have the guys on the same page after the Christmas break.  This is definitely an Elite 8 caliber team with a whole lot of upside. It could be a fun run in 2013.

Enjoy the ride and rock chalk!