University of Kansas

KU basketball 2014-15: Rustin Dodd breaks down the Jayhawks

Junior Perry Ellis, from Wichita Heights, is KU’s top returning scorer at 13.5 points.
Junior Perry Ellis, from Wichita Heights, is KU’s top returning scorer at 13.5 points. The Wichita Eagle

LAWRENCE — Last season, the Kansas Jayhawks finished 25-10 — the most losses of the Bill Self era — and lost in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament to Stanford, a No. 10 seed.

Kansas managed to win another Big 12 regular-season title, keeping alive an incredible streak of 10 straight conference championships, but the season left Self with one overriding feeling.

“It (stunk),” he said.

There were a number of contributing factors to the 25-10 record — the Jayhawks played one of the most demanding non-conference schedules in a generation, Self started three freshmen for most of the year, the point-guard position was an enigma, and a late-season injury to Joel Embiid left KU at less than 100 percent during March.

But one year later, with Embiid and Andrew Wiggins off to the NBA, it’s key to remember what felled Kansas in 2013-14. The Jayhawks are better positioned to avoid similar pratfalls this season, but some of the question marks — point guard, defense, three-point shooting — could persist during the season’s early months.

Start with point guard. Former starter Naadir Tharpe left Kansas last spring and sophomore guard Conner Frankamp announced his transfer in the days before the first exhibition game. That leaves sophomore Frank Mason and incoming freshman Devonte’ Graham as the only players with true point-guard skills on the roster. Mason will likely begin the season as the starter, but Self would like to return to the style of playing multiple ballhandlers on the floor at once. So Graham could command major minutes from the start.

Sophomore guard Wayne Selden, meanwhile, returns in the backcourt after starting all 35 games last season. Selden, a 6-foot-5 wing with pro potential, is healthy again after undergoing a minor knee procedure following last season. The Jayhawks will need him to a leader and a primary scoring option.

The rest of the guard rotation is still murky. Sophomore wing Brannen Greene returns, while freshman wing Kelly Oubre, a McDonald’s All-American, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a 17-year-old freshman from Ukraine, could each battle for minutes.

If the perimeter positions are fluid, there is stability at power forward. Self expects junior forward Perry Ellis to be the Jayhawks’ leading scorer, and after averaging 13.5 points as a sophomore, Ellis should be a candidate for All-Big 12 honors.

But who will start alongside Ellis? By December or January, it will likely be freshman forward Cliff Alexander, a Chicago native and consensus top-five recruit in the 2014 class. But it could take time. Alexander, a raw talent, is still adjusting to the college game and KU system. After Ellis and Alexander, the Jayhawks will rely on junior Jamari Traylor, sophomore Landen Lucas and junior Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson for depth in the frontcourt.

The frontcourt has depth and talent, but for the first time since 2010-11, the Jayhawks will not have a 7-foot rim protector in the starting lineup, and that could put more stress on the perimeter defense.

During his time at Kansas, Self has grown fond of a certain saying when discussing expectations. If the Jayhawks win their 11th straight Big 12 title and stay in the top 10 for most of the season, that would no doubt be a good season. But to have a season transform into great, Self says, you have to be great in March.

In Self’s 12th season, the Jayhawks have the talent and roster to win another Big 12 title and prepare for a long NCAA Tournament. But it’s the old concerns — point-guard play, defense, three-point shooting — that will determine if KU can once again be great.

Jayhawk men’s schedule

All times p.m.

Date

Opponent

TV

Time

Tuesday

Emporia St. (exh.)

Cox 22

7

Friday

UC Santa Barbara

Cox 122

7

Nov. 18

x-Kentucky

ESPN

8

Nov. 24

Rider

Cox 22

7

Nov. 27

y-Rhode Island

ESPN2

1:30

Nov. 28

y-Tennessee or Santa Clara

ESPN/U

TBA

Nov. 30

y-TBA

Cox 22

TBA

Dec. 5

Florida

ESPN

8

Dec. 10

at Georgetown

FS1

7

Dec. 13

z-Utah

ESPN

2:15

Dec. 20

La.-Lafayette

Cox 22

2

Dec. 22

at Temple

ESPN2

6

Dec. 30

Kent St.

Cox 22

7

Jan. 4

UNLV

KWCH

TBA

Jan. 7

at Baylor

ESPNU

8

Jan. 10

Texas Tech

ESPNU

2

Jan. 13

Oklahoma St.

ESPN2

6

Jan. 17

at Iowa St.

ESPN/2

TBA

Jan. 19

Oklahoma

ESPN

8

Jan. 24

at Texas

KWCH

1

Jan. 28

at TCU

ESPNU

8

Jan. 31

Kansas St.

ESPN/2

1

Feb. 2

Iowa St.

ESPN

8

Feb. 7

at Oklahoma St.

ESPN/2

1

Feb. 10

at Texas Tech

ESPN2

8

Feb. 14

Baylor

KWCH

Noon

Feb. 16

at West Virginia

ESPN

8

Feb. 21

TCU

ESPN/2

3

Feb. 23

at Kansas St.

ESPN

8

Feb. 28

Texas

ESPN/2

TBA

March 3

West Virginia

ESPN2

8

March 7

at Oklahoma

ESPN/2

TBA

March 11-14

z-Big 12 Tournament

x-at Indianapolis

y-at Orlando, Fla.

Jayhawk men’s roster

No.

Player

Pos.

Ht.

Yr.

Home (School)

0

Frank Mason III

G

5-11

So.

Petersburg, Va.

1

Wayne Selden Jr.

G

6-5

So.

Roxbury, Mass.

2

Cliff Alexander

F

6-8

Fr.

Chicago

4

Devonte’ Graham

G

6-2

Fr.

Raleigh, N.C.

5

Evan Manning

G

6-3

Jr.

Lawrence

10

Sviatoslav Mykhailuk

G

6-8

Fr.

Cherkasy, Ukraine

11

Tyler Self

G

6-2

So.

Lawrence (Free State)

12

Kelly Oubre Jr.

G

6-7

Fr.

New Orleans

14

Brannen Greene

G

6-7

So.

Juliette, Ga.

15

Christian Garrett

G

6-3

Sr.

Los Angeles

22

Josh Pollard

G

6-4

Fr.

Cedar Hills, Utah

31

Jamari Traylor

F

6-8

Jr.

Chicago

33

Landen Lucas

F

6-10

So.

Portland, Ore.

34

Perry Ellis

F

6-8

Jr.

Wichita (Heights)

42

Hunter Mickelson

F

6-10

Jr.

Jonesboro, Ark.

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