Kansas is a part of just about everyone’s top 10, and certainly Bill Self’s team is a strong contender. The predictions are beginning to be heard and the preseason honors are starting to pour in for KU. It’s no surprise the Jayhawks are picked to win yet another Big 12 title and contend for a national title.
Everywhere you turn this team has it all - experience, size, depth, speed, and hunger.
But there are still questions surrounding the program and Phog.net takes a look at the three big ones.
1. How will Brandon Rush respond to knee surgery?
Brandon’s tough break, turned into a blessing for KU.
Rush’s torn ACL took him out of the NBA Draft, and took KU to an even more polished elite team.
But Brandon’s health might be the biggest question heading into the 2007-2008 season and the one we won’t REALLY know the answer to until KU’s talented all-conference performer returns to the court. There are plenty of questions within this category too.
Like when will Brandon actually return? Right now Brandon’s return is projected to be December 1st. It could be later. It could be earlier.
But when he does lace them up again, will it be the same 6-6 swing man who led KU in scoring the last two seasons? All indications are that Rush’s rehab is progressing nicely but until he starts running, jumping, and absorbing contact no one will really know at what percentage he’ll play at. Knee surgery wrecks havoc with your mind and your body. It’s not uncommon to take a year to regain your full potential and ability. It happens to the best of athletes.
Rest-assured a 100 percent Brandon Rush make the Jayhawks a serious contender for a national title. A Rush functioning at 60-70 percent may not cut it for KU.
People quickly forget how valuable Rush is on the defensive end. Will he regain his lateral quickness and be ready to guard some tough opposition?
What if Brandon suffers a setback? Is a redshirt year possible? After all laboring through a junior year of play would probably not be the way Rush would want to aim to impress heading into the 2008 NBA Draft.
So then of course the final question would be -- do the Jayhawks have enough firepower to contend for a national title without the Kansas City native?
All eyes will be on Rush for most of the preseason and up until conference play starts.
2. Is this the year Bill Self finally reaches the Final Four?
See number 1. It could have a lot to do with the answer to this one.
It’s Self’s fifth season at KU, his longest tenure at a major program, but the natives easily get restless in Lawrence. Certainly last season’s Elite 8 appearance helped quiet the critics a bit, but this fan base wants championships.
But no one wants to compete in the Final Four more than Self. Once Rush said he was returning, it seemed as if all the pieces were suddenly in place for a run deep into the 2008 NCAA Tournament. For Self and Co. this season it’s San Antonio or bust. It might be awhile before Self assembles such experienced pieces to the puzzle.
UCLA coach Ben Howland echoed the sentiments of many coaches around the country with his postgame comments after ousting KU from the Big Dance last season. Howland praised Self’s ability as a coach and also stated it was really only a matter of time before KU’s top dog adds his name to the list of coaches who have earned college hoops highest honor.
3. Will Darrell Arthur become a go-to-guy for Kansas?
During his freshman campaign, Darrell Arthur started seven games for Bill Self – that’s likely to change this season.
Prior to year one at KU, the 6-9 forward would’ve had a choice between the crimson and blue or the NBA if not for the NBA’s age restriction. There were high expectations surrounding the Dallas product.
There’s no doubt that Shady will be paid to play this game professionally some day but his freshman year showed a couple of years of development wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Arthur’s freshman year was far from a disappointment but after leading the Jayhawks in scoring in three of their first seven games, including back-to-back 20-point efforts, Arthur was a bit inconsistent. Welcome to freshman college basketball.
Foul problems certainly contributed to his problems and Self found his prized recruit better-served coming off the bench.
Arthur averaged just under 10 points in 2006-2007 in 19.0 minutes per game, and was third on the team in rebounding (4.7). But this season everyone expects Shady to fill the shoes of Julian Wright who left Lawrence early for the NBA.
He’s one of Jay Bilas’ top six Wooden candidates and the Big 12 coaches voted him first team all conference in the preseason. So KU fans aren’t the only ones who think the sky is the limit for this forward.
Shady’s progress this summer surely took a hit when a stress fracture was discovered. The setback kept Darrell out of action for the USA U-19 squad. From what we’ve heard the injury hasn’t stunted his development. Shady was 0-5 from three last season and word is his range now extends past the three-point line. The versatile forward with the deft shooting touch will be a big part of Self’s game plan this season.