Teams that make it to the Final Four generally feature deep rosters packed with versatile players. Those advantages make it difficult for opposing coaches to figure out how to beat them because they have an answer for everything. Looking ahead to 2009-2010, no roster in the country has more depth and more flexibility than that of Kansas University.
Consider various lineups KU coach Bill Self can send onto the court to meet whatever need surfaces during a game.
Possible starting five: Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris, Cole Aldrich. Then again, Taylor and Marcus Morris only earn starts by outplaying stiffer competition than what they faced to get minutes as freshmen.
Team How’s The Weather Up There: Taylor, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Aldrich. (By the way, the weather’s lousy up there, same as it is down here.)
Team In Your Face for 94 Feet: Elijah Johnson, Taylor, C.J. Henry, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson. While Collins, Aldrich and Xavier Henry take breathers together — never a viable option in tight games last season — full-court pressure is applied. Every pass is challenged as passing lanes are patrolled by long-armed athletes with quick feet. Panic spreads, heads hang, the crowd goes nuts, the rout is on.
Team Defense: C.J. Henry, Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris, Robinson, Aldrich. After the game, the coach of the team that lost by 40 points says, “We had a chance to close the gap when Collins was on the bench, but we weren’t hitting our shots. We were getting open looks. We just weren’t hitting our shots.” Easy for him to say.
Team Almost Memphis: C.J. Henry, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris, Robinson, Markieff Morris. Robinson narrowed his choices to Kansas and Memphis before opting for the Jayhawks. C.J. Henry spent a year enrolled at Memphis but sat out the basketball season because of an injury. Xavier initially signed with the Tigers and was granted his release when John Calipari left for Kentucky. The Morris twins initially made oral commitments to Memphis and de-committed before the signing period. The fact those five players — grouped in a category that has nothing to do with their body types or the positions they play — easily could be found on the court playing together next season illustrates just how many versatile athletes are on the roster.
Another random grouping: Six of the 14 players (13 with scholarships, plus C.J. Henry) played high school basketball east of the Mississippi River. Make Mario Little the sixth man and try your luck with this starting five: Collins, Taylor, Marcus Morris, Robinson, Markieff Morris.
Self will have so much versatile depth at his disposal that he’ll have an answer for everything, as he did when Kansas went 37-3 with Collins, Sasha Kaun and Aldrich coming off the bench. That doesn’t mean Kansas will win its second national championship in three seasons — the odds are against any one school winning it all — but it does mean it has as good a shot as any team to make it to the Final Four.
From Calipari leaving Memphis to Quintrell Thomas and Tyrone Appleton transferring, everything fell into place perfectly to stack the deck.