A lot can happen in 10-plus months, but right this minute it feels as if John Calipari and Bill Self will coach against each other in the national-title game for the third time in seven years next April in Cowboys Stadium.
Sure, defending champion Louisville and usual suspects Duke and Michigan State could spoil that rubber match, but landing Andrew Wiggins pushes Kansas right there with anybody. If it happens, it won’t be the first time Self draws a great deal out of a team that sends five new starters out for the center jump. Two of his nine consecutive Big 12 titles came after he lost all five starters.
If Self can convince immediately eligible post player Tarik Black, a bruiser who would complement Perry Ellis perfectly, that Kansas is his best available launching pad to an NBA career, the Jayhawks would boast serious depth at every position.
At the moment, Wiggins, fellow wing Wayne Selden and Ellis, the program’s three McDonald’s All-Americans, shape up as the lone sure starters. Either the 6-foot-5 Selden or 6-7 Wiggins could play inside when Self wants to run with a small lineup.
KU’s coaches think Frank Mason, a pure point guard, has the ability to push improving veteran Naadir Tharpe for starting honors and recruit Conner Frankamp has such deep shooting range he’ll be difficult to keep off the court, even though the 6-footer weighs just 155 pounds.
Landing Black, whose ability to graduate in three years from Memphis prevents him from having to sit out a year, would give Self the depth he likes inside.
Joel Embiid, a 7-foot, 225-pound native of Cameroon, is the most intriguing prospect of a KU class ranked No. 2 (behind Kentucky) by recruiting analysts. Those who have seen him play marvel at not just his coordination for a man his size but his skill for someone who has played so little basketball. The only question centers on how soon he’ll put it together. Rivals ranks him as the No. 25 prospect in the Class of 2013. ESPN.com ranks him No. 6. At the moment, he's more a prospect than a player guaranteed to make a major instant impact.
With Embiid and third-year sophomore Jamari Traylor, Self has two shot-blocking options, a nice luxury. Landen Lucas, a red-shirt freshman, made big strides in building his body and post moves during his year as a practice player. He could push for playing time as well. Justin Wesley also returns.
In Frankamp, fellow recruit Brannen Greene, a 6-6, 215-pound wing from Monroe, Ga., and sophomore Andrew White III, Kansas has three reserve shooters capable of making teams cautious about playing zone defenses.
Wiggins can’t bring as much to the program as Sherron Collins, Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur did because they all stayed longer than the one year Wiggins will, but he can match them in the national-title department.
“Now I just hope he comes out for basketball,” Lawrence attorney Mick Allen said after learning of Wiggins’ decision. “I stole that line from my granddad (Phog Allen) when Wilt (Chamberlain) committed to KU.”