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Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the 2017-18 Jayhawks

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Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Whether it wraps up on a win or a loss, the end of any Kansas basketball season brings with it immediate questions about the future.

Who’s coming back? Who’s going pro? What does next year’s rotation look like? How many days until Late Night?

It’s an age old ritual for Kansas basketball fans and always brings with it some excitement and sadness.

This year, most of the sadness will come from the departure of seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas, two fan favorites who worked as hard as anybody and brought incredible consistency to the program during the past three seasons.

In the era of one-and-done players dominating headlines, four- and five-year guys like Mason and Lucas are not only a rare commodity but also real treats.

Following them out the door likely will be freshman phenom Josh Jackson, a projected top-three pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, who had a magnificent season for the Jayhawks and has everything one needs to become a terrific pro.

Beyond that, however, there are a few question marks, a few exciting prospects and even a couple of unknowns about what KU basketball will look like entering the 2017-18 season.

The following will break down two such scenarios, a best-case and worst-case look for next season.

Best-case scenario:

This one’s easy. Devonte’ Graham elects to return for his senior season, Svi Mykhailiuk joins him and the Jayhawks return a few key veterans and add some healthy bodies and exciting new faces to the lineup in preparation for a run at consecutive Big 12 title No. 14 and a return trip to the elusive Final Four.

In this scenario, one possible starting lineup would be:

G – Devonte’ Graham
G – Malik Newman
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Billy Preston
C – Udoka Azubuike

That fivesome is a preseason Top 10 team, maybe even Top 5, and would give KU a nice mix of veterans and newcomers, athleticism and size and a clear leader in Graham.

The bench then would be deeper than ever — especially when comparing it to this season’s paper thin rotation — and would feature all kinds of different options and combinations to throw on the floor.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk
G – Marcus Garrett
G – Sam Cunliffe (second semester)
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
F – Dwight Coleby
F – Mitch Lightfoot

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) pushes the ball up the court to Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) pushes the ball up the court to Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

I like Vick over Svi in the starting lineup because of his versatility and higher ceiling. Svi had a great junior season but Vick has the potential to explode during his third season at KU and offers all of the things Svi does in a much more athletic and explosive package.

Bragg is a bit of a mystery, as he was for most of the 2016-17 season, but, if he dedicates himself this summer and matures a little bit, a case could be made for him to become the player next season that many expected him to be this season. If he does that, he easily could slide into the starting spot occupied by Preston in this scenario. If not, he’s still a potential luxury off the bench. A couple of big ifs but a nice problem to have as long as he’s still around.

The other thing that must be considered in this scenario is Self’s potential to add another player or two. There are still a few point guards out there and you have to think KU will add one either in the Class of 2017 or possibly via the graduate transfer route.

In related news, I’ve seen and heard that five-star prospect Trevon Duval is leaning toward Duke and may announce this week, so KU fans might not want to hold their breath on him much longer.

Beyond that, adding a big man via transfer is definitely something that would make sense. Bragg, Coleby and Lightfoot were serviceable at times this season and all could improve a lot in the offseason, but it’s never a bad thing to have several options.

Either way, the group above is deep, talented, experienced, athletic and good enough to compete at the standard expected at Kansas. Adding another player or two to what’s listed above only would enhance that.

Worst-case scenario:

Although the mock drafts have him listed as a second-rounder, it’s definitely possible that Graham could leave early and decide to get his professional career under way. If he does, there’s a good chance that Svi, who’s still just 19, would follow him out the door, leaving KU without much experience and depth in the backcourt.

If that’s how things play out, the starting lineup next year would be hard to project because, as things stand today, KU does not have another obvious option at point guard. As mentioned above, it seems likely that they’ll add one, but if it’s a freshman, you’d be looking at a freshman running Bill Self’s team, either a yet-to-be-known player or Garrett.

Newman could play point but might be better off the ball as more of a pure scorer and Vick isn’t really an option.

There also are questions out there about whether Preston will actually be eligible. I’m assuming that will all work out, but since this is worst-case scenario, let’s say, at least initially, that it doesn’t.

With that in mind, here are a couple of potential lineups for next season, the first based on what we know today and the second based on future developments.

G – Malik Newman
G – Marcus Garrett
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike


G – PG to be determined
G – Malik Newman
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike

Kansas guard Malik Newman elevates to the bucket past LaGerald Vick during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Malik Newman elevates to the bucket past LaGerald Vick during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In both scenarios, the bench would more or less be the same as above — with Bragg as a starter instead of Preston — and you’re probably still looking at the Big 12 favorite and a Top 20 team.

What this whole exercise has taught me is that there are two Jayhawks I feel very solid about penciling into the starting lineup next year and a third that’s right behind them.

Whether Graham returns or not, Newman has a chance to lead the Jayhawks in scoring and could be the type of guard we haven’t seen all that often around here during recent seasons. He’s a scoring machine who can get to the rim, score off the bounce and also shoot from the outside and he learned a lot during his transfer season and will be determined to prove himself worthy of playing at a program like Kansas.

After Newman, Azubuike, the 7-footer whose absence in January, February and March was felt big time by this year’s team, will be next to impossible to keep out of the starting lineup, as well. He’s a load to handle, has good feet and hands and will provide KU with much more of a shot-blocking presence than anything they had this season.

Those two are a nice one-two punch to build around no matter who else is on the roster.

Based on the jump he made from his freshman to sophomore season, Vick also seems like a strong candidate to start no matter what. But with the potential for Svi to return still a factor, I’m not as sold on solidifying Vick as a starter, even though he seems like a better option for next season.

No matter how this all plays out, next season is going to feel a little different for longer than normal. With Mason and Lucas being such fixtures in the program for so many seasons, getting used to seeing Kansas basketball without them will take some time.

The team’s trip to Italy this summer will help the Jayhawks build a bond and find their new chemistry, and that also wil give fans a head-start on familiarizing themselves with the new faces.

For now, there’s still a bunch up in the air, and even though the season is over, there’s still plenty of Kansas basketball news worth tracking and covering during the coming days, weeks and months.

In short, the beat goes on.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about facing Oregon during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about facing Oregon during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Comments

Marc Frey 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you.....helps most of us to look ahead. That is what makes being a sports fan, and a Jayhawk such a passion.

Kent Gaylor 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Matt - Thanks. Couple notes. Top 55, I think you meant Top 5. Worst Case. I guess my worst case includes Carlton leaving as he wasn't even used in yesterday's game.

Eliott Reeder 4 months, 3 weeks ago

My worst case has everything to do with Title IX investigations, legal issues, potential sanctions, further shameful and embarrassing behaviors coming to light, etc. If all of those things are avoided, I'll consider it the best case.

Alan Dickey 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice article.

I may be naïve, but I won't assume any freshmen or transfers starting at least at the start of the season where upperclassmen are available (i.e., there's no JJ on the roster). I had it as:

BEST CASE POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUP:
C - Udoka Azubuike / So. / 7-0 / 280;
PF - Carlton Bragg / Jr. / 6-10 / 245;
SF - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk / Sr. / 6-8 / 205;
SG - LaGerald Vick / Jr. / 6-5 / 175;
PG - Devonte Graham / Sr. / 6-2 / 185.

BEST CASE BENCH PLAYERS:
C - Dwight Coleby / RS-Sr. / 6-9 / 240;
PF - Billy Preston / Fr. / 6-10 / 230 (Rivals #8);
PF - Mitch Lightfoot / So. / 6-8 / 210;
SF - Sam Cunliffe / RS-So. / 6-6 / 190 (Rivals #36) (ASU transfer; eligible 12/2017);
SG - Malik Newman / RS-So / 6-3 / 190 (Rivals #8) (Miss. St. transfer);
PG - Marcus Garrett / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #37).

A potentially great lineup that could do anything.

WORST CASE POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUP:
C - Udoka Azubuike / So. / 7-0 / 280;
PF - Carlton Bragg / Jr. / 6-10 / 245;
SF - LaGerald Vick / Jr. / 6-5 / 175;
SG - Malik Newman / RS-So / 6-3 / 190 (Rivals #8) (Miss. St. transfer);
PG - Marcus Garrett / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #37).

WORST CASE BENCH PLAYERS:
C - Dwight Coleby / RS-Sr. / 6-9 / 240 (transfer from Miss.);
PF - Billy Preston / Fr. / 6-10 / 230 (Rivals #8);
PF - Mitch Lightfoot / So. / 6-8 / 210;
SG - Sam Cunliffe / RS-So. / 6-6 / 190 (Rivals #36) (ASU transfer; eligible 12/2017).

A potentially good lineup that could do a lot.

Marius Rowlanski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

IF Preston academically qualifies there is little doubt in my mind that he will be the starting 4. He can extend the defense with his legitimate three-point shooting and with Azubuike on the inside, create some really tough matchups for our opponents.

Now, if Bragg finally makes that leap then all bets are off. I have nothing but positive hopes for Bragg but it's getting close to put up or shut up time.

Jonathan Allison 4 months, 3 weeks ago

your assumption about starting upperclassmen over freshman and transfers is normally a good assumption for Bill Self. However, you cannot overlook the fact that Malik Newman at one point was considered as a OAD, has been on the team now for a year, and academically is a Jr.

Marius Rowlanski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Also, is Newman thinking in terms of playing one year at Kansas and moving on or is he prepared to play multiple seasons. Cunliffe, most likely, looks like a player who figures to be around several years and I'm sure Garrett is thinking the same.

If your Coach Self, do you play Newman at the expense of developing the multi-year players or simply play whoever is playing best?

Jonathan Allison 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Landen Lucas beat out Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo. Bill Self will give his star recruits opportunities to shine, but ultimately he is going to go to whoever gives him the best chance to win this season. If Cliff and Cheick had lived up to the expectations, then Lucas would have come off the bench every season until this year. This year Lucas was expected to start at C and be backed up by Udoka. Then Udoka came on strong and almost beat Lucas out until he got injured.

Layne Pierce 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I disagree on Vick and Svi, I think Vick is perfect coming off the bench, he is a spark, he is agressive. Svi is much better as a starter and a better passer, also less turnovers.

My starting lineup would be: Azubuike 7 ft So. He will average 10 pts a game, and 8 rebounds. Preston 6'10 Multifaceted Fr. He will average 10 pts or more Mykhailuk 6'8 Sr. He will average 15 pts next year, defense must improve Newman 6'3, he will average at least 15 pts, maybe 20. Graham 6'2 he will play off of Newman and Svi, and average 12-15 pts and 5 assists. Bench:
Vick 6'5 jr. great energy and defense off the bench, good shooter and rebounder, needs to improve rebounding. Will sub for guards, and Svi. Bragg, will play half the time and sub for both Azubuike and Preston Coleby will fight it out with Bragg, but will play some every game. Marcus Garrett - will sub after Vick for guards. This guy is a real sleeper.

P.S. I still believe that if Graham says he really is not coming back, that Duval will come to KU. Why hasn't he announced for Duke a long time ago?

Dirk Medema 4 months, 3 weeks ago

While I can easily see Trevon Duval going to Duke ("leaning" sounds like journobabble for I don't have anything concrete to base my opinion on and have to write something with the very realization that plenty of predictions have been wrong before. Anyone have a coin?), I can see it very much being a case for the elite of the elite prospects that they/he is waiting to see who goes pro and who returns both from the standpoint of who is crowding my position as well as who will be knocking down shots and tallying A's. Duke was a PG away from the team so many projected them to be this year. Depending on who returns to join the latest class determines whether he would be the missing link there next year, or just another link in the chain with others missing.

There's also another PG out there. A recommit from Gtown? Tremont Waters? Ranked 33rd, but would be a nice tandem to have alongside Garrett and Cunliffe for the future. I'm expecting Newman to be the next version of McLemore, exploding after a year of practicing the system, and declaring after next year.

Marius Rowlanski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

"I'm expecting Newman to be the next version of McLemore, exploding after a year of practicing the system, and declaring after next year."

How good would that be? I said this a few times this year that I thought we were one Udoka away from a national championship. As well as the 4 guard offense worked this year, it all came crashing down on a night when it seemed nobody other than Mason could score. It would be nice to see Coach Self having multiple options on the offensive end (as long as our bigs can't refrain from ridiculous fouls).

Ryan Zimmerman 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I was wondering the same thing on Tremont... I thought KU was very close with him prior to Georgetown. With Duval going to Duke, you'd think we'd be hitting up Tremont hard right about now. Any news on him, Matt? And Preston eligibility? Only one I've heard of outside of that is Mark Smith and who knows if we're on the radar or not. Thought he was always a Butler guy, but when UK and KU are knocking, who knows. As far as transfers, Any ideas on interest of Geno Thorpe?

Mike Greer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

It seems many of the top 5* guys want some assurance of being THE guy. That seems to have been the issue with many of the recruits that head off to other programs, like Young going to OU. Even as good as Josh Jackson is, he really wasn't THE guy, even he said it's Franks team. If Devonté comes back, it's likely going to be his team regardless of who comes in, even Duval. Maybe that's why he's looking at Duke, that appears to be one reason Young went to OU.

Marius Rowlanski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Just curious Mike, would you prefer Graham or the one and done (if he has the same positive contributions a.k.a. Jackson)?

Pius Waldman 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Hey Graham wants his jersey in the rafters and I believe he would get it after his senior season.Plus just think about Selden Alexander and the others that played D league. Graham definitely can improve his stock if he has a great season.

Michael Bennett 4 months, 3 weeks ago

https://www.zagsblog.com/2017/03/13/tremont-waters-holding-pattern-released-georgetown/

Tremont Waters has not received his release from Georgetown. No real favorites. Same suspects Duke, KU....

Ben Simonett 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Doesn't really matter. as long as we have this coach we can expect conference domination and tournament choke jobs.

the sample size is large enough. Bill Self cant coach the tournament

Jonathan Allison 4 months, 3 weeks ago

the sample size is large enough, bennybob a K-State troll.

As long as you've been a member of this website you show up faithfully year after year as soon KU is eliminated from the NCAAs.

Kent Gaylor 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Best Case set up for the tournament next year is First and Second Rounds in Wichita and then Midwest Regional in Omaha before heading to Final Four in San Antonio

Matt Tait 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Yeah, that's really almost as good as this year's set up. Nothing will ever be as tailor made as Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in KC, but Omaha's been good to KU and fans can gobble up those tickets early, too. And then Wichita is crazy close and a great place to start a run.

Marius Rowlanski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The Sprint Center hasn't always been Kansas friendly despite the home crowd. We lost to TCU to open up the BIG 12 tournament and then the deepest cut when we lost to Oregon.

Kansas lost to Baylor in 2012 who went on to lose to Missouri in the tournament championship.

Jeff Foster 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Do we really think Bragg will be back, either by his choice or Coach's? He was a major disappointment by both his and KU's expectations and his off the court legal endeavors, whether he did something or not, were part of the major distractions this year.

I'd love for him to stay if he can work is stuff out, he's obviously talented and could be an asset, but I'm like someone mentioned earlier, I thought with him not playing one minute last weekend, the writing was on the wall. Wouldn't be surprised to see that announcement come any day now that he's transferring somewhere.

Harlan Hobbs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Marius, I'll give my opinion in answering your question about a "one and done" versus Devonte. Point guard being the position that it is, I think I would rather have the experience of Devonte if he returns than a talented, though somewhat inexperienced, freshman.

On the other hand, I will readily admit that, when it came to the so called "wing" position at last season's end and we were debating the experience of Selden vs. the OAD talent of JJ, I voted for Jackson.

My gut tells me that Duval is not an option for KU and that he may just be waiting to get a feel if Frank Jackson is going to return to Duke. Even if Jackson does return to Duke, I think that Duval is confident enough to feel that he can take the job from him. That's probably why Duval's decision is reportedly imminent.

I also saw that 6'9" sophomore, Chase Jeter, says he will transfer from Duke. Any ideas on whether KU might be in the mix there?

Nick Kramer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Matt, You said, If Graham leaves, Svi may follow him out the door. I assumed these decisions are independent, but did you mean Svi's decision is linked with Graham's? Couple observations - I expect we'll switch back to the hi-lo next year, which will suit Carlton better, if he's willing to share time at the 4. Also having not seen Garrett, Cunliffe, or (Hello) Newman play, I'm hoping at least one is a penetrator al la Frank. It's just so important in today's game. Heard on the grapevine, Coach may be looking at a juco player - any names?

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