Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Mitch Lightfoot
For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.
For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.
Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.
We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.
Lightfoot played in 38 of KU's 39 games this season — missing only the Duke game in the Elite Eight — and made seven starts along the way, including KU's first- and second-round NCAA Tournament victories.
He finished the season averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, had a couple of monster efforts (at TCU is the first one that comes to mind and the Big 12 tourney win over Oklahoma State also is up there) while carving out a key role in the Jayhawks' thin front court.
He Will: Be the leader of the KU big men – This one is hard to grade because being a leader means different things to different people. While there's no doubt that sophomore center Udoka Azubuike was KU's most important big man and also the leader of the group in terms of statistics, Lightfoot definitely took a step forward in trying to lead the unit in practices, with his voice and by working hard and setting a good example. We'll go with half credit on this one.
He Won't: Average more than 15 minutes a game – Nailed it. Despite being KU's only big man who was available for every game this season, the sophomore forward played 531 minutes in 38 games for an average of 13.97 minutes per night. And despite the low overall average, there were 15 games this season in which Lightfoot played more than 15 minutes. But those were offset by 13 games in which Lightfoot played single-digit minutes or did not play at all.
He Might: Increase his playing time if he can hit the outside shot – I'm going to call this a miss. Lightfoot did improve his shot and made six of 17 from 3-point range this season, but his ability to shoot better from the outside had nothing to do with his usage. Lightfoot was a big man through and through this season. It will be interesting to see where his role goes in the future, as KU restocks its front court and if Lightfoot continues to work on his outside game.
All in all, Lightfoot had a solid season during his second year as a Jayhawk and first real season as a rotation guy. He wasn't perfect, but he competed hard, did whatever was asked of him and helped keep KU afloat on nights when Azubuike got in foul trouble.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of his career from here. But armed with valuable experience and an ever-improving game, it's not hard to see him finding some sort of role during the next two, or perhaps even three, seasons.
My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.
A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season