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Jayhawks higher than expected in early look at 2019-2020 Top 25 rankings

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Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) lets an arrow fly after a three-pointer by teammate Devon Dotson during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) lets an arrow fly after a three-pointer by teammate Devon Dotson during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Virginia’s thrilling, overtime victory over Texas Tech in Monday night’s national championship game officially brought the curtain down on another season of college basketball.

I’m not sure we’ll ever get tired of telling the stories of the remarkable journey from first 1 seed to lose to a 16 one year and national champion the next, nor will we ever fully be able to comprehend exactly how the Cavaliers did it.

Facing win probabilities of 9 percent with 16 seconds to play in the Elite Eight against Purdue, 4 percent with 17 seconds left against Auburn in the Final Four and 11.7 percent with 22 seconds to play in the title game on Monday night, UVA somehow won all three games and claimed a remarkable national title.

The odds of winning all three of those backs-to-the-wall battles in consecutive rounds are an astonishing 1 in 2,500. And the Cavs did it. Hats off to them and the Red Raiders, who made a heck of a run and showed the college basketball world that there’s more in the Big 12 than just Kansas.

Having said that, with the world quickly shifting to the first glimpses of the 2019-20 season, it’s worth noting that Las Vegas odds have KU and Texas Tech as the two Big 12 teams with the best odds of winning the 2020 national title.

Neither are particularly good, either. KU and Tech are both listed as 30-1 favorites to win it all next season, with Texas, at 40-1 and Iowa State at 60-1 just behind them.

The six other Big 12 programs all have odds of 100-1 or worse, including 2019 co-champ K-State, which checks in at 500-1.

Rosters will change, time will pass and those numbers — along with all of the rest — will go up and down, down and back up in the next 11 months. And nothing will really matter until next March.

But in true end-of-season tradition, it’s time to take a quick look around the college basketball landscape to see where several national media outlets have the 2019-20 Jayhawks ranked entering the offseason.

I’ll be honest. When I started looking at these late Monday night, I was expecting Kansas to check in somewhere in the 17-23 range on most rankings. The fact that the Jayhawks were listed higher than that in all eight polls was somewhat surprising considering the roster is not anywhere close to set or complete.

The average KU ranking in the eight polls shown below is No. 11, with a high of No. 8 and a low of No. 14.

That early praise clearly speaks to the talent of the players expected to return and the faith that so many have in Bill Self and his coaching staff to not only put the right pieces together but also to coach them up once they’re on campus and in uniform.

Plenty of time to sort all of that out in the days, weeks and months ahead.

For now, here’s a quick glance at a few of those way-too-early Top 25 lists for the 2019-20 season, including KU's first-glance ranking and an explanation from each site about why they put the Jayhawks where they did.

ESPN.com

KU’s ranking: No. 13

Why this high: "For the first time in 15 seasons, Bill Self is not coaching the defending Big 12 regular-season champions. Can the Jayhawks start a new streak next season? There are a lot of questions to be answered in Lawrence. Lagerald Vickis gone, Charlie Moore is gone, Dedric Lawson is likely gone, KJ Lawson is likely gone. What will Quentin Grimes and Udoka Azubuike decide to do? If both Grimes and Azubuike return, they will join high-level point guard Devon Dotson and part-time starters Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett and David McCormack."

The Sporting News

KU’s ranking: No. 12

Why this high: "It’s hard imagine coach Bill Self is done roster-building with no signed impact recruits and so many players elsewhere lined up to transfer schools."

Watch Stadium

KU’s ranking: No. 8

Why this high: "There are plenty of question marks here regarding whether Quentin Grimes, Udoka Azubuike and even Silvio De Sousa (pending an appeal) return. However, Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack are all back."

The Athletic

KU's ranking: No. 14

Why this high: "To say this program is swirling in uncertainty is a vast understatement. Lawson and Grimes both have eligibility left, but from what I am hearing both are intent on entering the NBA Draft and staying there. Azubuike most likely will at least to test the waters. If he returns he will give the Jayhawks a badly needed anchor in the middle. Bill Self has yet to land a significant recruit, but KU is in the mix for several of the nation’s top unsigned prospects, most notably Matthew Hurt and Precious Achjiuwa. It is not clear just how much the program’s recruiting efforts are being impaired by the ongoing imbroglio with the NCAA stemming from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, but it’s certainly not helping."

CBS Sports

KU’s ranking: No. 11

Why this high: Although there’s no real blurb written, it’s worth noting here that Gary Parrish is taking into account the fact that he expects both Udoka Azubuike and Quentin Grimes to return to Kansas next season. I don’t see it — at all — but if they’re both back it’s easy to see how KU could have a Top 10-type team.

SI.com

KU’s ranking: No. 12

Why this high: "Both Lawson brothers are out the door and Kansas’s season was weird as it was, but it's also getting a decent amount back. Udoka Azubuike, Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett should be back, and Quentin Grimes should probably stay. Although the Jayhawks' recruiting class looks underwhelming, this group should be expected to build on what was an uneven year overall. They may need a grad transfer or two to fill out the rotation."

Yahoo Sports!

KU’s ranking: No. 9

Why this high: No blurb given in this video breakdown of the Top 25, but there’s little doubt that Yahoo putting KU in its Top 10 is an indicator that they, too, are expecting the bulk of KU’s rotation — outside of Dedric Lawson — to return next season.

USA Today

KU's ranking: No. 9

Why this high: "First-team All-American Dedric Lawson intends to keep his name in the NBA draft and that leaves coach Bill Self with a roster of youngsters that never fully developed this season.. Where it gets interesting is if 6-11 big man Udoka Azubuikecomes back for his senior campaign. That'd give Kansas a much-needed size. Quentin Grimes should break out as a sophomore."

Comments

Doug Merrill 2 months, 2 weeks ago

While it is easy to blame refs, I think the high odds against the accomplishments of the Virginia team are explained by: 1. Their talent and coaching 2. Multiple bailouts by referees. Not only at the end of the game but throughout each, Purdue, Auburn and TTech were each victimized by very poor calls that advantaged Virginia repeatedly. That is not Virginia's fault, but they made it as far as they did with help. Conspiracy believers might see a connection to the NCAA's, CBS's and ESPN's love of their conference that bleeds into an overall atmosphere of favoritism for all things ACC. I might be one of those.

Ryan Zimmerman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Personally I like these rankings. I don't think you can expect anything better at this point and to be in the top 20 when losing Dedric and potentially others with virtually no "top recruits" coming in, I'd say this is more than fair ranking-wise

Dillon Davis 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah these rankings really mean nothing at this point. Especially because it's all predicated on who comes back and who doesn't and we won't have a firm answer on that until the end of May.

Layne Pierce 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The only thing these ratings tell us is that no matter who comes back we have something to work with. But without improved 3 pt shooting, defensive effort and better passing and ballhandling we are not going to improve our relative position, it could even go down.

Grimes I believe will come back, because he did not make the impression he wanted, and he certainly won't be a first round pick.

Doke I believe is done. To go another year with no money of any kind, and risk injury, just does not make much sense. Even if he is not drafted by NBA, somebody somewhere will pay good bucks to hire the irresistible force.

So that means we have DMac and a bunch of 6'5 players. Somewhere somehow we will have to find one or two big men, don't be surprised if we don't take one or grad transfers. Best case scenario, Silvio gets out of prison, but if not, he is gone also. Don't get me started on that one.

I digress, there will be not freshmen as excuses next year. This team will have a lot to prove, to themselves, and to their fans. One reason Grimes might not come back, is if he things Coach Self has lost confidence in him. I don't think so, but his playing time is going down, if there is not a return to his true level, and a focus and determination that frankly this year were not there. If Grimes could duplicate even the 15pt 5 rebound 5 assist couple of games that he had, then we will five more games than last year. DMac will just get better and better, Garrett is fantastic off the bench, and driving to the basket. Dotson is and will be great and the dish part of his game will develop even more. Ochai will have to take more mid-range jump shots, and then drive to the basket. Braun and McBride, both will have the opportunity to play some minutes, and of course Mitch is Mitch. It is exciting and scary to think about next year, because we could be better and we could be worse.

RCJH

Jay Scott 2 months, 2 weeks ago

A grad transfer at PF would be a game changer. John Mooney at ND seems like a bright fella. Is he graduating and looking to play at a Blue Blood? What about Nik Popovic at BC? Or Martin Krampelj at Creighton? He's been there 4 years and received a medical redshirt. Where's Tajuan Agee from Iona headed if Tim Cleuss takes over at St. John's? Josh Nebo at A&M is a 4 year Junior. Maybe he won't click with Buzz...

I'm sure that HCBS is on the trail of the next Reid Travis.

Dennis Strick 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Your takes are pointless. Please do us all a favor and stop posting here. Do you even watch or read about sports, basketball specifically, in this decade? Nebo to transfer again when he plays about an hour from his home to come play for us when his main reason for leaving St. Francis was so his parents could see him play more. Cleuss to St. John's? nit wit Bobby Hurley is going to St. Johns. The whole world knows it except you.

Jay Scott 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks Dennis. It's always fun to see you triggered. St John's is a promotion from ASU? Really? Funny how all the NY and national media also mention Cluess...

No player ever transferred up? Wonder why Nebo didn't go to a TX small school right out of HS?Kansas has NEVER been able to get Texas kids...

What are your nonsensical rants for the other 3 players? Did you predict Reid Travis to Kentucky?

Craig Carson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Honestly,unless they land Hurt and or Precious" I wouldn't even have KU ranked...the guys they have coming back haven't proven they can shoot consistently

Robert Brock 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Grimes is not returning. Hurt is going to choose Duke ten days from today. Achiuwa is not going to KU. Enaruna is not what KU wants.

Egad! Better pull out all the stops for Harlond Beverly’s signature and Silvio’s reenstatement.

Jay Scott 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What it is that makes you want to announce the same things over and over that you have no knowledge of whatsoever?

Barry Weiss 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I still have a very hard time understanding Grimes going anywhere. A solid year next year at KU, averaging 15 points per game, would give him a first round selection in next year's draft.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 2 months, 2 weeks ago

That's a pretty doom and gloom forecast. I'd take Harlond Beverly's commitment in a heartbeat though. That young man is going to be a stud. It will be tough to beat out Michigan & Michigan State for his services though.

Glen Miller 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think these rankings are more about the name across our chest and not the squad we are known to have coming back. Unless we add some serious firepower in the offseason, I have no idea how you rank us top 15...... unless you've downed a 5th of Jack Daniels. Lots of offseason left, but rankings at this point are as useful as a football bat.

Bj Cassady 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Saw on TV KU has the 8th best recruiting class of 10 in the Big12 and not counting departures that is scary. Need to find guys, four year guys like Perry Ellis, Cole Aldrich, Raef LaFrenz guys who can play develop. Guys with toughness.

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