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Lineup versatility at an all-time high with new-look Kansas basketball roster

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 Kansas coach Bill Self laughs on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Kansas coach Bill Self laughs on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson) by Associated Press

There are 125 days between now and when it actually matters, and that should provide KU fans with plenty of time to dream up at least that many different lineups for the 2021-22 Kansas men’s basketball team.

Luckily, the current KU roster is loaded with both the kind of talent and the number of bodies that make such an exercise a possibility.

From five super seniors and four returning starters to four freshmen to 10 new faces, the Kansas lineup figures to look a lot different during the upcoming season than it did a year ago.

That is, of course, except for when it doesn’t.

With returning starters Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, David McCormack and Jalen Wilson all viable options to handle similar roles this season, a completely new-look KU roster might have a very familiar look to it when the games begin.

It’s what happens when foul trouble and fatigue set in, making substitutions necessary, that things will get really interesting.

And I would imagine that KU coach Bill Self and his assistants are drooling over the possibilities. Here are but a few of them, some of which are more likely than others.

My Starting Five

(as of July 6, 2021)

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Christian Braun

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – David McCormack

People have been writing off Christian Braun a little bit, but I just don’t see it. I think he brings everything to the starting five that you want in a player and I expect him to have improved his shot and physicality in the offseason, making him poised for a strong junior season. Outside of that, I think the other four are all but locks to start.

Top-25 Second Unit

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Joseph Yesufu

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Cam Martin

5 – Mitch Lightfoot

This is one of those “would be ranked or finish in the top half of the Big 12” type of teams and at least four of these guys are likely to play significant roles this season. The lone exception could be Lightfoot, but his experience and shot blocking ability could help him carve out a reserve role if Cam Martin and/or Zach Clemence aren’t ready for big minutes right away. Either way, this backcourt is pretty darn good, with two playmakers and a couple of shooters and Martin and Lightfoot are big enough to do what they need to do on the glass. Looking at this team gives you a clear picture of why the 2021-22 Jayhawks are so highly thought of this offseason. Four of these guys could play starter type minutes and blend very nicely with that first unit.

Let’s Play Big

PG – Christian Braun

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Jalen Wilson

4 – Cam Martin

5 – David McCormack

This obviously will never happen — 1. Because the game has gotten smaller, not bigger and 2. Because Self probably wouldn’t be comfortable with those guys as his primary ball handlers — but Braun has been the initiator of the offense in spots in the past and that trio in the back court would give KU a size advantage on just about anybody. The big thing this presents is the idea of playing Cam Martin and David McCormack together, something I think Self will at least consider doing a fair amount of the time, provided they fit each other and can do what needs to be done defensively to be out there at the same time.

Let’s Play Small

(aka Opposing Ballhandlers’ Worst Nightmare)

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Remy Martin

3G – Joseph Yesufu

4 – Ochai Agbaji

5 – Jalen Wilson

I love this look. And even if it comes in a more traditional sense with those three little guards and Wilson and McCormack on the floor, I think this could be a very dynamic lineup. Harris, Martin and Yesufu out there together could make life miserable for opposing guards. And all three are good enough offensively — even if they’re on the smaller side — to keep their presence on the floor from hurting KU’s bottom line. I don’t think we’ll see this lineup very much. But if the matchup is right and KU needs a defensive spark, I could see this group being the group that plays together for 4-6 minutes and completely turns a game.

Top All-Newcomer Look

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Joseph Yesufu

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Zach Clemence

5 – Cam Martin

Talk about a pretty good crop of newcomers. Four of the five were starters at their previous stops and the fifth — Clemence — was a Top 100 recruit who brings offensive and defensive versatility with him. There are simply too many talented returners to expect to see Kansas lean on the newcomers this hard. But this lineup shows you loud and clear that KU’s depth is on another level this season. That should keep things competitive from start to finish and it also should keep guys fresh late in games and late in the season.

Wings Across America Tour

PG – Joseph Yesufu

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Christian Braun

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – KJ Adams

Until Remy Martin to Kansas became official earlier this week, there was a real chance that Yesufu was going to get a long look as KU’s point guard. In this lineup, which features five players who could thrive on the wing, Yesufu runs the point and the others run around all over the floor with him, spotting up, slashing, getting out in transition and crashing the offensive glass on every possession.

Old Heads

PG – Remy Martin (23)

SG – Jalen Coleman-Lands (25 on July 15)

3G – Cam Martin (23)

4 – David McCormack (22)

5 – Mitch Lightfoot (25 on Juy 14)

A lot has been made about the age of some of these guys — most notably journeyman Mitch Lightfoot — but that maturity and veteran presence figures to help this team a tremendous amount. Beyond that, even if you played the four oldest guys on KU’s roster, it would still be a pretty decent team. Having Cam Martin, McCormack and Mitch out there together would make it kind of clunky and make this team vulnerable on the defensive end. So we won’t ever see it exactly this way. But there’s no doubt that the foursome of Martin, Coleman-Lands, Martin and McCormack could team with Agbaji — a senior himself — to still field a pretty old and experienced five and change the outlook in a hurry. I know some have already mentioned it, but add to these five two other seniors and you’re looking at a marathon night of speeches on Senior Night late in the season.

The Youngsters

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Bobby Pettiford

3G – Kyle Cuffe Jr.

4 – KJ Adams

5 – Zach Clemence

On the flipside of things, this would be the youngest team KU could put on the floor. And we’re much more likely to see that group of old men before we see this bunch. For one, I think there’s a good chance that Cuffe, who reclassified up to get here early, will redshirt. The other four all could play some kind of role this season, but exactly what that looks like is not yet known. I think Pettiford and Clemence are going to grow to become players KU fans absolutely love. And Cuffe is mature beyond his years and Adams is a physical mismatch waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of opportunity and how quickly all of these guys make the adjustment to the college game that will determine how much they’ll play during the 2021-22 season.

Bombs Away Bunch

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – Cam Martin

This is a pretty fun team and it’s not that much of a reach to picture these guys being out there together. Coleman-Lands is a career 37% 3-point shooter, who has two seasons of better than 38% shooting under his belt, including last season when he shot 39.5% from downtown at Iowa State. Cam Martin shot better than 40% from 3-point range for much of his All-American time at Missouri Southern and Ochai Agbaji led the Big 12 in 3-point makes and was fourth in 3-point percentage in the conference. And then there’s Martin, who never met a shot he didn’t feel like he was going to make, and Wilson, who is equally as confident when he lets it fly. Space the floor and let it fly would be the mantra with this bunch, and because of that these Jayhawks should be a much better shooting team than the 2020-21 group was.

Comments

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a fun exercise, however I expect based on history that some of these skilled players will end up on the outside looking in when it comes to PT.

I expect that Self will stick with his starting 5 for 25 to 35 minutes a game and that three subs will pick up the majority of the remaining minutes.

Self will give guys a shot in November, start to settle in on a rotation in December, and lock down the rotation by the new year.

Based on all that we know I have to agree with your starting 5 and I would expect these guys to get 80% of the minutes. That's going to leave 40 minutes a game for the bench, and I think you can give 30 of those minutes to the top 3 subs, and leave 10 minutes for the mop up duty/development minutes/spot matchup opportunities.

It's very unclear at this point who would round out the rotation but I would guess it will come from the grouping of Yesufu/Lands/Harris/Mitch/Cam. I see Cam as an experiment and more of a longshot to be a regular in the rotation, but that leaves Mitch as the backup big and it's hard to say that he's gonna straight up be the better option. I think that Harris and Yesufu will have a competition for backup PG minutes. And Yesufu and Lands will have a competition for first man off the bench to sub for Braun/Agbaji/Wilson.

I wouldn't be too surprised to see Wilson slide to the small ball big man role on occasion to give DMac a breather and bring in Lands or Yesufu as a scoring spark off the bench.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Puff meet piece. You must have been bored, or had insomnia, or the boss thought this would be a good idea. Drooling and Self should never be in the same sentence. I think you forgot the group - "They will only play if we are up by 30 with 1 min. or less to play at home".

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It's the offseason, roster is set, there is nothing else to talk about other than to have a little fun with the "what-ifs". Lighten up and live a little, not everything has to be serious. Haven't we had enough not-fun stuff to deal with the last 16 months?

Rodney Crain 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Shannon I live fine thanks. :) Not a big fan of What-ifs, they are a waste of time, and they add nothing to the discussion. Sorry, if I am bringing you down with my comments, feel free to skip over them. The last 16 months have shown us that everything is serious actually. Everything. Extinction is the rule, survival is the exception - Carl Sagan. I laugh a lot everyday by the way. Not-fun stuff, now that is funny.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

What-if articles are totally optional for you to read. If you feel they are a waste of time then feel free to skip them rather than wasting MORE of your time by commenting about how wasteful they are to you. You know what else adds nothing to the discussion? You complaining about a what-if article nobody forced you to read.

If everything is serious and survival is the focus then you should likely find something to do with the time you used to spend on KU, games, this site, etc.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Shannon it’s just a site, we are just posting what we think. I disagreed with you, you got upset. Let me unpack this for you. Everything is optional to read. Not sure you can force someone to read anything. Puff pieces are a waste of time and are written when there is nothing to really write about. They make me laugh actually. It is my time, which I get to spend how I want, like you choose what you do with yours. Just like you can lose your temper and post what you think, I get to react to something I read and post what I think. You misunderstood what is serious, sorry I used a fancy quote. Although we might think the world will bend to our needs, it does not work that way. The last 16 months should remind us that we are not in charge of what will happen. God, fate, nature pick one or none, you have to have your head up and be paying attention. This might surprise you but I can actually do many things each day, including posting on here. It’s just a site Shannon, it amuses me. I post about the content of the article or things I see that are absurd, like an 18 player roster. Discourse is in our DNA.

Adam James 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It is always fun this time of the year to mess with the lineups and think about what could be. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the coaches meetings for the next several months and hear what they are thinking along the way. The interesting part for me is that Self mentioned at the end of last year the the team needed to get blown up and get more athletic, etc. There is no doubt he has done that and beyond what we all thought was possible. As I look at Matt's first lineup, the interesting part for me is that with the exception of Remy (who makes a big difference) we still have a team that is limited at getting down hill to finish or pass. That lineup is probably just a good strong college basketball team in the top 25. For us to be Final Four great I think we need a different lineup getting the lions share of the minutes. I'm curious if Self was also referring to his starters when he talked about changes. I say this because what limited this team last year was its ability to get down hill with his guards. He addressed this by getting Yesufu/Remy and I think its going to be hard keeping both of these guys off the floor or another guard that steps up to attack. Self wants to create high FG % opportunities and this happens with play makers on the floor. Given what I have seen from the past, Ochai/Braun/Wilson are not playmakers that consistently get down hill to score and pass. They are limited in ball handling and passing ability. I know there are other factors like rebounding, defense, deflections, chemistry etc. There is also the drama of "well he started last year, so he should start this year" issue that plays out even at the college level. Given what I've seen and have not seen, below is who I would roll out from day one and make adjustments from there.

PG: Remy (Harris)

Combo: Yesufu (Pettiford)

Combo: Ochai (Braun) (Cuffe Jr.)

4: Coleman-Lands (Wilson) (KJ Adams)

5: DMac (Cam) (Lightfoot) (Clemence)

RCJH!! Looking forward to a fun season.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Mostly agree with what you said, other than Wilson not starting. He'll start for sure. He showed a willingness to get downhill last year (especially early in the year before he was well scouted and teams realized they couldn't put a traditional big on him). I expect he'll do more of it this year since the NBA guys told him he's going to have to develop into a 3 at the next level. That means being a more traditional guard who can dribble, drive, and shoot more efficiently from deep.

Tony Bandle 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Random Thoughts:

1] Interestingly enough, no one is listed as a center on the entire 18 man roster. Is there some stigma to being assigned this position?

2] WOW, an 18 man roster...that's almost as much as my high school football team back in the mid 60's.

3] That's so many guys that they may have to sit three or four during warm ups! :).

4] The odds are about a million to one that no one red shirts this next season.

5] Maybe if a game ends in a tie, we can have a team vs team tug of war to decide a victor...we'll be untouchable!

6] It's going to be one hell of a Senior Night!!!!!

Brett McCabe 2 months, 3 weeks ago

One NC and a bunch of city league titles. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I feel sorry for the kids who bought into this bull. 200 minutes per game. No matter what he told you. He looks like David Beaty….anything to save his job. Why? Because no one in the NBA can stand him.

He wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for a bunch of Yoder bumpkins electing Brownback, who loaded the regents with a bunch of white privilege who hired an incompetent nincompoop as chancellor who offered a lifetime contract to a cheating, lying a hole.

These kids all deserve better. Actual leadership and mentoring. Here’s hoping they all enter the transfer portal before Late Night because most of them will sooner or later. Might as well get it started.

This program is now the biggest embarrassment at KU. And when Dave Girod is your chancellor, that is saying a lot.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Off your meds again I see.

Anyone who thinks anything other than the football team is the biggest embarrassment at KU is either a few steps from the looney bin, or being an troll.

Ted Hume 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This is awesome Brett. Glad to see your game cranked up to 11. Never a boring chat with posts like that one - an all-time BMcCabe classic!

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Matt - Thank you. Always fun to see this and even more so this year with so many new and experienced players.

You make the comment regarding one the lineups that its usage would be defense dependent though ultimately that becomes the case for all lineups and individuals as long as Coach Self is leading. I think you have mentioned before that in this age of 3 any teams limit ultimately becomes a function of the ability of the 4/5 to defend the 3 whether that be straight up or switched.

Should be lots of fun.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Jonathon - Your minutes assessment is consistent with most of what we’ve seen for the past decade. I would suggest that it diverges if you go back to ’07-08. I think it is relevant to look at that team because I don’t think we have had anywhere near that much talent til this year. The crucial part that you do touch on will be whether the new guys learn enough during the early season to allow Coach the comfort of playing them in the middle and end of the season. What we have seen too often is that many don’t learn. Hopefully this year’s roster does learn and provides the necessary comfort to allow Coach the freedom to sub. It can happen.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Matt - When does it actually matter?

November?

January?

March?

April?

Some would have us believe that nothing matters until the last game. As long as you win the last game.

Matt Tait 2 months, 3 weeks ago

To each his own there. Some think it matters Oct. 1. But I hear what you're saying.

If you're talking specifically about the depth, I view it this way: Sometimes crazy depth is not necessarily as good as it looks on paper. But with this bunch, the depth within the depth is pretty big.

For example, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Joseph Yesufu might not both play 20+ minutes a game. But they are both there to back up KU's SG and 3G spots and that takes the pressure/burden off of both of them to be great. It also increases the odds that KU will have a quality option to go to if a starter at those positions gets in foul trouble or injured or hits a slump, etc. Same goes for Cam Martin and Zach Clemence at the 4.

I'm planning to do more on this idea soon. But, because you're a regular contributor here, you just got a sneak peek into how I view it. Whatever that's worth!!! ;-)

Brian Babcock 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks Matt. This was a fun exercise and what I was starting to think about when I made the comment on playing minutes on the Marcus Garrett thread.

Matt Tait 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Cool, Brian. I never really plan to do this one but always find myself doing it simply because the rosters have started to look so different from year to year. It's fun. And it could all change a ton in the weeks ahead. Buckle up!

Steve Zimmerman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This is fun. What's more fun if kusports.com holds a 'guess KUMB starting 5' contest with a prize of front row seat at AFH or Graham's KU jersey!!!

Ted Hume 2 months, 2 weeks ago

My biggest fear is that with all of the new additions we end up having basically the same team on the floor for 80% of the minutes as last year, with potentially a similar, middling record in store...

However, if we're looking to bottle a bit of Baylor's magic from last year then I would like to see Martin and Yesufu in the backcourt together a ton of the time, wiht Braun coming off the bench to spell JW and Och.

that might be enough of a difference-maker to put us back on track to a #1 seed again. but again, who really knows how which pieces fit together...

Dirk Medema 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Interesting look at the roster and usages from the past decade.

https://basketball.realgm.com/ncaa/conferences/Big-12-Conference/3/Kansas/54/depth-charts

Very few places where I wondered why didn’t this person play more. Hopefully the greater experience of this group of additions leads to more get it right from the start.

I can see Yesufu being a backup 1-2 (aka ‘07-08 Sherron 2.0). It would be gravy if Harris has his 3 dialed in from day 1. Similar for JCL at 2-4, and Cam/Mitch at 4/5 depending on match ups. Both seem smart and mature enough to be ready and willing whenever called.

Not expecting much from the freshmen except learning with equal parts great practice intensity and bench enthusiasm. Anything extra from them is a bonus, mostly prep for a starring role next season.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

nice resource.

I was surprised to find a couple years where we had a 9 to 10 an rotation such as 2014-15 with Cliff Alexander, Devonte, Brannen G, Traylor/Lucas and young Svi in the mix and 2010-11 with Josh Selby, Elijah Johnson, Mario Little, and Travis Releford in the mix.

I was also surprised to see that the 07-08 team really had more of a 7 man rotation with Sherron basically being the Guard sub, and Kaun and DBlock splitting minutes in the low post. Aldrich, Rodrick Stewart, and Tyrel Reed were used more in limited minutes for development or foul trouble.

Thomas Harrison 2 months, 1 week ago

Matt Tait Why haven;t we heard more about KJ Adams on KU Sports? You have done high profile articles on all of the players recently ecxept for Adams. With the resume that tis guy has,he might be the answer for a somewhat vulnerable 4 position for us next season. He may be as athletic as anyone on the team, and we hear nothing. Is his shooting questionable? Find that hard to believe with 26 points a game out of a level 6 high school in Texas. Please fill us in on how he might fit on this year's squad. Thanks...

Thomas Harrison 2 months, 1 week ago

Would love to hear from Matt On my request for more info On KJ Adams

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