The non-conference season is wrapping up, and the conference starts up this week. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Will the Kansas Jayhawks win its ninth straight Big 12 Conference Championship? Sit back, enjoy the ride as we breakdown Kansas and answer this question.
After making it to the NCAA national championship last year and losing two top players to the NBA, this Kansas team still has what it takes to even cut down the nets in the Georgia Dome. Kansas goes into conference play with a 11-1 record, with its only loss coming to Michigan State and a great road win at Ohio State has them ready to take down the nets again this year. Since losing to Michigan State, Kansas has won 10 straight and looking forward to today’s game with Temple at Allen Field House. On Jan 9, Big 12 Conference play starts for Kansas when the Iowa State Cyclones come to town.
So let’s breakdown why Kansas will win their ninth straight conference championship.
First reason is the senior center, Jeff Withey. Jeff has been an intimidating defensive presence in the paint. He is blocking shot after shot and is now the number-two leader in block shots with 59. His offense is 10 times better than last year, and he has recorded several doubles this season, plus a triple-double against San Jose State. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds and a school record 12 blocks in that game. Look for Jeff to become the number-one block leader this season and break some more Kansas records. His shot-blocking presence in the paint is one of the biggest reasons Kansas is limiting opponents to less than 60 points per game.
Second reason is the sensational freshmen guard, Ben McLemore. Ben has emerged as the go-to-scorer on the perimeter and could be consider the best freshmen in the league. After sitting last year and learning Bill Self system, Ben has become a force to be reckoned with this season. He scored 22 points, had six rebounds, and four turnovers in an impressive road win at Ohio State. Look for Ben to disrupt the flow of many of the Big 12 teams during conference play.
Third reason is the senior guard, Travis Releford. Travis has become the team leader this season for Kansas. He has been the catalyst out of the starting gate by making an assist, throwing the ball down on a viscous dunk or hitting the three-ball. He has become what I believed he would become – a scoring and defensive weapon. On defense he usually defends the best player on the other team, and does a fantastic job at it. With his mindset, passion and leadership, Kansas will keep their crown intact.
Forth reason is the supporting cast: Kevin Young- the energizer bunny who brings energy, leadership, fire and passion to his team on and off the court. Elijah Johnson, taking over the point guard duties from Tyshawn Taylor this season, has finally become the player many Kansas fans had hoped for. Elijah is finally healed from his knee injury and is slashing towards the rim or making a nice assist. Perry Ellis - the talented freshmen from Wichita, Kansas – is finally finding his groove on the court. The last game against American he scored in double figures and is starting to show why he was recruited by the top programs in the nation. Look for him to have a monster impact in conference play. Jamari Taylor - the mini Thomas Robinson - is still trying to find is role on the team but he has been breaking down the boards and getting the 50-50 balls. Naadir Tharpe is becoming the player I hoped he would become, confident and consistent. He has finally relished his role as the backup point guard and has proved it by his scoring verses turnovers and his defense.
Fifth reason is the rest of the team: Justin Wesley, Rio Adams, Andrew White III, Niko Roberts, Christian Garrett, Tyler Self, Evan Manning, and Laden Lucas. They don’t always make the headlines but without a great bench who all has different roles, Kansas wouldn’t be cutting down the nets again this season. They battle each other every practice and become the other team they are about to play that week.
Last but not least: the way they play as a team, gel as a team, work hard as a team and score as a team will make them retain their Big 12 crown. So the answer to the question is yes.