Just prior to the open of exhibition play Kansas basketball fans were greeted with a handful of good news by head coach Bill Self. First there was the injury to All American forward Thomas Robinson. While the injury was described as a fairly insignificant one, Robinson would still miss practice time and exhibition play.
In the backcourt Kansas would sit both Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson through preseason exhibition play. The duo is expected to lead the Kansas backcourt and while the team violation was described as minimal, this isn't the first time that these two have found their way to the bench at the hands of Bill Self.
Now the good news is that the trio only missed a pair of insignificant exhibition games. The better news is that Kansas fans had a chance to see what else the team had at their disposal. In the first game of the year Kansas handles Pittsburg State with the aid of Jeff Withey's triple double and 21 points from Connor Teahan. In game two Robinson returned with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but perhaps even more impressive was the play of freshman Naadir Tharpe in the backcourt. Tharpe provided 19 points, 7 assists and 5 steals with Taylor and Johnson watching from the sideline.
That brings us to Friday nights regular season opener against Towson and a Jayhawk basketball team that will be back at full strength. Johnson and Taylor return and should start alongside Robinson, Withey and Travis Releford. Off the bench the Jayhawks will likely look to Teahan and Tharpe in the backcourt while Justin Wesley and Kevin Young will be mixed into the front court rotation.
All preseason Kansas has been picked by many to win the Big 12 conference championship. Kansas basketball has been ranked anywhere from 12-15 in most major polls and according to many predictions. Despite quite a few roster changes and new faces, Self appears to have some solid top end talent with just enough depth to make Kansas dangerous. Maybe they aren't in the conversation as a top seed in the tournament as they have been in years past, but they certainly look dangerous now that they are back at full strength.
It's 2011-2012 Kansas basketball and this was expected to be the year where Kansas used the "rebuilding" word. Based on the high level of success in recent years it's easy to see why there would be an expected dip. And while a 12-15 National ranking does represent a dip for Kansas, the Jayhawks look might just find a way to hold off from using the word "rebuilding" for one more year.