Kansas will be playing three of the six teams that ESPN has targeted as most likely to “exceed expectations” and/or “come out of nowhere” during the 2017-18 college basketball season.
Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 and nonconference foe Stanford of the Pac-12 are three teams expected to emerge as surprise teams and capable of making a splash in the NCAA Tournament, ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman wrote on Thursday.
Missouri, Georgia and Oregon also made the list. While wildly successful last season, Dana Altman’s Ducks have lost a batch of players off last year’s Final Four team.
Here’s a quick look at the three KU opponents mentioned in Goodman’s article. KU, of course, will play Oklahoma and Texas twice during the regular season. The Jayhawks will play Stanford once.
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▪ Texas: Shaka Smart’s Longhorns last week landed prize prospect Mohamed Bamba, a 7-foot, 225-pound forward from Westtown School in West Chester, Pa., who is ranked No. 2 in the recruiting Class of 2017 by Rivals.com.
Bamba is projected to be picked fourth in the 2018 NBA Draft by draftexpress.com.
Texas also has signed Matt Coleman, a 6-2 point guard from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who is ranked No. 43 nationally. Texas also has an eligible transfer in Dylan Osetkowski, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior from Tulane.
KU defeated the Longhorns, 79-67, in Allen Fieldhouse and 77-67 at the Erwin Center in Austin last season.
▪ Oklahoma: The Sooners beat out KU, Kentucky and others for Trae Young, a 6-2 combo guard from Norman (Okla.) North High School, who is ranked No. 15 in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com.
Young, who is known for his deep shooting range, will join a team that returns about everybody except standout guard Jordan Woodard.
KU rallied from a late double-digit deficit to defeat Oklahoma 73-63 last season in Allen and 81-70 at the Noble Center in Norman.
▪ Stanford: Former KU guard/second-year Cardinal coach Jerod Haase, who was touched by the standing ovation he received during introductions before last year’s 89-74 loss in Lawrence, returns senior forward Reid Travis, who scored 29 points (he hit 19 of 22 free throws) and grabbed nine rebounds vs. the Jayhawks.
Haase, who returns three starters and a batch of experienced players, added top 50 recruits in Daejon Davis (6-3 point guard, ranked No. 47 nationally) and Kezie Okpala (6-7 small forward ranked No. 30). T
he KU-Stanford contest on Dec. 21 in Sacramento, Calif., will definitely be a marquee game on the teams’ schedules.
Big 12 lands top talent
Four top 25 recruits will be joining Big 12 teams next season.
Bamba (No. 2) and Young (No. 15) are joined by KU’s Billy Preston (6-9, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., ranked No. 10) and Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton (6-1, Oak Hill Academy, ranked No. 23).
The Jayhawks also added Malik Newman, the No. 8-ranked player in the class of 2015, who attended Mississippi State for one season before transferring to KU. Newman is 6-3 combo guard out of Callaway High in Jackson, Miss.
Texas last week beat out Kentucky, Duke and Michigan for the highly-touted Bamba, who hails from Harlem in New York City.
“The top uncommitted player in the country heading into the spring, Bamba is one of the best defensive players to come through high school basketball in several years. He can guard multiple positions, play at the top of a zone or press, and block shots at the rim,” writes ESPN’s Jeff Borzello. “He’s still somewhat raw offensively, but he can score around the rim and has some touch facing the basket.”
Bamba impressed many with his comments on academics in an article he wrote for The Players’ Tribune:
“How can a projected “one-and-done” college athlete get a real college education? That gets thrown around a lot and I want to go on record as saying that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive,” Bamba wrote. “My academic focus is not just lip service. It’s extremely important to me and my family, but I also firmly believe that the best class I’ll ever take will actually be taught by the people I will surround myself with.
“I feel especially fortunate to explore my academic interests within the McCombs School of Business, one of the nation’s top undergraduate BBA programs. Learning from world-class professors and classmates in Austin, a city that’s renowned for tech and innovation, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
ESPN’s player profile on Bamba begins by saying his “physical tools (7-9 wingspan, 9-6 standing reach) are absolutely off the charts. … His long-term upside is absolutely off the charts but he’s at least a few years away from realizing it. While he’s unlikely to play more than a single season of college basketball, that lone season is likely to be characterized more by increasing flashes of his incredible potential than it is immediate dominance. Fast forward a few years down the road though and he has a chance to end up being the top player to come out of this class.”
Junior Bacot on KU’s list
KU target Armando Bacot, a 6-10 junior-to-be power forward from Trinity Episcopal High in Richmond, Va., played well at last weekend’s Southern Jam Fest in Virginia, Rivals.com reports. Bacot, who is ranked No. 35 in the recruiting class of 2019 by Rivals.com, has also heard from Duke, Baylor, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, UCLA and others.
“Bacot was super productive on Saturday as he rebounded the ball well, finished at the basket and displayed unbelievable passing skills from the high post setting and on the outlet pass following the defensive rebound,” wrote Corey Evans of Rivals.com.
“Duke and Kansas are each in a great spot but if you’re looking for a sleeper, Virginia Tech may be the dark horse,” Evans assessed.