Kansas’ basketball team, which ranked 29th in the country in scoring a year ago at a robust 81.4 points per game, may be even more productive on offense this season, according to projections of ESPN.com’s John Gasaway.
His calculations — how many points a team scored per possession in conference play last season as well as its current roster’s percentage of returning possession-minutes — indicate KU will have the No. 1 offense in 2018-19.
North Carolina’s offense is projected to be second best in NCAA Division I, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Nevada, TCU, Kentucky, Michigan State, Villanova and Auburn.
“Start with the fact that Udoka Azubuike made 77 percent of his two-pointers last season while carrying a normal offensive workload. Should Azubuike develop a jump shot, it would be great for him and fantastic for Kansas fans and the NBA personnel who will be evaluating him this season,” Gasaway writes.
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“But we shouldn’t understate the damage that a 77 percent two-point shooter does to an opposing defense. Azubuike is getting as many points per 100 attempts as would a 51 percent three-point shooter. That’ll do.
“Better still, Azubuike will have a ton of help,” Gasaway adds. “Freshman Quentin Grimes is projected as a 2019 lottery pick and Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson already has 65 Division I games under his belt wherein he was his team’s featured scorer (and he still seems to possess untapped three-point potential). Lagerald Vick hit 52 percent of his twos and 43 percent of his threes for KU in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. California transfer Charlie Moore is a plug-and-play point guard, unless freshman Devon Dotson fills that need for Bill Self.
“If the Jayhawks stay healthy and play to their potential (and especially if Azubuike or Marcus Garrett or both improve at the free throw line), this should be the best offense in the nation in 2019,” Gasaway concludes.
Kansas does not project as a top 10 team on defense in 2018-19, according to Gasaway’s projections. Virginia is No. 1 on Gasaway’s list, followed by Cincinnati, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Michigan and Duke. The Jayhawks allowed 71.8 ppg last season, which ranked No. 158 nationally.
Landen Lucas in Estonia
Former Kansas forward Landen Lucas will play basketball this season for BC Kalev/Cramo, a pro team based in Tallinn, Estonia. The squad competes in the VTB United League, which is made up mostly of Russian teams.
Lucas, 6-10, 245-pounds from Portland, Ore., played for Alvark, Tokyo in Japan last season.
Lucas, 24, scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds while playing 18 minutes in BC Kalev’s 106-82 exhibition opening win over Siauliai on Monday.
Lucas, according to sources close to the situation, signed for one year, but has negotiated an out-clause that would allow him to leave after two months if he wishes to play in the NBA’s D-League or for another team overseas.
Lucas traveled to Estonia and Latvia in the summer of 2014 as a member of an Athletes in Action college all-star team.
Mario Little in Croatia
Former KU guard Mario Little has signed a one-year contract with KK Zadar, a team that plays in the Adriatic League in Croatia. Little, 6-6, 210 pounds from Chicago, averaged 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last season for Pesaro in Italy.
Little also has played in Philippines, Venezuela, Israel, Spain, Ukraine and South Korea since leaving KU in 2011.
Most recently, Little and former KU guard Tyshawn Taylor led Guaros de Lara to Venezuela’s national basketball league title. Taylor, who now plays for Fiat Torino in Italy (coached by former KU coach Larry Brown), was MVP of the championship series in Venezuela.
Wiseman’s Kentucky visit
According to published reports, one of the highlights of KU recruiting target James Wiseman’s recruiting trip to Kentucky last weekend was the early arrival of “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4,” which the Wildcats were able to play on the team’s PS4 console.
Presumably, Wiseman, a 7-foot, 210-pound senior from Memphis (Tenn.) East High School, who is ranked No. 2 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com, was able to take his turn at the controls of the game which is set for an Oct. 12 release to the general public.
“This will be a long recruitment, so be prepared for the ebbs and flow,” wrote T.J. Walker of Kentuckysportsradio.com, referring to Wiseman’s recruitment. “UK’s track record with bigs can’t be topped in this recruitment, but has UK done enough to have the strongest relationship? They’ve certainly done a great job up to this point.”
Wiseman has an in-home visit scheduled with KU’s Bill Self on Tuesday — a day after an in-home visit with first-year Memphis coach Penny Hardaway, who coached Wiseman last year at Memphis East. Kentucky’s Calipari is set to visit Wednesday.
Wiseman will attend the Sept. 28 Late Night in the Phog as part of an official recruiting visit to KU. He will visit Vanderbilt on Oct. 12-14 and Florida State on Oct. 26-28. He’s been to Memphis many times with no official visit yet scheduled.
He is expected to take his recruitment into the spring signing period.
“Kansas is a great school and they have a winning tradition. Coach Bill Self is a great coach and they play inside and out by doing a lot of pick and rolls and have great guard play. They have done a great job there and they play the way I like to, which is intriguing,” Wiseman told prepcircuit.com.
KU and Kentucky also are going head-to-head in recruiting for Minnesota preps Matthew Hurt, a 6-9, 200-pound senior forward from John Marshall High in Rochester, Minn., who is ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2019 by Rivals.com and No. 34-ranked Zeke Nnaji, a 6-11, 230-pound senior forward from Hopkins (Minn.) High School.
Hurt also is considering Duke, Minnesota, North Carolina, Memphis and others. Nnaji has a list of schools that includes Minnesota, Baylor, Georgetown, Kansas State, UCLA, Creighton, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois.
Three Big 12 coaches made CBSsports.com’s list of the “most underappreciated good head coaches in college basketball” as voted upon by more than 100 anonymous coaches.
West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Kansas State’s Bruce Weber tied for seventh with 3.8 percent of the vote. Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger tied for ninth with 2.9 percent of the vote. Davidson’s Bob McKillop was first with 10.5 percent of the vote.