The Kansas Jayhawks lost two lottery picks off a team that clinched the program’s 10th straight Big 12 regular-season title last season. Now Bill Self envisions a team that could be even better.
On Thursday, the preseason USA Today coaches poll agreed. Kansas was slotted at No. 5 in the preseason poll, leading a group of four Big 12 teams in the top 25. Wichita State, coming off a perfect regular season in 2013-14, was ranked 11th. Kansas State, meanwhile, received the third-most votes among teams not in the poll.
Kansas finished 25-10 last season, falling to Stanford in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State fell to Kentucky in the round of 32, while K-State lost its opening-round game to the eventual national runner-up.
Kentucky, which rolled all the way to the NCAA championship game last season, is the coaches’ preseason No. 1, buoyed by a strong group of returners and another blue-chip freshman class. Arizona is ranked second, while Duke and Wisconsin, another Final Four team last season, round out the top four.
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Texas, picked to finish second in the Big 12, is ranked 10th, while Iowa State slotted in at No. 14. Oklahoma came in at No. 19. Kentucky, meanwhile, was one of just two SEC teams in the top 25. Florida is ranked seventh.
Kansas returns just two starters off last year’s team — junior power forward Perry Ellis and sophomore guard Wayne Selden. But the Jayhawks have a four-man freshman class that includes McDonald’s All-Americans Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre Jr. The Jayhawks also bring back junior forward Jamari Traylor and sophomore guards Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene; and add freshmen guards Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to the fold.