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2017-18 Kansas men’s basketball season preview

After a season filled with controversy off the court, the Kansas Jayhawks are set to begin their season.

The Jayhawks will open up their season with a trio of exhibition games against Missouri, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State. The match-up with Missouri will be played at the Sprint Center to raise funds for Hurricane relief.

Last season, the Jayhawks finished 31-5, with their season ending in the Elite Eight to a talented Oregon team. On top of that, Kansas lost their two of their top offensive players in guard Josh Jackson and National Player of the Year, guard, Frank Mason.

With those key departures, the focus shifts to senior guard and three-year starter Devonte Graham. Head Coach Bill Self believes that Graham is in position to finally take the reigns of the team this season.

“Devonte has been his own man since he’s been here for the most part,” Self said. “This is his squad and this his team, more so than anybody else. From a vocal standpoint and leading by example, Devonte is going to have a lot of fun this year. If he has a lot of fun, then obviously he is going to be a great leader for us.”

The makeup of this team as a whole looks to be very different, as Graham and senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk are the only two returning starters. This leaves room for freshman forward Billy Preston, redshirt sophomore guard Malik Newman and junior guard Lagerald Vick among others to get significant minutes this season.

As with any season, the Jayhawks look to win another Big 12 regular season conference title, which is no small feat considering the clout and prestige the conference has had for years. On top of that, the prestige of Kansas as a basketball program always brings the best out of whomever they play on their schedule.

KEY GAMES:

Nov. 14 – State Farm Champion’s Classic: Kentucky

Whenever these two teams face off, it’s bound to be an electrifying game. These are two of the most storied programs in college basketball and their consistency in recruiting and NCAA tournament success is impressive.

Kansas has won the past two meetings between these teams, once in Allen Fieldhouse in 2016 and once in Rupp Arena in 2. Granted, this past history may not mean much considering Kentucky’s recent history of “one and done” players.

Both sides have highly respected recruits and it should be a bloodbath, but I give the slight edge to Kansas considering the new Kentucky team will not have had chance to gel as team at that point in the season.

Dec. 29: at Texas

This will be a brutal stretch for Kansas. Granted, the three games prior to this are against Nebraska, Omaha and Stanford, which are all beatable teams. But two of those games (Nebraska and Stanford) will be road games. Having to start the Big 12 portion of the season in Austin is a rough way to follow.

This is always one of the tougher road games in the Big 12, and this young Texas team will surely have improved having another off season under head coach Shaka Smart. This game will be a great tell to see what this Jayhawks team is made of before the heart of the Big 12 schedule comes in January.

This definitely has upset potential for the Jayhawks and could serve as a wake-up call win or lose.

Jan. 9: Iowa State

Yes, I know. Kansas doesn’t lose at home, or at least, not very often. In fact, Self has only lost 10 times at home since he has been at Kansas, most recently against none other than Iowa State in overtime last season.

This will be a revenge game, most notably for Graham, Mykhailiuk and Vick who played in that game last season. The Jayhawks will come out guns blazing and I’m not sure if Iowa State will be ready for this motivated Kansas team.

Coach Self will undoubtedly have this team fired up for the first Big 12 home game against a real opponent (sorry Texas Tech). I expect the Jayhawks to control the pace throughout the entire game and win by double digits.

This season, as is the case with every season, will be an unpredictable grind. The Big 12 is a great estimator for how good a team really is, which makes the current streak for Kansas that much more impressive.

Even with all the ups and downs to come, the 2017-18 Jayhawks will look to make a name for themselves and get some redemption come March.

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