Expert says Jayhawks could repeat as national champs

Expert says Jayhawks could repeat as national champs

Teams going back-to-back are rare in the modern college basketball landscape; in the expanded NCAA Tournament era only two programs have pulled off the consecutive national title feat. But ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said this year’s Kansas team could be the third.

“Well, we haven’t had a repeat national champion since the Florida Gators did it in ’07 and ’08*,” Dykes said during the Tennessee-Colorado game. “Kansas could possibly do it. You and I have both been preparing for the Battle 4 Atlantis, Kansas is going to be down there. Remember the name Gradey Dick. 6-8 freshman, big time, big guard. Jalen Wilson playing like the next-level guy that he’s capable of being. Monster matches, two of them this coming week.”

*Florida actually went back-to-back in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Kansas won the 2007-08 national title.

The Jayhawks are off to a 2-0 start and will face their first major test on Tuesday against Duke at Champions Classic. Kansas is paced by preseason All-Big 12 pick Jalen Wilson, who is averaging a double-double: 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Dick, a five-star freshman who ranked as 247Sports’ No. 21 recruit in the country, sits second on the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Together, the duo are shooting 11-for-23 (47.8%) from distance, helping to solve what many people saw as arguably Kansas biggest issue heading into the season.

Later in the game, Dykes turned his attention to the Jayhawks’ other returning starter from last year’s national championship squad.

“I mentioned Kansas: Don’t be surprised if they’re not back in the hunt for the Final Four again,” Dykes said. “There’s not a better point guard in the country than Dajuan Harris.”

Harris has picked up where he left off last season as one of college basketball’s elite defenders. And with the Jayhawks adding Kevin McCullar from Texas Tech, Kansas has one of the best defensive duos in the country. Thanks in large part to the ball pressure they’ve supplied, Kansas is spending 22.6% of its possessions in transition so far this year, per Synergy, up from 17.1% a year ago on a team known for its ability to get out and run . And while the competition is getting ready to ramp up, the Jayhawks’ way forward appears to be churning turnovers and defensive stops into transition opportunities on the other end.

That defense could continue to improve as freshman Ernest Udeh develops at center. Udeh’s length and athleticism gives him potential as a rim protector, and he’s already impressed on offense as a screen-setter and lob-catcher.

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All of that is to say that Kansas could be considerably more dangerous around March Madness than it is right now, and could enter the tournament as a team with a chance to cut down the nets, again.

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