Replacing all five starters on the Kansas Jayhawks has proven to be no problem at all for head coach Bill Self. Of course, when you bring in the nation's top recruit and likely No. 1 pick in next June's NBA Draft, the job is obviously made a little easier.
Newly anointed No. 2 in the latest AP Poll -- No. 3 per the coaches -- the Jayhawks take aim at a perfect 3-0 start to the college basketball betting campaign when they host the Iona Gaels on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for a few minutes past 8 PM (ET) with ESPN3 streaming the action.
'Rock chalk' will be part of the chant at Allen Fieldhouse for this matchup between schools from the Big 12 and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Kansas backers might join in on that cheer since the Jayhawks are laying 17.5 points on the NCAAB odds, a spread that has risen a point since the opener. A total has yet to be released.
It's the fourth time the Gaels and Jayhawks have collided, and first meeting between the two in 25 years. Kansas is 2-1 in the previous three, the most recent in 1988 at the BMA Holiday Classic, an 88-62 Kansas triumph.
Wiggins Leads Talented Group Of KU Youngsters
If you haven't heard of Andrew Wiggins yet, then I suggest you go back and reread every preseason college hoops article you can find to familiarize yourself with the KU freshman. The consensus top recruit, who we previewed in our One-&-Done piece a little more than a month ago, has taken to the game on the collegiate level like a duck to water.
Wiggins is one of two freshmen to start both games for the Jayhawks, the other being Wayne Selden, Jr. Two more frosh, Frank Mason and Joel Embiid, are also key components of Self's rotation, along with sophomores Perry Ellis, Andrew White III and Jamari Traylor. Junior Naadir Tharpe and senior Tarik Black are the only upperclassmen to have been on the court up to this point.
It was Ellis and Wiggins who keyed last Tuesday's 94-83 win over then-No. 2 Duke. The Jayhawks were getting five points in that contest and trailed by that many nearly six minutes into the second half before coming to life. The two biggest differences in the game were Kansas' work on the glass, outrebounding the Blue Devils 39-24, and points earned at the charity stripe. The Jayhawks outscored Duke 27-16 on the foul line, those 11 points coincidentally the final margin of victory.
Also key in that contest was how well Tharpe and Selden meshed directing the offense. It was their first game together after Tharpe sat out the opener due to a suspension and the pair combined for nine assists. We also saw some quick growth from Embiid in the middle. The 7-footer pulled down seven boards, four on the offensive end while dishing out five assists of his own.
Gaels Expected To Contend Again For MAAC Title
Those of you unfamiliar with what Iona has accomplished the past few years also need to go back and brush up on some college hoops history. Tim Cluess has produced four consecutive 20-win seasons, the last two resulting in trips to the Big Dance. Iona is once again expected to be in the thick of the MAAC race for that automatic tourney bid, their top competition coming from Manhattan and Rider.
The Gaels are off to a 1-1 start, both straight up and against the spread for sportsbooks, losing their opener at Cleveland State where they watched a big 15-point lead at the half disappear in the 73-69 setback as 2-point underdogs. Cluess' crew bounced back in the home opener last Saturday, taking down Wofford as 8.5 point chalk.
Sean Armand leads a talented backcourt, and also leads the Gaels in scoring (18.5 ppg). The senior has a sharpshooter's eye from beyond the arc, connecting on 257 of his 602 long-range attempts during his career (42.6%). Sophomores Isaiah Williams and AJ English add to the backcourt while junior David Laury and senior Mike Poole, a transfer from Rutgers, are the top forwards.
I'm counting on some key minutes off the bench from both Embiid and Mason, and that should be enough to roll with the home favorites for my free NCAAB pick.
My pick: Kansas -17.5 at Bet365