Streaks are a big part of all sports, from the gridiron to the diamond, from ice rinks to hardwood. One of my favorites is Edwin Moses' amazing 122-race run in the 400 meter hurdles. But then, you didn't click this link to read about the history of track and field.
The Kansas Jayhawks are currently riding a streak in college basketball, winning or sharing the last 10 regular season titles in the Big 12. So it's no surprise they are favored to win the conference crown yet again in 2015, the Jayhawks also ranking among the nation's elite at 14/1 choices to cut down the nets for the fourth time in school history when the Final Four comes to Indianapolis next April.
Kansas saw a promising start to last season fizzle out at the end with four losses in the last seven games, including a Round of 32 exit from the NCAA's following a 60-57 upset defeat to Stanford. Part of the downturn came as a result of the back injury center Joel Embiid suffered that put him on the bench for the six final contests. Both Embiid and fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins won't be back after declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft where they are expected to be among the top 4-5 players selected. That's obviously a lot of talent coach Bill Self is losing, but the Jayhawks have great talent returning and, as usual, top-notch freshmen arriving in Lawrence.
Ellis Leads Returning KU Stars, Alexander New Stud In Paint
I'm not going to fault Wiggins and Embiid from heading immediately to the next level, but I sure would like to see how the Jayhawks might perform if the duo did return for their sophomore seasons.There's no question KU would be the heavy chalk to win it all, instead of favorites to just win yet another Big 12 title.
The backcourt could shift to Frank Mason handling more of the QB duties over Naadir Thorpe, a nice luxury for Self to have two capable point guards. Perry Ellis is back on the wing and returns as the leading scorer from 2013-14 (13.5 ppg). Wayne Seldon Jr. should play a more prominent role in the backcourt and on the wing, and Kansas also picked up 6-10 Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson to help fill a void in the middle of the paint.
Newcomers Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are the primary replacements for Embiid and Wiggins, respectively. Alexander is already being projected as a potential No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and will be a bear for opponents to cover down low. Oubre is the 3/4 complement to the lineup as the top-ranked small forward in the Class of '14. Circle Nov. 18 on your calendars right now; that's when the Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats meet in the Champions Classic, which also happens to be in Indianapolis. Hmmmmm?
Cyclones, Longhorns & Sooners Lead Big XII's 2nd Tier
The Big 12 was among the deepest conferences you could find last year, but it's shaping up to take a step back next season with only 4-5 teams outside of Kansas legitimate NCAA Tournament projections right now. The short list would include Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma.
The Cyclones are getting respect at this time just for the fun ride they took us on last year. Iowa State -- a 33/1 NCAA Championship selection on the college basketball futures odds -- has some great talent coming back in Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Monte Morris, but didn't exactly bring in anyone to replace either Melvin Ejim or DeAndre Kane.
The Longhorns are also 33/1 NCAA basketball odds choices to win it all, and they did land one of the top recruits with the late signing of Myles Turner. That was a big coup for coach Rick Barnes since Kansas along with state rival Texas A&M were also on Turner's short list.
The Sooners might be the best 'dog of the pack to upset Kansas' streak. OU is a 40/1 wager, not bad when you consider that puts them right there with the likes of schools such as Ohio State, Gonzaga and UCLA. Lon Kruger brings back a lot of experience in the form of soon-to-be sophomores and juniors, at least by NCAA basketball eligibility rules, plus two big kids in freshmen Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin.
Bears, Cowboys & Wildcats Best Of Rest
Baylor (75/1) has been boon or bust the past six seasons, making it to the Sweet 16 in the even-numbered years, the NIT in the odds. The Bears are losing a lot with Isaiah Austin moving to the NBA along with top scorers Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip running out of time.
Oklahoma State and Kansas State are long shots for different reasons. The Cowboys barely made it to March Madness with Marcus Smart; they'll not be any better without him. And the Wildcats, well, Bruce Weber's defensive style will afford a college basketball bettor an upset or two during the regular season, but the NIT is all K-State cam realistically hope for.
Keep your browser pointed to SBR for offseason college hoops previews and watch on the NCAA odds.