The Kansas Jayhawks are gearing up to defend their 2021-22 national championship, and for coach Bill Self it’s already time to put the title run in the past and to focus on the 2022-23 campaign.
“We’re very excited about this year’s group,” Self said at Wednesday’s Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tipoff. “It’s young, inexperienced, but I think pretty talented and certainly one that hopefully we have a chance to play at a high enough level that we can compete for a title in a league that’s been as good or better than any league in the country.”
There will be a handful of key holdovers from last year’s national title team, but the Jayhawks lost plenty of production and star power this offseason. That notably includes Ochai Agbaji, the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year who’s now with the Utah Jazz, fellow first-round pick Christian Braun and big man David McCormack, who played arguably the best basketball of his career in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Jalen Wilson will lead the way for Kansas this season after receiving unanimous preseason All-Big 12 recognition. Joining him as the veteran leaders for KU will be Dajuan Harris, the starting point guard for last year’s Jayhawks, as well as Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar, a new face in Lawrence but a mainstay in Big 12 competition since the 2019-20 season.
A highly touted freshman class will also be counted on to make an impact for KU this season. The four-man class includes Gradey Dick, M.J. Rice and Ernest Udeh, all of whom were named to the 2022 McDonalds All-American roster, plus top-50 prospect Zuby Ejiofor.
“I think our youngsters need to be good,” Self said, “but our vets need to be really good to make sure our youngsters are good. And I think they have the right makeup and the unselfishness in order to do that.”
Kansas was picked second in the preseason Big 12 poll, only behind Baylor. The Jayhawks have one exhibition game this season, taking on Pittsburg State on Nov. 3, then they’ll open the regular season on Nov. 7 versus Omaha. The Champions Classic, which had previously started the KU slate in recent years, will pit Kansas against Duke in the third game of this season on Nov. 15.