For the past two seasons, Kansas Basketball head coach Bill Self has been forced out of his comfort zone. He has used a four-guard lineup because of KU’s lack of frontcourt depth. The four-guard lineups have worked, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular season title in each of the past two seasons. Additionally, Kansas is the only program in the country that reached the Elite Eight in both 2017 and 2018.
The Jayhawks should be even better in 2018-19. This season, Self will enjoy the frontcourt depth that he has not had in the past two years. The frontcourt depth allows Self to go back to what he knows best. He can use a lineup with three guards and two forwards. With a bigger lineup, Self can go back to putting an emphasis on rebounding and defense, which have been his calling cards throughout his coaching career.
Here is the projected frontcourt rotation for Kansas in the upcoming season:
The Jayhawks’ frontcourt will be led by Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson. Azubuike had the best field goal percentage (77.0%) in Division I last season and is expected to make a huge impact as a junior. He needs to work on his conditioning and footwork during the summer. If he improves in these key areas, he will not commit as many fouls and will be able to stay on the floor for longer stretches. On the offensive side, Azubuike added a left-handed hook shot to his arsenal toward the end of last season. He could easily make the all-Big 12 team in 2019.
Lawson, who sat out last season, averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game at Memphis in the 2016-17 season. Self has said that Lawson is the best passer on the team, which makes Lawson a well-rounded offensive player. If Lawson proves to be a competent defender, he will be a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year in his junior year.
Self seems to think that the situation regarding Silvio De Sousa‘s eligibility will be resolved before the season begins. Unfortunately, Self probably thought that the Billy Preston situation would be resolved last year. It was not resolved. If De Sousa is deemed eligible, he will once again assume the role of the first big man off the bench. Last season, he rapidly improved, and he blossomed into a valuable role player who could rebound and run the floor. If he is ruled ineligible, KU’s frontcourt will not boast the significant depth which it currently boasts. Losing De Sousa would be a crushing blow for the Jayhawks.
David McCormack, a freshman, will vie for minutes in the frontcourt. He faces an uphill battle because of the talent on the roster. McCormack, who stands at six-foot-ten and weighs 255 pounds, will get some playing time early in the season. His role will increase if De Sousa is ruled ineligible.
Mitch Lightfoot, who played in 38 games with seven starts last season, also has an uphill battle ahead of him. Lightfoot put on sixteen pounds of muscle in the offseason, but he is still an undersized power forward who has a limited offensive skill set. He is a solid defender and shot-blocker who is willing to sacrifice his body to take a charge. Lightfoot was leapfrogged by De Sousa on the depth chart late last season, but Lightfoot will get meaningful minutes if De Sousa is ruled ineligible.