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College Basketball Debrief: A Disappointing Year for All 3 Local High Majors...

The college basketball season is over, at least for the 3 local high major teams Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. A year that held a lot of promise unfortunately ended with all 3 programs not living up to expectations. Let's analyze what exactly went wrong and where each squad can go from here.



Kansas

Kansas was ranked #1 in the preseason poll, which should have been the first red flag. Historically, being preseason #1 for Kansas has never gone well. That curse continued to afflict the Jayhawks with this year's team. First came the transfer and recruiting issues. Kansas was already without multiple scholarships due to the IAAP investigation penalties, which had put them at a disadvantage this previous offseason. While they did acquire the #1 transfer in former Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, the rest of the 2023-24 recruiting and transfer class was fairly underwhelming...at best. The only other newcomer to see regular, consistent minutes was Johnny Furphy, who performance-wise was inconsistent. The other transfers and recruits, who included former Towson guard Nick Timberlake, former Santa Clara big man and brother to Christian Braun Parker Braun, and freshmen Elmarko Jackson and Jamari McDowell, were minimal contributors. At its absolute worst though, was the Arterio Morris situation, which you can read more about here so I can keep this summary brief.


Kansas also dealt with injury problems throughout the year, which did not help anything regarding their depth, which was thin to begin with. I would have mentioned Chris Johnson and Marcus Adams, Jr. as well, but they left for Texas and Gonzaga/BYU respectively before the start of the year. Injuries, inconsistent play, and a severe lack of depth all played major roles in Kansas's early exit in both the Big 12 tournament and March Madness tournament, but many are skeptical regarding Kansas coaching sans Bill Self. The assistants for KU may be on the hot seat this coming year as a lot of the recruiting and general consistency problems fell upon them. It will take a major turnaround in the recruiting department as well as the team building department for Kansas to get where this team can be. That's just it though, Kansas can absolutely turn it around as long as they keep the core roster (as well as a few other developing pieces like Jackson and McDowell) intact. They have an excellent freshmen class coming in, have the scholarship ban lifted, and have an already loaded portal to work with. It will be up to Self and his assistants to build this team into the juggernaut it can be, if it can't be done this year, we may see a new Kansas staff...





Kansas State

Kansas State suffered from a severe lack of #Dudes this year. While Arthur Kaluma and Tylor Perry were both solid additions, they were no Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. Kaluma and Perry were nowhere near the numbers Nowell and Johnson were putting up in the historic Elite 8 run last year, and while that may have been fine if the Wildcats had anyone else to run their offense through consistently, they didn't. Yes, David N'Guessan, Cam Carter, and Dae Dae Ames had their big moments, but for every good game they had they had plenty more sloppy ones. They suffered essentially what the Jayhawks suffered throughout the season, just with worse talent. It definitely would have helped if Kansas State had another player on their team who was on last year's team, who had played very well for the Wildcats in the post, and was a potential Big 12 Player of the Year candidate. Unfortunately, Kansas State President Richard Linton didn't think so, though he may have been justified given the events that allegedly occurred. Yes, Nae'Qwan Tomlin would have been huge for the Wildcats, but would he have done enough to propel the Cats into the tournament? Potentially, but that remains lost to time.


As far as where the Wildcats go from here, it's tough to say. They did a lot of growing with the young players on this roster, so things certainly are looking up, or at least they were until Dorian Foster and Cam Carter both entered the transfer portal this past weekend. The Wildcats have to do their best to retain Arthur Kaluma and hopefully a few other young guys but will need some serious work in the transfer portal. They do have a pretty good recruiting class coming in this year and next, but if things go south this upcoming year, where do they go? Where does Jerome Tang go? Lots of questions need to be answered, but they do have at least a bit of direction. A good transfer class to top off a good recruiting class and a well-developed core (provided it stays intact) will be key.





Mizzou

Out of all the rough years that were had this year from local programs, Mizzou perhaps had the roughest. Winless in conference play, not a single win since 2023, and overall a roster chalked full of dysfunction and sloppy basketball was the story of the Tigers. Caleb Grill, Tamar Bates, and others did little to nothing, which left a lot to be desired from the transfer class. Sean East had to play an everyman, and it wasn't nearly enough. Dennis Gates and his assistants didn't do nearly enough, and overall the new athletic administration for Missouri has major questions to answer with the men's basketball program.


Who stays and who goes? As of now, we truly don't know. Dennis Gates has a lot of support from both Tiger fans and donors, but how long until that runs out? Who will he have to work with next year player and staff-wise? A tough sophomore effort was had, but there was effort there to work off of. The Tigers battled in some really tough games, they fought hard against the likes of Kansas, Auburn, Florida, and other tournament teams. If they can continue to believe that they can have good basketball so long as they can develop these young guys like Aidan Shaw, Tamar Bates, and Connor Vanover, among others, then they can have a good base. They'll need a good recruiting class for 2024 too though, of which it actually looks pretty solid. Continue building and hope that this is a fluke year. We saw what Gates and company is capable of last year with an experienced, well-developed roster, we just need that again.





Conclusion

It was a rough year for basketball in the MoKan area, however, all three schools have ample opportunity to bounce back this year. With basketball, development and chemistry is really important in order to succeed, and all three schools have the opportunity to do that this upcoming year. Good recruiting and transfer classes are simply icing on the cake.



The major question to be asked though is, in the age of NIL and player-oriented culture, who can adapt and succeed? I think we can find that out here over these next 2-3 years who can do that, and who gets left in the dust...

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