The Preseason AP Top 25 ranked Kansas basketball first in the nation. Now, the Jayhawks will have a huge target on their back every time they compete.
The last time the Kansas Jayhawks began the regular season as the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 — entering 2018-19 — they began the season with ten consecutive wins. Despite losing Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman from the previous year’s Final Four team, a strong recruiting and transfer class had the college basketball world thinking they would be the national title favorites.
It didn’t take long for things to go South.
Aside from the nail-biting wins against Stanford, New Mexico State, and other insignificant opponents, the team was engulfed by the fact that they were rated the best in the sport. Soon after, Udoka Azubuike suffered a season-ending injury, leading to some bad losses. Lagerald Vick was dismissed from the program by February, and the squad was eventually remembered as the team with the worst conference record in the Bill Self era — more notably, the team that broke the 14-year regular season Big 12 title record.
Ignoring that the recent IARP ruling effectively makes the 2017-18 team the one that broke the Big 12 streak, that group was an all-around disappointment. They eventually fell in the second round of the tournament via blowout fashion to Auburn. In fact, all of Coach Self’s preseason No. 1 teams have finished below par. The 2004-05 team was stunned by Bucknell in the Round of 64, and the 2009-10 team — arguably KU’s most talented roster in the modern era — fell to Northern Iowa in the Round of 32.
With the season beginning in less than three weeks, there will be no shortage of tough tests for Self and Co. It takes any team some time to gel together, but that might be more of an issue for KU. Just three players return from last year, and there seem to be evident weaknesses from the Puerto Rico trip and Late Night in the Phog scrimmage.
Whenever Kansas takes the court, coaches and players will do whatever it takes to take down the top dog. That is always the case for a program of KU’s caliber, but it’ll hold true this season more than any.
While past teams have no effect on this year’s outlook, it’s important for Kansas basketball to not be complacent early in the year. KU needs to keep its pedal to the medal during each game because everyone will be pulling out all the stops to dethrone the No. 1 team in the nation.