Lineup versatility at an all-time high with new-look Kansas basketball roster

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas coach Bill Self laughs on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

There are 125 days between now and when it actually matters, and that should provide KU fans with plenty of time to dream up at least that many different lineups for the 2021-22 Kansas men’s basketball team.

Luckily, the current KU roster is loaded with both the kind of talent and the number of bodies that make such an exercise a possibility.

From five super seniors and four returning starters to four freshmen to 10 new faces, the Kansas lineup figures to look a lot different during the upcoming season than it did a year ago.

That is, of course, except for when it doesn’t.

With returning starters Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, David McCormack and Jalen Wilson all viable options to handle similar roles this season, a completely new-look KU roster might have a very familiar look to it when the games begin.

It’s what happens when foul trouble and fatigue set in, making substitutions necessary, that things will get really interesting.

And I would imagine that KU coach Bill Self and his assistants are drooling over the possibilities. Here are but a few of them, some of which are more likely than others.

My Starting Five

(as of July 6, 2021)

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Christian Braun

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – David McCormack

People have been writing off Christian

Braun a little bit, but I just don’t

see it. I think he brings everything

to the starting five that you want in

a player and I expect him to have

improved his shot and physicality in

the offseason, making him poised for a

strong junior season. Outside of that,

I think the other four are all but

locks to start.

Top-25 Second Unit

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Joseph Yesufu

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Cam Martin

5 – Mitch Lightfoot

This is one of those “would be ranked

or finish in the top half of the Big

12” type of teams and at least four of

these guys are likely to play

significant roles this season. The

lone exception could be Lightfoot, but

his experience and shot blocking

ability could help him carve out a

reserve role if Cam Martin and/or Zach

Clemence aren’t ready for big minutes

right away. Either way, this backcourt

is pretty darn good, with two

playmakers and a couple of shooters

and Martin and Lightfoot are big

enough to do what they need to do on

the glass. Looking at this team gives

you a clear picture of why the 2021-22

Jayhawks are so highly thought of this

offseason. Four of these guys could

play starter type minutes and blend

very nicely with that first unit.

Let’s Play Big

PG – Christian Braun

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Jalen Wilson

4 – Cam Martin

5 – David McCormack

This obviously will never happen — 1.

Because the game has gotten smaller,

not bigger and 2. Because Self

probably wouldn’t be comfortable with

those guys as his primary ball

handlers — but Braun has been the

initiator of the offense in spots in

the past and that trio in the back

court would give KU a size advantage

on just about anybody. The big thing

this presents is the idea of playing

Cam Martin and David McCormack

together, something I think Self will

at least consider doing a fair amount

of the time, provided they fit each

other and can do what needs to be done

defensively to be out there at the

same time.

Let’s Play Small

(aka Opposing Ballhandlers’ Worst Nightmare)

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Remy Martin

3G – Joseph Yesufu

4 – Ochai Agbaji

5 – Jalen Wilson

I love this look. And even if it comes

in a more traditional sense with those

three little guards and Wilson and

McCormack on the floor, I think this

could be a very dynamic lineup.

Harris, Martin and Yesufu out there

together could make life miserable for

opposing guards. And all three are

good enough offensively — even if

they’re on the smaller side — to keep

their presence on the floor from

hurting KU’s bottom line. I don’t

think we’ll see this lineup very much.

But if the matchup is right and KU

needs a defensive spark, I could see

this group being the group that plays

together for 4-6 minutes and

completely turns a game.

Top All-Newcomer Look

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Joseph Yesufu

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Zach Clemence

5 – Cam Martin

Talk about a pretty good crop of

newcomers. Four of the five were

starters at their previous stops and

the fifth — Clemence — was a Top 100

recruit who brings offensive and

defensive versatility with him. There

are simply too many talented returners

to expect to see Kansas lean on the

newcomers this hard. But this lineup

shows you loud and clear that KU’s

depth is on another level this season.

That should keep things competitive

from start to finish and it also

should keep guys fresh late in games

and late in the season.

Wings Across America Tour

PG – Joseph Yesufu

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Christian Braun

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – KJ Adams

Until Remy Martin to Kansas became

official earlier this week, there was

a real chance that Yesufu was going to

get a long look as KU’s point guard.

In this lineup, which features five

players who could thrive on the wing,

Yesufu runs the point and the others

run around all over the floor with

him, spotting up, slashing, getting

out in transition and crashing the

offensive glass on every possession.

Old Heads

PG – Remy Martin (23)

SG – Jalen Coleman-Lands (25 on July 15)

3G – Cam Martin (23)

4 – David McCormack (22)

5 – Mitch Lightfoot (25 on Juy 14)

A lot has been made about the age of

some of these guys — most notably

journeyman Mitch Lightfoot — but that

maturity and veteran presence figures

to help this team a tremendous amount.

Beyond that, even if you played the

four oldest guys on KU’s roster, it

would still be a pretty decent team.

Having Cam Martin, McCormack and Mitch

out there together would make it kind

of clunky and make this team

vulnerable on the defensive end. So we

won’t ever see it exactly this way.

But there’s no doubt that the foursome

of Martin, Coleman-Lands, Martin and

McCormack could team with Agbaji — a

senior himself — to still field a

pretty old and experienced five and

change the outlook in a hurry. I know

some have already mentioned it, but

add to these five two other seniors

and you’re looking at a marathon night

of speeches on Senior Night late in

the season.

The Youngsters

PG – Dajuan Harris

SG – Bobby Pettiford

3G – Kyle Cuffe Jr.

4 – KJ Adams

5 – Zach Clemence

On the flipside of things, this would

be the youngest team KU could put on

the floor. And we’re much more likely

to see that group of old men before we

see this bunch. For one, I think

there’s a good chance that Cuffe, who

reclassified up to get here early,

will redshirt. The other four all

could play some kind of role this

season, but exactly what that looks

like is not yet known. I think

Pettiford and Clemence are going to

grow to become players KU fans

absolutely love. And Cuffe is mature

beyond his years and Adams is a

physical mismatch waiting to happen.

It’s just a matter of opportunity and

how quickly all of these guys make the

adjustment to the college game that

will determine how much they’ll play

during the 2021-22 season.

Bombs Away Bunch

PG – Remy Martin

SG – Ochai Agbaji

3G – Jalen Coleman-Lands

4 – Jalen Wilson

5 – Cam Martin

This is a pretty fun team and it’s not

that much of a reach to picture these

guys being out there together.

Coleman-Lands is a career 37% 3-point

shooter, who has two seasons of better

than 38% shooting under his belt,

including last season when he shot

39.5% from downtown at Iowa State. Cam Martin shot better than 40% from

3-point range for much of his

All-American time at Missouri Southern

and Ochai Agbaji led the Big 12 in

3-point makes and was fourth in

3-point percentage in the conference.

And then there’s Martin, who never met

a shot he didn’t feel like he was

going to make, and Wilson, who is

equally as confident when he lets it

fly. Space the floor and let it fly

would be the mantra with this bunch,

and because of that these Jayhawks

should be a much better shooting team

than the 2020-21 group was.


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