Billy Preston Signs Overseas, Won’t Play at Kansas

Photo via Arcamax

The Billy Preston saga at Kansas is over. News came this morning that Preston has signed with BC Ikogea, part of the Bosnian Professional League. With the signing, it officially means that Preston will never play a minute for the Jayhawks this season. Preston had been sidelined all year due to questions surrounding a car accident he was in back in the Fall. Bill Self continually said he expected the issue to be cleared, but now it appears it won’t even matter.

For Kansas, it is a bit of unfortunate news for a team that was expecting to get some added fire power to their front court. In Self’s eyes, it wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when he will play. Preston was expected to be a major piece to Bill Self’s concoction in Lawrence this year. Getting him back in the middle of the season could have given this team an added boost down the stretch. Instead it looks like the Jayhawks are moving on with the team they have.

While this news certainly doesn’t help the depth issue that Kansas has, it isn’t a crushing blow to their title hopes either. Preston was a McDonald’s All-American recruit noted for his offensive abilities. He was somewhat ball dominant however, and his defense would have been a work in progress, at least to reach Self’s standards. Instead Kansas will move forward with Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa up front.

We know Billy is an NBA prospect so we will do our best to continue his development to help him excel for our club and fulfill his goal which is to be an NBA star in the near future.”

For Preston, the decision was made in an attempt to best ready himself for an NBA career. Being a highly touted high school prospect, he was expected to be a one-and-done at Kansas before declaring for the NBA Draft. Sitting on the bench at Kansas wasn’t helping his draft stock. Per the Kansas City Star, the BC Ikogea reached out to Preston after tracking his situation, and the team is committed to helping his development. NBADraft.net has Preston as the 59th best draft prospect in this Summer’s draft.

The news doesn’t make or break KU’s season, but you have to imagine Bill Self and his staff are not happy with how this played out. Being questioned constantly from the media about the issue, Self did believe a decision was coming soon. It is a bit surprising that the NCAA could not come up with a resolution to a case that seemed so small back in November when it occurred. Regardless, both Kansas and Preston have their priorities. One is looking to win the Big 12 and a National Championship, the other is looking to jump start his professional career.

Is This the Year the Big 12 Changes Hands?

For the past thirteen seasons the Big 12 has belonged to the Kansas Jayhawks. One of the more impressive streaks in all of sports, Kansas had won at least a share of the Big 12 the last thirteen years. Some seasons the Jayhawks have made light work of the competition, others they have been tested mightily. Every year though, the question remains the same: When will KU fall? This year the Big 12 Conference has stood out in non-conference play. The seat is hot as Kansas heads into conference play. Let’s look at factors that could keep Kansas short of their 14th conference title.

Depth

Bill Self’s short bench has been a highly discussed topic his year. That bench got a little deeper when the Jayhawks added Sam Cunliffe right before the holidays. Self and his staff are hoping to receive more good news in the new year to help solve his front court problem. Right now, with Cunliffe, Kansas rotates eight players, and a few of them are not ready for the major minutes they are receiving. If KU gets De Sousa cleared, and Billy Preston finds his way onto the court, it’s a mew ball game. But those are just ifs for now.

Three Point Reliant

Having such a thin front court, has cause Self to make changes over the past two seasons. Last year self went with a four guard lineup and allowed Josh Jackson to play the four. This year though, there is no Jackson, and Kansas has a very small four guard line up. This has them relying heavily on the three-point shot. The good news, is they currently rank 14th in the country in percentage. The bad news, is that when shots aren’t falling, you’re cooked. You saw it in the Elite Eight last year against Oregon. Not having a proper balance could hurt KU in conference play.

Trae Young

During non-conference play, Trae Young and Oklahoma received all the headlines, not Kansas. Young has taken the Sooners from unranked to number 12 in the nation. Their number one offense in the country is clicking at an insane rate. They are currently putting up 95 points per game. That’s better than Duke, Gonzaga, Arizona State, everyone. It’s this potent offense that poses a real threat to Kansas. The Jayhawks defense, though it’s improving, has not been up to Bill Self’s standards thus far. If Kansas tries to get into a scoring match with the Sooners, they will likely lose more times than they’ll win.

The Big 12 is Experienced

Outside the scorching hot Oklahoma Sooners, the rest of the Big 12 is, well, really good. Right now, West Virginia (7), TCU (10), Oklahoma (12), Baylor (18) and Texas Tech (22) all join Kansas (11) in the AP Top 25. Texas Tech and Texas have top ranked defenses in the country, and you can’t talk defense without mentioning West Virginia. Kansas has overcome deep Big 12 Conferences before, but this year seems different. There are explosive offenses like Oklahoma, well balanced teams like TCU and Texas Tech, and Bob Huggins always gives Bill Self fits. Add in Baylor and Texas and it will be a tall task for Kansas to repeat.

Kansas has faced its challenges. You don’t win thirteen regular season conference championships without a few obstacles. This season is shaping up to be no different. Kansas is not a finished product, they will hopefully add one, or hopefully two, more players to give Bill Self a deeper rotation to work with. Self usually gets his team to overcome. If he is to do it this year, it may be his best work yet.

Silvio De Sousa Could be Kansas Basketball’s Early Christmas Present

Help is coming for the Kansas Jayhawks. After spending a third of the college basketball season with the thinnest of front-courts, Bill Self and company believe depth is on the way.

4-star recruit Silvio De Sousa has been attempting to finish classes at IMG Academy and enroll early to Kansas. He believes he will have all his academics wrapped up by the end of this week. From there, he will wait on the NCAA to declare him eligible. If all goes to plan, the 6’9 forward from Angola could see himself suited up as early as December 29th when Kansas opens up Big 12 play. Crazy, right?

The news could not come at a better time for Kansas, who has had some struggles on the court as of late. After dropping back to back games against Washington and Arizona State, the Jayhawks found themselves getting called soft by their head coach. Self is known to dig at his team during tough times, but he may have a point here.

Kansas was supposed to have solid front court depth. Udoka Azubuike returned from injury and McDonald’s All-American Billy Preston was coming to campus to replace a struggling Carlton Bragg. Many also thought Mitch Lightfoot would take a big step forward in his development, as most KU bigs do. Preston has yet to play however, due to an incident with a car back in November, and Lightfoot has been underwhelming thus far. 

“This is the softest team Kansas has had since I’ve been here.” – Bill Self

It’s hard to imagine De Sousa making an enormous impact for KU, seeing as he is coming in midway through the season and will be asked to pick up the college game relatively quickly. That said, the best ability is availability, and pending clearance from the NCAA, De Sousa will be available. He could very well see minutes if Preston continues to sit and Lightfoot does not play well. 

Outside Azubuike, Preston and Lightfoot, Self’s options are limited to walk-on Clay Young. A relatively thin team all around, the Jayhawks did get some added back-court depth with Sam Cunliffe becoming eligible after sitting out a year for transferring. Adding another player to the front-court will at least give Self numbers to rotate on a given night.

It’s still early, and until you can beat Kansas in February, the Big 12 still runs though Phog Allen, but Kansas is at a critical point heading into Big 12 play. The Big 12 looks as good as ever and a thin roster could spell trouble for the 13 time reigning champs. Luckily, help may be just around the corner.

And by the way, if you don’t know what De Sousa is capable of…

Upset Week Shows How Much Parity is in College Basketball

It was a crazy week in college basketball this past week. No team in the Top 10 was safe, and we saw a number of highly ranked teams fall. It’s early in the year, and most teams are trying to find their identities, but we are seeing how wide open the NCAA basketball season is this year. Aside from about three teams, the rest of the pack is jumbled together trying to figure themselves out.

Florida Looks Like Two Different Teams

It started Monday with Florida’s loss to the rival FSU Seminoles at home. This loss wasn’t terrible, as Florida State came into the game undefeated, and will likely move into the Top 25 with the win. But after taking Duke to the wire in the championship of the PK80, expectations were raised for Mike White’s club. The Gators’ week got even worse two days later when they suffered another loss. This time to University of Loyola-Chicago. What we learned this week is Florida needs to make shots to compete on an elite level. This may sound obvious but look at how good they looked when they made shots vs Duke, and how bad they looked when they didn’t against Florida State.

Notre Dame Falls in South Bend

The weirdness continued Tuesday with #9 Notre Dame losing to Ball State in South Bend. The Irish got their normal contribution from potential ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colson. The issue was, that they will only be as good as Colson’s supporting cast. Senior Matt Farrell chipped in with 14, and two other starters finished in double digits, but the lack of bench hurts ND. Playing only three bench players for a total of 27 minutes is not a recipe for long term success. The Irish could use some reliable bench help to sure up their rotation before the head into ACC play.

Is Arizona Back?

After Notre Dame suffered their fate, Texas A&M followed up with a loss to Arizona. On paper this loss is not nearly as big of an upset, but Arizona is still going through an identity check. The Wildcats looked to answer a few questions though, and got great support, in addition to another strong game from DeAndre Ayton. The Cats looking to trending upward after this week, but nonetheless this is still another Top 10 upset right now. A&M may have wowed us opening night, but maybe we got greedy with how good they looked

Kansas Gets Exposed

Safe to say it was a bad week for the #2 ranked team in the country. It started Wednesday night when Washington came in and had the perfect game plan for the Jayhawks. It ended Sunday when Arizona State, maybe the hottest team in the country, came into Lawrence and won, something that doesn’t ever happen. Washington’s Mike Hopkins devised a perfect zone defense that contested KU around the three point arc all night long. The two loss week left head coach Bill Self calling this team the softest he’s ever had here at Kansas. It really showed how reliant Kansas is to making shots from deep. Similar to Florida, if they’re falling they look great. But if they’re not, who knows. Kansas could really use Bill Preston, or even Silvio De Sousa to help sure up their front court issues. Meanwhile, for Arizona State…

Down Goes #1

The week of upsets would not be complete without the number one team falling. The young Duke Blue Devils lost their first ACC game of the year, walking into BC and losing to the Eagles. All credit should go to Jim Christian and staff for great execution. Ky Bowman’s 30 point effort and near triple-double doesn’t hurt either. Duke won’t suffer a ton from this, it will likely be a better learning curve for a young team that was getting talked about as maybe going undefeated. It does show however, that every team has their holes, and no one is a sure thing.

So that wraps up the week. It will likely have Villanova, Michigan State, Duke, Arizona State (yes, really) and Wichita State in the new top 5. This feels like a year that will have a lot of fluctuation within the top part of the polls, but we may not see another week that compares to this week.

The Border War is Back…Kind Of

The Border War is back, sort of. It was announced today that Kansas and Missouri will play in an exhibition game on October 22nd at the Sprint Center. All money raised by the game will go towards supporting hurricane relief efforts. Many college basketball junkies know the rivalry that exists between the Jayhawks and Tigers. While this game’s first priority is to raise money, it will also give fans a taste of one of the best rivalries in college sports.

Kansas and Missouri first played each other on the hardwood back in 1907, but the Border War dates back even further. KU has the advantage, with a record of 172-96 against Mizzou. It’s been six years since the two programs have met however, due to Missouri moving out of the Big 12 Conference. For those that can remember, the last meeting between the two programs was epic. Kansas stormed back from a 19 point deficit at Phog Allen to top Missouri in overtime, 87-86. The outcome resulted in championship caliber celebrations and agony by each side. The win also gave Kansas their 8th straight conference championship.

“Playing Missouri does mean something. It means something to me.” -Kansas Coach, Bill Self

This exhibition game will not have the same allure as previous match-ups. The game does not count towards anyone’s record, and the goal is to raise money and not get anyone hurt before the real season begins. However, it’s tough to peg this as just another exhibition game. You have Kansas and their 13 straight Big 12 Championships. You have Missouri and their talented group of freshman, led by potential #1 pick Michael Porter Jr. And let’s not forget the rivalry and hatred that exists between the two states. Exhibition game or not, this game means something. The Sprint Center will be packed; it will be rowdy. Both fan bases will want a win whether it reflects on record or not.

There is everything to love about this game, and nothing to hate. Pre-Season All-Americans, a rich and storied rivalry, and above all, it’s for a great cause. College basketball may not tip off for another month, but we’re going to get an early look at two teams who have high expectations attached with them for this season. If all goes well, maybe we will see a non-conference, home and home develop out of this. Here’s to hoping.