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Can Jayhawks’ Win Without Udoka Azubuike?

Wide shot of the Allen Fieldhouse court pre-game.
Kansas has a great home-court edge at Allen Fieldhouse, but will be undermanned for the rest of the year with C Udoka Azubuike sidelined by a hand injury. Photo by David Reber (flickr) [CC License].
  • Kansas center Udoka Azubuike will miss the remainder of the season with a hand injury.
  • How will Azubuike’s injury affect the Jayhawks?
  • Is Kansas still a legitimate national title contender without his interior presence?

If the Kansas Jayhawks have any hope of returning to the Final Four this season, they’ll have to do it without their starting center.

The 7-foot Azubuike was an integral part of the Jayhawks’ deep run in 2018 and was one of the few reliable big men on Kansas’ roster.

His loss has lengthened the Jayhawks’ national title odds, but only ever so slightly.  The preseason number-one team is still a top-six favorite at Bovada, falling from +1100 to +1200 in the last week.

Odds to Win 2019 NCAA National Championship

Team Odds to Win 2019 NCAAB National Championship at Bovada
Duke Blue Devils +170
Michigan Wolverines +900
Gonzaga Bulldogs +1000
Tennessee Volunteers +1100
Virginia Cavaliers +1100
Kansas Jayhawks +1200

The small line movement is surprising considering Kansas’ only two losses this season came with Azubuike out of the line-up, including a 17-point defeat to Iowa State last Saturday.

How will the Jayhawks adjust without Azubuike?

Azubuike’s absence highlights the Kansas’ lack of depth. They prefer playing with two big men on the floor, and will now likely lean on four-guard line-ups like they have in the past.  On the bright side, going small could create more opportunity and space for leading scorer Dedric Lawson.

But only if the Jayhawks can draw the defense out by improving their three-point shooting.  Kansas is below 50% from the field this season, including a dreadful 34.1% from three (tied for 181st in the nation).

Is the Jayhawks’ 14-year Big 12 reign in jeopardy?

The Big 12 is loaded this season, with Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma and TCU all joining Kansas in the AP Top 25.

Texas Tech looks like the most dangerous threat to the Jayhawks’ reign, ranking higher in the kenpom.com efficiency ratings and boasting one of the nation’s top defenses.

Meanwhile, Iowa State has more raw talent than Kansas, led by the Big 12’s leading scorer.

While the Jayhawks still have plenty of time to adjust to life without Azubuike, a 15th straight Big 12 title is by no means a lock, and it’s possible they finish behind one or even two of their conference rivals by season’s end.

Should you fade Kansas’ national title odds?

In short, yes.  This is not one of Bill Self’s best rosters and their lack of depth limits their ceiling. They’re a poor shooting team and they turn the ball over at an alarming rate.

Between Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, Self’s recent Kansas teams have all had elite point-guard play. This year, it’s freshman Devon Dotson trying to fill that role. He could be the next great Kansas point guard. But with a 2.9/2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio through 14 games, he isn’t yet.

At +1200, Kansas would need to win the national title eight out of every 100 times it was contested in order for the wager to be profitable, and I just don’t see that happening given the talent on this team.

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