LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A new and intriguing component for Kansas basketball is its depth.
That seems odd since the blueblood Jayhawks are usually involved in recruiting some of the nation's best prospects, though each of the last two seasons attrition, injuries and suspensions have limited coach Bill Self's options.
In a season-opening victory over No. 10 Michigan State at the Champions Classic, each of the 10 players Self inserted in the first half scored while building a 17-point bulge the No. 2 Jayhawks preserved for a 92-87 victory.
"We played all 10 guys and all 10 guys contributed in favorable ways," Self said. "It was obviously important, but I can't see us doing it that much unless foul problems create that, and I think that was the case (against Michigan State)."
What also plays into Self's assessment is his own tendencies. The Jayhawks' 15-year coach likes to whittle his rotation to seven or eight players for the Big 12 chase. No one can argue with the results since Kansas has claimed 14 straight conference championships.
Minutes could become particularly difficult to split among frontcourt players, though Self will obviously mix and match throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule, which resumes Monday with a home game against Vermont (1-0).
Self recognizes the need to keep Udoka Azubuike fresh, though the 7-foot starting center looked much quicker getting down the floor while contributing 17 points and four blocked shots in 20 minutes, while going 7-for-10 but grabbing only three rebounds.
Reserves K.J. Lawson, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot provided 11 points off the bench as inside contributors. Another big man, Silvio De Sousa, could also return, though his status is uncertain as he serves an indefinite suspension as his eligibility is verified.
"Where (depth) becomes difficult is, if you don't have foul problems, how do you play all four (bigs) and play K.J.?" Self said while singling out Lawson, a Memphis transfer whose brother Dedric starts at forward and contributed a double-double (20 points, 14 rebounds) with six assists in his Kansas debut.
"That's what I'm looking at. So are we playing K.J. as a sixth perimeter player, or do you play him as your fourth big? I think depending on who we're playing against, whether they play two bigs or play a pick-and-pop four, things like that, would probably give us a better feel on that."
Vermont is coming off a 27-8 run as American East champion. It was the Catamounts' 10th consecutive 20-win season.
The top returnee from that squad, junior forward Anthony Lamb, recorded a double-double (19 points, 14 rebounds) as Vermont topped Boston 78-72 in the season opener. Sophomore guard Stef Smith led all scorers with 22 points -- 20 in the second half.
The preseason pick to repeat in the America East, Vermont has the unusual distinction of three brothers on its roster -- Ernie, Everett and Robin Duncan. Ernie, a senior guard, was an all-league defender last year. He had 18 points and five assists against Boston.
"Anthony and Ernie are obviously the most accomplished players," eighth-year coach John Becker said, "and we want to make sure they are involved. We'll be more deliberate at times to make sure those two guys are getting touches."
Updated November 12, 2018