Transition year or not, Kansas schedules like a champ
The possibilities for the 2013-14 season were seeded by the return of a number of high-profile stars to join a highly anticipated entering freshman class. Now they’re being germinated by schedules that have started coming out for some of the nation’s blue blood programs. The combination of talent and a growing number of high-profile nonconference matchups already has college fans anxiously anticipating November.
Kansas is the latest heavyweight to release its non-league schedule, and despite losing a boatload of starters from this year’s Sweet 16 team, Bill Self didn’t disappoint. Even I, who routinely chastise teams for playing a platter of cupcakes and never leaving the comfort of home, raised an eyebrow at the level of difficulty the Jayhawks will be facing.
On first glimpse, the list of presumed soft games has Louisiana-Monroe, Toledo and … well, that’s the complete list. The second game of the season is against Duke in Chicago as part of the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks are in the fairly solid Battle 4 Atlantis (along with Tennessee, Villanova, Iowa and others). They get New Mexico in Kansas City. They’re hosting Georgetown and San Diego State. They’re playing true road games at Colorado and Florida. Even home dates with Iona and Towson are against mid-majors who should be pretty solid.
That’s a big bucketful of potential top-25 teams, with a really tough gauntlet starting with the trip to the Bahamas and going through the end of the calendar year. It’s the type of schedule that will keep a fanbase highly engaged (if that’s even needed in Lawrence) and battle-test a roster entering the season with relative inexperience and the pressure of trying to avoid being the team that finally sees KU’s nine-year Big 12 title run come to a close.
Also, while the schedule will be there in November regardless of who is on the roster, it definitely provides enough national TV-type games if a certain Andrew Wiggins decides to spend his pre-NBA year in Lawrence, as well. All four of Wiggins’ prospective teams (KU, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State) will be playing quality opponents next season, and at least two would be serious national title contenders with him on the roster.
All in all, this is a great development, and the anticipation keeps building for next season. Hopefully, more of the big boys take the route that Kentucky and Kansas have, and nonconference play can stand on its own rather than being a junkies-only prelude to league play.