Kansas University’s upcoming 2013-14 nonconference basketball schedule rates as the toughest in the country, ESPN.com stated Monday.
Analyst Eamonn Brennan tapped the Jayhawks’ slate No. 1, followed by Memphis, Georgetown, Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina.
The Jayhawks travel to Colorado and Florida, play Duke in Chicago, New Mexico in Kansas City and San Diego State and Georgetown in Allen Fieldhouse. They also play Iona, Towson, Toledo and Louisiana Monroe at home and travel to the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney, in which they open against Wake Forest, then meet either USC or Villanova in the second round.
“No one else makes the most of the two months preceding conference play. The Jayhawks have just two true cupcakes on their docket (Iona and Towson are plenty talented, and you likely will see them in March). The rest of the slate is populated by a combination of elite fixtures (the Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker matchup at the Champions Classic just needs to get here already, please), brutal road games (at Colorado, at Florida), very solid home fixtures (New Mexico, Georgetown, San Diego State) and a high-quality exempt tournament (the Battle 4 Atlantis) which contains Tennessee, Villanova and Iowa among its potential upset threats,” Brennan wrote.
“Especially interesting? This is not a normal Kansas season. Most years, (coach Bill) Self would unveil a schedule like this (though rarely this tough) to a crop of veteran, experienced, developmentally ripened veterans. This year, he will lead an almost entirely new batch of young players — featuring Wiggins, yes, but also classmates Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp — into the breach. Watching how that team develops and congeals in the early months is going to be highly intriguing, far more so than any argument about who has the best schedule in the country. That debate should be settled.”
Self, whose team begins practice Sept. 27 in accordance with NCAA rules, with Late Night in the Phog set for Oct. 4, acknowledges the schedule might be the toughest in his 11 years at KU.
“A couple years ago, with a team that lost a lot off a No. 1 seed, you had Kentucky, Georgetown, UCLA, Duke and Ohio State — five games in a six-or seven-game stretch that were ridiculously hard. It’s probably the best schedule anybody played in the country that year. This certainly rivals that,” Self said. He was referring to 2011-12, when KU went 10-3 nonconference and 32-7 overall after losing the Morris twins, Josh Selby and others.
“It’s going to be tough because there are no gimme games. There’s no games, ‘Hey let’s just show up and get experience tonight,’ or, ‘Let’s work on combinations.’ They are all games we are going to have to play to win. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot. It should be fun, exciting. It will be a handful for us, but a schedule that will force us to be good early.”
The 10 worst nonconference schedules as listed by ESPN.com’s Jason King: Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson, Houston, Mississippi State, Pitt, Seton Hall, TCU, Texas A&M; and Utah.
New rankings for 2015: KU is involved in the recruitment of the top four players in Rivals.com’s list of the top 150 players in the Class of 2015, which was released Thursday. They are: Malik Newman, 6-3, Callaway High, Jackson, Miss.; Stephen Zimmerman, 7-foot, Bishop Gorman High, Las Vegas; Ivan Rabb, 6-9, Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland, Calif.; and Diamond Stone, 6-10, Dominican High, Milwaukee.
Of Newman, Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi writes: “Probably more of a natural shooting guard than he is a point guard at this stage in his development, Newman has proven to be a big-time bucket-getter on any stage. He led USA Basketball’s Under 16 team in scoring over the summer, proved to be mostly unguardable at Nike’s LeBron James Skills Academy, and teamed with 2014’s No. 2 player Emmanuel Mudiay to form one of the most dangerous backcourts that the grassroots circuit has seen in quite some time.
“The son of former Mississippi State star Horatio Webster, Newman is coveted by most of the country’s major programs. Rick Ray will certainly try to get Newman to follow in his father’s steps to Starkville, but Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville N.C. State, Ole Miss and many others are among those that would love to have him as well, and the competition will be stiff.”