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Kansas basketball schedule not as brutal as in most seasons

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) swats away a ball from several Missouri players during the second half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) swats away a ball from several Missouri players during the second half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Checking the Associated Press preseason college basketball poll to see how many regular-season games Kansas is scheduled to play against ranked schools always makes for a fun exercise.

Let’s take a look at how the numbers compare, starting with Devonte’ Graham’s freshman season through this, his senior season, to see how KU’s schedule measures up.

In Graham’s freshman year, KU's schedule included games against preseason No. 1 Kentucky, No. 7 Florida, No. 18 Michigan State and No. 25 Utah, plus two Big 12 games vs. No. 10 Texas, No. 14 Iowa State and No. 19 Oklahoma. That’s 10 regular-season games vs. schools that appeared in the top 25.

In Graham’s sophomore season, KU had game games against preseason No. 13 Michigan State and No. 18 Vanderbilt, plus two conference games vs. No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 22 Baylor. That’s eight regular-season games against preseason top 25 schools.

Last season, KU played preseason No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 11 Indiana, plus two Big 12 games against No. 20 West Virginia, No. 21 Texas and No. 24 Iowa State for a total of nine games preseason top 25 schools.

This season, No. 4 Kansas faces preseason No. 5 Kentucky and has a pair conference games vs. No. 11 West Virginia and No. 24 Baylor for a total of five games against schools ranked in the preseason poll released earlier this week.

Not by design, the schedule is less challenging this season, in part because just three Big 12 teams are ranked as opposed to the usual four. Syracuse, which KU plays in Miami, often appears in the preseason top 25, but doesn’t this season.

Look at the bright side of a less brutal schedule. Udoka Azubuike, still on the raw side, will have a chance to restore confidence if he doesn’t have a terrific showing against Kentucky (Nov. 14, United Center in Chicago) and Billy Preston will grow increasingly comfortable playing in the paint while developing confidence in that area of his game. Both players have huge upsides and rank as the two biggest X factors on the team.

The rigors of Big 12 play, with home-court advantages greater than in most conferences because of the on-campus arenas as opposed to NBA buildings, will be plenty stiff enough to prepare Kansas for the NCAA tournament.

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