The Kansas men’s basketball team will officially kick off practices for the 2021-22 season on Wednesday and will follow that up with Late Night in the Phog on Friday.
For KU fans, the latter will be the first glimpse of Arizona State transfer Remy Martin in a Kansas uniform.
Martin is one of 10 new faces on this year’s roster, but because of his past production and high-profile image, he figures to be by far the most watched newcomer early in the season.
Martin comes to KU on the heels of back-to-back 19-points-per-game seasons with the Sun Devils. And it remains to be seen what kind of player he will be and role he will have with the Jayhawks this season.
But there’s little doubting that the KU coaching staff is expecting big things, and Kansas coach Bill Self has talked plenty about the impact he thinks Martin can make on the 2021-22 roster.
Here’s a look at some of what you can expect from the newest Kansas point guard.
He Will: Be every bit as good as advertised
There have been times in the past when freshmen or transfers have come into the program with a ton of buzz and failed to live up to the hype surrounding them.
This will not be one of those situations. Martin is a big-time player who has proven his talent at the highest level of college basketball, including in two games against Kansas in the past.
Because of that, the expectations of him making a huge and immediate impact are right on the money.
His skill set alone is enough to drive expectations through the roof. But the fact that he comes to KU as one of the most experienced players on the roster adds another dimension to that.
In fact, Martin’s 3,623 career minutes played at Arizona State (in 118 games) rank second on the team to fellow-newcomer Jalen Coleman-Lands, who’s had the benefit of five seasons and 15 extra games to get to 3,733 career minutes.
For context, Ochai Agbaji is the top returning Jayhawk with 2,611 career minutes, more than 1,000 behind Martin.
KU’s other veterans Mitch Lightfoot (1,351), David McCormack (1,457) and Christian Braun (1,503) are all still well short of 2,000 minutes for their careers.
Martin has the game to make a major splash and because of the make-up of KU’s roster and his past experience, he’ll have the opportunity, as well.
He Won’t: Have the same freedom to shoot from wherever as he did at Arizona State
During his final two seasons at ASU, Martin averaged right around 15 shots per game and shot roughly 34% from 3-point range.
A lot of those numbers were out of necessity.
Even as a freshman, when he came off the bench for a team that won in Allen Fieldhouse, Martin was still looked to as one of the Sun Devils’ top scoring options.
His role only increased from there and, as a player with the ball in his hands more than anyone else, Martin had the freedom to run what he wanted, attack when he could and shoot whenever and wherever he felt like shooting.
That led to some big games and some serious highlights — not to mention deep 3-point makes. But the high usage also contributed to his shooting percentages and also put quite a burden on Martin’s shoulders.
At Kansas, none of that will be in play. In addition to having plenty of help around him, Martin likely will be asked to be a small — but important — part of a big machine that many believe can contend for a national title. He won’t have to do it all all the time. He’ll just have to do his job.
Some nights that might mean he scores. Other nights it might mean he attacks the paint relentlessly, either in hopes of getting to the rim or kicking out to wide open teammates. And other nights, he might be asked to get to the free throw line or, away from offense, lock up the other team’s primary ball handler.
What Martin will learn during his one year at Kansas — if he hasn’t already — is that there are ways for Bill Self players to impact the game without having it show up on the stat sheet.
Given that Martin has said repeatedly that his biggest goal this season is to win, that should mesh nicely with what KU asks and needs from him.
He Might: Average more assists per game than shot attempts
This kind of goes along with the last one, but we’re diving into it a little more.
Considering that Martin was not even invited to this summer’s NBA combine, it would make sense to conclude that pro scouts and GMs need to see something more than what he’s done thus far in his college career to take a longer look at him.
The answer to that is a big part of the reason he’s at Kansas and, if he plays it right, could go a long way toward helping him reach his goal of playing in the NBA.
At 6-foot, 175 pounds, Martin is on the short side for an NBA scoring guard. The length and height of guys who play that position could — not necessarily would but certainly could — negate any of the abilities he has flashed as a college player.
Shots are harder to get off. Turning the corner into the paint is tougher. And having big, burly, athletics dudes waiting for him when he gets there also is different than what he’s seen in college.
So where does he go from here? In my opinion, he has to show scouts that he’s a pure point guard.
With the supporting cast he has around him at Kansas, the opportunity to do that will be there. At any given time, KU should have at least two or three other gifted scorers on the floor with Martin, setting up the perfect scenario for him to run the ship and command an offense.
We already know he can shoot. He’s a 34% 3-point shooter for his career with nearly 200 makes in four seasons. So having that as part of his repertoire will not be an issue.
But the only way it will mean much is if he shows that he can run a team, making high-IQ plays, setting up teammates for easy buckets and defending the heck out of his opponent night in and night out.
All of those things will be requirements for Martin to play big minutes at Kansas. So the opportunity is there for him to do them well and showcase a side of his game that pro scouts haven’t seen a ton. That, one would think, would lead to Martin at least getting a look after the 2021-22 season.
For his career, Martin is averaging 11.7 field goal attempts and 3.9 assists per game. It’s impossible to think he could get his assist total above that number on a nightly basis.
But if the assists go up — say to 7 or 8 per game — the shot attempts likely would naturally come down, and Martin turning in lines where he shoots it 7 or 8 times per game — or less —and finishes with as many assists is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
Either way, it should be fun to watch it all play out.
If he can get 20 points per game while still dishing seven or so assists (Devonte’ Graham senior season-type numbers), I doubt anybody’s going to have much of an issue with that. It’s just hard to envision that based simply on the fact that there are so many options and weapons on this Kansas offense to begin with.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2021
The official start of the 2021-22 college basketball season is right around the corner, with the Jayhawks starting practices next week and closing in on a month out from the season opener against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in New York City.
That means it's time to take a closer look at this roster, which, as you surely know by now, features 10 new faces and four returning starters.
We jumped into to our annual "He Will, He Won't, He Might" prediction series a few weeks ago with senior David McCormack but wanted to wait until we got closer to the season to keep it going.
We're there now, with Late Night just one week away and KU slated to host its first full-scale practice next Wednesday.
So here's a look at another senior to get things re-started: veteran guard Ochai Agbaji, who hails from Kansas City, Mo., and is slated to start for the fourth consecutive season.
He Will: Be this team’s unquestioned leader
Anyone who has been around Kansas basketball for the past four years knows that Ochai Agbaji is a born leader.
He showed signs of his take-charge ability during the second semester of his freshman season, just days after he had his redshirt removed. And while that ability to lead and step forward with his voice still needed the bite of production behind it, it did not take Agbaji long to get there.
By his sophomore season (2019-20), he emerged as a quiet leader, one who let the production of All-Americans Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike speak louder but also was not afraid to speak up and stay steady in his play.
And last season, as the face of the program, Agbaji led the team in scoring and was one guy who consistently seemed to be willing to try to take over games, even if the result didn’t always go as he had hoped.
Now, with three seasons of experience under his belt and the fire of coming back to KU for one more run, Agbaji will set the tone for this team.
He’ll have help, of course. And this team will have other leaders in other ways. But none of the returning players have as much invested in terms of on-court time and production as Agbaji. After getting rob of a run in 2019-20 and proving to be overmatched a season ago, Agbaji knows this team is loaded enough to make a real run and he will be in the right place every step of the way to make sure his teammates stay hungry and don’t slip.
On a team with 10 newcomers, that last part will be key.
He Won’t: Be so selfish that he tries to showcase his skills and improvement to the detriment of the team
It’s no secret that Agbaji was close to turning pro this offseason. But his production at the NBA combine — on the court more than during testing — and his desire to come back for one more run paved the way for him to return.
Now armed with firsthand knowledge of what NBA scouts are looking for, Agbaji has the tools required to have a monster season in 2021-22. But don’t think for a second that his biggest goals (playing in the NBA) will impact his immediate goals (going out with a bang and trying to win a national title at Kansas).
Agbaji is simply not wired that way. From the minute he first stepped on the floor as a once-redshirting freshman to the day he announced he was coming back for his senior season, Agbaji has shown that he’s a team-first guy all the way. He’s willing to play whatever role is necessary for the team to be successful. And while that role this season will no doubt include leadership and him asserting himself offensively at times, he won’t do either off script.
With Agbaji, it’s all about executing the game plan, doing what the coaches ask you to do and being both steady and reliable — for his coaches and teammates — every step of the way.
He Might: Shoot 40% from 3-point range
Agbaji’s 3-point percentage and 3-point makes have gone up during each of his first three seasons of college basketball, setting the stage for a monster senior season.
That’s the sign of a player who has become more comfortable in the offense and worked his butt off on his shot.
From 23 makes and 30.7% in 22 games as a freshman to 46 makes and 33.8% as a full-time starter in 2019-20 and 78 triples on 37.7% shooting last season, Agbaji has become one of the top 3-point shooters in the Big 12 Conference.
As a sophomore, he benefited from getting a ton of open looks thanks to the presence of Azubuike down low and the drive-and-kick ability of Dotson. Last season, he needed to be the team’s top shooter and scorer. This season, he’ll get to be whatever he wants to be, and that could drive opponents crazy.
With Remy Martin in the mix to run the point — and drawing comparisons to Dotson from Agbaji himself — Agbaji and several other Jayhawks should get plenty of wide open looks this season. If Agbaji gets them, 40% from 3-point range on 100 or so attempts should be within reach, no matter where he is on the floor.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2021
Kansas basketball boot camp 2021 is now a thing of the past.
The Jayhawks wrapped up this year’s grueling conditioning session on Wednesday morning, a day or two earlier than its expected ending.
In the past, when boot camp has finished early, that has been an indication that the coaching staff was pleased with the work the players put in from start to finish and wanted to call it early as a reward of sorts.
As has become tradition, the team announced the end of boot camp on social media with a locker room photo of the group after the final session.
In it, you get a glimpse of who looks bigger than last season and which players like to flex their muscles and pose with the tough guy look rather than a smile or relaxed approach. There’s a good mixture of both styles in this year’s photo, which also offers the latest look at the 10 newcomers on this year’s roster.
Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu (far left) has caught most of the attention on social media for his ripped physique. But returners Jalen Wilson, David McCormack and Christian Braun all have garnered mention, as well.
And then, of course, there’s super-senior Mitch Lightfoot, who went viral for his biceps flex a couple of years ago after the team’s boot camp. This was the sixth boot camp of Lightfoot’s KU career, and he wrapped it up with his own thoughts on social media Wednesday morning.
“Sources can confirm I have completed my last boot camp of all time,” Lightfoot wrote on Twitter. “Will not be taking any questions at this time. Thank you for your understanding. #6”
Later, after the team photo was posted, Lightfoot responded with a quote tweet that simply read, “Not flexing.”
The Jayhawks will continue to run through preseason practices in preparation for the official start of the 2021-22, which will be celebrated on Oct. 1 with the annual Late Night in the Phog event. But the days of the 5 a.m. wake-up calls are now behind them.
KU’s season opener is slated for Nov. 9 against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in New York City. KU will host Emporia State on Nov. 3 in its lone exhibition game of the 2021-22 season.
Lance Leipold’s confidence is currently the most consistent thing about a Kansas football program trying to find its rhythm
Late during his regular Tuesday press conference at the Anderson Family Football Complex, Kansas coach Lance Leipold briefly interrupted a question from a reporter to set the record straight.
The question began: “As you’re trying to build this thing…”
The interjection went like this: “Oh, we’re going to build this thing,” Leipold said with a grin followed by a swig of water. “Not try. We’re going to.”
And Kansas fans should feel lucky to have a front-row, all-access look at how it’s going to be done.
The true turnaround still may be years away, if it comes at all. And the challenges that Leipold and his players and coaching staff face are too numerous to list here. But the confidence of the head coach does not appear to be one of them.
That’s worth noting because of Leipold’s demeanor in the aftermath of last Saturday’s 45-7 loss to Baylor. In his postgame press conference, Leipold was noticeably emotional and visibly upset about his team’s shortcomings and the way a 14-7 game at halftime turned into a bloodbath in the third quarter.
Kansas fans should want that. It’s good to see that losing a game like that affects him. If it didn’t, KU would be in jeopardy of walking down the same la-dee-da path of complacency after tough losses. No one has time for that.
Three games into his KU career, and coming off of a loss that he admitted “was a little bit more of a sting,” Leipold now has a better feel for exactly what he has gotten himself into.
And while life at Kansas is vastly different from what he experienced at Wisconsin-Whitewater or Buffalo, Leipold does not appear to have forgotten what it takes to build because of the success he enjoyed at his last two stops.
It starts with consistency. And while it may be a while before consistency of any kind shows up on the field on game days, we’re seeing it just about every time Leipold steps up to a microphone, win or lose.
He has proven to be very good at answering questions in a thorough manner and with the kind of explanations that help you see both what he’s talking about and what he visualizes down the road.
He has yet to face any real tough questions, but, at Kansas, aren’t they all tough in one way or another?
What makes his ability to answer them all the more impressive is that he’s answering questions mostly about issues he had no part in creating.
More important than any of that is the fact that Leipold always goes out of his way to remind anyone listening that the responsibility for everything that happens within this program now falls on him. Good, bad or indifferent.
“We have to do a better job coaching,” he said Tuesday. “It starts with us. We can’t be mad at the player whose on-the-job training is also on Saturdays.”
That concept of on-the-job training is a big part of this. Ask anyone in the program whether these players are willing to put in the work required to move Kansas football forward and they’ll say yes before you even finish the question.
But just because someone is willing to do something does not mean they’re ready to do it.
Think about how many 13-year-olds would happily hop behind the wheel of a car. And then think about what the streets in your town would look like if we let them. It probably would be the traffic equivalent of 45-7.
Leipold is rocking with a bunch of 13-year-old drivers right now. And while that may pay off at some point down the road, it also forces him to keep his focus on developing them the right way rather than expecting them to have it licked in a matter of a few weeks.
That’s why this coaching staff is so eager to push consistency and why that trait, if they can acquire it, might be the magic formula that brings about real change.
“It’s getting us to be consistent,” Leipold said Tuesday. “Individually and then within a unit and then a side of the ball and a team and all those things. Once we start seeing it more, confidence goes (up). And if you start stacking those (things) up, then you start playing better.”
KU’s next opportunity to do that will come at 3 p.m. Saturday in Durham, N.C., where the Jayhawks (1-2) will take on Duke (2-1) in their final nonconference game of the season.
There was no upset or feel-good story that played out at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but the Kansas-Baylor game still had meaning.
Highly touted, Class of 2022 basketball center Adem Bona was in attendance at Saturday’s game, and the lopsided loss by the home team did nothing to dampen his spirits about the visit.
“I had a great visit to Kansas,” Bona told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com. “It was my first ever visit to a college and it was awesome.”
There was, of course, much more to Bona’s visit than the football game. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center from Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., toured campus, saw KU’s facilities and met with the coaches and current players.
“I had the chance to meet the whole coaching staff and the culture at Kansas is like one-of-a-kind,” Bona told Wildeboor. “I also had the chance to see and feel the history at Kansas, and the family atmosphere they have built at Kansas is really great. In general, I had a great visit.”
Bona trimmed his list of finalists to eight in late August, and his recruitment involves the cream of the crop in college basketball. KU, Baylor, Kentucky and UCLA are all listed in his final eight, with Arizona State, USC and Miami (Fla.) in the hunt, as well. It has been reported that Bona also is considering jumping straight to Australia’s National Basketball League the way R.J. Hampton did a couple of years ago.
Regardless of which programs stay in the hunt, it’s hard to view KU being his first visit — ever — as anything other than a good sign. It may not mean that the sixth-ranked center in the 2022 class (No. 33 overall) ultimately signs with KU, but no other program will get the opportunity to host him for the first college visit of his life. Because of that, you can bet KU’s staff did it up big and made him feel like the best player on the planet.
Whether he is or not, remains to be seen. Both 247 Sports and ESPN have Bona rated as a five-star prospect, with the latter ranking him 17th overall in the class.
According to Rivals.com’s Jamie Shaw, Bona’s strength is his defense and desire to go hard all the time.
“Bona is a big and strong prospect, who plays with a relentless motor,” Shaw wrote recently. “While his offensive game is raw, he has great timing on defense, both in the passing lanes and in blocking shots, and he is a very aggressive rebounder.”
Duke’s pickup of five-star center Dereck Lively on Monday evening likely means Kentucky will go even harder after Bona now.
John Calipari’s program had been in the final running for Lively, who is ranked as the No. 1 center in the Class of 2022, and has been in the Bona race for a long time, as well.
Bona has given no indication of when he might commit, and he still has at least three visits currently on his schedule for the upcoming weeks — Baylor this weekend, Kentucky on Oct. 15 and UCLA the following week.
It’s no secret that the Kansas basketball program has had a successful run of solid point guard play during the past decade or so.
And, according to at least one current Jayhawk, that will continue during the 2021-22 season.
Talking with the media midway through the first week of Kansas basketball boot camp, KU senior Ochai Agbaji recently was asked for his thoughts on new KU point guard Remy Martin.
Agbaji immediately drew a comparison to a former teammate.
“Kind of reminds me a little bit of Devon (Dotson),” Agbaji said. “The way he can switch speeds and get downhill, particularly from different spots on the floor. His quickness I think matches Devon’s.”
Martin has yet to be made available to the local media since arriving on campus this summer, but those who have been around him have said that the Arizona State transfer already has shown that he’s willing to put in whatever work it takes to improve and fit in.
Perhaps more importantly, Martin has shown a willingness to operate as more of a true point guard, which is a slight depar-ture from his role as a high-scoring, volume-shooting lead guard with the Sun Devils.
“He’s been a great teammate,” senior transfer Cam Martin said of the new KU point guard. “He’s been a great facilitator. He’s playing like a true point guard, just getting everybody shots, getting downhill. (He has) a very quick first step (and is a) great passer.”
Remy Martin comes to Kansas on the heels of back-to-back 19-points-per-game seasons at ASU. He tested his NBA draft stock this summer and elected to make the move to Kansas for one more crack at showcasing his skills for the folks in the NBA.
Beyond that, though, the new KU PG came to Kansas to win.
Despite his status as a new player on a team that returns four starters, Remy Martin’s skill, experience and personality make him the type of player who should be expected to make a ma-jor and immediate impact for the Jayhawks this season.
KU coach Bill Self said in August that Remy Martin was “thinking right” during the early preseason workouts. And Self noted that the new KU point guard’s speed, fire and passion would add a lot to the roster.
National college basketball insider Andy Katz, of NCAA.com, recently ranked Remy Martin as the 12th best returning player in all of college basketball from last season.
According to Katz, Remy Martin “could be the missing piece for the Jayhawks this year.”
The Jayhawks are expected to wrap up their annual boot camp conditioning session later this week and the first official practice of the 2021-22 season is slated for next week.
KU fans are scheduled to get their first look at Remy Martin in crimson and blue on Oct. 1 at Late Night in the Phog.
Before we get too far into this column, let me start by saying that none of what you’re about to read should come as a surprise.
Yet, because of things like human nature and emotion and hope, there we were on Saturday morning, seeing and hearing from Kansas fans who genuinely believed that the Jayhawks not only could be in the game with Baylor but also could win.
They weren’t. They didn’t. Baylor 45, Kansas 7.
Roughly as many people showed up for KU’s Week 3 game and Big 12 opener as were there in the season opener. And by early in the fourth quarter nearly all of them were gone.
Just like that, a day and game that started with some excitement and optimism ended the way we’ve seen so many KU games end in recent years — with a lopsided outcome on the scoreboard and the cold, hard glare of concrete serving as the backdrop for the final meaningless minutes.
This is not the fault of the current coaching staff or even the players who were out there fighting on Saturday. This is the fault of reality. And the reality is KU still has a long, long way to go before it can expect to be competitive in the Big 12 Conference.
Remember, this was an unranked Baylor team that had not proven anything yet. Not only that, this latest Bears team to lay a beat down on Kansas wasn’t even one of the 21 teams that received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
You know who was? Five of KU’s final nine opponents, meaning that seven of KU’s nine remaining games will come against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes this week. Generally speaking, those aren’t the kinds of teams that this Kansas team can be or should be expected to beat.
It’s things like that, and outings like Saturday’s, that should — and now likely will — keep Kansas fans from overreaching for relevance the rest of this season.
Lance Leipold was hired to rebuild a program that was in the gutter long before he ever considered taking on the challenge. It was never going to happen overnight.
It was clear during the postgame press conference that this unfamiliar feeling is not one that Leipold is used to or willing to accept. That can only help. But even with that, the progress is going to be a slow-and-stalling sort of thing.
Leipold’s message to his team after Saturday’s game was simple: Own the beating, accept responsibility and come back more motivated than ever to improve.
It’s really all they can do. And it’s what Leipold and his coaching staff will demand, which, in the big picture, provides some long-term hope.
The hope that comes in the short-term, though, is just too fragile to be real.
Consider the most gut-wrenching part of Saturday’s blowout as proof of that.
After surviving an ugly first quarter and finding their way back into the game in the second quarter, the Jayhawks trailed just 14-7 at halftime and had all the momentum on their side heading into halftime. For that 20-30 minute portion of Saturday, KU appeared poised to make its believers look awfully good.
And then, just five plays into the second, it was over — the game, not just the momentum.
A three-and-out by the Kansas offense. A KU punt. And a 69-yard touchdown pass by Baylor on its first offensive snap of the half put this one on ice.
The rest was merely a formality and it set up an October and November that will test both this team and its fan base that proved through two home games that it was willing to show up to support this team.
We’ll see where things go from here.
Kansas basketball fans got an early present in their stockings on Wednesday, when the Big 12 Conference released the full schedules for the 2021-22 season.
For many Jayhawk fans, that meant plans to attend games — home or away — finally could be finalized.
For some, that means nailing down the dates for that one road trip a year with friends. For others, it means splitting up season-ticket packages and seeing if the games match up with their schedules.
It may seem a little strange to compare schedule release day to the holidays, but you’d be surprised how many times I get asked about the schedule each year. From mid-June on, people reach out to me weekly, sometimes daily, to see if I know anything or have heard anything about when a certain game might be or when the schedule might come out.
Now that it’s here, and all of those people and countless others are feverishly lining up their plans, let’s take a quick look at a few things that stood out about this year’s schedule.
We already knew the dates and games for the nonconference slate. So, as enticing as it is to rehash how great two trips to New York, the renewal of the series with Missouri, a trip to Colorado and a Thanksgiving week tournament in Orlando will be, the focus today will be solely on what jumped out at me about KU’s Big 12 schedule, which officially opens Jan. 1 at home against TCU.
• No matter how the first half of the conference race goes, this thing is going to come down to what happens in February. Kansas plays both Baylor and Texas TWICE between Feb. 5 and March 5. And those two programs, which are both projected as top-10 preseason teams and contenders in the conference, also play each other twice in a 16-day span in February. Getting off to a good start in the conference race is crucial any season if you want to be in the hunt at the end. But it may be less important than ever this season because of that back-loaded schedule.
• Nastiest stretch? Let’s go with the five-game run between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7 that starts with a home game against the always-tough Texas Tech defense and ends with a road game at Texas, two days after hosting Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse. In between Tech and UT, KU also will play Kentucky at home in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The only game in that stretch that figures to be against an unranked opponent comes Feb. 1 at Iowa State. Who would’ve thought five years ago that a game at Hilton Coliseum would qualify as relief during a murderer’s row section of a future schedule.
• Easiest stretch? There are no real prolonged runs without some kind of tough challenge. Such is life in the Big 12 Conference these days. But it’s not the hardest start for Kansas in 2021-22. Home against TCU should be a layup and another home game against Iowa State in Game 4 should be, as well. Sandwiched between that are road games at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, though, and no one has ever called those two venues easy to play in. There’s pretty good balance to this schedule, both in terms of tough challenges and easier matchups and the home/road layout.
• I always like looking at the gap between playing teams and there’s a pretty big one this season. After opening with TCU at home on New Year’s Day, the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs don’t meet again for two months, March 1 in Fort Worth, Texas. That’s the second-to-last game of the regular season and could be critical in the Big 12 race. Rather than leaning on what they just saw a few weeks earlier, KU may have to restart the scouting process from the beginning with the Frogs heading into Round 2.
• The Big Monday balance is pretty good, too — two at home and two on the road. The first is Jan. 17 at Oklahoma, where the Jayhawks will get their first taste of new OU coach Porter Moser. After that, it’s home for Texas Tech on Big Monday the following week (Jan. 24), at Texas two weeks later (Feb. 7) and home against Oklahoma State on Feb. 14. There have been times in the past when the schedule has featured KU four times on Big Monday but only given the Jayhawks one of those at home. It makes sense for ratings and to inspire teams that don’t consistently sell out their venues. But the 2-2 split seems much more fair.
• The conference did KU no favors in early February, when by far the toughest back-to-back of the season takes place. After squaring off with Baylor at home on Saturday, Feb. 5, the Jayhawks will head to Austin, Texas, for a Big Monday battle with Texas. That’s basically one day to get ready for the Longhorns after an emotional showdown with the defending national champs.
• Both Sunflower Showdown games take place on the 22nd of the month they’re played in — KU at K-State on Jan. 22 and KSU vs. KU in Lawrence on Feb. 22. I’ll have to look up those dates, as well as the 22nd in general, to see if it holds any significance in the rivalry.
2021-22 KU men's basketball schedule
Nov. 3 vs. Emporia State (exhibition)
Nov. 9 vs. Michigan State (Champions Classic, New York City)
Nov. 12 vs. Tarleton State
Nov. 18 vs. Stony Brook
Nov. 25 vs. North Texas (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)
Nov. 26 vs. Dayton OR Miami (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)
Nov. 28 vs. Alabama, Belmont, Drake or Iona (ESPN Events Invitational, Orland, Fla.)
Dec. 3 at St. John's
Dec. 7 vs. UTEP (Kansas City, Mo.)
Dec. 11 vs. Missouri
Dec. 18 vs. Stephen F. Austin
Dec. 21 at Colorado
Dec. 29 vs. Harvard
Jan. 1 vs. TCU
Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State
Jan. 8 at Texas Tech
Jan. 11 vs. Iowa State
Jan. 15 vs. West Virginia
Jan. 17 at Oklahoma
Jan. 22 at Kansas State
Jan. 24 vs. Texas Tech
Jan. 29 vs. Kentucky
Feb. 1 at Iowa State
Feb. 5 vs. Baylor
Feb. 7 at Texas
Feb. 12 vs. Oklahoma
Feb. 14 vs. Oklahoma State
Feb. 19 at West Virginia
Feb. 22 vs. Kansas State
Feb. 26 at Baylor
March 1 at TCU
March 5 vs. Texas
Two games into the 2021 college football season, the Kansas Jayhawks sit at 1-1 and with an equal number of reasons to be encouraged and frustrated.
What that means to the long-suffering Kansas fan base that showed up in force for the season opener two weeks ago will be revealed at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
First-year Kansas coach Lance Leipold knows what he’s hoping to see. So do the players, first-year Athletic Director Travis Goff and the rest of the KU administration.
“It’s a chance for us,” Leipold said Tuesday. “I’m just glad to be at home again, and hopefully our fans — and of course the students — that were so impactful in the first game of the year come back out and watch. And hopefully they see that this group is working hard and that they can be an impactful thing for our conference opener.”
The Bears enter Big 12 play at 2-0, with a 29-20 win over Texas State in Week 1 and a 66-7 shellacking of Texas Southern in Week 2.
Given the opponents, those outcomes are almost as drastically different as KU’s first two outings, which produced a close-call win one week and a 27-point road loss to a ranked opponent the next.
Leipold said Tuesday was the first time he had even considered whether he wished KU had another so-called tune-up game before jumping into Big 12 play. But the numbers show in might not have been a bad thing.
KU will play at Duke (1-1) in Week 4 on Sept. 25, and the Blue Devils enter Week 3 ranked 77th in the FBS in total defense and 22nd in team offense.
KU, meanwhile, is 71st nationally in total defense and 103rd in total offense.
Baylor’s numbers? The Bears rank 16th in total defense and 11th in total offense. So, yeah, maybe that Duke game to close out the non-con schedule this week wouldn’t have been so bad after all.
Then again, this coaching staff and this administration are not wired to determine the health and hope of the Kansas football program by how things look today.
“We’re going to have positive things happening that aren’t always going to show up on the scoreboard that are going to be signs of progress,” Leipold said Tuesday, voicing a popular refrain from the past decade.
But then he added the key part.
“And we have to balance those and keep working on those but not get into moral victories and think that’s going to do it for us," he said.
Win or lose, finding a way to keep the stadium full and rocking the way it was during the opener into the meat of the season would qualify as a moral victory in its own right. And that would be one worth celebrating.
Now it’s time to see if there’s anything the Jayhawks can add to it.
Aidan Shaw, a 6-foot-8 small forward from nearby Blue Valley High has announced Friday as the day he will reveal his college choice.
Shaw, who played AAU ball this summer for MOKAN Elite, is down to a final five of Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa and Oklahoma State.
He recently told recruiting analyst Joe Tipton, of On3.com, that KU’s family environment stood out to him on his visit back in June.
He said that his introduction to KU strength coach Ramsey Nijem was one of the highlights of his trip and added that he enjoyed watching KU’s playing style during practice.
“You kind of just go,” he said.
Earlier this summer, Shaw told various recruiting analysts on the AAU circuit that he was looking for a school that could both develop his game and provide him with an atmosphere of elite team chemistry among the players and coaches.
Ranked No. 57 overall in the 2022 class by Rivals.com, Shaw is a four-star prospect who spent time during his junior season ranked in the Top 50.