A most-to-least-interesting breakdown of KU basketball's 2017-18 non-conference schedule
The Kansas men's basketball team on Thursday released the non-conference portion of its 2017-18 schedule, complete with interesting home match-ups and a few noteworthy road games.
Included in the news release announcing the Jayhawks' non-con schedule was a game-by-game breakdown of the 15-game slate that includes exhibition games against Pitt State and Fort Hays State to get things started.
Below is a quick look at the breakdown, organized by putting the most intriguing games at the top and the least intriguing games at the bottom.
While many fans and analysts already have opined that the schedule does not have the usual bite that many of KU's past schedules have had, there are at least a couple of big time games and interesting match-ups. And there will, of course, no doubt be many, many more during the Big 12 portion of the schedule, which will be released later this summer.
Here's a look at what we know for now, from most exciting to least, at least in my opinion.
Kentucky, Champions Classic (Nov. 14, Chicago)
These two blue bloods are meeting for the fourth-consecutive season. Under Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, Kentucky is coming off a 32-6 season where it won the SEC title with a 16-2 record. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA South Regional final falling to eventual national champion North Carolina, 75-73. The Champions Classic will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools in the Kansas head coach Bill Self era at KU. The Jayhawks hold a 5-3 advantage in that span and has won the last two matchups. Kentucky leads the overall series with Kansas, 22-8. Last season, with ESPN College Gameday originating from Lexington, Kentucky, No. 2 Kansas defeated No. 4 Kentucky, 79-73, at Rupp Arena on Jan. 28 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. My take: I mean, was there any doubt?
Syracuse, Hoophall Miami Invitational (Dec. 2, Miami)
The third annual Hoophall Miami Invitational will have two Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaches square off in Kansas’ Bill Self, a 2017 inductee, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim who was part of the 2005 class. Last season the Orange went 19-15 and tied for seventh in the ACC with a 10-8 league record. Syracuse lost to Ole Miss, 85-80, in the second round of the postseason NIT. Boeheim is 903-354 in 41 seasons at Syracuse, his alma mater. Syracuse holds a 3-2 series advantage over Kansas, has won the last two meetings and three of the last four matchups. In the last battle the Orange defeated the Jayhawks, 89-81 in overtime on Nov. 25, 2008, in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The previous was an 81-78 win in the 2003 NCAA national championship game in New Orleans. My take: Syracuse and Jim Boeheim bring big names to the table, but the reason this is second on the list is the location in which it will be played. Welcome to Miami.
Arizona State (Dec. 10, Lawrence)
KU will face its second of three Pac-12 Conference opponents when it plays host to Arizona State. The game will the first of a home-and-home series as KU will play at ASU on Dec. 22, 2018. Arizona State went 15-18 in 2016-17 and placed eighth in the Pac-12 with a 7-11 record. The Sun Devils are coached by former Duke standout Bobby Hurley who is 30-35 in two seasons at ASU and 72-55 in four seasons for his career. Kansas has a 5-4 series edge against Arizona State. The Jayhawks have won two straight and five of the last six meetings. KU last faced ASU on March 22, 2003, a 108-76 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City. KU would go on to play for the 2003 NCAA title in New Orleans. My take: If he's allowed to travel, this will be our first look at former Jayhawk Carlton Bragg Jr., who could be sitting in street clothes at Allen Fieldhouse again with his new team. New Jayhawk Sam Cunliffe will be doing the same against his old team. Even if Bragg's not there, you gotta think he'll come up once or twice.
Texas A&M, Big 12/SEC Challenge (Jan. 27, Lawrence)
These two teams were members of the Big 12 from 1996-97 until Texas A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) following the 2011-12 season. Head coach Billy Kennedy will enter his seventh year at Texas A&M. In 2016-17, the Aggies went 16-15 overall and finished tied for ninth in the SEC with an 8-10 league record. Kansas is 20-1 all-time against Texas A&M, including a 9-1 record in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are 3-1 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, having split with Florida in 2013-14 and 2014-15, as both teams claimed home victories, and Kansas sweeping Kentucky in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Dating back to 2007 against the Pac-12, Kansas has compiled a 5-2 record in the conference challenges. My take: It might not be Kentucky or Florida, but that whole challenge thing will inject a little life into this one, not to mention the return of former Big 12 foe A&M.
Pittsburg State (Oct. 31, Lawrence, exhibition)
Head coach Kim Anderson enters his first season at Pittsburg State. Before his three-year stint at Missouri, Anderson guided Central Missouri State to the NCAA Division II national championship in 2014. The Gorillas were 5-22 in 2016-17 and tied for 13th in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Association (MIAA) with a 3-16 record last year. Kansas is 10-0 all-time against Pittsburg State in a series that started in 1944. The Jayhawks are 6-0 against versus the Gorillas in exhibition play. My take: It's just an exhibition game but it'll be our first in-game look at the new-look Jayhawks.
Nebraska (Dec. 16, Shelter Insurance Showcase, Lincoln, Nebraska)
These two former conference foes are meeting for the second time since Nebraska left the Big 12 following the 2010-11 season. Husker head coach Tim Miles enters his sixth season and the Huskers are coming off a 12-19 season where they finished tied for 10th in the Big Ten Conference with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the overall series with Nebraska, 171-71, and has won the last 18 meetings, from March 5, 1999, to Feb. 5, 2011, and 27 of the last 28 matchups dating back to the 1998-99 season. Last year Kansas defeated Nebraska 89-72 on Dec. 10, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Nebraska improved a great deal after coming to Lawrence last season and Tim Miles will have his team (and his Tweets) ready for the rematch.
Stanford (Dec. 21, Sacramento, California)
Stanford second-year head coach Jerod Haase will face his alma mater for the second-straight season. Haase’s 1,264 points rank 33rd on the KU all-time scoring list and he also ranks on the Kansas career lists in 3-point field goals made (13th at 156), 3-pointers attempted (seventh at 461), assists (19th at 343) and steals (11th at 174). Last year the Cardinal went 14-17 overall and finished tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the series with Stanford, 9-3, including last season’s 89-74 win on Dec. 3, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse, ending a Cardinal two-game winning streak against KU. This series dates back to 1932. My take: Won't be quite as cool as Haase coming back to Lawrence was this season, but being away from home will make it interesting nonetheless.
South Dakota State (Nov. 17, Lawrence)
South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament titles in 2016-17 going 18-17 and 8-8 in conference play, which tied for fourth. The Jackrabbits lost to eventual NCAA Runner-up Gonzaga, 66-46, in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. SDSU is coached by T.J. Otzelberger who took the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Otzelberger is a former Iowa State assistant coach. Kansas won the only meeting with South Dakota State, 85-72, on Dec. 4, 1984, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: This could be a much tougher game than the name of the opponent might suggest and, especially with it coming so early in the season, could be a real test for the Jayhawks.
Washington, Jayhawk Shootout (Dec. 6, Kansas City, Missouri)
Washington is coming off a 9-22 season where it placed 11th in the Pac-12 Conference with a 2-16 record. Mike Hopkins took over the head coaching duties on March 19, 2017, after spending 22 seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse. Kansas is 8-1 against Washington and has won the last four meetings. The Jayhawks last defeated the Huskies, 73-54, on Nov. 24, 2008, in the semifinals of the CBE Hal of Fame Classic in Sprint Center. My take: Markelle Fultz will be playing for somebody in the NBA and Michael Porter Jr. won't be there either. Add to that the fact that it's at sometimes-sterile Sprint Center and you've got your lowest-rated game against a big-name foe.
Texas Southern, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 21, Lawrence)
Located in Houston, Texas Southern won the SWAC regular season and conference tournament in 2016-17 going 23-12 and 16-2 in league action. The Tigers lost to eventual NCAA champion, North Carolina, 103-64, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. TSU is coached by Mike Davis who is 98-68 in five seasons at TSU and 335-219 in 17 seasons overall with stints at Indiana and UAB before taking over at TSU. The Tigers have won at least one SWAC title, either regular-season or tournament, in every season Davis has been at Texas Southern. Kansas is 3-0 all-time against Texas Southern with the last meeting on Jan. 3, 1985, a KU 78-74 win in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Another 2017 NCAA Tournament team coming to Lawrence. I love these games because both teams stand to get a great deal from them.
Tennessee State (Nov. 10, Lawrence)
Tennessee State finished tied for fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) East Division going 17-13 overall and 8-8 in 2016-17. The Tigers are coached by Dana Ford who was the 2016 OVC Coach of the Year and has guided TSU to 37 wins in the last two seasons. Kansas won the only meeting with Tennessee State, 89-54, on Nov. 21, 2006, in a campus-round game of the Las Vegas Invitational, an event KU went on to win. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and KU graduate John McClendon coached at Tennessee A&I, now Tennessee State, from 1955-59. My take: The true season opener has to be worth something and that helps move the game up on this list. This is when things get going for real.
Oakland, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 24, Lawrence)
Oakland went 25-9 last season and tied Valparaiso for the Horizon League title with a 14-4 conference record. The Grizzlies defeated Clemson in the opening round of the postseason NIT before falling at Richmond in the second round. Oakland is coached by Greg Kampe who has coached 33 seasons at Oakland with a 583-424 record. His 33 seasons at Oakland are the third-most seasons with a current school behind Jim Boeheim of Syracuse (41 seasons) and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (37 seasons). Kansas won the only meeting with Oakland, 89-59, on Nov. 25, 2009, in Allen Fieldhouse. The game was a campus round contest which was part of the Hall of Fame Showcase. My take: Quietly, this Oakland team has become one of the tougher mid-major programs in the country, thanks mostly to the consistency delivered by Kampe.
Toledo, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 28, Lawrence)
Toledo is coming off a 17-17 season where it finished third in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 9-9 record and competed in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) postseason losing at George Washington in the first round. The Rockets are coached by Tod Kowalczyk who will be entering his eighth season at Toledo with a 119-110 record. Kansas has won both meetings with Toledo with the last being a 93-83 win on Dec. 30, 2013, in Allen Fieldhouse. The other was a 68-58 KU win on Dec. 9, 2006, in KU’s final game in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. My take: Unless this game is better than I'm expecting, I'll still think Kerry Meier and Kansas football first when I think Toledo.
Omaha (Dec. 18, Lawrence)
Omaha is coming off an 18-14 season in which it placed third in the Summit League with a 9-7 league record. The Mavericks lost to South Dakota State, 79-77, in the title game of the Summit League Tournament. Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen is 197-166 in 12 seasons with the Mavericks. KU and Omaha will be meeting for the first time in men’s basketball. My take: Crazy to think the Jayhawks will be in Lincoln, Neb., on Dec. 16 and home against Omaha two days later.
Fort Hays State (Nov. 7, Lawrence, exhibition)
Last season, the Tigers tied for fourth in the MIAA going 18-11 overall and 11-8 in conference play. Head coach Mark Johnson has a 322-149 record in 16 seasons at FHSU. Kansas is 9-0 all-time against Fort Hays State, including 6-0 in exhibition play. My take: The second exhibition game is only interesting if the Jayhawks are terrible in the first one. Otherwise, it's just let's get on with the season.