Predicting what a jam-packed December might look like for Kansas basketball
While rumblings about a pair of Big 12 conference games in December have been talked about for the past week, Matt Norlander, of CBS Sports, recently attached actual dates to those games.
That would be the earliest that KU has played a Big 12 game in program history. And, based on what I’ve gathered from a few people I’ve talked to around the league, the reason behind starting in December is to provide the conference with a little flexibility on the back end.
Instead of playing conference games all the way through the weekend before the Big 12 tournament next March — like they would during a normal season — the teams will be off that last week of the regular season (the first week of March), creating the opportunity for teams to get healthy before the postseason and leaving a window for make-up games should they become necessary because of COVID-19 interruptions.
With 18 conference games scheduled annually, and the NCAA allowing a maximum of 27 games during the 2020-21 season — with nothing taking place before Nov. 25 — KU’s December schedule could be jam packed.
In addition to those two Big 12 games, the Jayhawks likely will be looking at playing another six or seven nonconference games before Jan. 1.
Reports have surfaced about Kansas playing Kentucky in the Champions Classic in Orlando on Dec. 1. So there’s one.
And, if they move the Wooden Legacy tournament to Orlando as expected, that could be two more. That event is not a slam dunk, though. A recent report from the Los Angeles Times indicated that Georgetown has pulled out because of travel restrictions.
Virginia and Kansas remain in. And if UCLA is able to play, with the Pac-12 loosening its restrictions, the event would need just one replacement (for Georgetown) instead of a couple.
If the event is played (my guess would be that it is), it would likely come the same week as the Champions Classic, since the Jayhawks will already be in Orlando and surely would not want to make multiple trips to play three or four games at that site.
So let’s count on the Champions Classic and Wooden Legacy being wrapped up by Saturday, Dec. 5. That’s three games.
It’s possible that KU could play one more game in Orlando against another team that’s already down there. At this point, as long as they can find a taker, doing so would make a lot of sense.
KU could then return home that next week and would have a week or so to fit in a couple more games before the Dec. 17 Big 12 opener at Texas Tech.
It’s unlikely that the Jayhawks would play a nonconference game between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22. And Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are likely out, too, although them playing on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve wouldn’t totally shock me.
You can assume that the Jayhawks won’t play on Dec. 23 either, since that would be the day after the West Virginia game.
So that leaves KU with five or six days after the abbreviated holiday break to fit in a couple more games before the calendar turns to January and we move into full-time Big 12 mode.
We haven’t heard much about the status of the Big 12/SEC Challenge that is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, but if that’s still on KU would only need eight non-con games in December instead of nine.
There’s always a chance that KU could elect to play seven or eight nonconference games total, instead of the nine they will be allowed, which, obviously, would make things easier both in terms of scheduling now and workload then.
However it plays out, and whichever teams are also involved, December sure has the look of a wild and crazy month for Kansas basketball.
Here’s a quick prediction of what KU's nonconference schedule look like. Remember, nothing official has been released by KU or the Big 12 Conference at this point.
Dec. 1 – vs. Kentucky at Champions Classic in Orlando
Dec. 3 – vs. UCLA/Virginia/TBA at Wooden Legacy in Orlando
Dec. 5 – vs. UCLA/Virginia/TBA at Wooden Legacy in Orlando
Dec. 8 or 9 – vs. TBD in Orlando
Dec. 12 – vs. Creighton
Dec. 15 – vs. TBD in Lawrence
Dec. 17 – at Texas Tech
Dec. 22 – vs. West Virginia
Dec. 26 – vs. TBD in Lawrence
Dec. 29 – vs. Stephen F. Austin
Jan. 30 – vs. TBD in Big 12/SEC Challenge