Jayhawk Dispatch

Jesse Newell of The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star takes you inside Kansas sports.

Jayhawk Dispatch

Breaking down KU’s basketball schedule

September 01, 2016 01:11 PM

The Kansas men’s basketball team’s full schedule was released by the Big 12 on Thursday afternoon.

Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights:

Toughest stretch: First two games

KU hasn’t started a season 0-2 since 1972, but there’s at least a possibility that happens this year. The Jayhawks open with Indiana (preseason No. 11, according to ESPN.com’s early rankings) on Nov. 11 in Honolulu, Hawaii, before flying nearly 5,000 miles to face No. 1 Duke in the Champions Classic in New York. Even as a likely top-five team, KU would probably be happy to escape this stretch 1-1.

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Biggest break: Opening of conference play

In recent years, it seems KU often has been able to ease into conference play without too many challenging games at the start. That certainly is the case this season, as the Jayhawks open at TCU before home games against Kansas State and Texas Tech. KU should be heavy favorites in all three and should begin the quest for its 13th consecutive regular-season title from the top of the standings.

Best nonconference game: KU at Kentucky, Jan. 28

Tough pick here — one could certainly argue for KU vs. Duke in the Champions Classic — but KU playing Kentucky in the Wildcats’ home gym with the John Calipari-Bill Self rivalry gives it an extra boost. KU needed overtime to beat Kentucky at Allen Fieldhouse last year, and you can be sure Wildcat fans will be ready for the Jayhawks’s first trip back to Lexington since 2005.

Best conference game: KU at West Virginia, Jan. 24

West Virginia is likely to be the Jayhawks’ biggest threat in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks haven’t performed well in recent years at WVU Coliseum, losing their last three games there while putting an extra $75,000 in coach Bob Huggins’ pocket. This also comes at a tricky time in the schedule, as it’s only four days before KU’s road game at Kentucky.

Best homecoming: KU vs. Stanford, Dec. 3

First-year Stanford coach Jerod Haase was a beloved player at KU from 1993-97, and he should receive an extended ovation during his return to Allen Fieldhouse. A related question: Will “Floor Burns” receive a spike in sales after the game?

Toughest turnaround: Feb. 11 at Texas Tech; Feb. 13 vs. West Virginia

Saturday/Big Monday transitions are tough enough, but this combination of travel and opponent could result in a sluggish Jayhawks team Monday. Not only does KU have a long flight back from Lubbock, Texas, but the Jayhawks also will have to face West Virginia’s pressing defense without much time to prepare or rest.

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell