It’s Thursday, October 27th, and we are officially five days away from the return of Kansas basketball. The Jayhawks will open their 2016-17 exhibition portion of their schedule at Allen Fieldhouse on November 1, next Tuesday vs. Washburn. As we wait in anticipation, let’s check out the five most anticipated games on Kansas’ 2016-17 schedule.
#5: Kansas at Iowa State, January 16th.
Hilton Coliseum is becoming one of the more difficult places to play in all of college basketball, and no one in recent memory knows that better than Kansas. KU has not won in Ames since 2014, when the Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones 77-70 behind Andrew Wiggins’ 17 points and 19 rebounds. Iowa State returns veteran point guard Monte Morris, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.
#4: Kansas at Texas, February 25th.
The Longhorns boast both a talented roster and a talented coach. With the Big 12 appearing to be wide open behind Kansas this year, Texas could very well find itself in the mix at the top of the conference standings. Late in the conference season, the Jayhawks will make the trip to Austin for a matchup that could possibly have big conference title implications.
#3: Kansas vs. Indiana, November 11th.
The regular season opener on the KU schedule figures to be a fun one, as Kansas will fly west to Honolulu to take on the Indiana Hoosiers as part of the State Farm Armed Forces Classic. The initial coaches poll has Kansas ranked 2nd and Indiana ranked 12th, whereas KenPom’s rankings puts Kansas at No. 3 and Indiana at No. 16. Pitting these two blue bloods against each other on Veteran’s Day is an incredible way to kick off the college basketball season.
#2: Kansas at Kentucky, January 28th.
A matchup between two preseason top five teams will take place this year at Rupp Arena as the marquee event of the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Last season, the Wildcats made the trip to Lawrence to take part in a 90-84 thriller, as the Jayhawks prevailed behind the career night of Wayne Selden. That win commenced a 17-game Kansas win streak that ended at the hands of Villanova in the Elite Eight.
Kentucky is a traditional power that has become the poster program of the one-and-done era. Coach John Calipari always constructs rosters full of NBA ready talent, and this season does not figure to be much different. A win for Kansas in this matchup will be difficult, but it’s going to be a fun one, regardless.
#1: Kansas vs. Duke, November 15th.
Just four days after the Jayhawks take on Indiana, they’ll travel six time zones from Honolulu to face the preseason #1 Duke Blue Devils at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duke returns the much maligned-but-talented Grayson Allen, and it brings in the nation’s #1 recruiting class. Kansas last played Duke in November of 2013, which was a 94-83 KU victory at the United Center in Chicago. Like that Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker battle, this season’s edition will feature some of the nation’s top freshmen. Though Duke will likely, due to injury, be without #1 overall recruit Harry Giles for this one, it possesses three other five-star recruits in Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson, and Jayson Tatum. The Jayhawks, of course, landed a five-star of their own in Josh Jackson. Plenty of NBA talent will be on display on November 15th, as the preseason #1 and #2 teams, led by their legendary head coaches, meet in Manhattan.
If Kansas manages to land another #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, its schedule will play a major factor in that. Kansas’ schedule ranks as the toughest in the nation according to KenPom. In addition to winning the Big 12, Kansas will need to win at least one of the three non-conference games listed above.
Whether or not their regular season performance lends them a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, there is no doubt that come March, Kansas will be better prepared as a result of this challenging schedule.