Wohoo! It’s that time of year again, where we transition our eyes from KU football to the real highlight of our ameteur sports craving; Kansas basketball.
The focus starts to shift towards the tenth game of the football season. I get it. Fans can only take so much of their 1-8 football team, so they look forward to the upcoming basketball season, where that team will usually have more wins through two exhibition games over a handful of football contests. Let’s face it: Kansas football and Kansas basketball are completely different. Sometimes we wish the Jayhawks would play just FCS schools all season, to maybe pick up a couple more victories and avoid the gut-wrenching Big 12 slate.
Basketball is the polar opposite. We look forward to conference play because much of the non-conference slate is a “gimme” win. College basketball, in general, needs more Champions Classic style games. For one of the rare times throughout the season, we can see the blue bloods battle it out, and that excitement not be in the tournament. Scheduling directional schools for “practice” is not what the fans want to see. Seeing a 100+ point performance and flashing dunks against Chaminade is definitely fun, but it doesn’t give you the competitive feeling that someone would get against Kentucky or Duke.
Kansas should face all three other Champions Classic teams in the non-con, including the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. This gives fans, right off the bat, an opportunity to see how the Jayhawks stack up against the field. RPIs would get better, and the overall fan experience would improve as well. When top teams schedule nobodys, the result doesn’t hurt or help the team in any way. Yes, you might get the team chemistry going, but until you face another top team, you will never be prepared enough for March. Drilling the UABs and Georgia South Southeastern Atlanta State Pandas are a given, but is going over .500 against a handful of Top 25 teams the same?
Think of it the way people thought of the KU/MU exhibition charity game in Sprint Center. Does it benefit the team directly? Not exactly, a win is expected and a loss would be an “embarrassment” to the program. It comes down to what the fans want, and that is a classic rivalry game, or one that gets you off the couch, like the Border Showdown.
As excited as I am for the season to get going, the official season opening Tennessee State game doesn’t hype me up any further. Last season we saw an opener against Indiana in Hawaii. Even though the Jayhawks lost, the game got me excited and ready for the rest of the 2016-17 slate. Coaches across the nation need to beef up their schedules, because that is what the sport is all about. As the Rock Chalk hype videos say, no pressure, no diamonds. It’s as simple as that. When you decide to schedule the toughest teams in the nation, you build tenacity and grit. As they say, go big or go home.