Kansas released its non conference schedule yesterday, and has become the custom for Bill Self teams, there is an intriguing mix of marquee games vs. major conference opponents, good mid majors, and some of the cupcakes. The marquee opponents are a pair of Big 10 foes: On November 13th Kansas plays in year 2 of the Champions Classic, this time taking on Michigan State in Atlanta. The Spartans lose Draymond Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton from their starting lineup, but they return some experienced pieces as well as welcome in 3 top 100 recruits, including 5 star Gary Harris.
The next Big 10 opponent is a rematch with Final Four opponent Ohio State, this time in Columbus. The game, 3 days before Christmas, should be a battle of top 10 opponents as the Buckeyes welcome back Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, and DeShaun Thomas, who came alive in the NCAA tournament and also had a fantastic game in Allen Fieldhouse last season.
Kansas will welcome former Big 12 foe Colorado to Allen Fieldhouse on December 8th. Colorado won the Pac 12 tournament and was nearly a sweet 16 team last year, but they finished 6th in a putrid Pac 12 and lost their best big man, (North Dakota native) Austin Dufalt. Colorado might be headed in the right direction, but it will be an easy win this year.
The most intriguing opponent for me is St. Louis. If they beat Texas A&M in their first game of the CBE and Kansas can squeak by SE Missouri State it should set up a game that will be pretty beneficial for Kansas going forward. Few teams play quite as slowly as St. Louis does, but they embody the style of play that a lot of mid majors will use to try to upset Kansas in the NCAA tournament: minimizing possessions, shooting threes (though St. Louis didn't shoot a ton) and playing hard defense (and few play it as tough as the Billikens, who were 10th in the nation in PPP allowed last year).
Belmont, tempo free darlings for the past two years, visits Allen Fieldhouse on December 15th. The Bruins lose three Seniors off their 2011-12 team, but gave quite a few players playing time last year, so there will be no shortage of people ready to take those minutes. Belmont was 9th last year in PPP, and 5th in 2pt%, so they'll provide quite a challenge to Bill Self's defense. They moved to the OVC this year, and are probably the favorites, and while they probably won't win they will provide quite a challenge and give basketball fans a heck of a show.
You can see the full schedule, also featuring teams such as Temple and Oregon State, here.