Last night, while the collective mind of Jayhawk nation bid a teary farewell to Ritch Price and the Diamond Hawks, the big-team-on-campus stole the headlines just when the football team thought it would be thrust into the spotlight. Almost, Fightin' Manginos. Almost. But, because I've heard something about us being a "basketball school", or something like that (maybe KC can explain?), the basketball team seems to take precedence. Always. Well, that's not true: I mean, -if- when the football team was #2 in the country (I still can't really believe it happened, really), I suppose Armageddon took precedence over whichever patsy-cake the basketball team was playing that day (see what I mean? I don't even remember the team).
Which brings us back to this year's non-conference schedule, which was released last night. Hopefully, the early games (at least) will be overlooked by some fantastic start by our football team. But even if that is the case, there are still those who will show up in Allen Field House (probably something like 16,300), even for those stinkin' exhibition games that mean nothing to nobody.
So, while more in-depth coverage will occur later on (let's try and at least give football a chance), here is a brief rundown of each of the non-conference games on this year's slate, starting with the season-opener against the Hofstra Pride and ending with an early-January tussle with Bruce Pearl and his maniacal Tennessee Volunteers.
November 13th - vs. Hofstra Pride -- This one shouldn't be terribly difficult. Hofstra was a decent team last season, compiling a 21-11 record, but that was built off of loads and loads of cupcakes. They lose a lot too, making it a perfect match for the first game of the season; a clear step up from Fort Hays State, but nothing difficult enough to really stumble, as long as we don't entirely miss the boat.
November 17th - vs. Memphis (St. Louis) -- Now, this here would be the Game! Of! The! Century! (or of November, at least) if Sleazy John didn't skip town for the bluer grass of Kentucky.* It will still draw plenty of attention, and it will be a nice-and-early test in the early-going of the season. Memphis still has a nice collection of players; while Calipari didn't leave the pieces for a National Title run, it isn't like he left the cupboard entirely empty either. It should still draw plenty of attention, too; let's just say I'm pumped. And, after glancing at the non-conference schedule, I'm kind of hoping I can make the drive down to St. Looey for the game. So yes, I'm pumped. Even if it isn't a matchup of two even teams, necessarily.
* You think the whole Derrick Rose scandal had anything to do with Calipari leaving? I would guess yes. Reports say that Memphis found out awhile ago, maybe even as early as January-ish. So, knowing the hammer was about to drop, Calipari might have gone the Kelvin Sampson route and bolted town. Of course, as the Kelvin Sampson situation showed, the cheater tends to, um, continue cheating. Even when at a tradition-seeping program. Just a thought.
November 19th, 23rd, 27th - TBA -- Hall-of-Fame Classic games that have yet to be announced. More to come when they are.
December 2nd - vs. Alcorn State -- Pfft. I have to say, I'm not exactly worried about the Braves. They won 6 games last year. Two of them in non-conference games, against non-D1 opponents, and 4 conference games in a Division II-caliber conference in the SWAC. They had the worst defense in all of Division 1 last season. A walk-on game if I've ever seen one.
December 6th - @ UCLA -- Not to sound cocky or anything, because this certainly won't be an easy game. I mean, they have plenty of talent (even if Jrue Holiday stays in the NBA Draft, which appears to be a near-lock at this point) and Pauley Pavilion is no easy place to play. But we should have them outclassed at every position (there's a reason we should enter the season #1 in the polls) and it isn't like Pauley is Allen Field House.* This really is shaping up to be an excellent game. If we win, it's a huge confidence boost for a team that, as good and ridiculously talented, should still be awfully young when we roll into Westwood. If we lose, then it's a nice wakeup call for said young team, and it can get the ridiculous "undefeated talk" out of the way really quick, if it ever even gets discussed. I'm already pumped. I just wish it was a couple of weeks later, so I could catch it while back at home for Winter Break. Grr.
December 9th - vs. Radford -- Radford is a good team. Whatever happened against the Tar Heels, the Highlanders know how to play basketball. Somewhere in between Hofstra and Alcorn State, with them being a helluva lot closer to the Pride. Not a terrible opponent, but don't worry about it.
December 12th - vs. La Salle (Kansas City) -- Hm, let's see. Struggling A-10/14 team comes strolling into Sprint Center. Sorry, that's all of the connections I could make. But what's scary is that La Salle is a better team, who is worlds better on the offensive glass. Plus, they are returning 8 of 9 contributors. Don't be "scared", or whatever, but another half-hazard performance in downtown KC and we'll leave, again, with a loss.
December 19th - vs. Michigan -- Why? Why, Bill Self, why? I have a terrible feeling about this. I've always had a warm spot in my heart for John Beilein, so that's tough. But much more important, his teams are annoying as hell to play. That 1-3-1 defense, making you actually hit outside shots to beat them. Their persistence at knocking down their own long balls. It's an absolute joy to watch when you are cheering them on; when they are on fire, and you are on the opposite end, it sucks. He is still, slowly, building up his roster with the necessary players for his style, so they won't be as good as they could be. Still, I don't wanna talk about it. I'm irrational when it comes to some styles/teams; this might be the biggest one of all.
December 22nd - vs. California -- Speak about the three-pointer. We weren't great at covering the three ball last year (104th in D1 at 3PG%-against, compared to 4th at 2PG%-against), and I think Bill noticed. Thus, the emphasis on facing off against teams who are quite familiar with the three-pointer. Or longball. Or whatever. Another interesting test; I like these, really. It doesn't kill you if you lose a couple, it makes you look better at the end of the year if you can pick up a couple of W's, and it lets the young players play in tough games prior to conference play. I like it. Don't overload the schedule with NCAA Tournament-caliber teams, the Alcorn States still deserve their place on the schedule, but I like it more than just a here-or-there rare occurrence.
December 29th - vs. Belmont -- Seems to be a common trend of making the "low conference" teams we play some of the better ones. Alcorn State sucks, but both Belmont and Radford are good, quality teams that could, conceivably, pull some sort of upset. Particularly the Bruins (hey, just like UCLA), who also aren't shy of shooting far away from the basket.
January 2nd - @ Temple -- A solid-to-good team, probably a half-step down from the Michigans and Cals of the world. They did make the NCAA Tournament last season, but they lose what were probably their three best players from last year (Dionte Christmas, Sergio Olmos and Semaj Inge). It's on the road, yes, and won't be an easy game, but it is a game that we should win (for sure).
January 5th - vs. Cornell -- Another non-conference game, another matchup against a "low conference" heavyweight. Oh, and another team that loves to hoist up the treys. Think Bill is sending enough of a point? Geez. Get used to seeing long shots this non-conference season. And with the fickleness of hot streaks from out there, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see one of the three-happy teams get smoking hot and, at the very least, give us a huge, massive run. The Big Red are just as apt at doing this as any of the others, if not more; they did shoot over 40% from three last season.
January 9th - @ Tennessee -- Another three-point shooting team. This one should be interesting, because I certainly still haven't bought into the Bruce Pearl hype. I was all ready to claim my genius card for such a claim last year after it looked like a sure thing they'd be left out of the Big Dance in late January-ish, but bam. The threes started falling, Pearl inserted some discipline into them, and they caught fire and ended up definitely earning a bid. So, who knows. I remain nearly positive they will never be a National Championship-type team, but they'll probably always be a Tournament contender, if not a Tournament team every year. Should be an interesting test, in a non-conference slate full of them, but one that we should be well-ready to take on.
I didn't really get into W/L stuff there, because that wasn't the point. I didn't even do preview stuff for most, because it's far too early for that. This was just meant as an outlining-type post, overview-style as the title says. Just to give you a general feel for how the schedule shapes up.
And yes, I do realize that football season comes before basketball season. And I do realize, whatever KC tries to tell you, that we aren't just a basketball school. Like I said, football content starts Monday. I just figured I'd throw some stuff out there since the schedule popped out last night.