Kansas just wrapped up another successful season in 2012-2013 led by four seniors and one future NBA lottery pick of the one and done variety. It was a very good year for Kansas who won their ninth straight Big 12 title and went on a run to the Sweet 16 before falling to a Michigan team that would play for a national title. Kansas basketball has experienced a steady stream of success during the Bill Self era, but next year the Jayhawks will turn over an entire starting five and feature a very young and inexperienced roster.
What do you do with that type of a roster? Perhaps you ease them into things with a schedule full of confidence boosting non-conference games in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse. Or if you're Bill Self you test them early, you test them often and you see if you can't have this team playing beyond their years by the time Big 12 play begins.
In what looks like a page taken directly from the Tom Izzo book of non-conference scheduling, Bill Self and Kansas will face a grueling early season stretch featuring games against three teams that will likely start the year ranked in the top 15, two of those will start top 10 and one will most likely be top 5. All three of those games will be away from Allen Fieldhouse. In addition to those the Jayhawks have home games already slotted for two teams that will be fringe top 25 candidates including one team that is a perennial contender in the Big East.
The schedule already in place includes a neutral site game against Duke in the Champions Classic. Duke is predicted to be a preseason top five and Coach K is one of the best in the business. Florida recently announced a home and home with Kansas that was very close to being finalized and that would see the Jayhawks heading to Gainesville next year to face a Gator team projected to be in the top 10. Florida has a good group returning and some very talented players coming in.
Bill Self will also take his team on the road in a return trip to face Colorado. The Buffaloes were embarrassed in Lawrence this year but Tad Boyle returns his entire roster and they will be a seasoned group playing in front of a Colorado fanbase that is far different from the one that Kansas fans will remember. Tack on home games against Georgetown and San Diego State and you've got the makings of a brutal non-conference schedule that will give Bill Self some gray hairs.
At the same time this is going to be a year where only Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe return to the roster with major minutes. Self is going to be forced into playing young players and with the recruiting class coming in, an early gauntlet could be exactly what Kansas needs in order to make a run at a 10th straight league title and perhaps a deeper run in March.
Kansas has always tested their teams in the non-conference, but nothing in recent memory has measured up to this and Kansas has not been in a position with such uncertainty in terms of production for quite some time. The full schedule hasn't been released yet but it's likely Kansas will have one or two tricky mid major tourney type teams on the roster as well. This may be one of those years where Kansas takes their lumps in the non conference but fans have an opportunity to watch the growth of a young team as a result. Self is one of the best in the business at developing talent, this schedule is going to test everyone throughout the process.