The Kansas Jayhawks have one of the most brutal schedules in college basketball once again. Bill Self is the among the bravest coaches in the nation, constantly trying his team by fire in their non-conference schedule. Even by Self’s standards, this year’s non-conference slate is particularly tough.
No one opened up with a tougher two-game swing. First, Kansas flew all the way to Honolulu to meet up with Indiana in an instant classic that KU lost when Indiana nailed 15 of 31 from deep. In their second game, KU bounced back to defeat Duke at Madison Square Garden on Frank Mason’s game-winning jumper with 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
After getting out of that opening gauntlet with a .500 record, Kansas’ schedule gets easier. However, they still have plenty of testy non-conference games left. In fact, 10 of the 12 non-conference foes on KU’s slate played in the postseason last year. Here are the three toughest non-conference games left on the Jayhawks’ schedule.
By far, the toughest non-conference game left on the schedule is the matchup against the Wildcats in Lexington on January 28th, who are as expected, one of the best teams in the SEC and the country. They just spanked Michigan State by 19 to earn the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll. There will be two keys for Kansas to win in this one.
First, they must defend in transition. The Wildcats go from offense to defense as quickly as anyone in the country. Also, Kansas must defend the three-point line much better than they did against Indiana in the season opener. Kentucky freshman Malik Monk is the latest Kentucky sharpshooter, and he just splashed seven threes in the blowout of the Spartans.
A few weeks from now, Kansas will host Stanford. This will be a homecoming for new Stanford head coach Jerod Haase, who played under Roy Williams at KU. This game should be a victory for Kansas, but they must not overlook Stanford. Cardinal junior forward Reid Travis is a force down low. Stanford also shoots the ball very well from beyond the arc, which means that the Jayhawks will really need to lock down on their perimeter defense. KU should have a big advantage in transition, and pushing the pace with their athleticism and a fired-up home crowd should see them win comfortably.
These two teams used to meet twice a year until the Cornhuskers bolted for the Big 10. The Jayhawks have won 16 in a row in the series. This game will be played in Lawrence on December 10th. This is another non-conference foe that KU should beat handily if they play well. Tai Webster is the Huskers’ leading returning scorer, and the Jayhawks will need to lock down on him on defense. They also need to keep an eye on freshman Isaiah Roby, a 6’7” forward who is extremely athletic. This is another game where KU should look to run as much as possible to wear down an opponent with inferior depth.