LAWRENCE — It could be the most daunting non-conference schedule that KU coach Bill Self has ever encountered. Duke. Florida. Georgetown. And a month-long span without a game at Allen Fieldhouse in November and December.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Did we mention Kansas will have five new starters next season?
Self, of course, is optimistic that the challenging schedule will accelerate the learning curve of a young team. But for now, here’s a breakdown of the Jayhawks’ non-conference schedule in 2013-14:
Date (Day) – Opponent, Site
Nov. 8 (Friday) – LOUISIANA-MONROE, Lawrence, Kan.
Louisiana-Monroe finished 4-23 overall and 3-17 in the Sun Belt Conference last season. Kansas won the only all-time meeting with ULM, topping the Redhawks 107-78 on Nov. 9, 2007, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Nov. 12 (Tuesday) – Duke, Chicago, Ill. (Champions Classic, United Center)
Duke loses seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, but there should be plenty of future pros on the floor at the United Center this November. In the third Champions Classic, Kentucky will take on Michigan State in a matchup of likely top-five teams. And then there's Duke and Kansas. Junior point guard Quinn Cook and sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon return, while incoming freshman (and former SI cover boy) Jabari Parker will return to his hometown.
Nov. 19 (Tuesday) – IONA, Lawrence, Kan.
The first of some difficult mid-major tests. Iona won the MAAC tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, losing to Ohio State in the opening round. The Gaels have won 20 games the last four seasons.
Nov. 22 (Friday) – TOWSON, Lawrence, Kan.
Towson had the largest turnaround in NCAA history last season, finishing 18-13 in 2012-13 after skidding to a 1-31 record in 2011-12. Fun fact: Incoming KU guard Frank Mason nearly chose Towson out of high school before spending a year at a prep school and committing to KU.
Nov. 28-30, Battle 4 Atlantis (Three games), Paradise Island, Bahamas
The field: Villanova, Tennessee, Iowa, UTEP, Xavier, USC and Wake Forest. Tennessee, Villanova and Iowa would all be tough draws, while UTEP continues to build under former Iowa State coach Tim Floyd.
Dec. 7 (Saturday) – at Colorado, Boulder, Colo.
The Buffaloes suffered a major blow when leading rebounder Andre Roberson, a junior forward, left early for the NBA Draft. Still, leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie is back for his junior season under CU coach Tad Boyle, a former KU guard. The Jayhawks have won 21 straight against Colorado, a former Big 12 foe, including a 90-54 win in Allen Fieldhouse last season.
Dec. 10 (Tuesday) – at Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
If there’s a game that wasn’t anticipated, it’s this one. The new Big 12-SEC challenge came together in the last year or so, and the Jayhawks were matched up with a Florida squad coming off an appearance in the Elite Eight. The Gators lost their three leading scorers — Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy — but Billy Donovan adds five-star freshman forward Chris Walker to go along with senior Patric Young.
Dec. 14 (Saturday) – NEW MEXICO, Kansas City, Mo. (Sprint Center)
Here’s what the Lobos lost: Head coach Steve Alford to UCLA, and junior guard Tony Snell (12.5 ppg) to the NBA Draft. Here’s what they have: Leading scorer Kendall Williams (13.3 points), 7-footer Alex Kirk and assistant-turned-head coach Craig Neal. Add it up, and New Mexico will likely be favored to defend its Mountain West title.
Dec. 21 (Saturday) – GEORGETOWN, Lawrence, Kan.
Another team that lost an early entry to the NBA, the Hoyas will explore life without forward Otto Porter Jr. Georgetown will likely begin the season outside the top 25, but they won’t be too far away.
Dec. 30 (Monday) – TOLEDO, Lawrence, Kan.
The Rockets posted a 15-13 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Mid-America Conference last season. KU owned its only meeting with Toledo, a 68-58 victory on Dec. 9, 2006, at Kemper Arena.
Jan. 5 (Sunday) – SAN DIEGO STATE, Lawrence, Kan.
This is a San Diego State program that finished 23-11 and handled Oklahoma in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last season. By this point, with conference season right around the corner, the young Jayhawks will certainly be tested.