Kansas’ men’s basketball team will open its 18-game Big 12 Conference slate on the road and close with five of eight contests in enemy gyms.
Those possible pitfalls to a 13th straight league title do not seem to bother 14th-year Jayhawks coach Bill Self.
“Sure it will be a challenge,” Self said Thursday after the Big 12 Conference office released the 2016-17 league schedule for all teams. “Of course the league race, as it always does, will come down to the last couple of weeks or even the last game. Regardless of how the schedule plays out … that’s one thing that does not concern me year to year.
“We play everybody twice. Everybody else does. Sometimes you get the appearance of tougher stretches. Certainly there is never an easy stretch. We’ll line up and do what everybody has to do, that’s play the teams when we are supposed to play them.”
KU’s league opener will be Dec. 30 at TCU.
The Jayhawks, who then play three of four in Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas State on Jan. 3, Texas Tech on Jan. 7, Oklahoma State on Jan. 14 and at Oklahoma on Jan. 10), close the season on March 4 at Oklahoma State.
The season-ending eight-game stretch also has games at Kansas State on Feb. 6, Texas Tech on Feb. 11, Baylor on Feb. 18 and Texas on Feb. 25 plus home contests vs. West Virginia on Feb. 13, TCU on Feb. 22 and Oklahoma on Feb. 27.
“We’ve opened on the road many times (including two seasons ago with win at Baylor). Fifty percent of teams open on the road and 100 percent of teams have tough stretches without question,” Self said. “The schedule … in all honesty I don’t see any negatives.
“The Saturday/Monday turnarounds are the toughest things. That’s always the first thing I look for.”
KU, as is almost always the case, has four ESPN Big Monday games. The first two are on the road: at Iowa State on Jan. 16 following a Saturday home game against Oklahoma State, and at Kansas State on Feb. 6 following a Saturday home game against Iowa State.
KU’s’s last two Big Monday games will be in Allen Fieldhouse: Feb. 13 vs. West Virginia after a Saturday game at Texas Tech, and Feb. 27 vs. Oklahoma after a Saturday game at Texas.
“One-day prep is always difficult,” Self said. “The good thing is we get two Big Monday games at home.”
KU’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge game against Kentucky, on Jan. 28 in Lexington, interrupts the conference schedule for a second straight season. KU plays at West Virginia before heading to Kentucky.
“We’re playing a team that obviously is going to be very good,” Self said of John Calipari’s Wildcats. “That will be a busy week no question. That game at West Virginia is on a Tuesday. We’ll rest Wednesday and prepare two days for Saturday.”
Overall … “the schedule is fine,” Self said. “I’m not going to complain about the schedule at all.”
The official release of the schedule does provide for some increased activity around the basketball office and athletic department.
“It helps trying to get hotel rooms, which we’re working on right now,” Self said.
2016-17 KU men’s basketball schedule
All times Central; Home games in CAPS at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence
Notes: *Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu; **Champions Classic in New York; ***CBE Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center; #Jayhawk Shootout at the Sprint Center; ^SEC/Big 12 Challenge
Television key: TWC (Time Warner Cable SportsChannel or ESPN3 outside KC area/Kansas); CBSS (CBS Sports Network)