For the moment, the Kansas nonconference men’s basketball schedule in 2015-16 includes one to-be-determined opponent in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 30.
Could Kentucky and John Calipari be coming to Allen Fieldhouse? An announcement on a final opponent could be forthcoming in the next couple weeks. But for now, the rest of the Jayhawks’ nonconference schedule is set, with a rematch with Michigan State at the Champions Classic highlighting the early-season schedule.
The Jayhawks will open the regular season against Northern Colorado at Allen Fieldhouse on Nov. 13, KU announced Thursday while unveiling the full nonconference slate. Four days later, KU will face the Spartans in the Champions Classic in Chicago before embarking on a trip to the Maui Invitational from Nov. 23-25. The Jayhawks will be playing in Maui for the first time since the 2011-12 season, when the Jayhawks fell to Duke in the championship game.
For Kansas, which has played the nation’s hardest schedule — according to RPI and computer rankings — during the last two seasons, this schedule appears to be slightly more managable. But a slew of marquee games are scattered throughout.
“It’s obviously another solid schedule,” KU coach Bill Self said in a release. “The last two years we played the toughest schedule in the country. This year we feel like, once again, this will be a schedule that will be one of the nation’s best.”
Self referenced the matchup with Michigan State and the field at the Maui Invitational, which includes UCLA, Indiana, UNLV and Wake Forest — coached by former KU player and assistant Danny Manning. The bracket for the Maui Invitational has yet to be announced.
The Jayhawks will also make a return trip to San Diego State on Dec. 22 — the only true road game in the nonconference slate — after facing the Aztecs at Allen Fieldhouse in 2013-14. The Jayhawks will also play host to Loyola (Md.), Harvard, Holy Cross, Montana and UC Irvine at Allen Fieldhouse. The annual game at the Sprint Center will feature Oregon State on Dec. 12.
Finally, the Jayhawks will finish their nonconference schedule by hosting a home game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 30 — nearly a month after the start of conference play. After facing Florida in the challenge during the last two seasons, Kentucky looms as a possible opponent. But the Jayhawks could also find themselves playing somebody such as LSU, Arkansas or Mississippi State.
The Big 12/SEC challenge matchups are made at the conference level with TV matchups in mind — though Kansas has maintained its aversion to facing former Big 12 rival Missouri.
On the whole, Self expects another schedule that could serve to boost Kansas’ RPI ranking throughout next season. Based on the RPI metric, Kansas’ strength of schedule has ranked 10th or higher in five of the last six seasons. The Jayhawks also announced Thursday that the annual Late Night in the Phog event will be on Friday, Oct. 9. Kansas will also play two home exhibitions against Pittsburg State (Nov. 4) and Fort Hays State (Nov. 10).
The schedule includes the usual quirks: Kansas will face Ivy League school Harvard for the first time ever — and play Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo for the fifth time since the 2008-09 season. The Jayhawks beat Michigan State last season in the championship of the Orlando Classic after losing to the Spartans in the Champions Classic in 2012.
“What jumps off the page is Michigan State, who went to the Final Four,” Self said of the schedule. “All the possibilities of matchups at the Maui Invitational and the other teams who advanced to the postseason (last year) like Harvard, San Diego State, Montana and UC Irvine.
“San Diego State has always been a national power. The Big12/SEC Challenge game, which we will host, and all the others will certainly be great preparation for us going into what will, once again, be a terrific Big 12 Conference slate.”
Times and TV channels are yet to be announced.
Here is the nonconference schedule (all home games are at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence unless noted):
▪ Friday, Oct. 9: Late Night in the Phog
▪ Wednesday, Nov. 4: vs. Pittsburg State (exhibition)
▪ Tuesday, Nov. 10: vs. Fort Hays State (exhibition)
▪ Friday, Nov. 13: vs. Northern Colorado
▪ Tuesday, Nov. 17: vs. Michigan State at United Center in Chicago (Champions Classic)
▪ Monday, Nov. 23: vs. TBD (Maui Invitational at Lahaina, Hawaii)
▪ Tuesday, Nov. 24: vs. TBD (Maui Invitational at Lahaina, Hawaii)
▪ Wednesday, Nov. 25: vs. TBD (Maui Invitational at Lahaina, Hawaii)
▪ Tuesday, Dec. 1: vs. Loyola (Md.)
▪ Saturday, Dec. 5: vs. Harvard
▪ Wednesday, Dec. 9: vs. Holy Cross
▪ Saturday, Dec. 12: vs. Oregon State at the Sprint Center
▪ Saturday, Dec. 19: vs. Montana
▪ Tuesday, Dec. 22: at San Diego State
▪ Tuesday, Dec. 29: vs. UC Irvine
▪ Saturday, Jan. 30: vs. TBA in Big 12/SEC Challenge