The KU basketball schedule for the 2013-14 season is finally completed, and well … it’s ridiculously loaded.
This isn’t a surprise, of course. The Jayhawks’ nonconference schedule, released in early May, includes some heavyweight matchups against Duke in the Champions Classic in Chicago, on the road against Florida, and at home against Georgetown and San Diego State.
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But the final details came out on Thursday, when the Big 12 released the dates and times for the double round-robin conference schedule. Now we can look at the Jayhawks’ schedule in its entirety. And for a program that’s replacing all five starters with one of the best recruiting classes in school history, it’s shaping up to be one of the most anticipated slates in some time.
KU will face six teams that won or tied for first in their respective league and/or conference tournament titles in 2013. Yes, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but the list looks like this: Florida (Southeastern Conference), Georgetown (Big East), Iona (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), K-State (tied KU in the Big 12), New Mexico (Mountain West) and Toledo (Mid-American West).
And depending on how the bracket shakes out at the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney, the Jayhawks could face 15 opponents that played in the postseason last year (12 in the NCAA and three in the NIT.)
For now, though, let’s look at the five most intriguing games on the schedule. (The schedule is so packed that KU’s trip to Oklahoma State on March 1 — a game that could be featured on ESPN’s “College GameDay” — doesn’t even make the cut. We’ll also hand honorable-mention nods to KU’s Big 12 battles with Baylor and Iowa State — and a contest against New Mexico at the Sprint Center on Dec. 14.)
Five games to watch
1a. Oklahoma State at Kansas, Jan. 18, Lawrence
It’s Oklahoma State’s first trip to Allen Fieldhouse since Marcus Smart left the place doing back-flips after an upset last February. And it’s also a matchup that could include to the top two picks in the 2014 NBA Draft (Smart and KU freshmen Andrew Wiggins).
That makes this Big 12 battle one of the biggest games in all of college basketball next year. While the Wiggins-Smart angle will be intriguing, the best storyline could be how KU freshman guard Wayne Selden (another linebacker in a guard’s body) is able to match up with the physical Smart.
1b. Kansas vs. Duke, Nov. 12, Champions Classic, Chicago
The third and final installment of the Champions Classic could be the best one yet. Wiggins will face off against Duke freshman Jabari Parker (a Chicago native), and KU coach Bill Self will have an opportunity to notch a victory against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
3. Kansas at Florida, Dec. 10, Gainesville, Fla.
KU freshmen center Joel Embiid played his high school ball in Gainesville, and his homecoming will mark the inaugural year of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Gators return veteran guard Scottie Wilbekin and big-man Patric Young, and they add McDonald’s All-American guard Kasey Hill to the roster. Florida may not be a title contender, but they’ll likely be safely in the top 15 when KU arrives in Gainesville.
4. Georgetown at Kansas, Dec. 21, Lawrence
The Hoyas lost All-American Otto Porter to the NBA lottery, and Georgetown will probably begin the season on the outskirts of the top 25. But the history and prestige of both programs should make for a fine pre-holiday atmosphere at Allen Fieldhouse.
5. Kansas at Kansas State, Feb. 10, Manhattan
OK. K-State lost Rodney McGruder. And Angel Rodriguez jetted off to Miami. And KU will have an unquestioned talent advantage. But that’s generally the case, anyway. And the environment at Bramlage when KU comes to town is always among the most feverish in the country. Finally, K-State coach Bruce Weber will have another chance to do something that Frank Martin could do on occasion: Beat KU in Manhattan.