RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

I’m extremely proud to introduce a new feature here at Rush the Court, one you’ll be seeing every few days or so up until the much-anticipated opening tip in November, called RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule. The premise is simple: dissect and analyze the schedules of the most notable teams in the nation this season, from the easiest to the hardest stretch, the most intense rivalry to the early season tune-ups, upset watch to RTC potential. If your team is lingering around the expected preseason top-25, their schedule will be scrutinized in the next couple of months. There’s no rhyme or reason to the madness (we won’t be going conference-by-conference or ranking each team), just a prominent school every few days as the releases begin to trickle out from the respective schools.

We figured it would be appropriate to begin the feature with the team expected to represent the class of college basketball in the 2009-10 campaign: Kansas. Here’s the official team schedule:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8. Bill Self realizes he must challenge his Jayhawks if they wish to reach the promised land in April this season, and while the Big 12 certainly provides distinct challenges, Self has loaded the non-conference slate with three games against potential top-15 competition and two more storied programs on the fringe of being ranked. Kansas will take on Michigan and California at home in back-to-back contests in December, two teams returning plenty of talent from a season ago and featuring playmakers like Manny Harris and Jerome Randle. Self also scheduled a home-and-home with Tennessee (last season’s barn burner) and the Jayhawks will make their return trip on January 10 in one of the more anticipated non-conference games this season. Other than Tennessee and a trip to Philly to take on Temple, Kansas’ only true road game during non-conference play is a meeting with UCLA as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series. They also travel a short ways to St. Louis for a matchup with Memphis. While Kansas playing such big name schools sounds sexy, neither should pose an enormous conundrum for a loaded KU squad. Overall, give Self credit for challenging his team rather than padding the record. The RPI will notice when they’re battling for a #1 seed in February and March.

Cupcake City: The Jayhawks may have scheduled their fair share of below-average competition, but Self did a fairly decent job of bringing teams to Lawrence with a recent history of success. Even the typical November and December schools are somewhat formidable in the big picture (they may not be against KU, of course): Radford, Belmont and Cornell have recent tournament experience, Oakland is the favorite in the Summit and La Salle is one of the sleepers in the Atlantic 10. The portion of the schedule covered with frosting, though, has to be November 19- December 2 with Central Arkansas, Tennessee Tech and Alcorn State coming to Lawrence. I’m not going out on a limb when I say some lopsided scores could be in order.

Toughest Early Season Test: I still consider January 10 “early” in the season with still 2+ months of intense basketball to be played, so the game in Knoxville against Tennessee takes the cake. Bruce Pearl returns an ultra-talented team to Rocky Top led by inside-out forward Tyler Smith, hard-nosed Wayne Chism, the slashing J.P. Prince and rising sophomore Scotty Hopson. The question with Tennessee: will they make some sort of commitment to defense? If not, Kansas may put up 100 points and waltz out of the raucous environment with an easy win.

Easiest Conference Stretch: The first five games of the Big 12 portion of the season for Kansas shouldn’t be too much trouble with road dates in Nebraska and Iowa State and home dates with Texas Tech, Baylor and Missouri. Both the Huskers and Craig Brackins’ Cyclones squads could pull off the occasional upset this season (especially at home), but let’s not over-analyze here. The talent on Kansas roster should be enough to easily take care of these teams. This easy stretch leads up to the primetime game in Manhattan against Kansas State.

Hardest Conference Stretch: The last four games of the season for Kansas may be the most difficult stretch of the season with two home dates against rivals Oklahoma and Kansas State and huge road games at Oklahoma State and Missouri (remember last year?). The two home games may not be overly difficult for KU, but those schools are projected to be dancing in March. The road games should prove enormous tests and will be the proverbial Super Bowl for the challengers involved. Oklahoma State can certainly score behind James Anderson and Obi Muonelo while Missouri may have lost some bulk and serious scoring down low, but feature a backcourt that can challenge Kansas in Columbia.

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Most Difficult Conference Road Test: This one’s easy, and, in my opinion, the best game of the entire college basketball season: Kansas traveling to Texas on February 8 for Big Monday. I have Kansas ranked #1 and Texas #2 in my preseason rankings and for good reason. These two teams have superior coaching, tremendous scoring potential, superb athleticism, an influx of diaper dandies entering the fray and can even defend a lick or two. If Kansas is going to match their 2001-02 squad and go undefeated in the Big 12, they’ll have to march out of Austin with a victory. This is no easy feat.

Most Anticipated Home Date: For the Jayhawk faithful, home dates against Missouri or Oklahoma would probably win. As far as I’m concerned, Michigan traveling to Lawrence on December 19 looks like an interesting game. I’m expecting big things out of a Michigan team that returns nearly every player of note under John Beilein. How they respond to entering an atmosphere like Allen Fieldhouse and matching up against a loaded Kansas team will certainly give us a better look at their chances in the Big 10.

Upset Watch: I’d keep an eye on Kansas traveling to College Station on February 15 to take on Mark Turgeon’s Texas A&M team. They might not be nearly as formidable as Kansas by any stretch of the imagination, but A&M still returns Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis and B.J. Holmes from a team that reached the second round last season. Just ask Texas and Missouri last season how they fared in College Station.

Best Individual Matchup: While Iowa State won’t pose much of a threat to Kansas, the matchup in the paint between Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins will be a doozy. Brackins flew way under the radar last season for a struggling Iowa State team (20.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG) and Aldrich is being touted by many as one of the preseason favorites to take home the Naismith award. Oh, and Brackins put up 42 points and 14 rebounds a year ago against the Jayhawks in an 82-67 KU victory.

Rush The Court Potential: The only time Kansas hopes to rush the court this season is in April. In Indianapolis. While Bill Self is hoisting his second national championship trophy in three seasons. On the flip side, if Kansas were to lose this season on the road, you can be sure piles of students will be jumping around the center logo with their team. Folks, Kansas is the clear #1 team in the land, and if they should fall at any point this upcoming season, it will be a huge deal.

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