RTC Class Schedule 2010-11: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by zhayes9 on August 9th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

If you’ve been a visitor to RTC since last summer, you’ll remember our Class Schedule feature during the offseason, one in which we dissect and analyze the schedules of the most notable teams in the nation, from the easiest to the hardest stretch, the most intense rivalry to the early season tune-ups, upset watch to best individual matchup. 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, just a prominent school every few days as the releases begin to trickle out from the respective schools (up next is Texas).

Team Outlook: As we did last summer, let’s start with the Kansas Jayhawks (schedule here). Kansas saw another mass defection similar to the post-Chalmers shot version of Rock Chalk, but just as that team barely blinked on their way to a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, we don’t expect much rebuilding this winter in Lawrence, either. Marcus Morris returns as a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year and one of the most skilled big men in the country. Josh Selby enters as one of the most heralded freshmen in the nation and could step in as starting point guard immediately. There’s plenty of talent around Morris and Selby that have the chance to make a leap forward, from enigmatic wing Tyshawn Taylor to athletic forward Thomas Robinson and Marcus’ brother, Markieff Morris. The reloading of this roster should be strong enough to maintain a spot in the polls wire to wire with a chance that Bill Self hoists his seventh consecutive conference crown next March.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 6. Kansas’ non-conference games remind me of Notre Dame’s football schedule every fall- a slate chocked full of “name” programs that, well, shouldn’t be all that powerful when the dust clears. At first glance, one can’t help be impressed by the names: UCLA, Arizona, Michigan, California, USC, Memphis. And yet, in all likelihood only Memphis has a legitimate chance to sniff the Top 25 this season unless things come together for Ben Howland awfully quickly, and even the Tigers were just dealt a potentially devastating blow this past week. Give Self credit, though. He couldn’t have anticipated the Pac-10 would be mired in such a down spiral and he could have drawn top-15 Syracuse or top-five Michigan State in the Jimmy V Classic instead. As it stands right now, Kansas should be favored in every single non-conference game this year. Their only true road games are at California and at Michigan, two teams that are in the process of re-stocking their squads and could find themselves missing out on postseason play altogether in 2011.

Cupcake City: With six games against “name” schools and Colorado State thrown in, the frosting isn’t piled on too heavy for Kansas. Even two of their weaker non-conference games come against teams that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament- North Texas and Ohio. The Mean Green are expected to win the Sun Belt once again with three of their top four scorers returning, while the Bobcats have four double-digit scorers not named Armon Bassett back in Athens following their improbable blowout of Georgetown last March.  Another team that could hang with a Kansas team still feeling each other out in mid-November is a talented Homer Drew coached Valparaiso squad. The teams that Kansas should run roughshod over in Lawrence include Longwood, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, UT-Arlington and UMKC. Also: ask Kentucky if you should overlook Miami (OH).

Toughest Early Season Test: As we mentioned, California and Michigan are rebuilding, rendering those true road games a bit lower on the difficulty scale (although it wouldn’t be wise to overlook any true road game in college basketball). The stiffest challenge should come from Memphis in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader on December 7. Memphis is one of the few teams that can match Kansas’ explosiveness and athleticism. Even factoring in the Will Barton fiasco, Josh Pastner brings in two other five-star recruits in small forward Jelan Kendrick and Memphis native point guard Joe Jackson. They’ll join forces with returnees Will Witherspoon, Will Coleman and sleeper Angel Garcia to reclaim what they believe is their rightful spot atop Conference USA. Remember last season when a less talented Tigers squad took the Jayhawks down to the wire in November?

Hardest Big 12 Stretch: The brutal stretch for Kansas comes at the end of January when the Jayhawks face the two teams that will likely be ahead of them in the preseason Big 12 polls- Baylor and Kansas State– square off with rival Texas at home and face two tricky road contests at Colorado and at Texas Tech, teams that return a great deal of their production from a season ago. To add fuel to the fire, the contest in Waco is slated for an early Big Monday game and the Kansas State contest is TBA on a Saturday, giving away the hint that it’ll be an ESPN Primetime duel with Gameday in the house. Also, Self would have probably preferred to endure this type of stretch in late February than late January when his team has the most possible time to gel with a plethora of players entering new roles.  Survive this stretch at even 2-3 and Kansas could be in decent shape to win another conference crown.

Easiest Big 12 Stretch: Once the Jayhawks escape Manhattan without injury or death on February 14, things calm down a bit. Kansas will play three of their next four Big 12 games in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse against teams with tempered expectations, and their one trip away from home is to Norman to face a beleaguered and rebuilding Oklahoma program. Normally, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are superbly formidable opponents for Kansas, but with names like James Anderson, Obi Muonelo, Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland and Bryan Davis gone, these should be two relatively easy wins for KU. While Colorado provides a test, they’re not quite at the level of challenging the Jayhawks on the road.

Josh Selby/Kentucky Sports Radio

Best Individual Matchup: Two of the top four incoming point guards in the nation will square off when Texas comes to town on January 22. Unlike highly touted point guards that step into situations and have to wait their turn for an upperclassmen to graduate, Josh Selby and Cory Joseph will receive an opportunity from the first practice to win the starting spot. Sherron Collins has graduated and Joseph enters a situation in Austin where Texas head coach Rick Barnes is praying the revolving door at PG is a headache of the past. Both of these talents boast a complete repertoire, covering all aspects of the position from a multi-faceted offensive game to outstanding court vision and the ability to make his teammates better. I cannot wait for this one.

Most Challenging Road Test: The rematch at the Octagon of Doom seems like a decent candidate, no? Last season, Kansas marched into Manhattan and emerged victorious with an emotional, heart-pounding, hard fought overtime victory between top teams. In fact, Kansas would defeat their main Big 12 competition three times in all in 2010. Still, it was Kansas State fans who had the last laugh at the Ford Center on Oklahoma City, thoroughly enjoying the proceedings as their Wildcats advanced to the Sweet 16 and the Jayhawks were stunned by Northern Iowa in the same building. The rabid, purple-clad faithful will want revenge from last January when Kansas comes to town. Look for how Josh Selby responds to such a stiff atmosphere and opponent in KSU’s Jacob Pullen.

Most Anticipated Home Date: I hate to be boring here, but for all the reasons listed above, it has to be Kansas State, right? You don’t think that bitter taste still lingers in every Kansas fan’s mouth from the shocking events of last March? They had to endure their inferior younger brother coming one win from the Final Four while they sat home and pondered how their 33-win season evaporated so quickly. Kansas fans would love nothing more than to see a stomping of epic proportions when the Wildcats make their return to Allen Fieldhouse on January 29 for what should be a primetime clash. Whoever wins the battle between Marcus Morris and Curtis Kelly in the post could help determine the outcome.

Upset Watch: Along with Texas A&M and Baylor, one of the biggest nail-biting triumphs of last season came in Boulder in an overtime victory against heavy underdog Colorado. I realize Kansas would go on to beat the Buffs by 20 in Lawrence, but remember that game in Boulder was played without star Colorado freshman Alec Burks. And, if I’m not mistaken, Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry are not walking through that door. Colorado has a shot to go dancing for the first time since 2003 under new head coach Tad Boyle and with returnees Burks and Cory Higgins.

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