Kansas stands alone when it comes to sched­ul­ing

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JESSE NEWELL

The Kansas men’s bas­ket­ball team — on pa­per — is go­ing to play its sec­on­deasi­est op­po­nent of the sea­son on Mon­day.

Easy, right? Get the sharpie out and mark down a win?

Not ex­actly ... at least not with the non-con­fer­ence sched­ule that KU has com­piled.

“It’s ridicu­lous,” KU coach Bill Self said.

Let’s start with just look­ing at Mon­day. KU takes on Ver­mont, which is 128th in Ken Pomeroy’s ad­vanced rank­ings. The Cata­mounts have won at least 20 games in each of the last seven sea­sons un­der coach John Becker and are pre­sea­son picked to win the Amer­ica East con­fer­ence.

It sure doesn’t seem to be the same type of “gimme” game that most blue-blood pro­grams are play­ing this time of year.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever played a sched­ule like that,” Self said, “where you’re look­ing at play­ing a non-con­fer­ence sched­ule where every team is a post­sea­son team.”

Self could be right. The “worst” school on KU’s sched­ule, ac­cord­ing to the num­bers, is 139th-ranked South Dakota; the Coy­otes were picked sec­ond in the Sum­mit League and prob­a­bly would have been the fron­trun­ner had South Dakota State big man

Mike Daum not sur­pris­ingly re­turned for his se­nior sea­son.

Eastern Michi­gan, mean­while, is the fa­vorite to win the west divi­sion of the MAC. Wof­ford was picked as the South­ern Con­fer­ence’s sec­ond-best team, while Louisiana placed in a tie for sec­ond in the Sun Belt’s pre­sea­son poll. It wouldn’t be a shock for any of th­ese pro­grams to win their league tour­na­ments to earn NCAA bids.

And all of th­ese five qual­ify as KU’s “buy” games, mean­ing the school pays those squads to come to Allen Field­house with­out a re­turn con­test. Usu­ally, th­ese give teams much-needed breathers; Self says th­ese dates, though, will qual­ify as ones his guys are “go­ing to have to sweat to win.”

What KU is fac­ing this year, in that re­gard, is nearly un­prece­dented.

For help with the re­search, I went to Bart Torvik’s ad­vanced stats site. KU’s “ba­sic” non­con­fer­ence sched­ule rank­ing — which looks at the aver­age strength of each op­po­nent played — ranks first na­tion­ally. An­other way to look at it: The aver­age power rat­ing of KU’s non-con foes is .6933 — a num­ber that would be about 93rd na­tion­ally in Torvik’s sys­tem.

That .6933 num­ber is im­pres­sive. Torvik’s data goes back to 2007-08, and in that time, only two Power Five teams have had tougher “ba­sic” non­con­fer­ence sched­ules than that.

Per­haps you know where this is go­ing al­ready.

The only two Power

Five teams in the last 10 years that have faced a more daunt­ing pre-con­fer­ence chal­lenge than this year’s Jay­hawks ... were also coached by Self.

KU’s 2013-14 team had a rat­ing of .7239, while the 2014-15 Jay­hawks were right be­hind at .7233.

Just to re­peat for em­pha­sis: In the last 10 years, ac­cord­ing to Torvik’s mea­sures, the three tough­est non-con­fer­ence sched­ules have be­longed to Kansas, Kansas and Kansas.

So what does that mean for this year’s team? Self has a tal­ented ros­ter, but per­haps won’t get to ex­per­i­ment with ro­ta­tions as much as he’d like be­cause of the dif­fi­cult non-con­fer­ence path.

“You would think that may not be the best for­mula with young kids,” Self said, “but you could also flip it and say, ‘Well how bet­ter way to get them pre­pared than have to play every minute of every game?’ as op­posed to your mis­takes not be­ing mag­ni­fied.”

So ready or not, here the Jay­hawks come, march­ing into a two-month stretch that only Self — among his peers — is crazy enough to take on.

There will be some losses along the way, though that should come with an un­der­stand­ing of the big­ger pic­ture too.

KU’s record, at least this year, will not be fat­tened by cup­cakes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.