Previews/Predictions For Intriguing Jayhawks Non-Conference Matchups


Now that “Late Night in the Phog” and the 2014-15 season are just around the corner, I think it’s time we begin to analyze the non-conference schedule Kansas faces this year. With a trip down out to Orlando for yet another non-conference tournament, along with road trips to D.C. (Georgetown) and Philadelphia (Temple), the Jayhawks just may have their hands full once again to begin the season. Although, lighter opponents such as UC Santa Barbara, Rider, Lafayette, and Kent State along the road could make for a much less agonizing non-conference schedule to rack up wins yet prepare for another tough Big 12 slate. Let’s take a deeper look at a few of the bigger games to watch…

Statement Game

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats (Champions Classic)

Date: November 18th, 2014 (9:00pm ET)

Location: Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Analysis: After a National Runner-Up 2013-14 finish, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has horded yet another incredibly talented recruiting class to bring more success to his name and the UK program. The class features ESPN100 stars Karl Towns Jr., Devin Booker, and Trey Lyles. All of which are McDonald’s All-Americans. They also added a very talented point-guard in Tyler Ulis who will provide the Wildcats with backcourt depth that they did not have last year. In addition to the loaded class, the Harrison twins have both returned for another year along with Dakari Johnson(So.), Willie Cauley-Stein(Jr.), and Alex Poythress(Jr.). This matchup will be special because these two teams are arguably the deepest in the country in terms of their rosters and minute distribution. Expect the twins to outplay Frank Mason and Wayne Selden in the backcourt, but Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander to control the game in the paint. Look for Alexander to bully Towns Jr. throughout the game and Ellis to score 20+ points to begin the season hot. The Jayhawks will make a big statement in this game and they better do so, especially because the 2012 national championship loss still stings.

Prediction: Kansas 86-79

Toughest Game

Opponent: Florida Gators (Big 12/SEC Challenge)

Date: December 5th, 2014 (9:00pm ET)

Location: Allen Fieldhouse (Lawrence, Kansas)

Analysis: With the departures of Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Patric Young, and Will Yeguete in Gainesville, head coach Billy Donovan has holes to fill in 2014-15. Some key players that are returning for the Gators are Michael Fraizer II(Jr.), Dorian Finney-Smith(Jr.), and DeVon Walker(Jr.). Point-guard Kasey Hill and big-man Chris Walker will return for their sophomore seasons, as well. As a matter of fact, they played on the same AAU team as Brannen Greene and all 3 are still great friends. Unfortunately, Hill and Walker are both studs that are candidates to make the All-Conference team, so we will have trouble containing them at times. Donovan also put together a decent recruiting class. The gem of the class is ESPN100 point-guard Chris Chiozza, who can be a great complement to Hill at point further down the road. Expect this game to be a defensive battle. Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre must play outstanding in transition offense and defense in order for KU to win this matchup. If they both play fast and smart, Kansas can certainly edge one out in front of the Jayhawk faithful in the house that Naismith built. I expect nothing less!

Prediction: Kansas 68-65

Trap Game

Opponent: Utah Utes

Date: December 13th, 2014 (3:15pm ET)

Location: Sprint Center (Kansas City, Missouri)

Analysis: This Utah team is certainly no joke. They are bringing back their 3 best scorers from 2013-14 in Jordan Loveridge(Jr.), Brandon Taylor(Jr.), and Delon Wright(Sr.). They also recruited a solid big man in ESPN100, power forward Brekkott Chapman. Utah’s scheme is very comparable to Stanford’s of last year. They rely heavily on their athletic backcourt, and Chapman is a lot like Dwight Powell with his ability to go to the basket as well as shoot the 15-footer. In response, I unfortunately sense a very similar result to KU’s matchup with Stanford last year, even though Utah’s team doesn’t have much depth. Alexander and Ellis will get quality buckets down-low and play solid defense, but senior Delon Wright will outsmart Frank Mason and take him to the basket on several occasions, possibly in untimely moments. Look for coach Self to go to the bench immediately to try and find an answer for Utah’s experienced backcourt. Mason must play phenomenally in order for the Jayhawks to prevent an upset. But until I see Mason play consistently, I have Utah stealing one from Kansas in an ugly game.

Prediction: Utah 66-61

Most Important Game

Opponent: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Date: January 4th, 2015 (TBD)

Location: Allen Fieldhouse (Lawrence, Kansas)

Analysis: When I look at UNLV, I look at their stellar recruiting class. Head coach Dave Rice did a great job in bringing in talented freshmen to carry his team this season. He brought in two ESPN100, 5-star players in Rashad Vaughn and Goodluck Okonoboh. He also brought in a 4-star, ESPN100 stud in power forward Dwayne Morgan. Besides those 3, UNLV does not have much for them when it comes to freakish talent. The Runnin’ Rebels lost Bryce Dejean-Jones via transfer(Iowa State), Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith to the draft, and Kevin Olekaibe to graduation. Expect Frank Mason to have a huge game against sophomore Kendall Smith, in hope to keep his starting job away from Devonte Graham. Mason will have to have several big games as conference play approaches in order to solidify his starting job for potentially the entirety of the season. He will have his struggles for sure, but a big outing here is crucial for himself and most importantly the team. Overall, look for the deep, well-coached Jayhawks to take advantage of this young, small UNLV team. There certainly will be no dud performance like we saw vs. San Diego State this time around…

Prediction: Kansas 80-65