Kansas University's young men's basketball team will be asked to grow up in a hurry this preseason.
"This schedule will be very challenging, especially right out of the chute," third-year Jayhawk coach Bill Self said Thursday after scanning a 28-game 2005-06 slate that includes a Thanksgiving-week trip to the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
KU will play Arizona in the Maui opener, then meet UConn or Arkansas in Round Two, with Gonzaga, Maryland, Michigan State and Chaminade on the other side of the bracket.
"Start with Maui and add teams like Kentucky, St. Joe's, Nevada, California, Pepperdine ... no question it will be very challenging to say the least. We probably play more high-profile teams this year than last year," Self said.
The Jayhawks return just one starter from last year's 23-7 team, which wound up playing what was rated the most difficult schedule in the country.
"People thought our schedule wasn't that tough last year. It turned out to be the toughest in America," Self said. "Our nonconference schedule certainly rivals last year. We may not have all our nonconference opponents play in the postseason like last year, but it is a challenging schedule to say the least."
Nov. 9: exhibition opener, vs. Fort Hays State Nov. 18: Regular-season opener, vs. Idaho State Nov. 21: Arizona, in Maui Jan. 7: Kentucky Jan. 11: Big 12 opener, at Colorado March 4: Regular-season finale, at Kansas State
KU's nonconference schedule includes home dates with Nevada (Dec. 1), Cal (Dec. 10, Kemper Arena), Pepperdine (Dec. 19) and Kentucky (Jan. 7). Other home foes are: Idaho State (Nov. 18), Western Illinois (Dec. 3), Northern Colorado (Dec. 22) and Northern Arizona (Dec. 31), with one foe still to be scheduled.
KU will meet St. Joseph's on Dec. 6 in New York's Madison Square Garden.
KU's game at Georgia Tech on Dec. 17 has been pushed back a year because Georgia Tech has a building conflict with graduation that day.
"We didn't want to delay it a year, but we didn't have a choice in the matter. It was an honest mistake," said Self, whose Jayhawks will travel to Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Michigan State in 2006-07.
As far as the Big 12 Conference schedule, KU will open Jan. 11 at Colorado and close March 4 at Kansas State.
This marks the first time in five seasons KU will not close the regular season in Columbia, Mo. KU will meet Missouri on Jan. 16 at Mizzou Arena, with the return game Feb. 18.
"To me, it's not been a big deal. You play everybody twice. It's almost irrelevant which is at home first," Self said. "I'm sure the Missouri games will mean a ton."
KU will play two ESPN Big Monday games on the road (Jan. 16 at Missouri and Feb. 13 at Oklahoma State), with one at home (Texas Tech, Jan. 30).
Kansas schedule (All tipoff times TBA) Nov. 9 -- Fort Hays State (exhibition) Nov. 14 -- Pittsburg State (exhibition) Nov. 18 -- Idaho State Nov. 21 -- Arizona at Maui Invitational Nov. 22 -- TBD at Maui Invitational Nov. 23 -- TBD at Maui Invitational Dec. 1 -- Nevada Dec. 3 -- Western Illinois Dec. 6 -- St. Joseph's in Madison Square Garden Dec. 10 -- California in Kemper Arena Dec. 19 -- Pepperdine Dec. 22 -- No. Colorado Dec. 31 -- No. Arizona Jan. 7 -- Kentucky Jan. 11 -- at Colorado Jan. 14 -- Kansas State Jan. 16 -- at Missouri Jan. 21 -- Nebraska Jan. 25 -- at Texas A&M Jan. 28 -- at Iowa State Jan. 30 -- Texas Tech Feb. 5 -- Oklahoma Feb. 8 -- at Nebraska Feb. 11 -- Iowa State Feb. 13 -- at Okla. State Feb. 18 -- Missouri Feb. 21 -- Baylor Feb. 25 -- at Texas March 1 -- Colorado March 4 -- at Kansas State March 9-12 -- Big 12 Tournament in Dallas
"The only thing about our schedule that is remotely disappointing to me, something we had no control over, is since I've been here we've played seven of 10 Big Monday games away from home," Self said. "I wish there was some way that could be balanced out over time. So far it hasn't.
"One day preparation and travel is different than one day preparation and stay at home. We're thrilled with Big Monday and thankful we are on ESPN Big Monday. It's a great deal. I just wish it'd be showcased more in our building than others on a 2:1 ratio."
KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating will continue to look to fill the final home date. The game, which will be a guarantee game against a mid-major or lower, could possibly be played Dec. 17, Dec. 29 or Jan. 3.
"We're talking to some people. Nobody is a lock right now," Keating said. "Aside from that one game, our schedule has been complete for some time now. I think it's a good schedule, particularly with Maui loading it up with good teams. Teams like Nevada and Pepperdine ... people may not realize how good they are. Our strength of schedule and power rankings should be high again this year."
¢ Notable: Eleven teams that played in the 2005 postseason are on the schedule. ... KU defeated Nevada, 85-52, and St. Joe's, 91-51, last year in Lawrence and beat Kentucky, 65-59, in Lexington, Ky. ... KU's game against St. Joe's is part of the Jimmy V. Classic. The Cal game is called the "Kansas City Shootout." ... KU also opened league play at Colorado in 2003-04. ... Times and TV networks have not been finalized and were not released Thursday.
¢ Wright's injury explained: KU freshman Julian Wright, who has been wearing a protective boot on his left foot, had a surgical procedure on that foot last week in Lawrence to accelerate healing of a stress fracture.
Wright, who will be out of action one to two weeks, should be ready to play when school starts on Aug. 18.
"He had a very minor surgery to take care of some discomfort (in the foot) he's been having the last six to eight months," Self said.
C.J. Giles (hip pointer sustained at USA Basketball's Under 21 tryouts in July in Dallas) has not resumed pick-up-game action while receiving treatment.
He also is expected to be able to play by the time the school year begins.