Odds are good Kansas University's men's basketball players, coaches and fans today will be circling Nov. 25 on their calendars.
That's the date the Jayhawks will tangle with defending national champion Florida in Las Vegas in what will be the most talked-about game on the 2006-07 schedule, which was released Saturday.
Billy Donovan's Gators will return all five starters from a 33-6 team that pounded UCLA, 73-57, in the 2006 title contest. Bill Self's Jayhawks as well bring back five starters from a 25-8 Big 12 co-regular season and postseason conference championship team.
"The Florida game is big. The fact it's early in the season ... it might cater to who put in the most work in the offseason," KU sophomore forward Julian Wright said of the ESPN2-televised contest, which will, at 9:30 p.m., conclude the four-game Las Vegas Invitational.
KU also will play Ball State, Towson and Tennessee State in the exempt-game tourney.
"There will be a lot of basketball to be played after the Florida game. We won't have an emotional letdown, win or lose," Wright added. "We can't just talk about that game and not worry about the rest of the games. We have a lot of competition early on."
Aside from Florida, the stiffest competition on the nonconference slate figures to come from Southern California and Boston College (Dec. 4 and 23 in Allen Fieldhouse) as well as South Carolina (Jan. 7, Columbia, S.C.) and DePaul (Dec. 2, suburban Chicago).
KU also will play home nonconference games against Oral Roberts, Detroit Mercy, Rhode Island, Dartmouth, Northern Arizona and Toledo (Dec. 9, Kemper Arena) with one game still to be scheduled.
"I'd say Florida and South Carolina because Florida is defending national champion and South Carolina ... I have a lot of family there," KU sophomore guard Mario Chalmers said of the games that stick out to him on the nonconference slate.
"I think it's a pretty good schedule. We have to play hard every night to get the victories," Chalmers added.
KU coach Bill Self calls the slate, "a good schedule, a highly competitive schedule. Florida, USC, South Carolina, DePaul, Boston College are obviously big games, and our buy (guarantee) games are good.
"Whether you are talking about Rhode Island, Detroit, Toledo, Oral Roberts, some of the others ... those are games that will definitely test us against teams with RPIs from 100 to 150. It is a good schedule."
The schedule, of course, includes the Big 12 slate of games. KU, which in Self's first three years played three Big Monday games at home and seven on the road, will hit the road for three Big Monday contests (Nebraska, Jan. 29; Kansas State, Feb. 19; Oklahoma, Feb. 26) with just one at home (Missouri, Jan. 15).
"One of the great things about being at Kansas and playing at Kansas is you get many national exposures. We have 16 as of today, regular-season games that will be televised nationally," Self said. "We are excited about that, with 11 national exposures in our league. This will be a team that America will certainly get a chance to see play.
"But the negative is since we've been here we've now played four home games on Big Monday and 10 road games. We've lost 11 games in the league since we've been here and six have been on Big Monday.
"Certainly I understand why that is the case (home-road discrepancy). I think it's tougher to play on the road with one day preparation than multiple days, but it also will be great preparation to make your team more prepared and tougher for the postseason."
KU traditionally has been sent packing on Big Monday ostensibly because ESPN figures chances of a close game are greater with the Jayhawks out of Allen Fieldhouse.
"We are disappointed," Self said, "at the same time, we also get (ESPN) Game Day at our place, too (versus Texas A&M on Feb. 3). There's not a better way to showcase your program. Big Monday is great, but not Game Day in terms of exposure for the program."
ESPN's Game Day crew of Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Rece Davis will spend the day of the game broadcasting from Lawrence, leading up to the 8 p.m. telecast between the Jayhawks and Aggies, who are expected to be one of the top teams in the conference this year.
¢ Windy City reunion: KU soph Wright and freshman Sherron Collins will return to the greater Chicago area to meet DePaul on Dec. 2 at Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont.
"I might get a few more calls from people back home," Wright said of acquiring tickets. "My mom and dad don't have to travel to go to a game, which is a plus. People at home who support me will get to see the game - Sherron too.
"Being home is healthy, still we have to focus on Kansas basketball that day."
¢ Schedule notes: KU has just two Sunday games this season: home against Towson on Nov. 19 and at South Carolina on Jan. 7. ... The Big 12 Tournament will be March 8-11 in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. ... March 11 will be Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. ... KU will play exhibitions against Washburn (Nov. 2) and Emporia State (Nov. 7). KU has won 28 straight home exhibitions dating to the 1993-94 season. ... KU will be on CBS three times, 12 times on ESPN/ESPN2 and once on ABC.
¢ Sonics summer league: Ex-Jayhawk guards Aaron Miles and Keith Langford both played for the Seattle SuperSonics summer league team at the Rocky Mountain Review in Utah. There's a possibility they could be invited to veteran's camp, which would mean they could join former KU All-American Nick Collison in the Sonics-Chicago Bulls exhibition game on Oct. 15 in Allen Fieldhouse. Miles coincidentally played for the Bulls in the Orlando summer league.
Langford's best game was a 15-point outing in the opener against Philadelphia. Miles' best game was a 14-point, four-assist outing versus Philly in a rematch in the tourney finale.