KU women embracing challenging nonconference schedule

photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Kansas' Taiyanna Jackson addresses the media during the NCAA college Big 12 women's basketball media day Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas women’s basketball team is playing what coach Brandon Schneider calls “the toughest nonconference schedule we’ve ever played” this season, and it’s because the players asked for it.

“We need to play some competition, you know?” center Taiyanna Jackson said at the Big 12 Conference media day Tuesday, recalling what the team told Schneider. “We don’t want to keep playing teams that we keep blowing out. That’s no fun. That’s not helping us to better ourselves, as a player or as a team.”

Instead, the Jayhawks are playing foes that will help them realize, as Schneider puts it, “what are our strengths, what are the things we need to improve on to go and compete for a Big 12 title.”

The 2023-24 KU women’s basketball team will be forged Thanksgiving weekend in the fiery crucible of the inaugural women’s Cayman Islands Classic, which as guard Holly Kersgieter pointed out is both a fun trip to a tropical island and a rare chance to battle a pair of top-10 teams.

UConn is the preseason No. 2 in the Associated Press preseason poll released Tuesday; Virginia Tech comes in at No. 8.

“That’s just a crazy opportunity,” Kersgieter said.

KU, for its part, received votes but was the third team out of the poll. If the Jayhawks want to rank among the top squads in the country, and challenge Big 12 favorites like No. 13 Texas and No. 19 Baylor, they’ll need to learn from battling those national powers.

“Regardless of the outcome, I know that (with) the mindsets we’ve established and the things that we’re trying to get better at and accomplish,” Kersgieter said, “by the time we get there, the outcome of those games is going to give us something regardless of how it goes.”

UConn just missed a Final Four for the first time since 2007 but will return a former national player of the year in the previously injured Paige Bueckers, while Virginia Tech recently reached its first-ever Final Four.

“That’s what our veteran players wanted, was to go out and test themselves early in November against the best of the best,” Schneider said.

It won’t just be in the Caymans, either. By mid-December, weeks before opening its conference slate, KU will already have played on the road against Penn State, a fellow receiving-votes team in Texas A&M and former assistant coach Terry Nooner’s Wichita State squad.


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