The 5 most intriguing games on KU’s rebuilt 2020-21 basketball schedule

photo by: Associated Press

Baylor guard Mark Vital, left, goes to the basket on Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)

We’ve been waiting a while to see the revamped Kansas men’s basketball schedule and now that it’s out, we have a much better idea of what the upcoming season will look like.

Sort of.

There’s a lot of work still to do between now and Nov. 25, when the NCAA has said that the college basketball season can start.

And even though the earliest game currently listed on KU’s schedule is set for Dec. 1, it’s likely that at least one of those three additional games the Jayhawks are still working on procuring would be played closer to Nov. 25 if not on it.

That, of course, is if nonconference games can be played at all. It certainly seems like that’s the case as of today. But the pseudo-bubble in Orlando looked like a lock for weeks before it recently fell apart. So who knows exactly what will happen.

Assuming we’re not doing this again in a few weeks, here’s a quick rundown of the five most exciting games on KU’s schedule as it stands today.

Those other three games, whenever they’re finalized, could all wind up on this list, as well. Or they could simply wind up being games against middle-of-the-road opponents just so Kansas can fill out the entirety of its schedule.

Time will tell on that. For now, here’s the five games that hopped off the page on Monday.

1 – Kansas vs. Baylor on Feb. 27, 2021, in Allen Fieldhouse

It doesn’t get any better than this. The Bears, who are coming off of a terrific 2019-20 season, have nearly everyone back and may very well be the No. 1 team in college basketball entering the season. There’s a lot of time between the start and the finish, but can you imagine if we get to this point and Baylor and Kansas are tied for the Big 12 lead with one game to play — AGAINST EACH OTHER?!?!?!? There might only be 1,500 fans in Allen Fieldhouse on that day, but if that’s the way it plays out, I think it’s safe to say they’d do their best to sound like 16,300. Even if that’s not the case, this is a big time game on paper any way you slice it.

2 – Kansas vs. Kentucky on Dec. 1, 2020, in the Champions Classic

Yeah, yeah, yeah… another KU-Kentucky game on the docket. Big whoop, right? Well, it is. Because, well, it always is when the two winningest programs in all of college basketball get together. And the Champions Classic is a first-class event. What jumped out at me though was the fact that the location of this game is now TBD, yet it’s still on the schedule. Reports on Monday indicated that ESPN was hellbent on keeping the Champions Classic alive. And Indianapolis has emerged as one potential city to host this game. If it’s played — and the guess here is that it will be — you’re looking at a pair of top-10 teams with all kinds of talent facing off on the big stage. Sign me up!

3 – Kansas vs. Creighton on Dec. 8, 2020, in Allen Fieldhouse

Not only is this by far the biggest nonconference home game on the schedule, but it’s also one of the few non-con games that was on the old schedule (Dec. 3), as well. And thank goodness it survived. In addition to being a great matchup of Final Four contenders, this one will mark the return of Eudora High standout Mitch Ballock to Allen Fieldhouse, a place he visited dozens of times throughout his high school career while almost signing with KU. Instead, he’ll come to town as the opponent and one of the top offensive weapons on a team that was an under-the-radar pick for the Final Four a season ago. “I’m looking forward to that atmosphere,” Ballock told me in May. “I’ve seen it from the stands and it will be unbelievable to experience it from the court. Just being in there, playing on the opposite bench, will be an unbelievable opportunity and hopefully I can take a moment to soak it all in.”

4 – Kansas vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 8, 2021, in Allen Fieldhouse

This one jumped out at me simply because it’s the lone Big Monday game inside Allen Fieldhouse this season. Typically, KU has four Big Monday games, — and it’s often two at home and two on the road — but this season the Jayhawks got just three games on ESPN’s Monday night showcase. This one will be as good as any of them, though. In addition to being at home, it will feature the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, Cade Cunningham, visiting Lawrence for the first time in his college career.

5 – Kansas vs. Tarleton State on Dec. 13, 2020, in Allen Fieldhouse

Tarleton State’s certainly not a name you see on the schedule every season, so, right away, this game jumped out. And it’s also a strange name, so that made it pop a little more. But it didn’t take long to connect the dots about why this game is there in the first place. Former Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie, a longtime close friend of KU coach Bill Self’s, is now the head coach at Tarleton State, a school of 14,000 students in Stephenville, Texas, that is known as the Tarleton Texans. And given the strange nature of the offseason and the start of the 2020-21 season, it makes sense for people who know each other to hook up to try to help one another out. That was the case once already, when Stephen F. Austin, coached by former KU staffer Kyle Keller, was added to the schedule (former KU guard Elijah Elliott is playing there, by the way) before being taken off in this latest rebuild. Besides, Gillispie’s team probably won’t have the skill, talent or size to matchup with the Jayhawks, but you can bet he’ll want to bring his best effort to both impress his old friend and try to help him out.

Honorable Mention:

• Jan. 18, 2021 – KU at Baylor. The Big 12’s top two teams do battle on Big Monday in Waco.

• Dec. 17, 2020 – KU at Texas Tech. KU’s Big 12 opener is on the road against another talented Texas Tech team led by Chris Beard.

• Jan. 30, 2021 – KU at Tennessee. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge is always fun, and Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has a potential top-10 team this season.


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