A simple idea that could make KU’s 2020-21 nonconference slate spectacular

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Duke forward Javin DeLaurier reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Now that we know the start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season, it’s time to start diving a little deeper into what the Kansas men’s basketball schedule might look like.

While four games on the schedule were slated to take place before the new Nov. 25 start date, it’s likely that at least one of them will be saved.

That, of course, is the Champions Classic clash with Kentucky, previously scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago. Recent reports indicate that the event, which also features Duke playing Michigan State, could be moved to a bubble-type setting in Orlando, Fla., where seven other early-season hoops tournaments could also be moved.

Here’s a fun thought that would help offset the loss of those three other games: Why not replace them with KU vs. Duke and KU vs. Michigan State, as well?

Yep. We’re talking full Champions Classic round-robin fun in 2020. What better way to kick off a new college basketball season than that?

You wouldn’t want to do this every year, of course. There’s something fun about the rotation of the three opponents and taking the show to different cities each season. But this season, when good games are at a premium and adjusting to these last-minute scheduling constraints is a little tougher than normal, why not take advantage of what’s already in place?

If the event does in fact get moved to Orlando, all four teams will already make the arrangements and go through the necessary steps to make the first two games possible.

At that point, why not add two more per team? They would all already be approved to be in the bubble, and the testing and protocol put in place for the event would help ensure that each team could play two more games, as well.

Start it on Nov. 25, a Wednesday, with KU vs. Kentucky and Duke vs. Michigan State.

Give the teams Thanksgiving off and a couple of days to prepare and play the next doubleheader on Saturday, Nov. 28, with KU facing Michigan State and Kentucky playing Duke.

After that, a couple of more days of rest and preparation is followed by one more doubleheader on Dec. 1, a Tuesday, the day the Champions Classic is typically played, with Kansas tangling with Duke and Michigan State taking on Kentucky.

Just like that, in a week’s time, you’d have college basketball running full steam ahead, and four of the top programs in the country would have three quality games already under their belts.

That would leave the rest of December to complete nonconference play, and there would be plenty of time to get it in.

Heck, at that point, since you’re already down there in a controlled environment, why not have Georgetown, UCLA and Virginia come to Orlando right after that to knock out the Wooden Legacy tournament that was supposed to take place in November? That event was also on the list of those that could potentially be moved to Orlando.

If you play those two games (matchups have yet to be determined) Dec. 3-6, you’ll head home needing just four more nonconference games in the next four weeks to get to nine. Since the maximum number of games allowed this year is 27, that sets you up nicely for the 18-game, Big 12 round-robin schedule.

The biggest advantage to playing five of the nine nonconference games in Orlando — beyond the quality of the competition — would be the fact that you’re eliminating the risk of one of the teams having to cancel because of a 14-day quarantine or anything else virus-related that could pop up and derail a schedule.

After Orlando, the four nonconference games in December could be spectacular, too.

KU and Mizzou could keep their game at T-Mobile Center on Dec. 12. Creighton could still come to Allen Fieldhouse the following week, and, depending on what the Pac-12 is doing by then, you could still easily fit in the Colorado and USC games before the end of the year.

If the Pac-12 is out, KU would need to keep just one of those games on the schedule — say Stephen F. Austin — and could still be in position to play the Big 12/SEC Challenge game in January if that event remains on the schedule.

It’s certainly different, and it would take some getting used to, but with only nine nonconference games available under this year’s rules, knocking out five of them in Orlando right away sure makes a lot of sense.

The fact that those five games would be stellar matchups with elite programs is merely a bonus and something that college basketball fans across the country would surely love.


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