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Kansas nonconference schedule 2020-21: Ranking the Jayhawks’ toughest non-Big 12 games

The McDonald’s All-American Game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But if college basketball season starts as scheduled, the Kentucky vs. Kansas game on Nov. 10 will serve as quality substitute.

Seven players from the 247Sports top-100 of the 2020 recruiting class are expected to play in the matchup at Chicago’s United Center in the State Farm Champions Classic. For Kansas, it’s only the beginning of a challenging non-conference slate that will likely rival any in the country in terms of difficulty.

The Jayhawks released their nonconference schedule last week, and it features plenty to get college basketball fans excited about the eventual resumption of the sport. The meeting between the Jayhawks and Wildcats is just one of several likely top-25 matchups as Bill Self’s squad will face a rigorous preparation for the Big 12 slate while replacing its two leading scorers. Star point guard Devon Dotson is heading to the NBA after two seasons, and All-American big man Udoka Azubuike is out of eligibility.

That means it will be on returning wings Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett and five-star freshman guard Bryce Thompson to lead the Jayhawks to another banner year.

Here’s a look at Kansas’ 2019 nonconference schedule.

Let’s dissect the schedule more closely by ranking the Jayhawks’ five most challenging non-conference games — ranked countdown style.

5. USC

Dec. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas

2019-20 record: 22-9

Coach: Andy Enfield

Outlook: Without Azubuike, the Jayhawks will need a quality effort from returning big men David McCormack and Silvio De Sousa in order to contain USC freshman center Evan Mobley, who was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class by 247Sports. The potential 2021 NBA lottery pick has the tools to make a Trojans team that finished last season as a projected No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament even better.

4. Colorado

Dec. 22 at CU Events Center in Boulder, Colorado

2019-20 record: 21-11

Coach: Tad Boyle

Outlook: The Jayhawks have won an astounding 46 of the last 48 meetings with their former Big 12 foe, including a 72-58 victory at home last season. But Colorado has been solid recently under former Kansas guard Tad Boyle. The Buffaloes were 13-3 at home last season and have enough pieces back from last year’s likely NCAA Tournament to give Kansas a solid challenge in a likely Quadrant 1 game for the Jayhawks.

3. Wooden Legacy Tournament

Nov. 26-27 at Anaheim Arena in Anaheim, California

2019-20 records: Georgetown 15-17; UCLA 19-12; Virginia 23-7

Coaches: Patrick Ewing (Georgetown); Mick Cronin (UCLA); Tony Bennett (Virginia)

Outlook: The bracket hasn’t been set yet, but Kansas will get two quality, neutral-site games in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. A meeting with Virginia would be especially intriguing consider they have only played three times with the last meeting coming in 1996. It would also be a matchup between two teams that can claim to be the reigning national champions. The Cavaliers won the 2019 NCAA Tournament, while Kansas finished the 2019-2020 season ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25.

2. Kentucky

Nov. 10 at United Center in Chicago (State Farm Champions Classic)

2019-20 record: 25-6

Coach: John Calipari

Outlook: The only college programs with 2,300 or more wins face off in marquee early-season showdown. The Wildcats will feature a totally revamped roster after losing eight scholarship players from last season’s opening-day roster, including their top six scorers. Kansas will be trying to establish a new identity as well. But considering that Kentucky will likely be relying on six freshmen, this game presents a great opportunity for the Jayhawks to score a top-tier victory and their fourth in the last five against the Wildcats.

1. Creighton

Dec. 3 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas

2019-20 record: 24-7

Coach: Greg McDermott

Outlook: It’s hard to believe these programs separated by only 200 miles haven’t played since 1974. The series will finally be renewed in a clash of teams featured in the top-10 of the CBS Sports offseason Top 25 and 1. The Blue Jays are ranked No. 8 for good reason as they return several key players from a team that won a share of the Big East title. Creighton’s first-ever visit to Allen Fieldhouse should make for one of the best early-season atmospheres in college basketball.

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