LAWRENCE — Six squads from last season’s NCAA Tournament highlight Kansas basketball’s nonconference schedule for the 2018-19 campaign.
The Jayhawks will host defending national champion Villanova (Dec. 15), travel to Arizona State (Dec. 22) and Kentucky (Jan. 26) and battle in neutral-site contests Michigan State (Nov. 6, Indianapolis) and New Mexico State (Dec. 8, Kansas City, Mo.) as part of next season’s nonconference slate, the program announced Friday. A sixth NCAA Tournament team, Tennessee, is a potential opponent in the Preseason NIT, held Nov. 21 and 23 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"This is definitely a tremendous nonconference schedule and for a young team it's a lot to try to conquer, especially so early in the season when we have so many guys who will be playing pivotal roles," KU coach Bill Self said in a news release. "Hopefully it will be great preparation for once again playing in one of the best leagues, if not the best league, in the country. It's going to be tough. I know our players will enjoy the challenge and I know our fans will enjoy watching them enjoy the challenge.”
In facing Villanova, which eliminated the Jayhawks from last year’s postseason with a 16-point victory in the Final Four, KU will host a defending national champion as part of its nonconference schedule for only the third time in program history — Cincinnati made the trip to Lawrence in the 1962-63 season, while UCLA came in 1995-96.
The Wildcats have eliminated the Jayhawks from two of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Next season's contest will be the first in a home-and-home series that will see KU travel to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Dec. 21, 2019.
"We always play a great schedule, but next year's, certainly, has an opportunity to probably be most talked about going into the season because we're hosting the reigning national champions,” Self said. “We saw what Villanova did to us in the Final Four, so that will be an exciting game for all our fans. We play Michigan State in the Champions Classic to start the season. Those are marquee names, and that doesn't include hosting Stanford (on Dec. 1), or going to Arizona State, or the preseason NIT, in which we're guaranteed to play two of these teams — Louisville, Tennessee or Marquette."
KU will host Emporia State (Oct. 25) and Washburn (Nov. 1) in a pair of exhibitions contests before its home opener against Vermont (Nov. 12). Other nonconference foes for the Jayhawks include Louisiana (Nov. 16), Wofford (Dec. 4), South Dakota (Dec. 18) and Eastern Michigan (Dec. 29), all in Lawrence.
KU’s strength of schedule has finished top 10 nationally in eight of Self’s 15 seasons at the helm and has three times finished No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
KANSAS NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Oct. 25 Emporia State (exhibition)
Nov. 1 Washburn (exhibition)
Nov. 6 vs. Michigan State (at Indianapolis)
Nov. 12 Vermont
Nov. 16 Louisiana
Nov. 21 and 23 Preseason NIT (at Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Dec. 1 Stanford
Dec. 4 Wofford
Dec. 8 vs. New Mexico State (at Kansas City, Mo.)
Dec. 15 Villanova
Dec. 18 South Dakota
Dec. 22 at Arizona State
Dec. 29 Eastern Michigan
Jan. 26 at Kentucky