Kansas basketball 2018-19 schedule: Showdown with Kentucky is Jayhawks' most intriguing matchup

There is always ample intrigue surrounding the Kansas basketball program and its schedule release given its perennial status as a blueblood, but the 2018-19 season brings with it an added level of curiosity. The Jayhawks are currently ranked No. 2 in the preseason CBS Sports Top 25 (and one), and to the surprise of no one who has followed the sport over the last decades, are favorites to win the Big 12 for the umpteenth season in a row. (It's 15, but who's counting by now?)

Here's the Jayhawks' complete schedule this season:

 2018-19 Kansas schedule

Nov. 6 vs. Michigan State (Champions Classic in Indianapolis)
Nov. 12 Vermont
Nov. 16 Louisiana
Nov. 21 vs. Marquette (NIT Season Tip-off in Brooklyn)
Nov. 23 vs. Louisville/Tennessee (NIT Season Tip-off in Brooklyn)
Dec. 1 Stanford
Dec. 4 Wofford
Dec. 8 New Mexico State (Kansas City)
Dec. 15 Villanova
Dec. 18 South Dakota
Dec. 22 at Arizona State
Dec. 29 Eastern Michigan
Jan. 2 Oklahoma
Jan. 5 at Iowa State
Jan. 9 TCU
Jan. 12 at Baylor
Jan. 14 Texas
Jan. 19 at West Virginia
Jan. 21 Iowa State
Jan. 26 at Kentucky (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
Jan. 29 at Texas
Feb. 2 Texas Tech (CBS)
Feb. 5 at Kansas State
Feb. 9 Oklahoma State
Feb. 11 at TCU
Feb. 16 West Virginia
Feb. 23 at Texas Tech
Feb. 25 Kansas State
Mar. 2 at Oklahoma State (CBS)
Mar. 5 at Oklahoma
Mar. 9 Baylor
Mar. 13-16 Big 12 Tournament (Kansas City)

Kansas' 2017-18 season nearly had a storybook ending before Villanova, the reigning national champions, ran Kansas off the floor in the Final Four in San Antonio. But for KU, an opportunity for a little payback awaits early as Jay Wright's club is set to make a trip to Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 15. The Final Four rematch won't have the same title implications as that late-March battle for a title game appearance did, but potential NCAA Tournament seeding down the line -- and of course, the all-important claim to bragging rights -- will absolutely be at stake in that pre-Christmas contest.

And about that storybook ending? Kansas won't know if that's going to be an epic non-fiction or scrapped before printing until it deals with all the Wildcats -- first with Villanova in December, but perhaps more notably with Kentucky, the No. 1 team in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one) -- in late January. Book-ending the full Wildcats experience for Kansas will be two tilts against a loaded Kansas State squad during conference play in February.

Let's take a mini-stroll into preview mode for the top three most intriguing non-conference matchups for the Jayhawks this season.

Nov. 6 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Champions Classic)

2017-18 record: 30-5

Coach: Tom Izzo

Outlook: After an abrupt NCAA Tournament exit that ended Michigan State's 2017-18 campaign (and prompted me to set fire to my own expert bracket), the face of the Spartans program will look entirely different. Blue-chippers Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges are off cashing checks in the NBA, but a top-15 recruiting class -- coupled with the return of Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford -- should give Sparty a preseason leg up as the favorite to repeat as Big Ten champs. Izzo vs. Self in early November will be appointment TV.

Dec. 15 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas 

2017-18 record: 36-4

Coach: Jay Wright

Outlook: Villanova claimed its second title in three seasons in April, but it has a lot to replace on its roster to repeat that gold standard. Gone are stars Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and title hero Donte DiVincenzo, but, as Villanova is wont to do, there is talent littered across the roster that suggests it will be the cream of the Big East's crop once again. Five-star Jahvon Quinerly will spearhead the new era at point guard, and with Eric Paschall, Phil Booth and Collin Gillespie in the fold, the Wildcats have the tools to give KU fits -- even on the road in a rowdy atmosphere like the historic Allen Fieldhouse.

Jan. 26 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

2017-18 record: 26-11

Coach: John Calipari

Outlook: John Calipari is replacing four one-and-done freshmen off last year's roster, but this is no traditional reload for the Hall of Famer. Of course he re-stocked the young crop with top-50 freshmen in EJ Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley and Tyler Herro, but UK projects to be plenty reliant on veterans, too. Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis should be a force for the Cats, as will sophomores PJ Washington and Quade Green, who bring with them another year of experience in the program. 

Last time UK had this much talent, it implemented a platoon system and nearly pulled off a perfect season. That's why this late-January matchup between two bluebloods will carry plenty of implications, as both KU and UK figure to be 1-2 in some order when the preseason polls are released.

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