Nonconference preview, up north

Colorado: The Buffs opened 1-2, losing on the road to Georgia and San Francisco. It’s early, but that’s a poor start. Perhaps Colorado can rebound in the coming weeks, and they don’t play a very tough nonconference schedule at all. A game against their in-state rival Colorado State takes place Dec. 8. They play New Mexico two weeks later.

Iowa State: I wrote earlier about how much work new coach Fred Hoiberg faces in Ames. The Cyclones will probably play some talented teams, too. Creighton is today, and Northern Iowa and Cal are both on the schedule. Even little-known Kennesaw State, which visits Ames this week, beat Georgia Tech the other day.

Kansas: Simply put, Kansas has not been tested yet. But that might change before Big 12 play. Memphis will probably be the only ranked team the Jayhawks play this semester, but KU will face Ohio and, strangely enough, four Pac-10 teams (Arizona, UCLA, Cal and USC). Cal and Michigan are the only true road games.

Kansas State: The Wildcats already picked up a nice win, which we wrote about last week, against nationally-ranked Virginia Tech at home. The fun continues tomorrow when K-State meets Gonzaga. Gonzaga is expected to field a strong team this season. On Dec. 18, KSU faces Florida, an SEC favorite whom Ohio State beat easily just the other day in Gainesville. The other games throughout the schedule should indicate who are the primary assets for Frank Martin.

Missouri: The Tigers were very fortunate to hold on against Western Illinois in the home opener. We assume Mizzou is better than that, but either way, Illinois will provide a challenge Dec. 22 in St. Louis. First though, Missouri will see Georgetown on the other side of the state in Kansas City. Other interesting games are at Oregon and at home against Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts, both of whom beat the Tigers last year.

Nebraska: The Huskers’ losses in Puerto Rico to Vandy and Davidson were disappointing but perhaps not terribly surprising. Fortunately, Nebraska has some time to get things straight, and they have zero road games until Big 12 play. In-state counterpart Creighton should give Doc Sadler’s team a strong effort, but the schedule overall isn’t too tough. Of course, two of Nebraska’s first three league games are at Kansas and at Missouri.

Most of these programs should carry a nice overall record into conference play, but the games will tell us more about how the teams developed in the offseason and who will play the most significant minutes for each. How far are the I-70 schools ahead of everyone else? Is someone else from the group stronger than we thought?

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