1. Kansas State
1. Kansas State
Ever since Missouri left the Big 12, Kansas State is KU's only true longtime rival. Whether or not they can stay relevant in this strong conference remains to be seen, but it seems like K-State summons the mojo to give the Hawks a fight every time. KU's overtime defeat in Manhattan last year should make this season's return to Wildcat territory especially intense.
This high-profile matchup gives KU a chance for revenge after a defeat at the hands of the Gators in Gainesville last year. Florida will have to pull off a win in the Phog on Dec. 5 to start a winning streak against the Hawks.
5 Must-WatchKansas Basketball Games in 2014-2015
Last season didn't end the way the Kansas Jayhawks wanted, but I suppose that's true for all but one team every year. It's certainly true for the two Final Four programs on KU's non-conference schedule, as well as the tough Big 12 rivals they'll be facing at least twice. It won't be easy for the Hawks to keep the good times rolling this upcoming season. Just know that the outliers in this top five of must-watch games are numerous and noteworthy.
Deciding which final Big 12 team to include drove me nuts. Fred Hoiberg's efforts in Iowa State can't be denied, but even with Georges Niang returning, the losses of seniors Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane are too severe. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State also deserve real recognition, but the Longhorns get my pick for their returning, young, cohesive talent. Cameron Ridley and Co. should be KU's biggest obstacle for another conference title this season.
The Georgetown Hoyas suffered a mostly noncompetitive defeat to KU last December, but this long-standing basketball school shouldn't be underrated. They'll be determined this year to get their storied program back on track after only winning a single game in the NIT last season.
KU faces off against the still-young and still-probably-super-talented Kentucky Wildcats on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis this year. These two haven't faced since 2011, when KU lost to the Wildcats 75-65 on Nov. 15. Besides that time in 2012 when Kentucky beat the Jayhawks to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. This could be another extremely tough early-season test.