For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on RushTheCourt.net, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.
University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
General Theme: Credit the UMKC coaching staff for securing games against all three major Kansas basketball schools this season. While the Kangaroos will face Kansas, Kansas State, and Wichita State all on the road, something should be said for taking care of the home area. The two Big 12 programs are projected to be Final Four contenders, and Wichita State is always solid out of the Missouri Valley. UMKC will need these games to help boost its various statistical measurements because the rest of its schedule will kill them. Games against Central Arkansas, Southeast Missouri State, SIU-Edwardsville, Utah Valley, North Dakota, and Houston Baptist would lead a casual onlooker to assume UMKC is a fringe Division I school. Perhaps they've gone with this schedule to guarantee some wins, but it certainly won't help their stature in this league or our thoughts that they're just slipping further and further to the bottom of DI.
Travel At A Glance: Travel for the Kangaroos is rather localized. The trip to Idaho State is a bit off the beaten path, but when that's your only big trip, you know you've scheduled well on your budget.
Easiest Game: A lot of the teams on this schedule are from schools just making the transition to Division I, and most of them are visiting Kansas City. If UMKC wants to retain even an ounce of credibility, it better take care of said teams on its new home court. We're looking at games against North Dakota, Utah Valley, SIU-Edwardsville, and Houston Baptist, among others.
Toughest Game: Kansas and Kansas State, yikes! Kansas State returns most of its pieces from last season's Elite Eight, while Kansas is always finding a way to reload even after departures of major cogs Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins. UMKC will have a heckuva time staving off the attack of the hungry Jayhawks and Wildcats.
Most Likely Upset: Sadly, UMKC's schedule doesn't lend itself well to predicting a major upset. Beating any combination of Oral Roberts, Oakland, or IUPUI would be confidence-boosting for the Kangaroos.
Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: The Roos go to Manhattan for a game against Kansas State on December 23rd, follow that up with two home games against the Dakota schools before heading to Lawrence to take on KU on January 5th. Even though the Summit League games break up the two big dogs, it still stands out as the most challenging stretch.
Most Challenging Conference Stretch: Beginning January 27th, UMKC will travel to the Dakotas for games against SDSU and NDSU before heading out to play Southern Utah the weekend after. Five days later they get Oral Roberts at Swinney. The combination of three straight road games followed by a home bout with ORU will really test the mental stamina of this year's Kangaroo team.
Best Individual Match-Up: Jay Cousinard should have a solid senior campaign for Coach Matt Brown this season, but my pick as most intriguing player in 2010-11 is Kirk Korver. The dude comes from a basketball family and is bound to improve during his second season in Kansas City. At 6'7", he's a guy who can play the wing or in the paint, but due to UMKC's lack of size, he more often ends up in the paint guarding bigger and stronger opponents. We're hoping he has made some progress this off-season and that he'll get more chances to play outside of the block this season. Watching him go up against a guy like NDSU's Michael Tveidt will give us an indication of where he's at in his development.
Most Anticipated Home Game: If I were a student at UMKC, I'd be marking Thursday, January 20th on my calendar. The Roos will take on IUPUI in what will be the team's first conference game at Swinney while classes are in session. UMKC made the switch to the on-campus arena this year after spending many at Municipal. The smaller stadium should make for a more intimate viewing and also energize UMKC's Roo Crew.
Concluding Thoughts: As a supporter of a team playing UMKC two times every season, I'm not exactly thrilled with the direction this schedule has taken the Roos. All of the previously mentioned games against the bottom of Division I teams do nothing for The Summit League as a whole. They bring down the conference's RPI and give folks a reason to categorize the league as one of the nation's worse. While I acknowledge that those schools need games as well and UMKC is doing a favor by providing some for them, they are just too frequent here in 2010-11. Two or three would have been fine, but outside of the three in-state games, UMKC's entire non-conference schedule is incredibly weak and will not prepare them for some of the tests they'll encounter during Summit League play.