LAWRENCE — No one quite knew what Kansas was getting Monday based on the schedule.
A box of steaks? Peyton Manning’s favorite audible? The city hosting this year’s Midwest Regional?
Omaha is all those things, but a college basketball power it is not, rated 274th in the KenPom ratings.
The Mavericks became a fully certified Division I member in 2015-16 and were coming off a win against Cornell College. Not the Ivy League member, but a Division III program.
That game ended 27 hours before Monday’s 109-64 rout by KU began in Allen Fieldhouse.
An event conflict prevented Omaha from playing in its gym Saturday, “but we had to have the (Cornell College) game,’’ said Mavs coach Derrin Hansen. “We scheduled it, it’s not perfect, I’m not saying we’d have beaten KU if we’d have played on Saturday. Did what we had to do.’’
Scheduling can be that way for Summit League members. Especially in the case of Omaha (3-11). It opened with seven road games, while its home, Baxter Arena, was used for the U.S. Olympic curling trials.
Like virtually everything associate athletic director Larry Keating inputs into KU’s scheduling formula, there was a reason for hosting the outmatched Mavericks. The Jayhawks wanted a home game early this week that would not tax them prior to their game Thursday against Stanford in Sacramento.
Keating acknowledged “a little quirkiness’’ to the KU nonconference slate this year, beginning with the three home games built into the Hoophall Miami Invitational, which concluded with a neutral site game against Syracuse.
Going into the Omaha matchup, the KU strength of schedule ranked 35th nationally.
Not crazy tough, but respectable, especially for a team that has battled issues with depth.
The games KU plays as tune-ups for the Big 12, as well as a late January game with an SEC opponent (No. 10 Texas A&M) are pretty good. The win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic commanded the most attention. A homecourt loss to Arizona State did wonders to provide the upstart Sun Devils much acclaim.
Meanwhile, No. 14 KU dropped a spot in the AP rankings Monday after winning its only true road game, by one point, at Nebraska.
While the home games KU contracted lacked luster, do note that the three teams KU played as part of the Hoophall tourney were arranged by event organizers and contributed to nine nonconference dates in Allen Fieldhouse. Last season, KU played six nonconference games at home, so the number does fluctuate.
“I think (the Omaha game) was a good thing,’’ KU coach Bill Self said. “We said our schedule just started when we played Syracuse, and that was basically the truth. We’ve actually played pretty consistently well this year, except for back-to-back games (losses to Washington and ASU), a four-day stretch where we weren’t very good.’’
Next season promises something different.
By playing in the Preseason NIT, the Jayhawks will get two games at home that are considered part of that event and two games in New York.
A return trip to Arizona State as part of that home-and-home arrangement, as well as a home game as part of the four-game deal with Stanford, will be among the other nonconference games KU plays in 2018-19.
The biggest difference will play out to open the season. A proposal is expected to pass, moving the basketball scheduling calendar up another three days to a Tuesday. That date, Keating said, will be set aside for the Champions Classic, meaning KU will open the season against Michigan State.
“All of us agree it would be good to open with that doubleheader,’’ Keating said. “There is no (regular-season) game before that now, but the plus side is we get some unbelievable media coverage that first day of the season.’’
Better believe marketing is part of the equation when arranging games for a high-level program. Including one attractive element this year, which found KU playing neutral-site games at NBA arenas in Chicago, Miami and Sacramento.
“That’s a great thing for recruiting,’’ Keating said.
Kansas will do what it wants to do, the best it can do it, to arrange an attractive nonconference schedule that’s also built to benefit the Jayhawks’ credentials for the NCAA Tournament.
Some wish Missouri was part of it. Not me. Some wish Wichita State was part of it. Me included.
In the end, however, KU is not going to hurt its product, its attendance or its image by what it does in scheduling. The formula has the occasional “quirkiness,” but it’s solid.
Even though Omaha’s presence required some explanation.