GREENSBORO — It’s just another game. It’s the same as any other non-conference basketball game in November.
UNCG will play Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., on Nov. 8.
It’s the Jayhawks’ home opener next season, three days after Kansas plays Duke in New York City in the Champions Classic.
UNCG has not released its 2018-19 basketball schedule yet, but Kansas announced its schedule Monday afternoon. The Jayhawks will also play host to East Tennessee State of the Southern Conference on Nov. 19.
For UNCG, it’s back-to-back seasons of playing college basketball’s winningest programs on the road in early-season games. The Spartans lost to Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Dec. 1 last season on the way to a program-record 29-7 season that ended in the second round of the NIT.
“We’re honest about it,” UNCG coach Wes Miller said last season. “… We try to treat every game the same and every opponent the same. But it is different. I told the guys in the locker room, if your juices don’t get flowing a little extra for a game like Kentucky, you probably don’t have any juices.”
Kentucky holds the NCAA Division I record with 2,293 victories in 116 seasons. Kansas is right behind with 2,274 wins in 121 seasons.
“We have made a concerted effort in scheduling to try to play games like this,” Miller said last season. “We want to go play the historic great programs and see how we stack up. Two things: 1. Those teams are usually in the top 25 in the nation and we want to see where we are compared to those teams early in the year; and 2. It gives you some national exposure.”
UNCG’s game against Kentucky was at 1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, broadcast live on ESPN. It’s still far too early for word on a Kansas-UNCG broadcast. The game falls on a Friday night.
It’s an intriguing matchup.
Kansas caught two good breaks with its roster, when rising sophomore point guard Devon Dotson (12.3 points, 3.5 assists) withdrew from the NBA Draft and 6-foot-9 junior forward Silvio De Sousa won his appeal and was reinstated by the NCAA, which had suspended him because his legal guardian had allegedly accepted cash from an agent and booster in the Adidas scandal.
The Jayhawks’ top two scorers from last year, Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick are both gone, as are transfers K.J. Lawson and Quentin Grimes.
Kansas finished 26-10 and in third place in the Big 12 standings, snapping a streak of 14 league titles in a row.
UNCG lost its starting senior backcourt of point guard Demetrius Troy and shooter Francis Alonso, who finished his career as the No. 2 scorer in program history and the Spartans’ top three-point and free-throw shooter of all time.
But the Spartans return a solid core of players from a team that lost just two non-conference games in the regular season, at Kentucky and at LSU. On Selection Sunday, UNCG was the last team eliminated when the committee picked its at-large berths for the NCAA Tournament.
UNCG was the top seed in the NIT, and was eliminated in the second round by Lipscomb, which went on to lose to Texas in the championship game.
Junior guard Isaiah Miller averaged 15.3 points in a breakout season and was the SoCon defensive player of the year after finishing fifth in the nation with an average of 2.89 steals per game. Senior forward James Dickey (7.5 points, 8.0 rebounds) was the SoCon’s top defender two seasons ago, and senior stretch forward Kyrin Galloway (9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds) was the No. 2 three-point shooter on the team.
Rising sophomores Kaleb Hunter and Angelo Allegri should see their roles increase in their second seasons.
Win or lose, games against big-time programs benefit the Spartans, Wes Miller said last winter.
“In games like this, where we’ve had success, regardless of what the final result is, it’s given us confidence that we can play with anybody in college basketball,” he said. “In games where we haven’t had success — and we’ve had plenty of those, too — we’ve tried to use them to really learn where our deficiencies are. Then we explain to our guys that if we can clean up these controllable errors, then we can play with anybody. So these games are always good for your team.”