One game on Kansas basketball schedule a match made by Michael Porter Jr.
Larry Keating, special assistant to the athletics director, handles scheduling for Kansas men’s and women’s basketball and football.
Having been in college athletics for so long, Keating, 73, has the advantage of knowing coaches and administrators in just about every league in the country. He uses those connections to project which schools will win a lot of games in lesser-known conferences, a trick that helps Kansas improve its strength of schedule.
Keating first became involved in scheduling college basketball games when, fresh out of the Army, he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
Keating predicts that this year’s nonconference schedule will have a number of teams that will be better this season than last, a good thing considering just three schools made the NCAA tournament field a year ago: No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seeds South Dakota State and Texas Southern.
Keating said he schedules most of the games, “a year or two ahead of time.”
Washington is one school on the nonconference slate that does not figure to be on the rise. Former long-time Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has replaced fired Lorenzo Romar as head coach of the Huskies.
How Washington ended up on KU’s schedule has an interesting twist to it.
Keating said Washington contacted KU attempting to play a home-and-home. Kansas wasn’t interested in playing in Seattle, but Keating offered a Dec. 6 game in Sprint Center without a return game. Then coached by Romar, Washington accepted. Why?
It was scheduled as a favor to the Huskies’ top recruit, Michael Porter Jr., a native of Columbia, Missouri, whose father had been hired on Romar’s staff.
Once Romar was fired, Porter Sr. was without a job, although not for long. First-year Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin hired Porter Sr. and Missouri ended up with not only Michael Jr., but his brother Jontay, who reclassified to join his year-older brother as a part of a loaded recruiting class for the Tigers.
So Kansas was going to face Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s top recruit, but now won’t, unless that is, the schools meet in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas projects as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and Missouri projects as anywhere from a No. 7 to No. 10 seed, so it could happen.