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1. Florida Gators
Billy Donovan and the Gators did a nice job putting together the most difficult schedule among the top 50 teams. The Gators did it with a couple of quality road contests against Kansas and Florida State, by playing in the top event in the early season (Battle of Atlantis) and also with enough formidable home dates (UConn, Miami) and only one team on its entire slate that is expected to be near the bottom of its league (Jacksonville).
UConn, Miami, Yale, Wake Forest, William & Mary, Louisiana-Monroe, Texas Southern, Jacksonville
Kansas, Florida State
Atlantis (Georgetown, Wisconsin/UAB and one more TBD)
2. Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks’ slate isn’t nearly as imposing as it was a year ago, but it’s still one of the best in the country. Bill Self has just six home games and has Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and Utah on its schedule. The Jayhawks also stayed away from the terrible teams with Rider (picked sixth in the MAAC) the worst opponent they will face.
Florida, Utah, Kent State, UC Santa Barbara, Lafayette, Rider
Kentucky (Indianapolis), Orlando (Rhode Island, Tennessee/Santa Clara and one more TBD)
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels are in the equation largely due to a road contest against Kentucky, and also four neutral contests including three in the Bahamas and one against Ohio State in Chicago. The Tar Heels also stayed away from bad teams, with the most lackluster opponent likely being on the road at UNC Greensboro.
Iowa, UAB, East Carolina, William & Mary, Robert Morris, N.C. Central
Ohio State (Chicago); Bahamas (Butler, Oklahoma/UCLA and one more TBD)
Kentucky, Davidson, UNC Greensboro
4. Connecticut Huskies
The defending national champs did a nice job despite losing a good amount of players from last season. Kevin Ollie and Co. will face a trio of top-10 teams (Duke, Florida, Texas) and also go on the road to play Gators and Stanford (top 25-ish). There are a couple of cupcakes on the schedule (Bryant and Coppin State), but it’s a quality slate.
Texas, Yale, Columbia, Central Connecticut, Bryant, Coppin State
Duke (New Jersey), Puerto Rico (Charleston, Dayton/Texas A&M and one more TBD)
5. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats' top five games stack up against just about anyone's, but it’s the rest of the schedule that holds it back from being at the top. There are 10 of 13 games at home and too many against mid- or bottom-tier teams in lower leagues. It’s the second consecutive season that John Calipari has played a top-5 nonconference schedule.
North Carolina, Texas, Providence, Grand Canyon, Columbia, UT Arlington, Buffalo, Boston University, Eastern Kentucky, Montana State
Kansas (Indianapolis), UCLA (Chicago)