Duke, KU might stumble early

With a difficult early road this season, Bill Self has set the bar high for his Jayhawks. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

This week, I'm considering the one part of college basketball that is (more or less) totally within a program's control, its nonconference schedule. On Monday, I nominated five contenders I think have fast starts hardwired into their schedules. (Takeaway: Indiana will start Big Ten play with a really nice record.)

Today, I'm going to look through the other end of the telescope and introduce you to five teams that, for whatever reasons, have chosen to play several very tough opponents. Any one of these teams could be a candidate to "pull a Michigan State." Last season, the Spartans opened 2011-12 by losing consecutive games to North Carolina (on an aircraft carrier) and Duke (in Madison Square Garden). It's difficult to say "Look out for Team X!" when the team is 0-2, so no one said that about Tom Izzo's team. Yet by March, the Spartans were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

It's too early to hand out top seeds, of course, but it's not too soon to note that the following teams have created schedules of Izzo-like difficulty.