The Roos of Kansas City have a new brand. No longer known as UMKC, the Roos are now the Kansas City Roos. With the new brand, brings a new head coach in Billy Donlon. The former Wright State head coach replaces Kareem Richardson who Kansas City let go in March. Donlon has 10 new players on his roster but returns 53 percent of the Roos scoring from a year ago.
Kansas City is picked to finish near the bottom of the WAC standings. However, with Jordan Giles, Brandon McKissic and Rob Whitfield all back plus a bevy of NCAA Division I experience on the roster, Kansas City might surprise some people this year.
Donlon put together a non-conference schedule that may be the most difficult among WAC schools. The Roos face three Power 5 Conference teams including top-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks and Roos will play at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on December 14.
“That day in general is just a great day for Kansas City basketball,” Donlon said at WAC Media Day in October. “Our women’s team is playing Kansas State at Municipal downtown. And then our fans can go right from that game, walk three blocks to Sprint Center and see us play the Jayhawks.”
Kansas City also faces Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Along with those three power conference foes, Kansas City plays at Missouri Valley Conference foe Drake.
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Roos travel to the Bahamas to play in The Islands of the Bahamas Showcase. Kansas City plays George Washington and then plays either Evansville or East Carolina. The other four teams in the preseason tournament are Liberty, Morgan State, Rice and Milwaukee.
As part of the WAC/Summit League Challenge, Kansas City hosts Western Illinois on November 30. This game is a preview of a future conference opponent for the Roos. Kansas City rejoins The Summit League in 2020-21. Kansas City also plays another Summit League foe when the Roos travel to Vernillion, South Dakota to take on the South Dakota Coyotes on Dec. 22. The trip to South Dakota is the final non-conference game prior to WAC play beginning.
10 of the 14 non-conference games are away from the Swinney Center. Four of the non-conference games are against teams in the KenPom Top-100. Kansas is 10, Oklahoma State is 40, Iowa State is 47 and Toledo is 82.
No matter how difficult the schedule may be, Donlon and company are looking forward to the challenge.
“Winning is hard,” Donlon said. “That’s not me saying anything negative. But, that’s what attracted me to the job. I think it’s a place that can win. It’s a great location. It’s got very fertile recruiting ground … what really drew me to it was being a part of something that’s never been done … I really enjoy that challenge.”
Kansas City hosts NAIA foe Avila to open the season on November 5.