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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Non-Conference Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

November 12th: East Tennessee State (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 20-15 (13-7 Atlantic Sun), Atlantic Sun Conference Champions
Outlook: The Buccaneers ended last season with a 29-point loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and they will open the 2010-11 season with another loss to the Cats.  ETSU returns their top 4 scorers and an injured Mike Smith also returns, expecting to be the team’s best player.  This game will not be easy, and with some early season jitters from the young Cats and facing a VERY experienced opponent, there could be some nervous moments.  The talent gap is still large, so Cats pull away in 2nd half.
Prediction: UK 92-79

November 19th: Portland (Rose Garden)
Last Season: 21-10 (10-4 West Coast), Lost in 1st Round of CIT Tournament
Outlook: Portland had some big wins last season, but this year they are unlikely to repeat that feat.  They lost their top 3 scorers, and lack any real experienced size in the post.  Look for Terrence Jones to play big in this game, considering he will be in front of his home crowd.  Cats may come out fatigued from the long trip, but Portland doesn’t have the athletes to hang.
Prediction: UK 79-58

November 22nd: Oklahoma (Lahanaian Civic Center)
Last Season: 13-18 (4-12 Big 12), Lost in 1st Round of Big 12 Tournament
Outlook: This team folded at the end of last season, losing it’s last 8 games.  They have also lost their Top 4 players and will be breaking in 8 new signees on this team, 2 of which were ranked in the Top 100.  Of course, UK signed 39 Top 100 players in this class, so Cats still have the edge there.  On paper, this game should not be a challenge for the uber-talented Cats, but first game in Maui, early season with young team, Cats struggle some but pull it out.
Prediction: UK 85-74

November 23rd: Washington/Virginia (Lahaaainianai Civic Center)
-Without knowing which opponent UK will play, unable to predict this game.  But Cats would be favored against either team.  Washington would be a fantastic game, and would be the most likely opponent.  They were a Sweet 16 team last year and return several key players.  Virginia has some young talent but would be easier game for Kentucky.

November 24th: Michigan State/UCONN/Wichita State/Chaminade (Lahoya Civic Center)
-Again, no idea who UK might play here, but assuming they can make the finals, it will almost surely be Michigan State or UCONN.  The Spartans are the most talented team in the field and have been to what seems like 9 straight Final Fours.  UCONN gave UK all it wanted last season, but have lost some key pieces.  If the game is against MSU, the Cats probably lose that one.  UCONN is a toss-up, but I think Kentucky could pull that one out. 

November 30th: Boston U. (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 21-14 (11-5 American East), Lost in Semifinals of CIT Tournament
Outlook: Another team with little to no size in the post.  There is only 1 player on the roster over 6-8, and that is a 7-foot freshman.  If you are 7 feet tall and can only go to Boston U., I would guess you would fall under the “project” title andunlikely to make an impact.  John Holland averaged 19 ppg last season andreturns.  This team might be able to run with UK for a half, but that should be about it.
Prediction: UK 75-55

December 4th: at North Carolina (Dean Martin Dome)
Last Season: 20-17 (5-11 ACC), NIT Runners-Up
Outlook: The Tar Heels will once again have to depend on their freshman for success but they have a VERY good one in Harrison Barnes.  If Larry Drew and co. can run the point guard spot at all, this should be a much improved UNC team.  This will be the first hostile environment for UK, which has to be a concern.  Even last years Cats team against a poor UNC team struggled at home.  I think best guess is Cats lose this one.  Barnes is the difference.
Prediction: UNC 81-78

December 8th: Notre Dame (Rupp Arena Louisville)
Last Season: 23-12 (10-8 Big East), Lost in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament
Outlook: Yes, the Irish lose an All-American in Luke Harangody, but they do return big time scorers in Tim Abromitisisisis and Ben “Don’t Call Me Tyler” Hansbrough.  If the Irish shoot the ball well, they could be dangerous, but I like the Cats length on the perimeter andability to defend the 3.  Cats bounce back from Carolina loss well.
Prediction: UK 80-73

December 11th: Indiana (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 10-21 (4-14 Big 10), Lost in 1st Round of Big 10 Tournament
Outlook: The Hoosiers return pretty much every key player from last season, but you have to ask the question: when your team wins 10 games, do you really want those players back?  They do get Maurice Creek back from injury, but he played in last years game too and the Hoosiers lost by 87, so I am not sure it will matter.
Prediction: UK 79-60

December 18th: Mississippi Valley State (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 9-23 (8-10 SWAC), Lost in 1st Round of SWAC Tournament
Outlook: God love Sean Woods, but his team is playing ONLY ROAD GAMES in the non-conference.  They will have to be exhausted coming into Rupp.  The closest they came last year to any BCS team was 14 points, and that was to Oregon State Ladies Squad.  This might be biggest Cats blowout of the year.
Prediction: UK 101-68

December 22nd: Winthrop (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 19-13 (12-6 Big South), Big South Conference Champions
Outlook: This team lost in the NCAA Play-In Game, and returns their top 2 scorers.  This team will try and control the pace, only averaging a little over 60 ppg last season.  Winthrop will be a minor challenege, and if the Cats don’t shoot the ball well, this could be a single digit game, but I don’t see it happening.
Prediction: UK 64-52

December 28th: Coppin State (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 8-22 (3-13 MEAC), Lost in 1st Round of MEAC Tournament
Outlook: Not much to breakdown here.  As Cats prepare for showdown with UL, this will roll through CoppinState first.  Just not a very good team.  Challenge with MVSU for biggest blowout.
Prediction: UK 93-63

December 31st: Louisville (YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Center sponsored by Porcinis)
Last Season: 20-13 (11-7 Big East), Lost in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament
Outlook: On paper, UL is not within 15 points of Kentucky.  They have no depth at any position, are breaking in a bunch of new players, and are trying to play a new style.  But you know that will be a loud crowd, the Cards will be focused, and I actually expect a close game.  But look for foul trouble to plague Cards and if Cats can shoot free throws well, they pull out at the end, likely with 15 or seconds left.
Prediction: UK 76-72

January 3rd: Penn (Rupp Arena)
Last Season: 6-22 (5-9 Ivy League)
Outlook: A 22 loss Ivy League team.  Going to be a nice way to end the non-conference season.
Prediction: UK 80-51

Article written by Bryan the Intern