Like this, but sports.
Opposing fanbases can say what they will about UK, but there’s at least one thing they can’t claim next year: that Kentucky doesn’t play anybody good. In both of the two “main” sports, football and basketball, the University sports one of the hardest schedules in the country.
In football, just being in the SEC is tough enough, as is evidenced by the Cats’ usually poor record in conference play. When the last eleventy championships have all come from the same conference, pretty safe to say the teams are pretty solid throughout. But more than just being in the SEC, the Cats have probably the toughest slate in the league on top of that. Next season, the Cats have all the East teams (including Florida, USC, and Georgia) AND have to play Alabama. In fact, SEC football blog Saturday Down South thinks that the Cats have the toughest schedule in the SEC next season, with an average opponent win percentage of 67.3% in 2012-13. The toughest schedule in the nation’s toughest league? Transitive property says that the Cats have the hardest road of anybody in the nation.
Meanwhile, in basketball, the road is tough, but for completely different reasons. For all the dominance the SEC has had in football, as a basketball league, we’re struggling. There have been a share of championships in the last decade, but those have come from only Florida and Kentucky. The rest of the league has been woefully disappointing. But that hasn’t stopped Kentucky from still having one of the hardest schedules year in and year out. Only instead of getting the hard games in conference, Coach Cal and Co. have to look outside to satiate the need for intense competition. Just look at next year. Of the teams consistently projected to be in the top five or six (Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina), Kentucky plays all but themselves, and Duke. And that’s just because we played Duke this past year. With those teams returning so many players (Russ Smith, Gary Harris, James McAdoo, just to name a few), you can expect them all to be legitimate Final Four contenders. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rematch of one of those games should Kentucky make it to Dallas like they plan.
So what does this say about the University? That we have bad luck in football scheduling, and an aggressive basketball coach? You could say that, sure. But I’d rather look at it and say that we’re just not scared to play anybody. Will we lose more than if we played easy teams? Obviously. Is it worth it? I’d say so. That way, even if we lose, either in football or basketball, nobody can say we lost to chumps (except Robert Morris). What about you, though? Would you rather see an easier schedule for one of the sports? For both?