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Ranking Kentucky’s 5 Toughest Non-Conference Games

Kentucky’s non-conference schedule is out and there is no shortage of difficult games, despite the nonsense you’re hearing from other fan bases. All eyes will be on the Champions Classic in Chicago for the third game of the year, followed by a December slate of games unlike anything college basketball will see in the 2013-14 season. It won’t be easy, but no one ever said going 40-0 is a simple task.

Here are the five toughest November and December games, in my opinion:

1.) MICHIGAN STATE
United Center, Chicago IL
November 12, 2013

With Gary Harris and Adreian Payne returning for another season, Michigan State will be a top three team in the preseason polls this fall. Payne will likely be a First Team Preseason All-American at center and veteran guard Keith Appling will join Harris to form one of the better backcourts in the country. Draymond Green is finally gone, I think.

Not only is Michigan State the best team on Kentucky’s schedule — or Louisville, depending who you ask — but Tom Izzo’s guys have the advantage of taking a shot at Kentucky’s young team early in the season. UK’s freshman-heavy squad will meet the experienced Spartans in the third game of the season in the Cats’ first game outside of Rupp Arena. Tom Izzo will have his boys ready; but will UK be ready for the Spartans?

 

2.) NORTH CAROLINA
Dean Dome, Chapel Hill NC
December 14, 2013

Coming in at No. 2 on the degree of difficulty list is Norf Carolina. Are the Tar Heels the second best team on the schedule? No. Not right now, at least. But the Dean Dome will be rockin’ in Kentucky’s first true road test of the season.

The eight guys in UK’s historic recruiting class, though extremely talented, have never played in an environment like the one they’ll face on December 14. Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer will have to step up and be the calming, stabilizing force in this game because the freshman will be wide-eyed and flustered early on. Nothing can simulate that atmosphere.

With all that said, the game really rides on the shoulders of the Andrew Wiggins decision. If Wiggins chooses UNC, the Cats are in trouble and this is the biggest game in college basketball next season.

 

3.) LOUISVILLE
Rupp Arena, Lexington KY
December 28, 2013

Ah, Louisville. The defending National Champs will challenge Michigan State for the No. 2 spot in the preseason polls and they’ll be fired up to silence Big Blue Nation for a second season in a row when December rolls around.

Russ Smith’s return is big for the Cardinals, but how far they go depends on how good Chris Jones really is at point guard. I’ve seen Jones play — he knocked my cousin’s team out of the NJCAA Tournament last season — and he’s worth the hype he’s receiving right now. But he still has to translate that game from JUCO to Division 1 championship-level basketball and how well he handles the adjustment remains to be seen.

I assume Rick will play Harrell and Behanan together in the paint to soften the blow of losing Gorgui Dieng to the NBA. Harrell is going to blow up next season, but Randle and Cauley-Stein are a very good counterpunch for UK.

Rupp Arena, Kentucky’s depth and raw talent give UK the early advantage.

 

4.) BAYLOR
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX
December 6, 2013

Baylor awaits on December 6 in a Texas homecoming game for the Harrison twins and Julius Randle in one of sport’s most extravagant venues. The Bears’ upset of Kentucky in Rupp Arena last season adds to the magnitude of the non-conference game, the teams’ third meeting in three seasons.

Isaiah Austin passed up the NBA to return to Baylor for a sophomore season. The seven-foot-one center will join Corry Jefferson, who also passed up the league, to create an intimidating frontcourt in green. Baylor’s backcourt, however, has a lot to prove.

Yes, Brady Heslip is back.

 

5.) BOISE STATE
Rupp Arena, Lexington KY
December 10, 2013

Boise State is the fifth-best team on Kentucky’s non-conference schedule but the No. 5 spot on this list could’ve gone to Providence. Providence benefits from getting a game away from Rupp, but Boise is a better team, thus earning a higher ranking. (I flipped a coin.)

The Broncos will likely be a preseason Top 25 team and the six leading scorers from a year ago are back for another run. With the exception of one graduating guard, this is the same team that knocked Kentucky off the bubble last season and earned an NCAA at-large bid.

UK will need to be careful to not overlook Boise in this trap game, tucked between the trip to Cowboys Stadium and the road game at North Carolina.

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Providence: Ricky Ledo’s departure stings, even though he never played a game, but the Friars will still be a good team. Providence returns four starters from a 19-win team, including Big East leading scorer Bryce Cotton and dynamic guard Kris Dunn.

Belmont: The Bruins are the early favorite to win the OVC in 2013-14.

Robert Morris: Just kidding.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

39 Comments for Ranking Kentucky’s 5 Toughest Non-Conference Games



  1. FaM
    12:02 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    You mean Izzo…every time you write Crean for MSU I think you meant izzo?



  2. Xzander
    12:02 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    When did Tom Crean go to mich St?



  3. Mack
    12:03 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    “3.) LOUISVILLE
    Rupp Arena, Louisville KY
    December 28, 2013” ??????



  4. SpaceJam
    12:03 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I believe Tom Izzo would be offended by calling him Tom Crean



  5. Rupp Arena
    12:03 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I thought i was still located in Lexington, KY.



  6. b
    12:03 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    rupp arena is in Lexington, not Louisville and Lexington is in ky not tx. common man



  7. b
    12:05 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    just don’t bother proof reading anything in the off season drew??



  8. smh
    12:06 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    wow what a clusterf***k of a post



  9. Brandon
    12:07 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I will rank the five toughest games for you. Practice 1, Practice 2, Practice 3, Practice 4, Practice 5. There you go, you are welcome.



  10. Tom Crean
    12:08 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about you Drew, a whole lot.



  11. Jake_GOCATS
    12:09 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Wow. So many mistakes in this post. Tom Izzo would be ashamed of you calling him Tom Crean.



  12. Adam
    12:10 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t see Julius Randle being impacted by an opposing crowd. once he smashes on JMM the crowd will understand what is about to happen to them.



  13. Ctrl C, Ctrl V
    12:10 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I’m not always the best option.



  14. BUCats
    12:10 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I really hope you meant to put those mistakes in there. “Norf” Carolina?



  15. YoCaTs
    12:11 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    I guess they are going to move Rupp to Texas just for us!



  16. JF
    12:12 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t write posts while drunk, Drew.



  17. BUCats
    12:12 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Matt – does KSR have a copy editor position open?



  18. Drew Franklin
    12:15 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Haha Crean/Izzo. Same thing.



  19. Drew Franklin
    12:18 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Our editor is on vacation.



  20. Rei
    12:18 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    why proofread in 2013?



  21. Matt
    12:22 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    If MSU, UNC, and UL are as good as expected, and we win all of those games, we could potentially have 3 wins against the #2 team (at the time we play them) in the country if everything shakes out just right.



  22. J in Orlando
    12:24 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Baylor will be tougher game than UL because of location…we will smack UL at Rupp



  23. Jeffrey
    12:26 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Drew, you mean Izzo, not Crean



  24. Otis
    1:31 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Jason King of ESPN picked UL to repeat

    Pitino with talent and experience will be tough



  25. b
    1:39 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    25- ya and ralph over at CBLTV picked UK. good post



  26. Jason
    1:54 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Oh look, another OVC team that isn’t Murray State. Someone please explain this to me. Why won’t UK schedule them when it will against any other OVC school?



  27. b
    1:57 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    lose lose situation, doesn’t help rpi any, which hurt this yr. same reason they don’t schedule with wku



  28. Nate Trump
    2:11 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    “Robert Morris: Just kidding.”

    Good stuff as usual, Drew! Thanks for the laughs!

    PS:
    Louisville: Just kidding.



  29. Dock disk
    2:17 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Who is that standing behind Alex and to the right of Willie?



  30. kyle heavy
    2:32 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    30 – I just stared at the picture for like 2 minutes. I’m thinking it’s a player on another team…. it had me puzzled at first.



  31. fd
    3:03 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Lol 30 and 31, i did the same thing. Pretty sure its another player. if you look at his shorts, theyre a darker color.



  32. Jeremy
    4:22 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Pretty sure it’s Phil Pressey.



  33. Matt
    5:22 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    UL at #3? Rivalry game. Defending national champs. Return 3 starters and a final four MVP who didnt start. Is this a joke? Also, questioning Jones’ ability because it has to translate to Div. 1 from JUCO? What about UK’s incoming freshmen’s ability having to translate from HIGH SCHOOL to Div. 1? The homerism on this site is laughable sometimes.



  34. rj
    5:40 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    well matt in 2003 we had the top JUCO player in the nation antione barber, he averaged 30 pts a game in the JUCO ranks and at UK he averaged 3 pts and he was hyped just as much as that midget jones. also if you don,t like what drew writes, stay away, its a UK site you dumbass!



  35. TT's Fake Boobs and Rat Face
    6:11 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Drew, yeah the loss of Ledo stings and after Siva’s prostitute experience his wee-wee burns when he pee-pees….



  36. CARD
    11:12 pm May 2, 2013 Permalink

    Siva didn’t do anything with a prostitute, just allegedly textd with some attention seeking call girl. Just as there have been Jucos who have failed to translate their game to D1 ball there has been high schoolers who haven’t panned out as well.. Until all of those guys take the floor together you don’t know how they’ll play. Louisville has enough guys coming back to where we know we’ll still be pretty good.. Not saying UK won’t be very good next year, but if some of these guys can’t check their egos and understand they won’t always be the number 1 option all the time then UK might take some bumps along the way…



  37. matt
    10:16 am May 3, 2013 Permalink

    well RJ, 30 pts is quite the exaggeration, considering ANTWAIN Barbour only averaged 14 pts per game in his last season in JUCO and was 3rd team AA. This does not sound like the best JUCO player in the country. Try again.



  38. Don
    4:19 pm May 3, 2013 Permalink

    It looks like all the teams here will be great games for Kentucky. It also looks like the NCAA will be irrevelant in the future. Just seen an article that Ed O’bannon is trying to get a class action law suit against the NCAA that will be their defeat. He is suing,because the NCAA has made money from college athlete’s likeness and names