So this season, Kentucky will play 13 non-conference games. Some of the usual teams dot the schedule like Louisville and North Carolina. Some new additions like Texas and a couple invitational games in UCLA and Kansas. And then there are 7 complete cream puffs and Providence, all at Rupp. Those are nice matchups, but they are just not games fans will get “fired up” about. What if this fan could create a 13 game non-conference PERFECT schedule? Below would be the 13 games I would choose, with locations:
WESTERN KENTUCKY (at Rupp Arena)
-As a WKU grad, I find it to be a travesty these 2 schools don’t play on a very regular basis. WKU is the 3rd best program in this state historically (sorry Murray St). I have to wonder if UK losing to WKU in 2001 has any impact on the unwillingness to play, seeing as it’s a little embarrassing to lose to an in-state school (think UL to Morehead). Nonetheless, EKU, NKU and Morehead get regular appearances on the schedule. Time for WKU too.
TEXAS TECH (at Rupp Arena)
-I would love to see Tubby Smith back at Rupp. And I think the fans would give him a standing ovation if he did. And if they wouldn’t, that’s pathetic. Nonetheless, just seeing that guy back would be great to see, plus Tech would not be a real risk to beat UK.
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE (at Rupp Arena)
-We got some payback over Gardner-Webb a couple years ago, but have yet to get any on the second most embarrassing moment of the Gillispie era, allowing VMI to run all over us in the 2008 season opener. Let’s get them back, have an exciting up and down game and win it by 30-40 points. Then the Gillispie era will be officially buried.
INDIANA (at Lucas Oil Stadium)
-As someone living right on the border of Indiana, I LOVED the rivalry with the Hoosiers. We don’t have to discuss why it happened and who’s to blame, I just wish grown men could get over their issues and schedule a basketball game. And why Lucas Oil? Because the RCA Dome isn’t available anymore. Those neutral site games at RCA and Freedom Hall was some of the best neutral court games in the country. I would imagine Lucas Oil would be awesome. Plus a little payback from 3 years ago would be nice.
DUKE (in Philadelphia)
-It almost happened in 2001. But UK lost to USC in the Sweet 16 and Duke went on to win the national title. Nonetheless, these 2 schools have played several times since 1992, but putting them back in Philly would be cool. Invite all the players back from that 1992 game, including Pitino, and make it a celebration of the greatest college basketball game in history with what continues to be 2 of the best college basketball programs in the country.
MAUI INVITATIONAL (3 Games)
-Still the most scenic, competitive, memorable preseason tournament. Kentucky has played some epic games in Hawaii and frankly, you know whoever the 3 opponents would be, they would be quality games. Not the cheapest trip in the world to make, but UK fans still pony up the money whenever they can.
NORTH CAROLINA (at Rupp Arena)
-Obviously this game has to be played. Outside of Louisville, this UK’s longest standing rivalry. The reason I put it at Rupp Arena is the Dean Dome sucks. They barely fill most games and their big game atmosphere is less than stellar for a big time program. Rupp Arena’s big game atmosphere on the other hand is quite good.
UCLA (at Springfield)
-The 2 most successful college basketball programs playing in the city that basketball was invented. Seems about right to me.
MEMPHIS (at Fed Ex Forum)
-Sure, we will let Memphis host us and honor Calipari and all that. And then we will beat the living crap out of them. Because Josh Pastner runs a program much like Cal does. Except he does it much worse, or at a Conference USA level. UK would basically show them how running a program should be. And we’ll do it on their floor.
KANSAS (at Allen Fieldhouse)
-I feel like Allen is probably the best college basketball arena game in and game out (Rupp the best big game environment), so I would give Kansas the home game here. Plus, UK still needs payback for that 915 point drubbing they took in Pitino’s first season. Tubby went there once and also got slammed. So I feel like Kentucky still has something to prove on this court. I take on the challenge.
LOUISVILLE (at Yum Center)
-Of course this game is on the schedule, but why the Yum Center? Because UK fans still get in that building in droves when the game is there, proving UL fans are not quite as passionate as UK fans. Plus, it’s so much sweeter beating them on their home floor. Still say the win in 2010 (Knight team) was the best victory in the regular season series.
This is a FAN’S schedule, not a realistic opinion of how a schedule can be formed. The cream puff games serve a purpose in helping develop younger players and offensive and defensive schemes. Plus, there is little risk of losing too many games in the non-conference. What I just presented is what would be the most ENTERTAINING schedule as fan to watch.