*this is a picture of an old schedule
UK will play 12 non-conference basketball games this year and while some of the names on the schedule sound good (Michigan State, Utah, Ohio State, Louisville), the reality is only one of those games is at Rupp Arena and the remainder of the games have not exactly excited the fans. In fact, I think fans have started to realize that UK no longer considers quality home games a priority in scheduling. They don’t see a recruiting advantage and rather have moved towards “TV games” in larger arenas and “classic” yearly games. So right now there is an imbalance between what is best for the fan and what is perceived as best for the program.
So what would the ideal non-conference schedule look like? I go in to this task granting that the Champions Classic, SEC-Big 12 Challenge, and CBS Sports Classic have to remain on the schedule, along with the Louisville rivalry. I also am not unrealistically saying that Kentucky should play 12 bluebloods in the sport but rather have to play some mid-major teams. So here is what I think would make an ideal schedule:
Game #1: Champions Classic (Duke, Kansas, or Michigan State)
Game #2: CBS Sports Classic (North Carolina, Ohio State, or UCLA)
Game #3: SEC-Big 12 Challenge (rotating opponent and location)
Game #4: Louisville (home and home series)
Game #5: Memphis (home and home series)
-Calipari would never do it obviously but there isn’t a hotter name in the college game than Penny Hardaway and he’s taken a couple recruits from Cal already. Wouldn’t it be nice to knock them down a peg? Additionally, Memphis is a regional team so UK fans could travel to this game.
Game #6: High Point (home)
-Tubby Smith should get to bring his team in every year to Rupp Arena. Give Tubby a yearly standing ovation, hang his jersey one of those years, and then give his team a beatdown. All parties win.
Game #7: Western Kentucky (2 for 1 deal)
-Two games at Rupp Arena and 1 game in Nashville. Cats never have to go to Bowling Green and Nashville would still be close to a home game for UK. Western has done such a deal with UL in the past. WKU is the only in-state school in a semi-major conference and Rick Stansbury is bringing in some of the best talent in school history. Could UK lose? Maybe. But should we schedule from a place of fear?
Game #8 and #9: Northern Kentucky and Murray State
-Sorry but no special deals for these teams. They must come to Rupp every single time. But both teams are consistently in the NCAA Tournament, hence why they get preference over EKU and Morehead. If those programs pick up the pace, maybe they find their way on the schedule. It’s time to throw these in-state schools some chances.
Game #10: Indiana OR Butler OR Purdue (Home and Indy)
-Fans all worked up on either side about not playing Indiana, here is a comprise. You play the Hoosiers twice every 6 years. In the other four years, you play Butler twice and Purdue twice. All those schools would be quality opponents, you would play in Indianapolis for the “road” games (although Purdue probably wouldn’t agree to that) and you toss the Hoosiers a crumb.
Game #11: New York City/Brooklyn Game (Opponent Varies)
-I think fans can accept Calipari wants to play a game in that region. Where I am baffled is when the opponent is Hofstra or Monmouth. I can accept Seton Hall. Other potential opponents that would be acceptable would be Syracuse and St. Johns. Basically any team in that basic area that comes from a Power 6 conference. If you are going to ask fans to travel that far, give them a decent opponent please.
Game #12: Random Beatdown Opponent (YUM CENTER)
-I get it, those 11 games above would all have their challenges. No gimmes. And a schedule has to have a gimme. So throw in Mount St. Marys or Radford, give the guys a 40-point win, and move along. But the catch with this game is it is played in Louisville. As a Louisville resident, I miss the Freedom Hall game every year. Now that the Yum Center is under water, I would bet they would be open for a UK home date. Fans would flock no matter the opponent. Win for all involved.
So how would you change the non-conference schedule the most?