Often times, the second tier games on a basketball schedule are what make or break the difficulty of that schedule. UK will always have the UNC’s and Louisville’s of the world on the schedule. Now we are involved in 2 different round-robin tournaments that will give us 2 more marquee games every year. But to me, it’s Boise State and Belmont from last year that make the schedule especially tough. Those are mid-major teams with high NCAA Tournament hopes and the ability, on a great night, to challenge UK. But I have to wonder: why not give a little more love to the in-state schools like Murray State and Western Kentucky?
Kentucky announced last week that Eastern Kentucky would be back on the schedule for 2014-15 and UK hosted Northern Kentucky last season, which just transitioned into Division 1. But do you realize that Kentucky has NEVER played Murray State in basketball. Never. That is stunning to me. Western Kentucky is not much better, having played UK only 6 times in it’s history and 3 of those were during the NCAA Tournament when UK had no choice. Let’s not forget the last time the 2 teams played in the regular season WKU beat UK in Rupp Arena in 2001.
What I don’t understand is why not schedule non-conference games against WKU and Murray, which would be solid non-conference games that you are still VERY likely to win over the Belmonts and Boise State’s of the world, in which the scenario is the same but your fans have less of a special interest in seeing? WKU and Murray don’t hurt your RPI in any way, shape, or form, but in the Calipari era also have very little chance to beat you. Not to mention that the games would always be in Rupp Arena.
The answer is probably something internal. Some kind of disagreement between athletic directors or coaches of the past. There is always something the general fan would never know why those games can not be scheduled. But what is incredibly confusing to me is UK found a way to put WKU on the FOOTBALL schedule for 4 straight years, including 2 of them in Nashville, but can’t find a way to schedule a game on the basketball court. And let me make this clear: THIS COULD TOTALLY BE ON WKU. WKU and UL have been playing on a yearly basis for a few years now and UL actually went to Nashville for a couple games and even Bowling Green one year. I am sure Kentucky would not want that deal if WKU is offering that. But we don’t know. What we do know is Kentucky is now on its 3rd coach and WKU is on it’s FOURTH coach since the 2 teams played last. What has happened with the Murray State relationship is a mystery as well. But either way, having them on the schedule would be a bonus for the state in general.
But the point is scheduling these teams would not decrease the quality of the schedule one bit. Would we rather see WKU and EKU in Rupp Arena or UNC-Asheville and Robert Morris? How big of an issue is this for me? Not very big. But look, I am a WKU alum. In my 4 years in Bowling Green, I saw WKU play UL twice, play Murray every year, Eastern Kentucky every year, and never even sniff playing UK. And I can tell you in those 4 years, WKU would not have beaten UK once, or played them within 10 points. Point being, there was no harm in scheduling WKU. All it would do is give the UK fans another non-conference game that would garner more interest while keeping the schedule strong.
And if you’re argument is that you are scared these teams might actually beat the Cats, then what does that say about you? That you are scared of mid-major programs in the state? That is no way to approach a schedule. I see no negatives to scheduling these teams. They wouldn’t try and make you play in their gyms, big interest in the state, small chance of losing. If Murray or WKU is trying to secure a home game, then I get it. But if not, I don’t see any reason not to seriously consider this. Don’t tell me UK has nothing to gain by scheduling these games. If that is the case, what gain do they have in scheduling Wofford or Siena? At least Murray and WKU would get more interest.
I just wonder what you all think. Do you want to see more in-state schools on the schedule on a yearly basis? Or is that an unimportant factor in the schedule for you?