If Kentucky had one slot open in its basketball schedule, which local team would YOU want them to play? Would you opt for a power five matchup if it means going on the road? Or do you want to stay home and whup up on another Kentucky State? I have a list and some reasons for four of the other prominent basketball programs in the region…
Business is a factor we’ll have to consider during this process. It’s likely Kentucky could drag Morehead State or Eastern Kentucky to Lexington for one game and not have to worry about any type of return match. The Hoosiers would want balance. A game in Rupp, a game in Assembly, and maybe even a third neutral-site match in Indianapolis or Louisville would likely be Indiana’s demands. But John Calipari refuses to give Assembly Hall another romp in the hay after the 2012 debacle in which Kentucky lost as drunk overall-ed college students recreated the wildebeest stampede from Lion King – with Darius Miller starring as Mufasa.
Personally, I’d take whatever we can get with Indiana over one-offs with mid-major programs like Western or Murray (we’ll get to them). Power-five school, esteemed tradition, historic rival. Archie Miller may not be the John Wooden prognosticators had hoped for, but he’s got a nice little run of recruiting talent lately, including the golden child Romeo of course. IU should (they always should) be top-25 worthy in 2020-21 and easily capable of making the tournament, a feat unconquered since 2016.
Oh, and our previous offer for these dates still stands. Play us and we'll give the full guarantee check to charity to help within our state. https://t.co/WXfdxdPxJT
— WKU Hilltopper Basketball (@WKUBasketball) July 7, 2020
After announcing the addition of UAB to the Kentucky men’s basketball schedule, fellow Conference USA comrade Western Kentucky took to twitter to whine about their lack of getting to face the Big Blue and offered a shrewd and ethically-undeniable deal: WKU will give its profits from a potential game vs. UK to charity. I don’t like this “gratuitous” act by the Hilltoppers – trying to play charity and local pressure together to game Kentucky into having to play Western.
Also, why is Western airing their grievances? Their twitter outburst mentions a “previous offer,” which isn’t discussed in other tweets but references what I’d think are behind-closed-doors negotiations to actually play WKU, which KSR’s Matt Jones sort of hinted at on the radio show earlier this week. So Kentucky was apparently arranging to play WKU, and the Toppers try to start a social media fist fight? Have at Cal if he flicks his nose up at you guys again. However, if he’s making an effort to schedule a game (or series) against Western, taking to the twitter-verse to school UK in one-upmanship doesn’t appear to me as the smartest course of action.
Who knows – that one press of the send button could end the negotiations completely. I’d still like to see them in Rupp.
If the year were 2019, I’d offer to play an away game at Murray. Without a return. Why? Ja Morant.
That’s the case for Murray: since 2013, Murray State has had as many point guards drafted as Kentucky: Three. Isaiah Canaan was drafted in the 2nd round in 2013, Cameron Payne was selected as the No. 14 overall pick in 2015, and one Temetrius Jamel Morant was selected No. 2 overall behind Zion Williamson last year. In short: this program produces top, top-end talent. Will they continue to? It would seem unlikely but heck, three draftable point guards in six years is unreal for a mid-major.
In a vacuum, Murray is probably the definitive basement-dweller of this list. Not as good as any of the other schools year-to-year to go along with a smaller, less-populated school in general, which typically means less fan support. But I’d rather watch Ja Morant play basketball against the Cats than any player in WKU or IU history.
Oh yeah, a wildcard, sort of. Like most of the state, I’m sure the readers forgot about our brothers up north.
Cincy is a basketball program I’d be overjoyed to play. Compared to the rest of this bunch, UC is easily the best program and the squad most likely to beat Kentucky (they’re a Skyline Chili version of Virginia). Obviously, facing the Bearcats under Mick Cronin would have been ideal for meme purposes, but we’ll have to settle for Dracula-led Cincy – I mean, John Brannen-led.
Kentucky rarely plays Cincinnati, and I can’t remember a time in recent memory where it happened outside the NCAA Tournament. I wish we did. Lately, the Bearcats have been a perennial member of the AP Top-25 and qualified for the NCAAT every year of the 2010s. This is a top-20 basketball program in the country, located 100 miles away, that Kentucky never pays attention to unless the selection committee forces it to happen. They didn’t trample UK’s players, throw peanuts at the families or mess up Cal’s hair, and they still get the WKU and Murray State treatment from UK. I hope things change.
With the open slot, I’d sign Cincy. Maybe Kentucky ends up having to do a home-and-home series at the very worst, but who cares – their new arena rocks, and their fans are great. Most importantly for me: the game would be competitive. A physical contest between each side of the Ohio/Kentucky border.
What about you?