With the men’s schedule officially released, we now turn our heads toward the direction of the women’s squad.
Kentucky WBB head coach Matthew Mitchell said nearly two weeks ago that the entire schedule was “very close to finishing up,” but not much news, if any, have come out since then. However, a source close to the program tells KSR that UK will have more information to share on the schedule sometime this week. But until more concrete details are provided, we only know of three games that will happen for sure and one annual rivalry game that will not. Breaking each one down, here’s what we know so far about the preseason ranked No. 11 Wildcats’ schedule.
No matchup against Louisville
This is one we’ve known about since Louisville head coach Jeff Walz spilled the beans at the Cardinals Media Day roughly two weeks ago, just one day before Mitchell addressed the media and shared the same thing. Unlike their male counterparts, the in-state rivalry between the two women’s programs has been called off for the upcoming season with the intention of resuming it in the following year.
“They [Louisville] are always such a challenge each and every year and tough and we obviously profit by playing them,” Mitchell told the media. “This year, we were not able to get it done and I just think that there are some things that are happening during the pandemic that are not ideal but we have to make the best of it and move forward. We will definitely resume the series, it is an important game.”
The Kentucky-Louisville game is arguably the most-anticipated on the Wildcats schedule considering how the Cardinals have consistently ranked as a top-10 program over the last several seasons. Losing it this year, when UL expects to be a preseason top-five team, will only hurt Kentucky’s chances of securing an impressive non-conference win against a team with Final Four potential. They’ll have more opportunities during the SEC slate of games when they can take on the likes of South Carolina and Mississippi State (both preseason top-10 teams with the Gamecocks as the consensus No. 1), but a non-conference game against a ranked opponent is hard to come by, especially right now.
A season ago, Kentucky’s non-conference schedule was one of the weakest in the country and it led to a brutal wakeup call in the form of a 27-point beatdown at the hands of South Carolina to open up conference play. The ‘Cats narrowly escaped a road-win over Cal-Berkley one game before that (who finished 12-19 on the season) by a final score of 63-61.
Kentucky’s one-point loss to the Cards in 2019-20 was devastating, but a sign that, with Rhyne Howard controlling the reigns, this team could compete amongst the best in the country. Unless they can manage to replace UL with another top-10 caliber opponent, knocking this annual matchup off the schedule is an impactful loss. They need those added opportunities for a program-altering upset if they want to break through to a Final Four.
Finding a way to add another ranked team within close proximity would be preferred, but what are the options? Spitballing ideas, a few Big Ten programs such as Maryland (preseason No. 12), Indiana (No. 16), and Ohio State (No. 20) would all be intriguing matchups and have yet to announce their full schedules at the moment.
SEC/Big 12 Challenge against Kansas State
Announced back in late May, Kentucky is tabbed to take on Kansas State as a representative for the SEC in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. It will mark the first time ever that these two programs go head-to-head and the first time since 2018 that the ‘Cats will participate in the challenge. While an official tipoff time/date was obviously not announced at the time by UK, K-State recently went ahead and released its schedule, noting that the two will play on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. EST. That game will take place on the road down in Manhattan, KS.
Kansas State likely wasn’t headed toward an NCAA Tournament berth last season, but they will return one of the Big 12’s premier players in Ayoka Lee–a 6-foot-5 rising-sophomore who averaged 15.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game as a redshirt first-year player. They project as a team on the Tournament Bubble heading into the new season, but a dangerous one who could surprise some people throughout the year. The media projects them as the fourth-best team in the Big 12 heading into the season.
Home games against Belmont and Samford
We don’t have times for these games, but we do have start dates: Kentucky will play Belmont on Nov. 29 and Samford on Dec. 13, both at Memorial Coliseum, per the respective team websites.
Belmont, who finished last season with a record of 22-9 (16-2 in the OVC) and has been tabbed as the preseason No. 2 team in their conference by the media, will open their season against the ‘Cats. While Samford, who Kentucky beat a season ago 79-49 and finished 18-14 on the season, will face the ‘Cats in their fourth game of the year.
16-game SEC schedule
Slightly different from the men’s SEC schedule, the women’s side will play 16 interconference games as opposed to 18. The SEC announced back in late September that the women’s side will begin conference action on Dec. 31, one day after the men do the same on Dec. 30.
So, as of Nov. 10, here is the shortlist of the UK Hoops schedule:
Belmont – Nov. 29
@ Kansas State – Dec. 3
Samford – Dec. 13
16 SEC games beginning on Dec. 31
NO Louisville game
The college basketball season officially begins on Nov. 25, a little over two weeks from the time of this post. The men’s side dumped all of its scheduling news last Friday–should we expect the same for the women’s side this Friday? By the sounds of it, every SEC school is waiting on the conference to finalize that portion of the schedule before the entire slate of games can be officially announced; not a single SEC team has released its entire schedule yet.
Stay tuned, we should hear more about this in the coming days.