The University of Kentucky basketball program salutes one of its icons, Bill Keightley, as part of its non-conference schedule for 2013-14, which was announced Wednesday.
Keightley worked as UK basketball's equipment manager from the early 1960s until his death in 2008. During that time, he also acted as de facto father and later grandfather confessor to players. The Rupp Arena court includes a commemorative marking in front of the seat Keightley used on the end of the bench.
In further tribute to that service, Kentucky will play host to what the program called the Keightley Classic next season.
"I'm so honored and so pleased," Keightley's daughter, Karen, said. "They still remember him. That would mean a lot to him, and certainly means a lot to us. That he was appreciated and well-thought-of.
"He wanted everybody to like him. He was a people person, and that was important to him."
UK opponents in the Keightley Classic will be Robert Morris, Texas-Arlington, Cleveland State and Eastern Michigan. None ranked in the top 100 of CBSSports.com's final Ratings Percentage Index of last season.
Not that Kentucky's non-conference schedule lacks challenges. The non-conference schedule includes heavyweights as well as lightweights. In other words, the typical schedule for a highly regarded college team.
There are two opponents that finished last season with an RPI (according to CBS-Sports.com) in the top 10 — No. 3 Louisville, the defending national champion, and No. 8 Michigan State.
Two other UK opponents were in the top 20 — No. 17 North Carolina and No. 19 Belmont.
No. 41 Boise State gives Kentucky a fifth opponent with a final RPI in the top 50.
No. 70 Baylor and No. 90 Providence give UK a sixth and seventh opponent in the final RPI's top 100.
Based on the final RPI of last season, the best three opponents fans in Rupp Arena will see Kentucky play are Louisville, Belmont and Boise State.
Compared to the collection of punching bags that Kentucky worked over in Rupp Arena last season, the 2013-14 schedule looks attractive.
"I think the home schedule is really good considering there's not a huge incentive to schedule up when all of your tickets are already sold," said Ken Pomeroy, a noted college basketball observer and numbers cruncher. "Nobody is really considering Boise for the top 25, but they could be there."
Pomeroy likened Kentucky's non-conference schedule to one typically played by one of the programs considered UK's equal if not superior: Duke.
"It looks like the Duke schedule model of picking teams that will finish with decent records in lesser conferences," Pomeroy said.
Kentucky's home schedule includes six opponents outside the top 100 — No. 199 Cleveland State, No. 239 Eastern Michigan, No. 124 Robert Morris, No. 120 Texas-Arlington, No. 215 UNC Asheville and No. 271 Northern Kentucky.
But the inclusion of Louisville makes Kentucky's home schedule look much better than last season.
Overall last season, CBS Sports.com's Jerry Palm rated UK's strength of schedule at No. 70.
UK's non-conference schedule includes the resumption of the series with North Carolina. Besides the game at North Carolina, Kentucky's games away from home include games against Michigan State in Chicago, Providence in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Baylor in Cowboys Stadium.
UK had been scheduled to complete the second half of a home-and-home series with Samford, but a date for the trip to Birmingham, Ala., could not be worked out, so UK compensated Samford for the cancellation.
UK's conference games — home and away — will be announced at a later date.
Those games figure only to enhance a Kentucky schedule that draws an early guess of among the nation's best from Pomeroy.
"I'm not good at guessing these things, but I'd say top 20," Pomeroy said. "Schools from lesser conferences that pile up road games will definitely beat them out. And there might be a few others depending on how the in-season tournaments shake out."
Kentucky's 2013-14 non-conference men's basketball schedule announced Wednesday (home games in capital letters):
Nov. 1TRANSYLVANIA (exhibition)
Nov. 4 MONTEVALLO (exhibition)
Nov. 8 UNC ASHEVILLE
Nov. 10 NORTHERN KENTUCKY
Nov. 12 Michigan State-1
Nov. 17 ROBERT MORRIS-2
Nov. 19 TEXAS-ARLINGTON-2
Nov. 25 CLEVELAND STATE-2
Nov. 27 EASTERN MICHIGAN-2
Dec. 1 Providence-3
Dec. 6 Baylor-4
Dec. 10 BOISE STATE
Dec. 14 At North Carolina
Dec. 21 BELMONT
Dec. 28 LOUISVILLE
1-Champions Classic in Chicago
2-Keightley Classic in Rupp Arena
3-At Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
4-At Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com