Challenging, but not too challenging. That’s the balance Kentucky hopes it achieved with the 2017-18 basketball schedule announced Tuesday.
The challenging part includes 12 of the 13 non-conference opponents coming off postseason play this past season. Highlighted are games against fellow blue bloods Kansas, UCLA and Louisville, plus a road game at a usually difficult place to win: West Virginia.
The not-too-challenging part might be required by a Kentucky team that will lack experience even by UK’s one-and-done standards. The Cats must replace 92.6 percent of its scoring and 76.6 percent of its rebounding from last season.
“We are going to have what could be the youngest team in the history of college basketball,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a news release. “We had to take that into account when building this year’s schedule. How do we prepare our guys to be at our best at the end of the season — which we’ve done nearly every year — while also putting them in a position to grow and succeed?”
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“… When you look at who we will play, you’re talking about experienced teams that were in the postseason a year ago and bring back the core of their teams. This schedule is going to be a challenge for us. But my hope is it sets us up for a run at the end of the season.”
Big Blue Madness is set for Oct. 13, UK said. The Blue-White Game will be Oct. 20.
After two exhibition games (opponents to be announced later), Kentucky opens the season on Nov. 10 against Utah Valley, a first-time opponent led by a familiar face. Ex-Cat Mark Pope, a player on UK’s 1996 national championship team, coaches Utah Valley.
Kentucky also goes big city next season with games against Kansas in Chicago’s United Center on Nov. 14 and against UCLA in New Orleans on Dec. 23. The Cats also play in New York’s Madison Square Garden for a second straight season. Next season’s opponent in the Big Apple will be Monmouth on Dec. 9.
A Dec. 29 game against Louisville highlights the home non-conference schedule. Other home games include Virginia Tech on Dec. 16, Harvard (coached by former Duke standout Tommy Amaker) on Dec. 2 and the Adolph Rupp Classic, which will have UK playing East Tennessee State on Nov. 17, Troy on Nov. 20, Fort Wayne on Nov. 22 and UIC (Illinois-Chicago) on Nov. 26.
Nov. 10 vs. Utah Valley
Nov. 12 vs. Vermont
Nov. 14 vs. Kansas in Chicago
Nov. 17 vs. ETSU
Nov. 20 vs. Troy
Nov. 22 vs. Fort Wayne
Nov. 26 vs. Illinois-Chicago
Dec. 2 vs. Harvard
Dec. 9 vs. Monmouth in New York City
Dec. 16 vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 23 vs. UCLA in New Orleans
Dec. 29 vs. Louisville
Jan. 27 at West Virginia