The University of Kentucky’s non-conference men’s basketball schedule this coming season has something for everyone.
The Wildcats’ 2016-17 slate includes traditional powers, longtime rivals, dangerous mid-major programs, trips to New York City, Las Vegas and the Bahamas, and UCLA’s first-ever game against Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky finalized the non-conference portion of its schedule Monday. The Southeastern Conference schedule will be announced at a later date, as will tip-off times and TV channels for all games.
The non-conference schedule includes eight teams that played in a postseason tournament in 2015-16. Five of UK’s opponents were in the top 25 of early preseason rankings ESPN posted May 31, after NBA Draft decision day: No. 4 Kansas, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 10 Michigan State, No. 13 Louisville and No. 17 UCLA. Kentucky was ranked No. 3.
UCLA, the only school with more national championships than Kentucky, collides with the Wildcats for the third season in a row, on Dec. 3. The other home ticket sure to rival that one in demand will be Kentucky’s Jan. 28 contest against Kansas in the Southeastern Conference/Big 12 Challenge — a battle of college basketball’s two all-time winningest programs.
The only true road game on Kentucky’s 13-game non-conference schedule comes Dec. 21 when the Wildcats play Louisville at the KFC Yum Center. The game will take place before Christmas for the first time since the 2006-07 season. John Calipari and Kentucky have beaten Rick Pitino and Louisville four times in a row and eight of the last nine.
The schedule is filled with UK’s perennial lineup of neutral-court classics.
On Nov. 15, Kentucky takes on Michigan State in New York’s Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. Duke plays Kansas in the other half of the doubleheader.
On Nov. 28, the Wildcats return to the Bahamas, site of their six-game preseason exhibition series two years ago. UK will play Coach Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State team in a rematch of last season’s Kentucky victory in Rupp Arena.
On Dec. 11, the Wildcats head back to New York to take on Hofstra in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
On Dec. 17, the Cats travel to Las Vegas to go against North Carolina for the first time since 2014 in a CBS Sports Classic doubleheader that also pits Ohio State against UCLA.
After home exhibition games against John Calipari’s alma mater Clarion and Asbury, Kentucky tips off its regular season Nov. 11 against Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks, from the Southland Conference, upset West Virginia then pushed Notre Dame to the limit in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky faces another respected mid-major program Dec. 7 when Valparaiso visits Rupp Arena. The Crusaders went 30-7 last season, won the Horizon League regular-season title and reached the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament.
UK’s home schedule also includes a four-game set called the Bluegrass Showcase. The Wildcats will host Canisius on Nov. 13, Duquesne on Nov. 20, Cleveland State on Nov. 23 and Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 25.
Everything gets started with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 14, Kentucky’s annual celebration of the start of basketball practice.
2016-17 UK non-conference schedule
(Home games in capital letters)
Oct. 14: BIG BLUE MADNESS (SEC Network)
Oct. 21: BLUE-WHITE SCRIMMAGE (SEC Network)
Oct. 30: a-CLARION, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Nov. 6: a-ASBURY, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Nov. 11: STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Nov. 13: b-CANISIUS
Nov. 15: c-Michigan State
Nov. 20: b-DUQUESNE
Nov. 23: b-CLEVELAND STATE
Nov. 25: b-TENNESSEE-MARTIN
Nov. 28: d-Arizona State
Dec. 3: UCLA
Dec. 7: VALPARAISO
Dec. 11: e-Hofstra
Dec. 17: f-North Carolina
Dec. 21: at Louisville
Jan. 28: g-KANSAS
a-Exhibition; b-Bluegrass Showcase; c-Champions Classic (Madison Square Garden in New York); d-Atlantis Showcase (Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas); e-Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival (Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.); f-CBS Sports Classic (T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas); g-SEC/Big 12 Challenge.