If Kentucky’s coach was worried about last season’s attrition or a downsized roster, Matthew Mitchell didn’t show it with the Cats’ non-conference schedule.
The schedule, released on Thursday morning, includes six games against 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, including several that were ranked or receiving votes in the final top 25 polls of the season.
“Every year we look to put together a challenging non-conference schedule to prepare us for the always tough SEC slate,” Mitchell said in a news release. “This year will be no different.”
UK’s non-conference schedule includes games against Miami (Fla.), Albany, Oklahoma, Louisville, Middle Tennessee and Arizona State. In all, eight of UK’s non-conference opponents won 20-plus games last season.
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After an exhibition on Nov. 3, Kentucky will open its season with a multi-team event in Memorial Coliseum being called the Kentucky Classic. The Cats will start by facing Miami on Nov. 11 and then meet Albany the next night.
Other highlights of the schedule include a road game at Colorado on Nov. 19. The month will wrap up with home games against Morehead State (Nov. 23) and Samford (Nov. 27).
December opens with the Southeastern Conference-Big 12 Challenge in Memorial Coliseum when the Cats will have a rematch of their second-round NCAA Tournament game last season against Oklahoma.
UK will have a quick turnaround as it will travel to in-state rival Louisville on Dec. 4. The Cats have won five straight games in the series, including a 72-54 victory last year in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky has a four-game home stretch after that including games against Middle Tennessee (Dec. 9) followed by Arizona State (Dec. 11) in Rupp Arena. During that span, UK also will face Radford (Dec. 18) and then Washington State (Dec. 21).
The non-conference schedule wraps up Dec. 29 with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke.
The SEC portion of the schedule begins the first week of January, but has not been released by the league office yet.
Despite a wave of attrition last season, Kentucky returns several key players from last season’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 team, including leading scorer and All-America candidate Makayla Epps (17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists last season) as well as leading rebounder Evelyn Akhator, who averaged 11.5 points and 9.3 boards.
Others coming back include sophomore guards Maci Morris and Taylor Murray as well as forward Alyssa Rice.
Guard Makenzie Cann, who sat out last season after transferring from Cincinnati, also will make her Kentucky debut.
Cats to host open house
Kentucky is opening up its side of the Joe Craft Center to fans for an open house on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The event includes a tour of the basketball facility, a photo station with the Wildcat mascot and a video station where fans can leave messages to the team.
There will be a “Chalk Talk” inside the team film room with Mitchell and an opportunity to meet the team and coaching staff. Fans interested in attending the event are asked to RSVP online at ukathletics.com/wbb-openhouse by Aug. 24.
Kentucky non-conference schedule
Nov. 3: UNION UNIVERSITY (exh.), 7 p.m.
Nov. 11: MIAMI (Fla.), 7 p.m.
Nov. 12: ALBANY, 7 p.m.
Nov. 17: NEW HAMPSHIRE, 11 a.m.
Nov. 19: at Colorado, TBA
Nov. 23: MOREHEAD STATE, 7 p.m.
Nov. 27: SAMFORD, 2 p.m.
Dec. 1: OKLAHOMA, 7 p.m.
Dec. 4: at Louisville, TBA
Dec. 9: MIDDLE TENNESSEE, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11: ARIZONA STATE (Rupp Arena), 2 p.m.
Dec. 18: RADFORD, 2 p.m.
Dec. 21: WASHINGTON STATE, noon
Dec. 29: at Duke, 7 p.m.