UK Men's Basketball

Here’s what Kentucky faces in new SEC-Big 12 Challenge opponent

Calipari says 2019 will be a breakout year for returning players

Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari responds to the return of Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, and EJ Montgomery to the team.
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Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari responds to the return of Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, and EJ Montgomery to the team.

The University of Kentucky announced officially Thursday what was previously rumored: The Wildcats’ game Jan. 25, 2020, in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge will send them to Lubbock, Texas, to take on one of last year’s NCAA finalists in Texas Tech.

Let’s take a look at what Kentucky has gotten itself into.

The Wildcats and Red Raiders have met only four times previously, with Kentucky winning all four games. The most recent meeting took place in Cincinnati on Dec. 17, 1994, an 83-68 UK win.

Kentucky has traveled to Lubbock only one time previously, an 89-73 win on Dec. 22, 1965. UK won the two meetings in Lexington (107-91 on Dec. 2, 1963, and 66-60 on Dec. 2, 1986).

This will be the teams’ first meeting in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, which started in 2013-14.

Texas Tech loses four starters and its sixth man from last year’s Final Four team — which lost to Virginia 85-77 in overtime in the title game — but expectations remain high after Coach Chris Beard signed a six-year contract extension in April. Much like Kentucky, the Red Raiders expect to rebuild with some returning veterans, a strong recruiting class (No. 16 nationally, according to 247Sports) and some graduate transfers.

beard.jpg
Chris Beard led Texas Tech to its first national championship game last season, then signed a six-year contract extension worth $4.575 million per year, which made him the fourth highest paid head coach in the nation. David J. Phillip AP

Texas Tech is ranked No. 11 in the nation in the “Way-Too-Early Top 25” posted by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello this month. Those rankings, which place Kentucky at No. 3, also include 2019-20 UK opponents Michigan State (No. 1), Florida (No. 4), Louisville (No. 5), Ohio State (No. 12) and LSU (No. 24).

Texas Tech plays its home games in 15,098-seat United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. The Red Raiders finished 31-7 overall last season and 17-1 at home, losing a league game to Iowa State on the way to winning the Big 12 regular season co-championship.

The Challenge

For the fourth time in the event’s six-year existence, the Big 12 came out on top in 2018-19 in the annual SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

The Big 12 won the first three challenges 7-3, 6-4 and 7-3 before the leagues split 5-5 in 2016-17. The SEC won 6-4 in 2017-18 before the Big 12 did the same last year.

The overall record stands at 35 wins for the Big 12 vs. 25 for the SEC.

The SEC-Big 12 Challenge was renewed for six more years last January.

Kentucky improved to 3-3 in the challenge with its 71-63 victory over Kansas in Rupp Arena last season.

Across the six years, UK has lost to Baylor, beat Texas, lost to Kansas, lost to Kansas, beat West Virginia and beat Kansas.

Since there are 14 SEC teams and only 10 Big 12 schools, four from the SEC have to sit out each season.

In 2019-20, the matchups — all set for Jan. 25, 2020 — look like this:

Kentucky at Texas Tech

Baylor at Florida

Iowa State at Auburn

Tennessee at Kansas

Kansas State at Alabama

Mississippi State at Oklahoma

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M

TCU at Arkansas

LSU at Texas

Missouri at West Virginia

The announcement of Kentucky’s game against Texas Tech marked the completion of the Wildcats’ non-conference slate for this coming season. The SEC schedule will be announced at a later date.

2019-20 UK schedule

Games and events officially scheduled at this point (home games in all capital letters):

Oct. 11: BIG BLUE MADNESS, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18: BLUE-WHITE SCRIMMAGE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 27: GEORGETOWN COLLEGE, 5 p.m.-x

Nov. 1: KENTUCKY STATE, 7 p.m.-x

Nov. 5: Michigan State-1

Nov. 8: EASTERN KENTUCKY

Nov. 12: EVANSVILLE

Nov. 18: UTAH VALLEY-2

Nov. 22: MOUNT ST. MARY’S-2

Nov. 24: LAMAR-2

Nov. 29: UAB-2

Dec. 7: FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON

Dec. 14: GEORGIA TECH

Dec. 18: Utah-3

Dec. 21: Ohio State-4

Dec. 28: LOUISVILLE

Jan. 25: At Texas Tech-5

1-Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York; 2-BBN Showcase at Rupp Arena; 3-At T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas; 4-CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas; 5-SEC-Big 12 Challenge; x-Exhibition game.

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