UK Men's Basketball

What is Kentucky’s toughest basketball game this season? There are lots to choose from.

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2019-20 College Basketball Preview

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A preseason look at the 10 toughest matchups on the University of Kentucky’s 2019-20 men’s basketball schedule:

10. At Georgia

When: Jan. 7 in Athens.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 2-16 record in the Southeastern Conference and aren’t a popular pick to make the NCAA Tournament, but they should be much better than last season. A big reason why is freshman guard Anthony Edwards, who could be the best player in the league and is the type of high-octane scorer that can single-handedly spark an upset. This will also be the first true road game of the Wildcats’ season. Everybody’s Super Bowl and whatnot.

9. At Tennessee

When: Feb. 8 in Knoxville.

The Vols lose a lot from last season, but they should return enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. Five-star freshman guard Josiah-Jordan James was one of the more interesting recruits in the 2019 class, and Thompson-Boling Arena is never an easy trip.

8. At Auburn

When: Feb. 1 in Auburn.

UK squeaked past the Tigers on the road last season, but the Cats lost their two previous trips to Auburn, and Bruce Pearl’s bunch should be another Top 25-caliber team. Kentucky’s returning players will be looking for payback after the Elite Eight loss to the Tigers in March.

7. At LSU

When: Feb. 18 in Baton Rouge.

The reigning SEC champs return some solid players — including Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart — and welcome in McDonald’s All-American forward Trendon Watford, who should be an instant-impact talent.

6. vs. Florida

When: Feb. 22 in Lexington.

Five-star freshman Scottie Lewis told the Herald-Leader earlier this year that he was already looking forward to this one. “It’s going to be awesome,” Lewis said. “I know the crowd’s going to be on my back.” The New Jersey recruit nearly picked UK over the Gators, but he’ll be on the other side of this rivalry starting with this game, and he’ll have plenty of talent around him, including possible SEC player of the year Kerry Blackshear Jr., fellow McDonald’s All-American Tre Mann, and a strong core of returnees. Rupp will be rocking on this night. The Cats will need it.

5. vs. Louisville

When: Dec. 28 in Lexington

Chris Mack comes to Rupp for the first time as the Cardinals’ coach, and he’ll bring a team with legitimate national title hopes. Jordan Nwora could be the best player in the ACC, and Samuell Williamson leads one of Louisville’s best recruiting classes in years. If the Cats can get a win on opening night, it’s not unthinkable that this edition of the rivalry could pit No. 1 vs. No. 2.

4. vs. Ohio State

When: Dec. 21 in Las Vegas

The Buckeyes are a team capable of making it past the first week in the NCAA Tournament, and they’ll get a shot at Kentucky on the back end of a unique, four-day road trip to Las Vegas just a few days before Christmas. Can the Cats stay focused for a tough OSU squad?

3. At Texas Tech

When: Jan. 25 in Lubbock

Last season’s national runners-up — ranked No. 13 in the preseason poll — host UK for a Big 12/SEC Challenge game. The Red Raiders (and their fans) should be juiced for this chance to knock off a blue-blood.

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2. vs. Michigan State

When: Nov. 5 in New York City

This would have been in the No. 1 spot if not for the preseason injury suffered by Josh Langford, who is out until at least January. Still, Sparty will be ranked No. 1 nationally going into this Champions Classic matchup with the Wildcats, who will need to jell in a hurry to keep up with a national title contender led by possible national player of the year Cassius Winston.

1. At Florida

When: March 7 in Gainesville

The second meeting between the Cats and the Gators will happen on Florida’s home court, in front of the Rowdy Reptiles, on the final day of the regular season. This one could decide the SEC title and is likely to have NCAA Tournament seeding implications for both teams. It’ll also come just two weeks after the first clash in Rupp. What an appetizer for March Madness.

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Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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