Expect the University of Kentucky to put one of the nation’s best women’s basketball teams on the floor this season.
And expect the Wildcats to be put to the test by a typically brutal Southeastern Conference schedule that includes five of their first eight league games on the road.
That was the evidence gathered Wednesday when Kentucky announced the SEC portion of its 2019-20 schedule and ESPN.com’s Charlie Crème updated his “Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25.”
Also Wednesday, UK locked in tip-off times for several of its non-conference games and announced that its home contest against Winthrop on Dec. 11 is moving from Memorial Coliseum to Rupp Arena.
Crème’s early Top 25 places Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Wildcats at No. 13.
UK opens SEC play Jan. 2 at No. 7 South Carolina, a team the Cats will face a second time in Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 23. Kentucky also drew home dates with No. 9 Mississippi State (Feb. 16) and No. 10 Texas A&M (Jan. 16) along with a visit to No. 19 Arkansas (Feb. 9).
In the non-conference portion, UK will host No. 8 Louisville in Rupp Arena (Dec. 15).
Kentucky’s toughest SEC stretch comes in January when the Cats visit South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, LSU and Missouri. Home games that month are against Tennessee, Texas A&M and Auburn.
The schedule flips in UK’s favor in February, when the Wildcats get Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Georgia in Memorial Coliseum while traveling only to Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
The Wildcats, who must replace senior leaders Maci Morris and Taylor Murray from last season’s 25-8 squad, will be led by sophomore Rhyne Howard, who this summer won a gold medal with Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Thailand. She led the Cats in scoring and rebounding last season, when she earned national freshman of the year honors.
Kentucky fans will get their first look at the Wildcats during UK’s annual Big Blue Madness celebration in Rupp Arena on Oct. 11. The Wildcats then play one exhibition, Oct. 30 at home vs. Southern Indiana, before opening the regular season.
The season opener is set for Nov. 5, when UK hosts Mount St. Mary’s in Memorial Coliseum.
UK welcomes back several major contributors from last season in Tatyana Wyatt, Jaida Roper, Blair Green, KeKe McKinney, Amanda Paschal and Ogechi Anyagaligbo. Kameron Roach is recovering from an Achilles injury.
Kentucky, which finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-5 league record, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to North Carolina State.
UK will add incoming true freshmen Emma King (Stanford, Ky.) and Deasia Merrill (Villa Rica, Ga.) along with transfers Sabrina Haines (Arizona State), Nae Nae Cole (N.C. State) and Chasity Patterson (Texas). Dre Edwards, a transfer from Utah who was the 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, joined the Wildcats this spring but will have to sit out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
2019-20 UK schedule
(Remaining tip-off times will be announced later)
Oct. 11: BIG BLUE MADNESS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30: SOUTHERN INDIANA, 7 p.m.-x
Nov. 5: MOUNT ST. MARY’S, 7 p.m.
Nov. 10: At Middle Tennessee
Nov. 13: STETSON, 7 p.m.
Nov. 16: At Virginia
Nov. 21: MOREHEAD STATE, 7 p.m.
Nov. 26: GRAMBLING STATE, 7 p.m.
Dec. 1: AUSTIN PEAY, 2 p.m.
Dec. 4: CHARLOTTE, 11 a.m.
Dec. 8: SAMFORD, 2 p.m.
Dec. 11: WINTHROP, 7 p.m.-y
Dec. 15: LOUISVILLE-y
Dec. 21: At California
Jan. 2: At South Carolina
Jan. 5: TENNESSEE
Jan. 9: At Alabama
Jan. 12: At Florida
Jan. 16: TEXAS A&M
Jan. 19: At LSU
Jan. 27: AUBURN
Jan. 30: At Missouri
Feb. 2: FLORIDA
Feb. 6: ALABAMA
Feb. 9: At Arkansas
Feb. 16: MISSISSIPPI STATE
Feb. 20: At Mississippi
Feb. 23: SOUTH CAROLINA
Feb. 27: GEORGIA
March 1: At Vanderbilt
March 4-8: SEC Tournament-z
Note: Home games in all capital letters. x-Exhibition; y-in Rupp Arena; z-at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.