UK basketball will face grueling non-conference schedule


Kentucky head coach John Calipari expresses his frustration from the sidelines during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won the game 73-70.

Roman West

Kentucky has a loaded schedule yet again this year after having the 11th toughest non-conference strength of schedule last season. The Wildcats managed to escape the brutal non-conference schedule last season with a record of 10-3, with losses coming from UCLA, Louisville and Kansas.

All three schools are back on Kentucky’s schedule again this season. Of the 13 non-conference opponents Kentucky will face this year, eight – Vermont, Kansas, East Tennessee State, Troy, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Louisville and West Virginia – made the NCAA tournament last season.

Here are some of the top non-conference challengers the Cats will face this season.


Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the United Center (Chicago, IL)

The Wildcats look to bounce back from last season’s SEC-Big 12 Challenge loss to the Jayhawks with a rematch in this season’s Champion’s Classic. The player to watch for the Jayhawks is senior guard Devonte’ Graham.

Last season, Graham started all 36 games for Kansas and was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team. The Wildcats are 22-8 all-time versus the Jayhawks, but are currently on a two-game losing streak.


Saturday, Dec. 23 at the Smoothie King Center (New Orleans, LA)

In the Wildcats’ third and final neutral site game of the season, they will face the Bruins for the third time since the beginning of last season in the CBS Sports Classic. The Bruins will certainly be looking for revenge after Kentucky ended their season in the Sweet 16 last season.

Thomas Welsh will lead the way for the Bruins this season after scoring 10.8 points per game last season along with leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Kentucky leads the series 8-6 after the teams split their two meetings last season.


Friday, Dec. 29 at Rupp Arena (Lexington, KY)

In the first meeting in the post-Rick Pitino era, the Wildcats will look to take back control of the state following last season’s 73-70 loss.

The Cardinals will be led by a senior from the state of Kentucky, Quentin Snider. Snider is the top-returning scorer for the Cardinals, as he averaged 12.4 points per game last season.

The Cardinals’ bench will look different this season, with interim head coach David Padgett leading the way. Padgett has been a member of the Louisville coaching staff for the past three seasons, however this is his first collegiate head coaching job.

West Virginia

Saturday, Jan. 27 at WVU Coliseum (Morgantown, WV)

Kentucky’s SEC-Big 12 Challenge this season is against Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers. The Wildcats and the Mountaineers have not faced each other since the 2015 NCAA tournament, which Kentucky won 78-39.

WVU Coliseum is widely considered one of the toughest places to play in the country. Between the relentless press that West Virginia plays and the crowd that loves to get loud, it will be a test for this young Wildcats team.

The Mountaineers are led by senior guard Jevon Carter. Carter led the team in scoring last season averaging 13.5 points per game while also going on to win the NABC and Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year awards.