UK Hoops facing marquee schedule



By Boyd Hayes

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Before every season of every sport, fans are given something to talk about: a schedule.

The talk around the water cooler, the ceremonial forum for discussion for fans everywhere, will always pick up when a season schedule is released. This is so because of a known truth about sports: seasons, teams, players and coaches are defined by big games. For years to come after each season, fans will look back on the big ones and say, “Do you remember when . . .?”

UK Hoops’ 2012-13 schedule packs in many games that should leave fans with lasting memories, following a trend of big regular season games over the past several seasons.

Each of the last three seasons has had definitive regular season wins for fans, players, and coaches to look back on with pride. 2009-10 saw the Cats with major wins against No. 17 Vanderbilt, No. 18 LSU, and No. 19 Georgia en route to head coach Matthew Mitchell’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. The following season put UK to the test early with a game against No. 12 Notre Dame in November 2010, which the Cats won 81-76. Last season, Mitchell’s most successful thus far, had the Cats with victories over No. 10 Louisville, No. 6 Duke, No. 6 Tennessee, and No. 15 Georgia.

The coming season looks to pack as many punches with major games to be played every month, including 12 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament in 2012. Audiences will have plenty of opportunities to catch the games, as the Cats are scheduled for 17 TV appearances.

The season won’t make fans wait long to see intense action as UK travels to Waco, Texas on Nov. 13 to go head-to-head with reigning undefeated national champion Baylor. Leading the charge for the Bears will be the 2012 AP Player of the Year and three-time All-American, senior center Brittney Griner. Only the second game of the regular season, the matchup will test UK early, and could shape the way the non-conference portion of the season progresses. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Equally daunting, the second month of the season starts off with three intriguing matchups in a row. On Dec. 2, UK will make the hour-long drive to play in-state rival Louisville, who finished last season ranked No. 16 in the USA Today/ESPN poll. On Dec. 7, the Cats will take on Nicholasville, Ky., native Anna Martin and the Blue Demons of DePaul, who ended 2011-12 ranked No. 24. Two days later (Dec. 9), Middle Tennessee State will come to Lexington to challenge UK. The Blue Raiders are currently ranked No. 24 in Athlon Sports’ preseason poll.

The DePaul and Middle Tennessee State games will both be on FSN, with the Louisville matchup airing on ESPNU.

January and February will kick off the SEC portion of the schedule. The conference sent nine teams (including UK) to the NCAA tournament last year, after Mitchell’s squad was crowned the SEC regular season champions for the first time since 1982.

UK will play all three of the other SEC teams that joined UK in last year’s Elite Eight: Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas A&M. In fact, the Cats will play the latter two schools twice. UK will also play 2012 tournament teams Florida, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

After what is sure to be an action-packed season, Cats fans will certainly have plenty more to talk about as this schedule takes on life. Mitchell and his players will cement their places in history or fall short, with the fans cheering the whole way.