BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The two winningest programs in college basketball will face off for a fifth straight season in 2019 as a part of the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which the two leagues announced Thursday.
The Kentucky men’s basketball team will host Kansas on Jan. 26 at Rupp at a time to be determined later. Going back to the 2014-15 season, the two schools have played one another every season in either the SEC/Big 12 Challenge or the State Farm Champions Classic.
It will be the second time in three seasons UK has hosted the Jayhawks in the annual league challenge. The Jayhawks visited Rupp Arena in 2017 for the first time since 2005. Kansas won the matchup, 79-73, with ESPN College GameDay in town.
UK has dropped the last three meetings with KU but leads the overall series 22-9. Kentucky is looking to avoid its first four-game skid in the series. The Wildcats lead the series 7-2 in Lexington.
The 2019 slate of SEC/Big 12 Challenge games will mark the sixth season of the annual event between the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and the fourth straight where all 10 games of the challenge will be played on the same day. A bye in the league schedule for participating teams was created to accommodate for the format.
Ten of the SEC’s 14 teams will participate in the 2019 challenge against all 10 of the Big 12’s institutions, with each conference hosting five games apiece. Each of the 10 SEC teams that will participating in the 2019 games played in the 2018 event as well. The four SEC teams not participating will play each other in conference games the same day.
Four of the 10 games will be televised on ESPN, four on ESPN2 and two games will air on ESPNU. All 10 games will also be available on the ESPN app. ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm – the Saturday roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the college basketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games. The show has originated from Kentucky’s matchup in each of the last three seasons.
In addition to game times, network designations will be announced at a later date.
The SEC is coming off a 6-4 win in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, marking the first win in the challenge for the league. It also served as an indicator to the nation that the SEC was one to watch and it delivered on that showing with a record eight programs advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The conferences tied 5-5 in 2017.
UK clinched the 2018 victory with a mammoth 17-point come-from-behind win at No. 7/7 West Virginia, one of the most hostile environments in the country. The Wildcats benefited from huge performances from Kevin Knox (34 points), Hamidou Diallo (13 points) and Nick Richards (nine points, eight rebounds).
This Kentucky team will look largely different from the 2017-18 squad but will welcome back Richards, Quade Green and the possibility of Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, who all have until May 30 to make a final decision as to whether to stay in the 2018 NBA Draft or return to school. UK will also feature one of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting classes yet again with the likes of Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Zan Payne and Immanuel Quickley (UK can only discuss prospective student-athletes who have signed official paperwork with the university).
Kansas, per usual, is expected to be one of the top teams in the country. The Jayhawks will lose the core of their scoring and rebounding production to the professional ranks, but if history is any indication, Kansas will reload as it usually does under Bill Self. KU did just that a season ago by advancing to the Final Four and winning its 14th straight Big 12 regular-season title.
Kentucky’s 2018-19 nonconference schedule continues to take shape with the addition of Kansas to next season’s slate. The Wildcats now have seven regular-season games on the books, plus the annual rivalry game vs. Louisville (date to be determined) and the preseason foreign exhibition tour in the Bahamas.
Aug. 8-12 – Big Blue Bahamas Tour | Atlantis Imperial Arena | Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas
- Nov. 6 – vs. Duke | Bankers Life Fieldhouse | Indianapolis | State Farm Champions Classic
- Nov. 28 – Monmouth | Rupp Arena | Lexington
- Dec. 1 – UNCG | Rupp Arena | Lexington
- Dec. 8 – vs. Seton Hall | Madison Square Garden | New York | Citi Hoops Classic
- Dec. 15 – Utah | Rupp Arena | Lexington
- Dec. 22 – vs. North Carolina | United Center | Chicago | CBS Sports Classic
- Jan. 26 – Kansas | Rupp Arena | Lexington