LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky men’s basketball team’s 2018-19 nonconference schedule, which was already packed with bluebloods and traditional powers, was completed Thursday with the announcement of UK’s six remaining games.
The Wildcats will play Southern Illinois on Nov. 9 to open the home season and then follow with four more home games as a part of the Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. The Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase games will be Nov. 14 vs. North Dakota, Nov. 18 vs. VMI, Nov. 21 vs. Winthrop and Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee State. The annual rivalry game vs. Louisville has been set for Dec. 29 at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville.
Additionally, UK also has television designations and tip times for its four preseason exhibition events. Big Blue Madness (Oct. 12), the Blue-White Game (Oct. 21), and the exhibition games vs. Transylvania (Oct. 26) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Nov. 2) are all set for 7 p.m. starts on the SEC Network.
The announcements of UK’s six remaining nonconference games puts a stamp on one of the most competitive and challenging nonconference schedules the Wildcats have faced in years. It will – if past success of Kentucky’s foes holds steady – undoubtedly be one of the strongest schedules in the country.
In addition to the nonconference games announced Thursday, Kentucky will also face the likes of Duke (Nov. 6) in Indianapolis in the Champions Classic, North Carolina (Dec. 22) in Chicago in the CBS Sports Classic and Kansas (Jan. 26) in Rupp Arena as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Kentucky’s other previously announced nonconference opponents include Monmouth (Nov. 28 in Rupp Arena), UNCG (Dec. 1 in Rupp Arena), Seton Hall (Dec. 8 in Madison Square Garden in the Citi Hoops Classic) and Utah (Dec. 15 in Rupp Arena).
It’s a challenging schedule for a team many are predicting to be in the top three in the preseason rankings. Kentucky head coach John Calipari and his staff, as they do every season, have constructed a schedule to prepare the team for postseason play.
“This could be the most difficult schedule we’ve played in my time here,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “The only teams we left off were the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. I will say this: For as tough as our schedule is going to be, I believe we have the type of team and kids to play it. Our goal in creating a schedule every season is to test our team while creating opportunities to learn and grow. This one will have more than its fair share of challenges, but my hope is that be season’s end, as we enter the tournament, we are prepared to play anyone and face anything a team tries to throw at us.”
All told, seven of UK’s 13 nonconference opponents in the upcoming season made a postseason tournament in 2018, five of which made the NCAA Tournament.
Six teams finished the 2017-18 season with an RPI in the top 50 and three ended the season in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll. All told, Kentucky’s 2018-19 nonconference opponents combined for a record of 266-174 in 2017-18, a .605 winning percentage.
Kentucky will meet that schedule head on with what looks to be a solid blend of talent and experience. The Wildcats welcome back PJ Washington, UK’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder from a season ago, Quade Green, the Wildcats’ second-leading assist man, and Nick Richards, who started every game in 2017-18. To replace the losses of Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jarred Vanderbilt, Hamdiou Diallo and Wenyen Gabriel, all of whom have signed NBA contracts, Calipari has brought in another top-ranked recruiting class, which showcased its talent during UK’s 4-0 foreign exhibition tour in the Bahamas.
The Wildcats’ complete schedule will be announced at a later time, although the Southeastern Conference has already announced each team’s league opponents. Dates for the SEC schedule are expected to be unveiled soon.
As announced prior to the 2015-16 season, Kentucky’s permanent home-and-away opponents include Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. This upcoming season, the Wildcats will add 2017-18 regular-season co-champion Auburn and Mississippi State
Kentucky’s league home schedule will include the five aforementioned teams as well as Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M. UK’s road matchups will come against Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Missouri in addition to Auburn, Mississippi State and the three permanent home-and-home opponents.
The league, of course, is coming off a banner season in 2017-18. A record eight SEC teams participated in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and the conference defeated the Big 12 6-4 in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Four league teams are in ESPN.com’s way-too-early top-25 rankings and five are in the CBS Sports way-too-early rankings.
The nonconference and league schedule combined reveals that 16 of the 26 opponents UK will face played in the postseason in 2017-18, including 12 in the NCAA Tournament.
Times and television information for Kentucky’s entire 2018-19 schedule will be announced at a later day.
|Opponent||2017-18 Record||Postseason||Final RPI||Final Ranking (AP/Coaches)||KenPom.com Final Ranking||Series History||Last Meeting|
|Duke||29-8||NCAA Elite 8||5||9/4||3||UK leads 12-9||UK won 74-63 on 11/17/15|
|Southern Illinois||20-13||—||97||–/–||135||Never met||Never met|
|North Dakota||12-20||—||221||–/–||239||Never met||Never met|
|VMI||9-21||—||315||–/–||331||UK leads 5-3||UK lost 111-103 on 11/14/08|
|Winthrop||19-12||—||166||–/–||160||UK leads 2-0||UK won 89-52 on 12/22/10|
|Tennessee State||15-15||—||191||–/–||198||UK leads 4-0||UK won 102-58 on 12/22/08|
|Monmouth||11-20||—||207||–/–||183||UK leads 1-0||UK won 93-76 on 12/9/17|
|UNCG||27-8||NCAA first round||66||–/–||82||Never met||Never met|
|Seton Hall||22-12||NCAA second round||31||–/–||26||Tied 1-1||UK lost 63-60 on 11/26/88|
|Utah||23-12||NIT runner-up||40||–/RV||58||UK leads 9-2||UK won 62-52 on 3/25/05|
|North Carolina||26-11||NCAA second round||6||10/14||8||UK trails 24-15||UK lost 75-73 on 3/26/17|
|Louisville||22-14||NIT quarterfinals||42||–/–||38||UK leads 35-16||UK won 90-61 on 12/29/17|
|Kansas||31-8||NCAA Final Four||3||4/3||9||UK leads 22-9||UK lost 65-61 on 11/14/17|
|Alabama||20-16||NCAA second round||41||–/–||57||UK leads 112-37||UK won 86-63 on 3/10/18|
|Arkansas||23-12||NCAA first round||34||RV/–||44||UK leads 31-11||UK won 87-72 on 2/20/18|
|Auburn||26-8||NCAA second round||16||19/23||23||UK leads 92-19
|UK lost 76-66 on 2/14/18|
|Florida||21-13||NCAA second round||43||23/RV||22||UK leads 100-40||UK lost 80-67 on 3/3/18|
|Georgia||18-15||—||80||–/–||65||UK leads 126-26||UK won 62-49 on 3/9/18|
|LSU||18-15||NIT second round||88||–/–||66||UK leads 89-26||UK won 74-71 on 1/3/18|
|Mississippi State||25-12||NIT semifinals||55||–/–||54||UK leads 95-20||UK won 78-65 1/23/18|
|Missouri||20-13||NCAA first round||49||RV/–||40||UK leads 11-1||UK won 87-66 on 2/24/18|
|Ole Miss||12-20||—||145||–/–||108||UK leads 106-13||UK won 96-78 on 2/28/18|
|South Carolina||17-16||—||90||–/–||80||UK leads 51-12||UK lost 76-68 on 1/16/18|
|Tennessee||26-9||NCAA second round||10||13/16||13||UK leads 154-71||UK won 77-72 on 3/11/18|
|Texas A&M||22-13||NCAA Sweet 16||25||–/24||29||UK leads 9-4||UK lost 85-74 on 2/10/18|
|Vanderbilt||12-20||—||131||–/–||91||UK leads 145-47||UK won 83-81 on 1/30/18|
2018-19 Schedule Overview
- Combined record in 2017-18: 526-356 (.596)
- Teams in postseason: 16
- Teams in NCAA Tournament: 12
- Teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 or better: 3
- Average RPI ranking in 2017-18: 84.5
- Teams that finished the seasons in the polls: 7
- First-time opponents: 3