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Mitch Barnhart sort of tries to explain reasons for non-conference basketball schedule

Tennessee is one of the marquee SEC teams that UK will host in Rupp Arena again this season.  (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Many Kentucky basketball season ticket holders were not overly thrilled — again — with Kentucky’s 2019-20 non-conference basketball schedule that includes only one marquee opponent — Louisville on Dec. 28.

Kentucky will play Michigan State, Utah Ohio State in neutral site games and also has a game at Texas Tech in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart says UK is not doing “anything a whole lot different” with the neutral schedule than past years and that UK always tries to “work really hard” to get home-and-home games.

Barnhart says UK wants 19 to 21 games a year in Rupp Arena, including two exhibitions — UK plays Kentucky State and Georgetown in exhibition games this year.

“We try and work diligently hard to get the home-and-home with them, and we’ve got the Louisville every other year. So we’re trying to put those pieces of the puzzle together.

There are going to be some really important neutral site games that we’ll want to try and continue to pursue,” Barnhart said.

“Those are important to us. They’re important for recruiting, they’re important for visibility. There are national exposures that our program has relished and enjoyed, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. That’s a good thing. But we’ve also got to recognize the balance of having a strong home schedule and putting something in place that our fans will enjoy seeing in Rupp Arena, and our conference thankfully, our conference has really ratcheted up its efforts in basketball.”

Barnhart stressed that the SEC home schedule helps offset non-conference games that might not excite some fans.

“Our home basketball schedule in the conference is really tough, and all of a sudden there’s some incredible basketball teams coming in here in the conference season, too. So you’ve got those nine plus generally one or two (strong non-conference foes), so you’re getting to 11 or 12, plus your two exhibitions,” Barnhart said.

“So you’re at 13 or 14 (home games), and then you’ve got some games that give you a chance to bring some people in here, that, number one, want to play at Rupp Arena, and number two, gives us a chance to get guys experience up and down our roster.

“You hope that’s the way that works out.

But you’ve also got to be smart enough to understand what that looks like in terms of your strength of schedule and the net and all that as it relates to postseason.
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1 comment

  1. Not sure I got a central message from his comments.

    From my perspective, UK has 2 home-home series in place, UL, and the SEC-Big12 matchup, with one of those at Rupp and the other on the road each year. That leaves 11 non-conference games, of which 3 are on neutral sites each year against quality opponents. That leaves 8 games at Rupp against the cupcakes. A total of 18 games, plus the 2 exhibitions, a total of 20 games at Rupp. To get to 21, one of the 3 neutral site games would have to either be a 9th cupcake or a 3rd home-home series because the non-cupcakes will not agree to a 1 game contract to play at Rupp. They could convert 2 of the cupcakes to another pair of home-home series, but that would reduce the number of Rupp games, net -1 per season and make the schedule among the most difficult in the nation every year, which is fine with me, but I don’t think Calipari wants to increase his schedule strength (#19 last year and #12 the year before) given the OAD reloading that occurs here.

    I think Mitch simply needs to stop trying to justify the schedule

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