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. ”