The conference schedule is where teams are tried and tested, but the non-conference schedule is where teams’ foundations are laid. A shaky game in November can weaken a squad in March, while an open-minded and focused unit in December makes April a possibility. Non-conference games mean a lot, and Kentucky basketball has more than its fair share of battles before SEC play begins next spring. Andy Glockner of SI.com recognizes the challenges faced by the Wildcats too, naming three games among his “must-see nonconference face-offs“.
Specifically, Glockner touts the following three games at the number one, three, and eight most watchable non-conference matchups of the year.
1. Kentucky at Louisville (Dec. 29)
Two elite teams meet once again, rematch of the Final Four, eternal bragging rights (at least for another year), HoF coaches who can’t stand each other. It’s not always a pretty watch, but it’s compelling TV and the best soap opera in the sport at the moment.
3. Kentucky vs. Duke (Atlanta, Nov. 13)
The Entitled Fan Base Bowl! Just kidding. Sort of. I love the idea of the Champions Classic — great programs playing regularly is always good — but the games are too early in the season. Both clubs have questions after losing some key pieces, both have freshmen that are very much worth watching as well as some returning talent. Kansas-MSU is a strong co-headliner.
8. Kentucky at Notre Dame (SEC-Big East Challenge, Nov. 29)
The Wildcats are playing in Indiana and it’s not in a dome! With how absurdly good ND is at home and how much talent it returns this season, this is a very difficult early-season spot for the as-always-youthful Cats.
Two out of three isn’t bad, Andy. Kentucky vs. Louisville and Kentucky vs. Duke will be legendary battles like they always are. On the other hand, Kentucky vs. Notre Dame will be nothing more than a blowout as the Irish go down without a fight. The Kentucky vs. Duke matchup was also mysteriously ranked behind a haphazardly considered North Carolina vs. Indiana game featuring a likely regulation-hamstrung team and an overrated former powerhouse. It won’t get so much as a second glance from most college basketball fans, while Kentucky vs. Duke will draw the attention it rightfully deserves.
This year’s non-conference schedule is one of the toughest in years, and it will be a difficult one for Kentucky’s young roster to navigate. A lot of questions abound, but finding the answers is sure going to be fun.
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Corey Tincher is a lifelong Kentucky fan and professional writer who couldn't keep the two worlds apart. He is the lead contributor for StraitCats.com and literally wrote the book on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Championship run, Big Blue Articles: Kentucky Basketball in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Follow @Corey_Tincher on Twitter for more Kentucky news and discussion.