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John Calipari says Kentucky is equipped to handle challenging on-conference schedule

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

The Kentucky men’s basketball non-conference schedule is complete.

The Wildcats open the home portion of the schedule against Southern Illinois on Nov 9, followed by four more games at Rupp Arena in the inaugural Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. The showcase will include games against North Dakota (Nov. 14), Virginia Military Institute (Nov. 18), Winthrop (Nov. 21) and Tennessee State on Nov. 23. Kentucky will take on Louisville on Dec. 29 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky’s non-conference schedule also includes Duke on Nov. 6 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, North Carolina on Dec. 22 in Chicago (CBS Sports Classic) and Kansas on Jan. 26 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge at Rupp Arena.

Other non-conference games include Monmouth (Nov. 28), UNCG (Dec. 1), Seton Hall (Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden), and Utah (Dec. 15).

Kentucky coach John Calipari and the Wildcats will face a tough schedule this year. Seven of Kentucky’s 13 non-conference opponents played in the postseason last year, with five of those teams participating in the NCAA Tournament. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

“This could be the most difficult schedules we’ve played in my time here,” Kentucky 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 by season’s end, as we enter the tournament, we are prepared to play anyone and face anything a team tries to throw at us.”

Seven of Kentucky’s 13 non-conference opponents played in the postseason last year, with five of those teams participating in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats open with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 12, followed by the Blue-White game on Oct. 21. Kentucky then plays Transylvania (Oct. 26) and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 2. All four games will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Kentucky’s also will play home-and-home series against five Southeastern Conference foes.

In addition to permanent home-and-home league encounters against Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, Kentucky will also play a pair of conference games against Auburn and Mississippi State. Auburn and Tennessee shared the league’s regular-season title last year.

In addition to Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Mississippi State, the Wildcats also will take on Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M at Rupp Arena next season. Kentucky’s conference road games will be at Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, and Vanderbilt.

Last season, a record eight SEC schools participated in the NCAA Tournament and defeated the BIG 12 in the annual challenge between the two leagues, 6-4.

Kentucky captured three of the past for regular-season titles and has won four SEC consecutive regular-season titles, including six in Calipari’s nine seasons in Lexington.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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