Nobody in college basketball is better at putting together a non-conference schedule that Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
In a sport where it’s no uncommon to see top 25 programs avoid playing a relevant opponent until conference play has started, Kentucky has been one of the standard-bearers when it comes to building a schedule in November and December.
With the announcements today that the Wildcats will be playing games against Texas and UCLA this season, you need to take a look at who the Wildcats will be playing during the first two months of the regular season:
- Kentucky vs. Kansas in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic
- Kentucky vs. UCLA in Chicago for the CBS Sports Classic
- Texas at Kentucky in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge
- Louisville at Kentucky
- North Carolina at Kentucky
- Providence at Kentucky
Kansas is the No. 5 team in the country in the NBCSports.com Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25. North Carolina? They’re No. 6. Texas is No. 8 and Louisville is No. 11.
That’s wild, and it will only get tougher if Kris Dunn plays up to his potential for Providence this season or UCLA is able to get the kind of performance from the likes of Kevin Looney, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are good enough to carry the team.
Kentucky is the preseason No. 1 team in the country. They are the unquestionably going to be the title favorite entering the season, and it will not take us long to get a feel for whether or not that opinion is accurate.
A strong schedule can also be a double-edged sword. Last season, for example, Kansas had one of the toughest schedules in the history of the game, so while they were tested by the time that Big 12 play came around, it may have also cost them. The Jayhawks never had the chance to learn or build confidence against their weaker opponents.
The good news for Kentucky?
This will be their most experienced team under John Calipari, as they may not end up starting a single freshman.