Rob Dauster

Kentucky head coach John Calipari asks for a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kentucky’s non-conference schedule has highlights, lacks depth


Kentucky announced their non-conference schedule on Monday afternoon, and there are four — maybe five — games that are going to have the potential to be instant classics.

The Wildcats get Michigan State in New York for the Champions Classic on the fourth day of the season, which is typically the best night of basketball during the first two months of the season. Then, in December, the Wildcats play UNC in Las Vegas, Louisville in the Yum! Center and Kansas in Rupp Arena.

That’s four teams right there that will enter the season as consensus top 15 teams, and that’s before you factor in a home date with UCLA. The Bruins with 15-17 last season, but they have the talent and the potential to finish the year as a top ten team. (They could also end up being a complete disaster, but that’s another topic for another day.)

So on the surface, this schedule looks better than the one that Duke released last week. We criticized Duke’s schedule, but if we’re being honest here, the only real difference between Duke’s schedule and Kentucky’s schedule is that the Blue Devils had the bad luck of drawing Florida as they’re reloading in the post-Billy Donovan years and scheduling UNLV one year after that program self-destructed.

To their credit, Kentucky schedules home-and-homes. Their rivalry with Louisville is played annually and takes place in either Rupp Arena or the Yum! Center every year. The Wildcats also have a home-and-home with UCLA, which is at home this year after Kentucky took an L at Pauley Pavilion last season, and have played similar series against programs like North Carolina and Indiana during John Calipari’s tenure. Technically speaking, the game against Kansas is also a home-and-home, although they cannot get full credit for that since it is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

But the major issues with college basketball scheduling is still evident here. Every Kentucky fan in the world is going to watch all 13 of these games — that’s how BBN does — but there are just five games that Kentucky will play during the first two months of the season that are truly worth watching.

Yes, Stephen F. Austin, Hofstra and Valparaiso are quality mid-major programs, and yes, Arizona State is a Pac-12 program with hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament, but those are games that a Kentucky team picked by many to be the best non-Duke team in the country should be able to roll through.

There’s a reason that this happens (I detailed it in this column) and it’s not entirely Kentucky’s fault.

But it is a problem for the sport when a schedule like this is going to get lauded.

Because as good as the good games are going to be, Kentucky will be favored by at least double figures — if not 25 points — in eight of the 13 games.

Anyway, here is the full schedule:

Nov. 11: Stephen F. Austin

Nov. 13: Canisius

Nov. 15 vs. Michigan State (New York, Champions Classic)

Nov. 20: Duquesne

Nov. 23: Cleveland State

Nov. 25: UT Martin

Nov. 28: vs. Arizona State (Bahamas)

Dec. 1: vs. Hofstra (Brooklyn)

Dec. 3: UCLA

Dec. 7: Valparaiso

Dec. 17: vs. North Carolina (Las Vegas, CBS Sports Classic)

Dec. 21: at Louisville

Jan. 28: Kansas (Big 12/SEC Challenge)

Purdue signs Matt Painter to extension

Matt Painter
AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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Purdue and head coach Matt Painter have agreed to a three-year contract extension.

The deal will not be official until later in the summer, but when it is confirmed by the university, it will lock Painter up through the 2022 season.

Painter’s current deal extends through the 2019 season. In 2011, Painter signed an eight-year deal with Purdue after overtures from Missouri. That contract did not include a buyout, meaning that the school would be on the hook for every dollar that they owed Painter for the remainder of the contract. That’s relevant because the biggest indicator of job security for a head coach at the college level is the buyout, not the number of years left on his deal.

Collin Sexton cuts list

Collin Sexton, Jon Lopez/Nike
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Collin Sexton has announced his top ten list of schools.

Sexton, who was the subject of a feature story from last week, has emerged as the biggest breakout star of the Class of 2017. He went from being targeted as a mid-major recruit to being a potential top ten player in the class with a good shot at landing on the McDonald’s all-american team.

The ten schools, per ESPN: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Villanova.

What’s interesting here is that neither Duke or Kentucky make the list. Both programs have been involved with Sexton since he was named MVP of the USA U17 world champion team, but neither has offered a scholarship to date.

Ex-UCLA commit Kobe Paras headed to Creighton

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Creighton added another piece to the puzzle over the weekend as former UCLA commit Kobe Paras announced that he will be a Bluejay in college.

The 6-foot-6 Paras originally signed with the Bruins out of high school, but he did not enroll at the university due to an academic issue.

Paras will join Davion Mintz in Creighton’s freshman class, but the Bluejays will also add Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster, a former all-Big 12 talent, and Justin Patton, a redshirt freshman and former top 50 recruit, to the mix. With Mo Watson already on the roster, Creighton has a borderline top 25 roster this season.

A native of the Phillipines, Paras is the son of a Filipino basketball legend and actor, Benjie Paras.

Top five prospect Michael Porter Jr. commits to Washington

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

The worst kept secret in college basketball recruiting has now become official: Michael Porter Jr. will be playing his (presumably) one-and-done season at Washington.

Porter is a consensus top five recruit in the Class of 2017 and a guy that some believe is the best player in a pretty solid class and is fresh off of a dominating performance at Peach Jam, where he led his MoKan Elite team to the title while averaged 26 points and 11 boards.

A 6-foot-9 wing forward, Porter is a ridiculous athlete with three-point range and the ability to thrive in transition. He needs to get stronger, he needs to get quicker and he needs to get better handling the ball, but his physical tools and his perimeter skill set makes him an ideal prospect to be a position-less, small-ball defender down the road.

The reason I say that Porter’s commitment is the worst-kept secret in recruiting is that his father was hired by Lorenzo Romar as an assistant coach earlier this spring. His brother, a top 100 player in the Class of 2018, is committed to Washington and the family is currently in the process of relocating to Seattle.

(We went in depth on Porter as a prospect at the 24:45 mark of the podcast below.)

This will be the second consecutive season that Romar has landed one of the best players in a recruiting class; he’s bringing Markelle Fultz, who is the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, into his program next season. That’s impressive, but it also puts some pressure on him. Romar has two players picked in the first round this past season and has had five first round picks in the last five years. He hasn’t gotten to the NCAA tournament once during that stretch and has been to the NIT just three times.

VIDEO: Maryland, Villanova join forces for ESPY Running Man Challenge

Maryland guard Jared Nickens (11) reacts with teammates including forward Jake Layman (10) and forward Damonte Dodd (35) during a break in the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Illinois, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in College Park, Md. Maryland won 81-55. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The creators of the Running Man crossed paths with the national champs at the ESPYs.

So you know what happened …