The Southeastern Conference released its 2013 conference schedule on Friday afternoon, and it’s safe to say that newcomer Texas A&M will receive their welcome to the SEC rather early.
Both the Aggies and Missouri will open conference play at home on January 8, with Arkansas visiting College Station and the Tigers hosting Alabama.
But after that “things get real” for Billy Kennedy’s program as they visit Lexington on January 12 to take on the reigning national champions.
Missouri won’t play either of the SEC’s Elite 8 (or better) teams until January 19, when they visit Florida.
The opening weekend of play includes four games on January 8 and two on January 9, with Kentucky opening their slate at Vanderbilt on the 10th.
The Commodores upset Kentucky in the SEC tournament final, but with heavy personnel losses for both programs these will be vastly different squads when they meet at Memorial Gym.
The Wildcats won’t have to visit Missouri, who is expected by many to contend for the SEC crown, and their lone regular season meeting takes place on Saturday, February 23.
A few other games that stick out include:
South Carolina at Mississippi State (January 9): Frank Martin (South Carolina) and Rick Ray (Mississippi State) make their SEC head coaching debuts in the league opener for both teams.
Kentucky at Ole Miss (January 29): How much better is Andy Kennedy’s team? It’s likely that the departure of Jelan Kendrick is “addition by subtraction” for the Rebels, and with the likes of Murphy Holloway returning to Oxford they have NCAA tournament hopes. A win over Kentucky would definitely bolster those hopes.
Tennessee at Arkansas (February 2): These are both teams expected to get to the NCAA tournament this season after missing out in 2011-12. The Volunteers feature the physical front court tandem of Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes, while the Razorbacks will be led by guard B.J. Young.
Kentucky at Florida (February 12): The first of two meetings this season between the Wildcats and Gators, with UK having won five straight and seven of the last eight meetings. Florida will have the edge in experience, but that hasn’t stopped the Wildcats from winning two of the last three SEC regular season titles.
Florida at Tennessee (February 26): By this point in the season the second meeting between the Gators and Vols should be for NCAA tournament seeding more than anything. Patric Young and Erik Murphy vs. Maymon and Stokes? Definitely worth tuning in for that reason alone.