Thinking about the 2012 Basketball Schedule

There is a lot of anticipation already for next year's basketball team.  Personally, I would like to take the Monty Python route and give summer and fall a miss and head straight into winter, but alas that is not likely to happen.  With the passing of the NBA draft deadline a week and a half ago, we pretty much know what the roster will look like.  There is a possibility of adding a Trevor Lacey, Tony Woods, or some other player of course; but any such late signing would be icing or a cherry or whatever your favorite dessert metaphor might be.  The core of the team is basically set.

What is not set (or at least not known) is what next season's schedule will look like.  The conference schedule is basically a known entity of course, even if the exact dates are not, but most of the non-conference schedule is still open and that is what I'll be looking at after the jump.

Non-conference scheduling is one of my guilty pleasures, sort of like watching Dragon Ball Z on Saturday mornings.  I really liked last years schedule which had a good mix of road/home/neutral court games and strong balance from top to bottom in terms of opponent quality and those are the two things I think are most important when putting together a non-conference schedule for a good team.  Next year's UK squad will not only be good - they will be special  - and their schedule should reflect that.

(And yes, I know that what gets written here has 0 to do with what the schedule will look like - it's for entertainment purposes only!)

Before we get into specifics, here are a few scheduling rules to keep in mind:

  • College teams are allowed to play one exempt event each year.  For the Cats, this will be the Naismith Tip Off Tournament (NTOT) which includes 4 games (2 home, 2 neutral)
  • Teams that play in an exempt event can schedule up to 27 regular season games.  16 of those games will come from SEC play leaving 11 games to fill the rest of the non-conference portion of the schedule with.

Here is what we know already about the schedule next year:

Home Games:

  • North Carolina
  • Louisville
  • Marist  (part of the NTOT)
  • Radford (part of the NTOT)

Road Games:

  • Indiana

Neutral Court Games:

  • Penn St (Mohegan Sun Arena, part of NTOT)
  • Old Dominion/South Florida (Mohegan Sun Arena, part of NTOT)
  • Kansas in Madison Square Garden (Champions Classic to open season)

That's eight games, with four of them exempt.  That leaves seven games still to schedule.  There are a couple of other things to keep in mind.  UK will play a game in the SEC/Big East Challenge again this season which will add another neutral site game.  We don't know who the opponent will be at this point, but I would imagine that UConn is a good possibility.  There is also the annual game in Freedom Hall in Louisville to consider.  It's possible those two could be combined as they were last year, but I doubt it so I am going to count those as separate games.

Road Suggestions (1 game):

  • Xavier: Always a good team, A10 a strong conference, good for the northern KY/Cincinnati fanbase
  • St. Johns: a home game for Doron Lamb (although Kansas will be in the same venue)

Both of these would be part of a Home-and-Home series.  That has the added benefit of a home game in two years against a quality opponent which would offset being on the road against UL/UNC.  I lean towards Xavier myself as I think they will be better than St John's next year.

Neutral Suggestions (2 games):

  • SEC/Big East Challenge: I don't think UK gets a lot of say here, but UConn or Pitt seem likely
  • Freedom Hall: Wichita St: won the NIT last season, appearing in most of the Ridiculously Early Top 25 Lists that have been made so far

The opponent in Freedom Hall is usually more of a low-to-mid major team.  I think a good choice here would be Wichita St.  They should provide a solid challenge for the Cats and provide an entertaining game.

Home Suggestions (4 games):

  • Murray St: should return a good team even with the loss of Bill Kennedy and three seniors
  • James Madison: finished 21-12 in the CAA but has most of that team returning
  • Long Island: went 27-6, NCAAT last year, up-tempo team should provide a fast paced and exciting game, majority of players should be back
  • Oakland: lose a lot of talent including Keith Benson but should still be near the top of the Summit league next year

UK should play an in-state school every year or at least every other year (other than UL of course).  James Madison and Long Island are two schools who had strong seasons last year and have most of their team returning.  Oakland is a bit of a personal favorite.  Late last season I did some corresponding about the DSS with Corey who maintains the Golden Grizzlies Gameplan blog for Oakland.  I learned that a few years ago Greg Kampe went to Memphis to learn the DDMO from John Calipari and has said a lot of good things about him.  He also sounds like a really fun coach to follow.

So now the proposed schedule looks like this:

Home Games:

  • North Carolina
  • Louisville
  • Marist  (part of the NTOT)
  • Radford (part of the NTOT)
  • Murray St.
  • James Madison
  • Long Island
  • Oakland

Road Games:

  • Indiana
  • Xavier (or St Johns)

Neutral Court Games:

  • Penn St (Mohegan Sun Arena, part of NTOT)
  • Old Dominion/South Florida (Mohegan Sun Arena, part of NTOT)
  • Kansas in Madison Square Garden (Champions Classic to open season)
  • SEC/BE Challenge
  • Wichita St in Freedom Hall

That's a good schedule for what should be a great team.  The home games will be against (mostly) quality opponents.  Radford and Marist finished a combined 11-51 last year, but otherwise there are good teams on that list.  The road and neutral games are likewise against very good opponents, although the field for the NTOT is pretty weak, outside of Old Dominion.

Something along those lines is what I would like to see next year.  Kentucky will have a great team and the schedule should be worthy of that.  Who would you like to see the Cats play next year?

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