The University of Kentucky released its 2012-2013 non-conference basketball schedule on Tuesday, leading Wildcat season ticket holders to shout "Where's the beef?!" as they stepped, dazed and confused, into oncoming traffic, significantly shortening the waiting list for UK basketball season tickets.
Why the angst? On the heels of a season ticket price increase, UK's loyal round ball followers were rewarded with a 13-game home slate composed of:
At best, a potential top-20 team in the Baylor Bears, who Kentucky defeated in the Elite Eight in the 2012 NCAA tourney; Marshall, a 21-win team last year and one of the favorites to win C-USA, and Long Island University, a top 100 RPI team last year who won the Northeast Conference with a 16-2 record, and lost to Michigan State by 22 in the second round of the NCAA tournament (of course, the second round of the NCAA tourney is actually the first round).
At worst, the 'Cats' home schedule offers a series of veritable patsies ranging from Lafayette (Pa.), a game which opens UK's Rupp Arena schedule, Samford (where Martin Newton is the athletic director), Portland, a team coming off a seven win season, Lipscomb, a squad coming off a 13-18 year, and Eastern Michigan, a MAC team looking to bounce back from a 14-18 effort in 2012. The Wildcats will be playing Lafayette and Eastern Michigan for the first time in their history.
Also in Rupp Arena, the Wildcats will compete against Sean Woods and his Morehead State Eagles.
Fitting into John Calipari's non-traditional scheduling philosophy are neutral site games against Maryland (a contest which opens UK's regular season away from Rupp for the first time in a decade) at the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, the Barclay Center. Maryland, led by second year coach Mark Turgeon, is coming off a 17-15 record in 2012, but looks to be much improved in 2013. The Duke Blue Devils line up as Kentucky's second game of the season in a clash of the titans contest played at the Georgia Dome as part of the Champions Classic. UK and Duke haven't hooked up on the hard court since the Blue Devils, led by Jason Williams (now Jay), pulled out a 95-92 overtime win over the 'Cats in the 2001-2002 season.
In the SEC/Big East Challenge, UK will travel to South Bend, Ind., as they take on Mike Brey's Fighting Irish. The 'Cats will be looking for a little payback as they venture north, after Notre Dame beat Kentucky by 10 points in the third round of the NIT in South Bend in 2009. The Irish won 22 games last season, as they rallied late in the year, winning 11 of their final 15 games after struggling early in the year.
On December 29, Kentucky will also travel to Louisville, to take on Rick Pitino's Cardinals, a team which figures to challenge for a national title in 2013. The 'Cats hold a historical 30-14 advantage over the Cards.
Although the 'Cats do play in Louisville against the Cards, UK's traditional appearance in Louisville's Freedom Hall against a non-conference opponent seems to have come to an end, as of now. There is the possibility, though, that Kentucky could play one of its nine SEC home games in Louisville, something that has happened in the past.
While it's probably not prudent to challenge John Calipari's non-traditional scheduling theory, he has after all, done nothing but win basketball games since his arrival in Lexington three years ago, posting a 102-14 overall record (.879 winning percentage), 13-2 in the Big Dance (.867), while going undefeated in Rupp Arena.
Plus, winning a national title and appearing in consecutive Final Fours would seem to allow Cal a wide berth as it pertains to scheduling matters. But there simply has to be a method with which to marry an exciting neutral site schedule (which 'Cat fans have in 2012-2013), with a slate of home games capable of challenging the 'Cats and satisfying the season ticket holders' desire to witness actual competition.
Of course, North Carolina comes back on the 'Cats' schedule in 2013-2014, but ...
For now, this is what home court 'Cat fans are left with ... for better, or for worse.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!