Season ticket holders won't be singing Coach Cal's praises for this year's home non-conference schedule.
Ken has already made his comments on the non-conference schedule, so I'd like to add a few of my own.
Taken as a whole, this is a good schedule. It's not a great schedule. Frankly, from a home game standpoint, this schedule could be described as lousy. If I were a season ticket holder, I would be rather less than pleased if I had to sit through games with Lafayette College, Lipscomb Bisons and Portland Pilots, all who figure to be 200+ ranked teams this year.
I don't think anyone can really complain too much about what we have at neutral sites and on the road. Kentucky will have two road games this year, first at Notre Dame for the Big East-SEC Challenge, and then the annual tilt with the Louisville Cardinals in the YUM! Center. That's right on par with the number of road games UK has had on the schedule since 2003.
I don't think anybody is really surprised at what we wound up with. Calipari has been all about softening the schedule since he came. That's understandable, and he has explained why. The reason is all about the youth that he's having to deal with every season, and the fact that he has to replace most of his roster every year.
I don't buy that, but Calipari seems bent on it and the season ticket holders have to suffer. All I can say is that unless demand for season tickets actually goes down, Barnhart will let Calipari schedule however he wants. I don't think there is any real chance of demand reduction, so that's that. Still, the home folks will have to sit through some pretty lousy opponents, or sell off their tickets to the great unwashed who aren't fortunate enough to have season tickets.
At the same time, I think it's necessary to have a "But to be fair ..." moment, here. Overall, this schedule is just fine. It is stronger in most respects than last year's schedule, particularly considering the number of quality opponents. Last year, Kentucky could claim maybe four or five quality opponents, depending upon where you put the St. John's Red Storm who were figured to be good but were injured and had their head coach out with illness.
This year, UK has no less than five away from home, plus three very decent home opponents in the Baylor Bears, Marshall Thundering Herd and Long Island U. Blackbirds. Oh, you don't know about Long Island? They are the
Patriot League Northeast Conference NCAA Tournament team that returns their entire roster except for a couple of senior role players, and the vast majority of them will be seniors in 2012-13. They will be a test for Kentucky early in the season, and is the kind of opponent I would rather see than Lipscomb, Portland, et. al.
With that said I'll be glad to see North Carolina back on the schedule next year. I also hope that we can get a game in Louisville again. On balance, I'm disappointed with the home schedule, fine with the neutral site and away portion. There's just no good reason to ever play four teams ranked above 200. One or two is fine, but not three or four. Cal gets a pass for scheduling Samford, that was done as a favor to Martin Newton, and I totally approve of that.
On the bright side, there should be abnormal number of tickets available for home games this year for those who don't normally get to attend, as long as you don't mind watching a game that's likely over by halftime.