It's time for some 2014-15 basketball schedule news, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. The Kentucky Wildcats will face off against the Texas Longhorns in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Here's the tweet from Kyle Tucker:
It's official: Texas at Kentucky on Dec. 5 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) May 7, 2014
This is sweet. Texas is a great school, and their basketball program, after a couple of years of struggles, looks to be fully back on track and will have a very good team coming into what I assume will be Rupp Arena. Kentucky and Texas have played only one time in history, and I can't remember the last time I looked forward to a contest more than this one. Texas is big and strong just like Kentucky figures to be, and they just signed top ten recruit Myles Turner, and should be considered a national contender.
Kentucky has played a lot of the Big 12's top schools recently, but somehow Texas and Kentucky have avoided each other. The 'Horns were a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament and wound up getting to the second round, where they lost to the Michigan Wolverines, a team Kentucky eventually defeated on their way to the NCAA Tournament finals. If the Longhorns had defeated Michigan, it's possible UK and UT would have met then, but alas.
Kentucky has plenty of Texas connections — the now-departed Julius Randle as well as the Harrison twins — and even though Randle won't get to play his state's flagship university, the Harrisons will, and will no doubt face some old high-school rivals from their home state.
Myron Metcalf at ESPN ranks the SEC/Big 12 games, and of course, Texas-Kentucky comes up #1:
Call your friends. Get your popcorn ready. This will be phenomenal. Well, at least it appears that way right now. When Myles Turner, the nation's No. 2 prospect in the 2014 ESPN 100, picked Texas, he transformed the Longhorns into a Big 12 title contender and potential national power. The Longhorns had a solid stable even before Turner's decision. Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes helped the Longhorns orchestrate one of the most surprising runs to the NCAA tourney in the country last season, considering all the departures from the previous season’s team. It’s fitting that Texas' ridiculous frontcourt will face the "Voltron" of college basketball frontcourts. Kentucky will be a problem for the rest of the country. Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee would form the nation’s top frontcourt without any help. Add blue-chip recruits Trey Lyles and Karl Towns Jr. and, well, you can see this is a rare pool of NBA prospects in one frontcourt. Plus Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison are back. And a couple McDonald’s All Americans will come off the bench. Is Texas a legitimate contender? Is Kentucky the top team in America and the national title favorite? This matchup could answer both questions.
You just have to love this front-court matchup, it's going to be awesome.
Another good matchup will be Florida at Kansas. Both teams will be losing a lot of talent, but reloading with some young guys and having some talented reserves moving up into the starting rotation. That looks like another great, can't-miss game.
Let's run down the rest quickly:
Arkansas at Iowa St. — This will be a great early test for the Hawgs. Mike Anderson needs to get this team back to the NCAA tournament, and this one will tell a lot about how soon that's likely to happen.
LSU at West Virginia — We haven't heard a lot of noise out of Morgantown lately. Both these programs have something to prove.
Oklahoma St. at South Carolina — Frank Martin needs to win a big game against somebody other than Kentucky. Travis Ford is under a bit of pressure after last season.
Baylor at Vanderbilt — I'm just glad Kentucky doesn't have to face Baylor again, they've had our number lately.
Missouri at Oklahoma — This will be a very tough test for new Missouri coach Kim Anderson. Oklahoma should be tough next season, and Mizzou loses the guts of their team to graduation and the NBA Draft.
Kansas St. at Tennessee — Two football schools trying to show each other how to play basketball. Interesting early test for Donnie Tyndall, assuming he can get enough players in place.
Auburn at Texas Tech — Bruce Pearl vs. Tubby Smith split their games when they were at Tennessee and Kentucky respectively. I like this game for the coaching matchup, but I think the Red Raiders are the better team next season.
TCU at Ole Miss — You can't make me watch this one. Sorry, but no.
Overall, this is just a great slate of games. Yes, there are one or two yawners, but I think all of them should be competitive. Mississippi St., Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M will be sitting this one out.