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Kentucky Basketball Schedule: Breaking down non-conference foes for 2016-17 season

It feels like college basketball can't get here fast enough. With Kentucky's exhibition opponents being announced recently, we now get a more complete look at who Kentucky will face off against in the upcoming season. Let's take a look at how they stack up against their opponents.

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With some players signing, some confirming (or almost confirming) that they will enter the draft, and games being scheduled, we're starting to see what the 2016-2017 season will look like for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Let's take a look at what Kentucky's upcoming competition has done this offseason, and how the Cats will match up against their confirmed non-conference opponents.


The Wildcats have two exhibitions scheduled for this upcoming season, one against Clarion University (October 30th, 7 PM), and one against Asbury (November 6th, 7 PM). While these games aren't exactly expected to be nail biters, they'll be crucial games for the incoming freshman class to get some real game experience under their belts.

Bam Adebayo, De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard (as well as Marques Bolden we hope) will all be making their first appearances for the Cats in a game that isn't a team scrimmage.

Being the top-ranked class in college basketball, they will get a chance to play without much pressure on their shoulders in these first couple exhibition games.

Regular season non-conference

As usual with Coach Calipari at the helm, Kentucky has quite a few challenges against other major programs in their non-conference schedule.

The first confirmed game of the non-conference schedule is against Michigan State University in the Champions Classic. While the loss of Denzel Valentine is sure to hurt Michigan State this season, coach Tom Izzo has made up for it by assembling the number four recruiting class in the nation.

Malik Monk will get to square off against another five-star shooting guard in Josh Langford. While Kentucky's recruiting class still looks superior on paper, there is no doubt that Michigan State will be quite the early test for UK's young stars, and it will occur on one of the biggest stages in all of sports at Madison Square Garden.

Next up for the Cats will be an island game in the Bahamas against Arizona State University. ASU isn't exactly the biggest threat in college basketball, and they won't be able to assemble a mighty student section to distract free throw shooters when playing this far away from home, but they have added a couple of four-star recruits in Sam Cunliffe and Jethro Tshisumpa for this season. The Sun Devils will likely be a tune-up for UK as they enjoy the Atlantis Resort in Nassau.

Next up comes one of the premier matchups in college basketball when looking at all-time great programs, as Kentucky will take on the UCLA Bruins at Rupp Arena on December 3rd. While UCLA hasn't been much of a factor in the national spotlight in recent years, they handled UK well last season and handed them a 10-point loss at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins' recruiting class features two five-star recruits in Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, as well as four-star recruit Ike Anigbogu, so don't expect the Bruins to be an easier task for UK to handle this season. Ball and Fox will go head to head as two five-star guards, and the power forward Leaf will be a test for Adebayo.

The home court advantage will certainly help the Cats, who have always been stellar at home under Calipari. This is expected to be an improved UK team coming in, and the matchup against UCLA will be an early measuring stick game to determine how much they have improved from last season.

Following the Bruins will be Hofstra University at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, New York. UK's matchup against the Hofstra Pride is expected to be nothing more than a tune-up, and a break from the tough non-conference schedule they have before they jump right back into competition.

When I say jump right back into competition, I'm not kidding. The next test for Kentucky comes against the North Carolina Tar Heels on December 17th in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNC has to deal with the loss of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, but they have assembled a solid recruiting class to come in this year. Five-star recruit Tony Bradley arrives on campus with four-star recruits Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods, and with Kennedy Meeks returning UNC will have plenty of weapons for Kentucky to have to stop.

The young forwards, Adebayo, Gabriel and Killeya-Jones will get some valuable experience against one of the nation's elite forwards in Johnson. There may be controversy surrounding UNC's program, but there is no doubt that they are going to give UK a great game in Vegas, and UK's young guns will get yet another chance to prove themselves against an elite program on a grand stage.

Kentucky's next test is perhaps the biggest on their schedule every single year just because of the rivalry. The Cats will take on the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. The Louisville basketball program is in quite a bit of hot water right now, and could be looking at NCAA sanctions in the future, but as for this game, Louisville is sure to compete.

The Cards have a deep frontcourt, an athletic guard in Donovan Mitchell, and five-star recruit V.J. King coming in, although he is their only recruit on the roster thus far. The Cards are looking to bounce back from their self-imposed one year postseason ban if the NCAA will let them, and while Kentucky is certainly going to have the talent to top the Cardinals once again, Louisville sure isn't going to make it easy.

Kentucky's opponent for the SEC/Big XII Invitational is not yet confirmed, although it is expected to be the Kansas Jayhawks. This would be yet another game against a powerhouse program for Kentucky, and a game against another good recruiting class.

The Jayhawks have two five-star commits, Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike coming in this season, along with four-star recruit Mitch Lightfoot. Despite the fact that Perry Ellis has finally left KU, the Cats will still have their hands full should they play this Kansas team.

This non-conference schedule is going to carry on the tradition of some great head to head matchups between Kentucky and some other storied powerhouse programs of college basketball. Cal always sets up a loaded non-conference schedule.

So as for the opponents that we know about for sure (and as for Kansas, have a sneaky suspicion about), this is what they'll match up like against Kentucky. The Wildcats have a ton of talent incoming, and they aren't going to have weaknesses that very many teams will be able to exploit.

However, another tough non-conference schedule will be sure to provide Kentucky with plenty of tests throughout the season.