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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Rupp Arena Non-Conference Schedule Edition

Kentucky’s non-conference home schedule is often a source of consternation for season ticket holders. Is that frustration justified?

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Mark Story has an interesting piece today about Kentucky’s non-conference scheduling, particularly the number of major conference foes on the home schedule. Let’s start with a summary of his piece, which he gets to early:

Over the past five seasons (2014-15 through 2018-19), Michigan State played only three non-conference home games against major foes.

Duke played four such games, UCLA four, North Carolina six, Indiana six, Kansas eight and Louisville eight.

In the same time frame, Kentucky played 11 non-league games against major-conference foes in Rupp Arena.

Kentucky season ticket fans frequently complain about the quality of the non-conference schedule in Rupp Arena, and I can understand some of that. Kentucky’s move to play major foes in neutral locations has had a significant impact on the availability of games such as Kentucky-UNC, which have now moved to neutral four-team events, leaving the likes of Utah on the Rupp Arena schedule as the highlight discounting the annual home-away Louisville game last season. 2017 featured Virginia Tech and Vermont.

So you can see where the “problem” lies, and why some fans reckon their return on season tickets is not what it used to be. In the last season of Tubby Smith’s reign, for example, UK fans were treated to Indiana, UMass, and Houston. The year before that it was North Carolina, Louisville, and Kansas.

Times have changed, of course, and UK coach John Calipari wants to show off the team in neutral venues near large recruiting bases in order to draw attention to the program. So basically it becomes something of a trade-off -- the argument that fans get better teams from the national attention at neutral venues, but the price for that is a reduced-quality Rupp Arena home schedule.

Both arguments, the “we need a better home non-conference home schedule” and the value of national coverage in big out-of-state venues appear to have merit, but I can forgive Kentucky season ticket holders for questioning the whether or not the two have equivalent merit. The problem is, the guy who runs UK men’s basketball believes his argument has more value, and I don’t see the athletics department gainsaying his stewardship of the program given its success.

Tweet of the Morning

That’s fairly impressive, if you’ll pardon my apparent talent for understatement.

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Money graf:

But at a meeting this week, the NCAA’s board of directors for the Division I schools that include big-money conferences such as the ACC and SEC decided not to pursue the reform. That decision wasn’t included in an NCAA news release Wednesday that announced the board “seeks to shore up academic integrity rules.”

Academics? Get real. As if these players were playing for an educational institution or something...

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  • Ah, the 80’s.