Neutral site games can be a real kick for UK coach John Calipari like the one last year against Duke in Chicago. (Vicky Graff Photo)
By JESSICA JONES, Contributing Writer
The non-conference schedule was released and, as always, Kentucky has put together quite a non-conference schedule.
If you’re like me, the non-conference schedule release is like Christmas! I look forward to planning trips to the games for the fall and winter. Since Cal’s arrival, he has done a nice job putting his teams in some big college basketball events. He has done a particularly good job at getting his teams to play big games on neutral sites, much like the NCAA Tournament.
I know Cal likes these games and definitely as a fan I love neutral site games. The neutral site games provide fans with an opportunity to travel and watch the team play while meeting some other hardcore Wildcat fans. I have had some of the best of times traveling to some of these events. My favorite so far was 2014-2015 squad’s huge win over UCLA in Chicago. Not only did I get to enjoy the game with plenty of other BBN members, I got to meet nearly all of the team afterward.
This year is no different. There are a plethora of travel opportunities to watch this year’s Cats. If you are an all around basketball fan, I would recommend making the trip to New York for the game against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. Your ticket for this game will also get you into Duke-Kansas.
The next big travel opportunity on the schedule is the Bahamas. This is an awesome experience for fans over the Thanksgiving holiday. If you missed the Big Blue Bahamas tour a few years ago, here’s your chance to catch the Cats and hang out on the beach in the beautiful Bahamas. Then there’s Hofstra at the Barclay’s Center. This will be another great opportunity to travel to the big city of New York just two weeks before Christmas and take in a game. I always enjoy sight seeing on these types of trips so I can imagine the Rockefeller Christmas Tree would be an excellent thing to visit this time of year.
The travel opportunity I’m most looking forward to is the North Carolina game in Las Vegas. It’s been on my bucket list to catch a sporting event in Vegas and now I have the perfect opportunity. This will be an awesome game right on the Las Vegas Strip. I am very excited for this game, it’s part of the CBS Sports Classic and will also feature UCLA-Ohio State.
This year’s schedule has some truly great games for fans including: Michigan State, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville, and Kansas. These are sure to be amazing atmospheres and I urge all fans to go if they are able. Circle them on your calendar. Do not miss these games.
Having Kansas and UCLA come to Rupp Arena after taking losses to both teams last year will make those games extra crazy. We do play at least one game from all the Power 5 conferences: Michigan State (Big 10), Kansas (Big 12), UNC/UL (ACC), UCLA (Pac 12) and the SEC. I love this. I want Kentucky to play a top team in every conference every year and this year we are doing just that.
I also like the idea of opening up the season against Stephen F Austin, which made the round of 32 last season. That part of the schedule is very good. We start out playing three games in five days and then end our non-conference with UNC and Louisville before heading into conference play and of course adding Kansas in the middle of our conference schedule. I think Kentucky will undoubtedly play the toughest non-conference schedule in the NCAA.
As a fan I would like to see less cupcakes or at least quality cupcakes. This is a slippery slope, however. You want to play games against good teams but you don’t want to lose games that could cost you in seeding down the road. Cupcakes also give coaches and players a chance to fix up some things or try different lineups for bigger games. Traveling to all the neutral sites is also hard on players, so having a few games tucked in the schedule that you can count on to be wins is beneficial.
Overall I really love the schedule. However, nobody wants to pay a lot of money to watch Kentucky thump Canisius. Fans will go, of course, but we would rather see a matchup with a team of NCAA quality. Still, I’m really excited to take some of these trips and meet some fellow fans!
Here’s a look at the 2016-2017 Non-Conference Schedule
NOVEMBER 11 STEPHEN F AUSTIN
NOVEMBER 13 CANISIUS
NOVEMBER 15 MICHIGAN STATE (MADISON SQUARE GARDEN)
NOVEMBER 20 DUQUESNE
NOVEMBER 23 CLEVELAND STATE
NOVEMBER 25 UT MARTIN
NOVEMBER 28 ARIZONA STATE (ATLANTIS BAHAMAS)
DECEMBER 3 UCLA
DECEMBER 7 VALPARAISO
DECEMBER 11 HOFSTRA (BARCLAYS CENTER)
DECEMBER 17 NORTH CAROLINA (LAS VEGAS)
DECEMBER 21 LOUISVILLE (KFC YUM! CENTER)
JANUARY 28 KANSAS