Two of the sport’s true blue bloods not helping out with Selection Committee
Kentucky will be fielding their youngest team since 2012-2013, the year after Anthony Davis led the Wildcats to the national championship.
In the non-conference portion of the schedule that was released on June 7, seven games will feature teams which played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
As I commented briefly in my last blog, they continue to churn out excellent talent but the signs always point to them leaving campus three years early and testing the waters in the NBA.
Starting out on Friday, November 10, UK will host Utah Valley–a cupcake game, as Dick Vitale of ESPN fame usually likes to say. Two days later, the Vermont Catamounts will pay a visit. Most of the players on Vermont should be back to help lead a possible repeat trip from the America East.
Of course, Christmas will arrive for devoted hoops superfans like me when on Tuesday, November 14–as the back end of ESPN’s annual Tip-Off Marathon, the House That Jordan Built (aka the United Center in Chicago) will host the Champions Classic. Yes, their backcourt will be young but Kansas is bringing back Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman–so expect this game to be a major measuring stick for Ashley Judd and other loyal UK alums.
The Wildcats then close out their opening stretch with four games in a eight day stretch hosting East Tennessee State at Rupp Arena on Friday, November 17. Another cupcake game since four of their top 5 scorers all graduated. Nothing much to talk about there, except this is the only team in the early part of the season that they have a small history of playing against. UK has won the previous four meetings.
Troy will more than likely loose by 30 as Kentucky continues to provide more home cooking for their rabid fans on November 20, then two nights later hosts the early darlings of last December, the Mastodons of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. What kind of game that will turn out to be? If it is better than seeing Tracey Gold performing on the cheesy reboot of Battle of The Network Stars, count me in on possibly blogging this game before the Turkey break.
During the second busiest travel day of the year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving–UK will continue their homestand against the UIC Flames. UIC has not had a real competitive team since winning their first NCAA bid way back in 1998, but I will try my best to keep a brief eye on it while most of my focus day is on Le Coupe Grey, Canada’s answer to the Super Bowl with the annual Grey Cup to be staged outdoors at Ottawa.
On December 2, the Harvard Crimson will provide the opposition at Rupp. What kind of team will Harvard field–the one that is always in the mix come Ivy League season, or will they be in the bottom half trying to fight for a playoff spot to be held at the famed Palestra on the University of Pennsylvania campus during Selection Weekend.
The following Saturday in New York City on December 9, UK will have their first true road game at Monmouth. Without solid scorers in the likes of Je’lon Hornbeak and Justin Robinson, don’t expect much in this game.
December 16 finds them back at Rupp Arena taking on Virginia Tech. Finally, a sexy matchup to get excited about. Expect the Hokies to field another competitive ACC team and we will see by early 2018 if they appear in my “Under The Microscope” series. The final full shopping day before Christmas (December 23) is the fourth annual CBS Sports Classic, with North Carolina taking on Ohio State and their new head coach Chris Holtmann, Kentucky will renew acquaintances with long-time rival UCLA in New Orleans. Even without Lonzo Ball, the Bruins should bring their usual compliment of inside presence and deadly long distance shooting.
The second best rivalry behind Duke and North Carolina, Louisville pays their every two year visit to Rupp on December 29. The Cards will be out to prove to people that they will try their best to put the major sting of their sexual parties inside of their campus dorms behind them. The Cardinals will be again loaded bringing aboard five-star recruit Brian Bowen along with Deng Adel.
The only real true road game as defined by the NCAA Selection Committee will not take place until January 17, 2018 at West Virginia. As part of the annual SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Expect the Mountaineers to get after UK with their full-court press and cause major havoc in front of their excitable crowd in Morgantown.
Kansas should be good, but schedule does not quite measure up early on
Bill Self has to replace his two leading scorers, but Kansas fans need not worry too much. They do bring back some stellar talent. However, at first glance–this schedule looks like too many laughable wins for Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk:
Their schedule strength in non-conference was in the Top 10 during the last five years. According to KenPom.com, they are ranked 80th which does not translate very well in terms of getting a top 4 seed in next March’s NCAA Tournament–at least on paper.
However, before they attempt to extend their record in romping through the Big 12 Conference, they will start things off hosting Tennessee State at Allen Fieldhouse on November 10. Four nights later, they will appear at the United Center in the neutral court Champions Classic event on ESPN against Kentucky.
They might have a much tougher test when South Dakota State arrives in Lawrence on Friday, November 17. One might remember last season the fact that South Dakota State finished fifth in the Summit League, but managed to win their conference tourney to get the auto bid which ended up getting a 16 seed in the NCAAs.
After they should coast easily past Texas Southern on November 21, they close out their pre-Thanksgiving slate with another home game on November 24 against Oakland (Michigan). Along with Toledo and Syracuse, those two games will be part of the Hoophall Miami Invitational tournament.
Toledo continues the home slate on November 28 before jetting off to Miami for a semi-interesting matchup with the Orange of Syracuse. Without dynamic scorers in Andrew White, John Gillon, Tyler Robersoon, and Tyler Lydon–the jury will still be out on what kind of team Jim Boeheim will field in his final season as head coach.
December 6 will have a neutral site game in their annual hoops heaven place of Kansas City taking on Washington and first year head coach Mike Hopkins, the former longtime assistant at Syracuse.
On December 10, Arizona State will pay a visit and more than likely lose by 30 or more points. Six days later will have KU playing their first true road game in Nebraska. By this point, true Huskers fans will more than likely be thinking about another Final Four appearance by their stellar volleyball team instead of the action on the hardwood. Expect Kansas to win this game rather handily, along with Omaha back in Lawrence on December 18.
A possible and I mean possible trap game is scheduled for December 21 in Sacramento as Stanford plays an alternate home game 125 miles away from their Palo Alto campus. Some websites have them possibly grabbing one of the last at-large bids for next March. Will the Cardinal be included in my annual Fall Season Preview? Hope you check back regularly and find out close to Halloween.
Finally, as part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge, Kansas will host Texas A&M. Look for the Aggies to possibly finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the Big 12 this coming season.
Some players to look out for this coming fall
Possible preseason First Team All-American in senior Devonte’ Graham leads the Jayhawks to battle and they will also bring back a possible 2018 draft pick in Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, wing man Lagerald Vick (no relation to the recently retired NFL quarterback Michael Vick) and big man Udoka Azubuike. Malik Newman will be listed as a redshirt sophomore and the true freshman looking to make an early impact is combo forward Billy Preston.