LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Southeastern Conference announced its 2016-17 women’s basketball schedule Tuesday, Sept. 20. And the announcement of the schedule
ensures national exposure for the Kentucky Wildcats as 10 of their 16 conference games will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or SEC Network.
Kentucky’s non-conference games against Oklahoma on Dec. 1 and Arizona State on Dec. 11 were also picked up to be broadcast live on SEC Network. The Wildcats will face Oklahoma at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum, while it will host Arizona State at 1 p.m. ET inside Rupp Arena.
This marks the eighth year of the 16-game SEC schedule for women’s basketball and the fifth with 14 teams. The schedule consists of a single round robin (10 games) and home and away with one permanent opponent (two games) and two rotating opponents (four games). Kentucky’s permanent opponent is South Carolina with the rotating opponents changing annually.
ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will produce a combined 21 conference contests – including two Kentucky games – while the SEC Network will televise more than 63 conference games – including eight games featuring the Wildcats.
For the first time since the 2008-09 season, Kentucky will open up league play against Tennessee, who finished 22-14 last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. The Wildcats and Lady Vols will tip off from Thompson-Boling Arena on New Year’s Day at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Wildcats will return to Lexington following the conference opener with a two-game home stretch, starting with Missouri on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network before a Jan. 8 contest against Texas A&M at 2 p.m. ET on SEC Network. After facing Alabama on Jan. 12 in Tuscaloosa at 8 p.m. ET, Kentucky will return home to face Georgia on Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. ET on SEC Network.
January will conclude for Kentucky with three of four games on the road, beginning at LSU on Jan. 19, before facing Auburn on Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. ET on SEC Network inside Auburn Arena. Kentucky’s lone home contest during the stretch will be Jan. 26 against Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET. The January slate concludes Jan. 30 at Missouri at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network.
February will start with back-to-back home games for Kentucky, starting with the 2016 SEC Regular Season and Tournament Champions, South Carolina on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. ET before Vanderbilt comes to Lexington on Feb. 5 at Noon ET on SEC Network. The Wildcats then hit the road for two games at Georgia on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. ET and at Arkansas on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. ET.
Kentucky will return home after its game vs. Arkansas for a Feb. 19 matchup against Florida at 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network and end its 2016-17 home schedule on Feb. 23 against Mississippi State at 7 p.m. ET. The Wildcats will conclude regular-season action on Feb. 26 at South Carolina on either ESPNU or ESPN2 at either 2 p.m. or 5 p.m. ET. In August, Kentucky announced a demanding non-conference slate that included games against 2016 NCAA Tournament participants Miami (Fla.), Albany, Oklahoma, Louisville, Middle Tennessee and Arizona State. Five of those teams were either ranked or receiving votes in last year’s final rankings with Miami finishing 24th, while Oklahoma was 23rd, Arizona State was 16th, Louisville was 14th and Albany was receiving votes. In all, eight non-conference opponents won 20 or more games last season.
After beginning the season with their lone exhibition contest on Nov. 3 against Union University at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum, the Wildcats will start the season by hosting the Kentucky Classic from Nov. 11-13 with Miami (Fla.) and Albany. Kentucky will play Miami (Fla.) Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum before hosting Albany on Nov. 12 also at 7 p.m. ET. The event will conclude with Miami and Albany squaring off at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 13 inside the Coliseum.
Kentucky, which is entering its 43rd season of varsity women’s basketball and 10th under head coach Matthew Mitchell, is coming off its school-record seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Last season, the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the fifth time in seven seasons – one of only seven schools nationally to claim that honor. The Wildcats ended the season with a 25-8 record and a No. 15 final ranking.
The Wildcats return several key players from last year’s squad, including two seniors in leading scorer and All-America candidate Makayla Epps and last year’s top post player in Evelyn Akhator. Epps averaged a team-best 17.1 points per game, hitting .473 from the field with 4.5 assists per game and 4.8 rebounds per game. Akhator finished third on the team in scoring with 11.5 points per game and first in rebounds with 9.3 boards per game. Maci Morris (pictured) of Bell County returns for her sophomore year after a remarkable performance as a freshman last winter. She started all of UK's 33 games and averaged 8.5 points.
The SEC Tournament will be played Wednesday, March 1 thru Sunday, March 5 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The SEC Network will televise the first three days of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament while the semifinals will be aired on ESPNU, and the championship game on ESPN2.
For the second straight season, Rupp Arena has been selected to host an NCAA Regional. The regional semifinals will be held Friday, March 24 with the regional championship Sunday, March 26.
Photo by Dr. Michael Huang