BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The 2018-19 Kentucky men’s basketball schedule is now complete as the league office announced the upcoming conference slate Friday, August 24. The Wildcats are seeking their 49th regular-season league crown and sixth under 10th-year head coach John Calipari (pictured).
The 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule features all 13 teams in the league at least once. Kentucky has home-and-home dates with Auburn and Mississippi State, in addition to permanent home-and-home foes Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
UK’s schedule is balanced with no trip or stretch of home games lasting more than two in a row (which includes the SEC/Big 12 Challenge). The Wildcats will also have a familiar weekly pattern of Tuesday-Saturday games every week once conference play starts. Kentucky tips off the SEC season at Alabama on Jan. 5.
Following the league lid-lifter, UK will return home for four of its next six games. Up first on that list is Texas A&M on Jan. 8 followed by the first meeting with Vanderbilt on Jan. 12. The Cats will then venture away from home with matchups at Georgia on Jan. 15 and to the defending SEC co-champions Auburn Tigers on Jan. 19.
The Cats return home for the first of two meetings with Mississippi State on Jan. 22 and will complete the home stand with the final nonconference matchup of the year in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge against Kansas on Jan. 26.
Kentucky will make its return trip to Nashville, Tennessee, to complete its 2018-19 series with the Commodores on Jan. 29 before an always grueling date with Florida in Gainesville to open the month of February.
UK will make a short trip home to take on South Carolina on Feb. 5, before traveling to Mississippi State on Feb. 9.
Home dates with LSU (Feb. 12), Tennessee (Feb. 16), Auburn (Feb. 23) and Arkansas (Feb. 26) bookend a road trip to Missouri on Feb. 19.
The Cats will play back-to-back games on the road at Tennessee on March 2 and at Ole Miss on March 5, before wrapping up regular-season action at home against Florida on March 9.
The SEC Tournament is slated to return to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, beginning March 13 with a champion being crowned on March 17.
UK's nonconference schedule was announced earlier on Thursday, August 23. Seven of UK’s 13 non-league opponents in the upcoming season made a postseason tournament in 2018, five of which made the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats will play Southern Illinois on Nov. 9 to open the home season and then follow with four more home games as a part of the Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. The Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase games will be Nov. 14 vs. North Dakota, Nov. 18 vs. VMI, Nov. 21 vs. Winthrop and Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee State. The annual rivalry game vs. Louisville has been set for Dec. 29 at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville.
Kentucky’s other previously announced nonconference opponents include Monmouth (Nov. 28 in Rupp Arena), UNCG (Dec. 1 in Rupp Arena), Seton Hall (Dec. 8 in Madison Square Garden in the Citi Hoops Classic) and Utah (Dec. 15 in Rupp Arena).
Complete television information and tip times will be announced at a later date.
UK also has television designations and tip times for its four preseason exhibition events. Big Blue Madness (Oct. 12), the Blue-White Game (Oct. 21), and the exhibition games vs. Transylvania (Oct. 26) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Nov. 2) are all set for 7 p.m. starts on the SEC Network.
Combined with the league schedule, the Wildcats will face 16 teams that played in the postseason in 2018, including 12 in the NCAA Tournament. UK’s competition combined to go 526-356 (.596) last season.
It’s a challenging schedule for a team many are predicting to be in the top three in the preseason rankings. Calipari and his staff, as they do every season, have constructed a schedule to prepare the team for postseason play.
“This could be the most difficult schedule we’ve played in my time here,” Calipari said. “The only teams we left off were the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. I will say this: For as tough as our schedule is going to be, I believe we have the type of team and kids to play it. Our goal in creating a schedule every season is to test our team while creating opportunities to learn and grow. This one will have more than its fair share of challenges, but my hope is that be season’s end, as we enter the tournament, we are prepared to play anyone and face anything a team tries to throw at us.”
Kentucky will meet that schedule head on with what looks to be a solid blend of talent and experience. The Wildcats welcome back PJ Washington, UK’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder from a season ago, Quade Green, the Wildcats’ second-leading assist man, and Nick Richards, who started every game in 2017-18. To replace the losses of Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jarred Vanderbilt, Hamdiou Diallo and Wenyen Gabriel, all of whom have signed NBA contracts, Calipari has brought in another top-ranked recruiting class, which showcased its talent during UK’s 4-0 foreign exhibition tour in the Bahamas.
The league is coming off a banner season in 2017-18. A record eight SEC teams participated in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and the conference defeated the Big 12 6-4 in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Four league teams are in ESPN.com’s way-too-early top-25 rankings and five are in the CBS Sports way-too-early rankings.
All told, 20 of ESPN.com’s Top 100 recruits having signed with SEC schools. The SEC boasts six of ESPN.com’s Top 25 in-coming recruiting classes.
Kentucky’s three-year run of SEC regular-season championships came to an end last season, but the SEC Tournament streak marched on. UK won its fourth straight league tourney title and sixth overall in nine seasons under John Calipari.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught