Let's Talk Non-Conference

Matthew Haysover 9 years


Aritcle written by:Matthew HaysMatthew Hays
So the Indiana series is kaput for a long while or a little while. Regardless, the Hoosiers are off the schedule and will have to settle for their rigorous gauntlet of Big Ten foes. Hey, that's fine. We'll persevere without having to go to Assembly Hall and have our lives threatened again. While it is disappointing, the positive spin on it is that we have an opportunity now to branch out and maybe play some non-conference opponents who we haven't had a chance to play in a while. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference slate, there naturally becomes less wiggle room to schedule marquee out-of-conference foes. Plus, John Calipari has his idea in place of what he wants the pre-SEC games to look like and I certainly am not going to question his judgement. However, games like the one this year against Maryland and the ones last year against Kansas, this year against Duke and next year against Michigan State provide opportunities for the team to challenge foes outside the spectrum of the traditional rivalry and yet still generate interest from the hometown fans and a national audience. If we really wanted to stick it to Indiana we could schedule a game with Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium. I know that doesn't scream the excitement that either IU game provided last season, but it would annoy that fanbase and the school's administration to no end. Outside of Kentucky-Louisville, I don't know if there's an instate rivalry with more vitriol than that which exists between those two teams. This would be the ultimate eff you to Tom Crean and an athletic department who didn't want to bus 7,500 students to Indianapolis. Somehow, I think Purdue kids could find their way there. In a similar vein, the rekindling of the old school Notre Dame rivalry would be another way to stick it to Indiana. Wouldn't you love to hear Digger Phelps give an opinion on that game? Another option that really should be explored is a game with Ohio State or Cincinnati. The Buckeye State is ripe for picking and a matchup with either one of these teams could introduce a new form of hatred to the average Kentucky fan. Just look at the Reds game. For a reason inexplicable to me, college basketball fans in Ohio hate the Wildcats. It's sad and funny at the same time because I don't think I could muster up enough caring to register any sort of emotion for or against either one of those teams. Ohio State has been very successful under Thad Matta in recent years and Cincinnati has been participating in MMA-style postgame handshakes which makes me think that both teams need to be put in their place. No one could do that better than the Cats. One that may be a bit more difficult to organize but I think could be really cool is a cross country conflict with UCLA. Ben Howland seems to have the Bruins poised for a dynamite season. Of course while the prospect of an annual rivalry only remains interesting if he can continue to bring in top recruits, the matchup between the two teams with the most championships is an intriguing one. Plus, a yearly meeting with Kentucky may help UCLA boost its recently tarnished profile. Put it in the spotlight against a perennial powerhouse and let's see what comes of it. While it's a lot of fun to make fun of the lackluster play in the PAC-12, it's better for the sport if the historically successful teams are good. We should help Shabazz and company out. Determining the success of a non-conference matchup can usually be done through three questions: 1) Are they good? 2) Were they ever good? 3) Are they close by? The best matchup would provided us with three yes's, but even with just one affirmative the game will garner attention and excite the fanbases. When Kentucky looks for future foes, these questions certainly need to be raised because as loyal fans we deserve to have some fun during the regular season. We can't just save the curbstomping of tradition rivals for the tournament. Who would you like to see UK suit up against outside of their SEC opponents in the coming years and do you think a neutral site or a home-and-home would be better suited for the game?

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