Fears confirmed, Rupp Arena schedule beyond weak

You knew it would be weak, but really this is beyond weak, actually.

Lafayette, Morehead State, Long Island, Samford, Portland, Lipscomb, Marshall, Eastern Michigan. More cupcakes than any local bakery.

Yes, Kentucky’s non-conference basketball schedule, announced this morning, includes Duke and Maryland on neutral floors and road games at Notre Dame and Louisville, but the Rupp Arena portion is deserving of a flagrant foul.

I know, I know, Baylor is coming to Rupp. The school that UK beat in the South Region final last year. Yet no one is going to get worked into a lather over Baylor, however, not when the Bears just lost Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy. Scott Drew has an excellent class returning, but the appeal of a UK-Baylor matchup at Rupp does not match the appeal of a UK- North Carolina or a (yes) UK-Indiana.

Especially when Indiana is likely to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the pre-season rankings. You may be tired of hearing that, but it’s true.

Kentucky fans will flock to Rupp regardless, of course. They always do. The Cats are coming off a national championship year. John Calipari has a tremendous recruiting class. Again. There will be a few good SEC games on the home schedule, we hope.

But the school did just announce another ticket increase, both in the required K-fund donations and individual tickets. And given this year’s guest list, you can’t help feeling that the fans who pack Rupp Arena deserve a little more respect.

Update: There is an apparent bug in the commenting software, so our good friend Mark Liptak sent this rebuttal along via e-mail:

Folks:

I guess I don’t understand the hoopla and uproar from some over the home / non-conference schedule.

A few things go through my mind about this.

1. Is the schedule any ‘worse’ than in past years? Not really. And remember starting next year, for the foreseeable future, every year either N.C. or Louisville will be a home game.

2. Considering UK plays Duke, Maryland, Louisville, Baylor and Notre Dame in non conference play that isn’t chopped liver is it? What do some people want? 10 games against top 20 opponents? I seriously doubt any “contending title” teams do that anywhere in the country.

3. Cal has made it clear time and time again, the priority is to get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (if possible the overall #1 seed). He’s been consistent with this. To do so you don’t over schedule, you try to grab as many wins as you can get while keeping a strong enough schedule to merit consideration for a top seed. He’s not the only coach in America doing this. Look at how coach K has scheduled over the years. NO COACH in his right mind puts together a killer non conference schedule unless they absolutely have to (i.e. a school like Gonzaga which was trying to build a national reputation or a school like Mississippi Valley State last year because they badly needed the money).

The bottom line is this.

Enjoy the 28-35 wins a season, enjoy the fact that UK is going deep into the tournament so far every year under Cal, enjoy the 8th National Championship and MOST OF ALL enjoy the fact that UK no longer has the bizarre and almost certifiably crazy Billy G. as the head coach or the easily distracted, mediocre recruiter Tubby Smith still around.

How soon fans forget the terrible losses to schools like Gardner-Webb, the 10 to 12 loss seasons and the early exits from the NCAA tournament.

Given what Cal has accomplished the past three seasons he shouldn’t be criticized for anything let alone doing what other coaches across America do on a regular basis.

Mark Liptak

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