2012-13 nonconference slate a blend of neutral games, NCAA Tournament tests

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John Calipari made it a point of emphasis this offseason to build a schedule that includes nontraditional games, marquee opponents and a slate of NCAA Tournament-like experiences that will prepare his team for the postseason.

The 2012-13 nonconference slate, which was officially released by UK Athletics on Tuesday, includes all of the following.

With the addition of two more Southeastern Conference games this year, Kentucky will play a total of 13 nonconference games over a two-month span. The schedule includes nine games at Rupp Arena, two on the road and two neutral games against Maryland and Duke to open the season.

For the first time since the 2002-03 season, UK will begin its year away from the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. The Cats will help open the brand-new Barclay Center against Maryland on Nov. 9 in the Barclays Center Classic. Kentucky will stay on the road and play Duke for the first time since 2001 on Nov. 13 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Duke game is part of the Champions Classic, the second straight year UK has participated in the event.

Coach Cal’s team will open the home portion of its schedule Nov. 16 with three straight games as part of the Barclays Center Classic against Lafayette (Nov. 16), Morehead State (Nov. 21) and Long Island (Nov. 23). A trip to Notre Dame for the SEC/Big East Challenge on Nov. 29 will break up the home stand.

The Cats will return to Rupp Arena for five straight home games, beginning with a showdown against Baylor on Dec. 1. The game is part of a two-year deal that will conclude in 2013 when the Cats travel to Cowboys Stadium. UK defeated Baylor 82-70 last season in the NCAA Tournament to earn its second straight Final Four berth.

Following Baylor is Samford (Dec. 4), Portland (Dec. 8), Lipscomb (Dec. 15) and Marshall (Dec. 22).

Kentucky’s annual rivalry game with Louisville will take place Dec. 29 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. UK won both meetings last season, including a historic victory over the Cardinals in the Final Four.

UK concludes its nonconference schedule with Eastern Michigan on Jan. 2.

Prior to the regular season, the Cats will host a pair of exhibition games at Rupp Arena. The first will be Nov. 1 against Northwood (coached by Rollie Massimino), followed by Transylvania on Nov. 5. It’s the second straight year in-town Transy has played UK.

The season officially opens with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 12. The Blue-White Game is set for Oct. 24.

A by-the-numbers breakdown of the schedule is available below, but first a look at the full nonconference schedule:

2012-13 schedule

Date Opponent Location
Oct. 12 Big Blue Madness Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Oct. 24 Blue-White Game Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 1 Northwood Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 5 Transylvania Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 9* vs. Maryland* Barclays Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Nov. 13# vs. Duke# Georgia Dome (Atlanta)
Nov. 16* Lafayette (Pa.)* Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 21* Morehead State* Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 23* Long Island* Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 29 at Notre Dame Joyce Center (Sound Bend, Ind.)
Dec. 1 Baylor Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 4 Samford Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 8 Portland Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 15 Lipscomb Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 22 Marshall Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 29 at Louisville KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, Ky.)
Jan. 2 Eastern Michigan Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Home games are in BOLD
Exhibition games are in ITALICS
indicates Barclays Center Classic
# indicates Champions Classic

Earlier this offseason, Calipari outlined his philosophy on scheduling. His basic belief is to form a schedule that will prepare his players for the NCAA Tournament and put them in a position to win a championship.

For one, that includes more neutral-site games, which this year’s schedule has in games against Maryland and Duke, but it’s also a delicate balance of games that will toughen up his players without breaking them down before the rigors of the SEC. Calipari’s philosophy has always been to form a schedule that will bolster his team’s RPI, give his players the best chance to succeed and help his program obtain a favorable NCAA Tournament seed.

This year’s schedule features thirteen teams from 11 different leagues. Combined, the 13 schools posted a 2011-12 record of 248-187, a winning percentage of .570. Last season, their average RPI, which the NCAA takes into consideration when forming the 68-team NCAA bracket, was 126.8.

Five were NCAA Tournament teams in 2012, including one Elite Eight team (Baylor) and one Final Four squad (Louisville). Overall, six opponents were in postseason play.

UK played three of the opponents last year (Samford, Baylor and Louisville), including two (Baylor and Louisville) the Cats saw in the latter stages of their national championship run.

Two of the teams (Lafayette and Eastern Michigan) UK has never played before.

Schedule breakdown

Opponent 2011-12 record Postseason Final RPI Final AP ranking Series history Last meeting
Maryland 17-15 N/A 110 N/A UK leads 7-5 Maryland won 78-68 in 2002
Duke 27-7 NCAA third round 7 8 UK leads 11-8 Duke won 95-92 in 2001
Lafayette 13-18 N/A 197 N/A Never met First meeting
Morehead State 18-15 N/A 168 N/A 9-0 UK won 75-59 in 2009
Long Island 25-9 NCAA second round 82 N/A 2-1 UK won 63-62 in 1947
Notre Dame 22-12 NCAA second round 49 N/A UK leads 42-18 UK won 72-58 in 2010
Baylor 30-8 NCAA Elite Eight 8 9 UK leads 7-0 UK won 82-70 in 2012
Samford 11-19 N/A 267 N/A UK leads 1-0 UK won 82-50 in 2011
Portland 7-24 N/A 238 N/A UK leads 2-0 UK won 79-48 in 2010
Lipscomb 13-18 N/A 215 N/A UK leads 1-0 UK won 67-49 in 2005
Marshall 21-14 NIT first round 53 N/A UK leads 11-0 UK won 89-76 in 2003
Louisville 30-10 NCAA Final Four 10 17 UK leads 30-14 UK won 69-61 in 2012
Eastern Michigan 14-18 N/A 244 N/A Never met First meeting