A trip to the Bahamas, a non-conference slate loaded with big-time opponents and a stacked Southeastern Conference should provide plenty of excitement for a 2022-23 Kentucky basketball season that is still a few months away from its official start.
And the Wildcats’ schedule for the upcoming campaign is still a work in progress.
There is quite a bit that we do already know about UK’s lineup of games, however, and John Calipari’s 14th season as the program’s head coach will be packed with premier opponents and the annual sky-high expectations.
Here’s a look at how things stand.
UK’s run-up to the season will be a little busier than usual, thanks to the eleven-every-four-years visit to the Bahamas next month, a chance for Kentucky fans to get a sneak peek at the Cats.
The Bahamas Trip: UK will play four games at the Baha Mar Convention Center on Aug. 10-14, and the matchups are set: Aug 10 vs. the Dominican Republic U22 national team; Aug 11vs. Monterrey Tech (Mexico); Aug 13vs. Carleton University (Canada); and Aug. 14vs. the Bahamas national team. Times and TV info are still being finalized — with an official announcement expected later this week — but all four games will be televised and the first three games will be in the evening, with the final game Sunday taking place in the early afternoon.
Big Blue Madness: Calipari tweeted Monday that “unless there is some sort of road block” the Madness campout will return this fall for the first time since 2019. The Herald-Leader was told this week that details on the time and location for that event are still being worked out. The exact date for Madness has not been announced, but it will be on a Friday night in mid-October. Expect the annual Blue-White scrimmage to take place the following week.
UK’s non-conference schedule
So far, the only games that Kentucky has officially announced are the matchups with Michigan State, Michigan, UCLA and Kansas, but others have been confirmed. (A game against Notre Dame is currently on the UK schedule, but that one will not be happening this season). Expect more announcements with new game dates to trickle out in the coming weeks.
For now, here’s the non-conference slate …
Nov. 15vs. Michigan State in Indianapolis: The Champions Classic returns to Indy, and the annual showcase will take place a week later than usual so as not to conflict with Election Day on Nov. 8. Kentucky will play the Spartans, who are No. 25 in the latest college basketball preseason rankings from CBS Sports. Duke and Kansas will play in the other game.
Because of the later-than-usual date of the Champions Classic this year, it will not serve as the season opener. The Herald-Leader was told that the UK will play at least one regular-season game before the matchup with Michigan State, so stay tuned for that announcement. Tickets for the Champions Classic are not yet on sale, but fans can sign up for alerts at ESPNEvents.com.
Nov. 18vs. North Florida: This one isn’t official, but it’s happening. Kentucky defeated North Florida 86-52 in Rupp Arena last November, and the Ospreys ended up with an 11-20 record and a 7-9 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Nov. 29vs. bellarmine: The Cats and the Knights meet for the first time. Bellarmine won the Atlantic Sun Tournament last season but was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament since the program is still transitioning to Division I status. Scotty Davenport’s bunch has been impressive so far, and they’re clearly not afraid of competition. Bellarmine’s non-conference schedule also includes trips to U of L, Clemson, Duke and UCLA (with that game in Los Angeles coming just two days before the Knights play in Rupp).
Dec. 4 vs. Michigan in London: The international trip that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is back on, and tickets for the event in England are already on sale. This will be just the third meeting between Kentucky and Michigan in the past 50 years, with the Cats winning an Elite Eight game in 2014 and the Wolverines taking a Final Four game in 1993. Michigan is No. 19 in the preseason rankings from CBS Sports .
Dec 17vs. UCLA in New York: The CBS Sports Classic heads to Madison Square Garden, which should be home to a marquee matchup. Kentucky is No. 4 in the CBS Sports preseason rankings, while UCLA is No. 10 on that list and projected as a 2 seed in the early Bracketology from ESPN.
Dec 31vs. louisville: The tip-off time and TV info is TBA, but the Cats and Cards will battle in Rupp Arena on New Year’s Eve. It’ll be the return to Rupp for longtime UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, who is entering his first season in charge of Louisville’s program. U of L is not projected as an NCAA Tournament team this season, but this will obviously be a spectacle no matter what the Vegas spread says.
Jan 28: vs. Kansas: Kentucky gets a home game for the latest installment of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, and the Cats will welcome the reigning NCAA champions to Rupp after traveling to Lawrence — and beating Kansas by 18 points — last season. The Jayhawks are No. 8 in the preseason CBS rankings.
What else? Obviously, there will be a few more games added to this non-conference schedule. Expect those plans to be finalized and announced in the next few weeks. The Herald-Leader was told this week that no additional road or neutral-site games are expected for the 2022-23 season. That means the first trip on the Southeastern Conference slate will serve as UK’s first true road game of the season.
Cats in the SEC
The matchups for the 2022-23 SEC basketball season have been announced, though the actual dates for these games are typically not revealed until mid-September. The league and its TV partners will work out who plays when. In the meantime, here are UK’s matchups …
SEC home games: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
The CBS Top 25 rankings for 2022-23 include five SEC teams other than Kentucky, and the Cats will get to play four of those in Rupp Arena this season. Those teams are Arkansas (No. 6), Tennessee (No. 9), Auburn (No. 13) and Texas A&M (No. 18). (ESPN’s Bracketology also projects Florida as a 10 seed, giving the league seven NCAA Tournament bids).
SEC road games: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Alabama is No. 21 in the CBS rankings, with Arkansas and Tennessee looking like the two other toughest road games on the SEC slate for the Cats this season.
The 2022-23 postseason
And looking ahead to March …
SEC Tournament: The league tournament returns to Nashville this season, with the dates set for March 8-12. This will be the first of eight consecutive years that the SEC Tournament is slated to be played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
NCAA Tournament: The best path for Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament would include stops in Columbus, Ohio, for the first two rounds, Louisville for the regional, and then the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. The eight opening-round sites for the 2023 tournament are Columbus, Birmingham, Greensboro, Orlando, Albany, Des Moines, Denver and Sacramento. The regional sites will be Madison Square Garden in New York (East), the Yum Center in Louisville (South), the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City (Midwest) and the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (West). The Final Four in Houston will be played April 1 and 3.
Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 12.