Union, Ky. – When a wife or girlfriend says something is “fine” there is high probability things are not fine. At one of his satellite camps at Ryle High School John Calipari said the 2018-19 SEC conference schedule is “fine” but he has noticed a change,“This used to be everybody had to play everybody twice or in a six year cycle.”
With expansion and the elimination of east/west divisions the process of forming a conference basketball schedule has changed for the SEC. Prior to the 2015-16 season it was announced that Kentucky would have three permanent home-and-away opponents; Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. That means there are two rotating teams that also have home and away series with Kentucky to fill out the schedule. Next season those teams will be Mississippi State and Auburn.
Auburn shared the conference regular season title last season and is returning 6 of their 8 top scorers. The biggest loss is Mustapha Heron who transferred. But the Tigers are getting a big addition in Austin Wiley, who missed last season because of an NCAA eligibility issue. Also Bruce Pearl just got a contract extension, which should bring stability to a program which was involved in the FBI probe into basketball last year. Auburn is ranked in the top 10 in some preseason polls.
Mississippi State returns all six of their top scorers from last season, four of which tested the NBA waters before returning to school. Plus they have a coach who has been to multiple Final Fours in Ben Howland. This could be a big year for the Bulldogs and some have them ranked as a preseason top 25 team.
Calipari noticed which teams he will be facing multiple times next season, “Now all the sudden whoever the best teams are we’re playing (twice), which is fine. It is what it is.”
The chance to play top teams more often is a positive for an NCAA tournament resume but it could be tough for Kentucky who is often dealing with inexperience, “When you start putting these together I got to make sure, non-conference wise that we’re doing the right stuff, because this is a bear for young teams,” Calipari said.
This season Kentucky’s non-conference opponents include; Duke, North Carolina, Utah, Louisville and Kansas. That slate paired with a improving SEC would make for a tough schedule for anyone, we shall see if the Wildcats will in fact be fine.
Calipari on SEC conference schedule
Calipari on SEC Schedule, "Now all the sudden whoever the best teams are we're playing (twice), which is fine." pic.twitter.com/gtQ0cvjQk8
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) June 8, 2018