John Calipari has yet to lose a home game as Kentucky’s head coach, and Tuesday’s release of the Wildcats’ non-conference home schedule suggests that he’s looking to keep it that way. Since Coach Cal became the Kentucky coach prior to the 2009-10 season, his team is 51-0 in Rupp Arena – the only team in the country not to have lost at home during that period. It’s a special distinction to have the nation’s most dominant home court, but do we need to keep praising the pristine record when his team is scheduling cupcakes specifically to uphold the winning streak? Not only has Calipari publicly clamored to avoid difficult road games against a resurgent program such as Indiana, but he’s also now starving the Big Blue Nation of any meaningful non-conference home competition. It’s no secret that the coach’s bottom line is to give his team the best chance at a #1 NCAA Tournament seed, but an undefeated home record won’t seem as special if it’s extended without much in the way of legitimate resistance. A home game or two against an elite non-conference foe wouldn’t hurt the bottom line and would also give UK fans a deserving treat, but they’ll have to wait at least another year before that happens.
UK’s schedule includes snooze-fests against opponents like Lafayette, Samford, Lipscomb, and Eastern Michigan, all of which finished with sub-.500 records last season in poor conferences. These teams have no chance to give the Wildcats a contest on any floor, let alone at home (remember: Billy Gillispie now coaches at Texas Tech). The same goes for the Portland Pilots of the WCC, they of a 7-24 overall record last season. Morehead State loses three starters from an 18-15 team, so don’t expect the Eagles to put up any kind of fight, either. Long Island? The Blackbirds made the NCAA Tournament last year – but as a #16-seed after winning the NEC, a conference ranked 24th in RPI. Marshall showcases a talented player in DeAndre Kane but not much else with a team that finished 9-7 in Conference USA last season. That leaves Baylor – the squad that UK defeated handily in last year’s Elite Eight and the one team that can at least provide a watchable contest. Still, the Bears lost three forwards to the NBA Draft this year and will struggle to replace that size next season. It’ll be a surprise if Baylor is less than a double-digit underdog in Rupp Arena against the defending National Champions.