- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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I know, I know.
More Kentucky hype. Enough is enough already, right?
Well ... no.
John Calipari has signed five of the top-9 prospects in America (Julius Randle, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young), according to RecruitingNation. And Marcus Lee is one of six McDonald’s All-Americans in that class. Plus, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein will return.
Yes, Kentucky will be the No. 1 team in America once preseason rankings are released in the coming months. I don’t understand any arguments against that.
But, we won’t have to wait too long to see if these Wildcats will justify the preseason buzz.
On Wednesday afternoon, the school released its nonconference schedule through its Twitter feed.
John Calipari teased the slate with this tweet: “It's once again an elite schedule, but that's the standard here. It looks like we'll play several top teams.”
That’s no overstatement.
Here are the highlights (Yes, we knew about some of these games months ago):
Kentucky vs. Michigan State (Chicago), Nov. 12: Whoa. So, we might see the top two squads in the country compete against one another in the State Farm Champions Classic in Chicago, huh? We know what Kentucky has. But the Spartans are going to be a force, too. With Adreian Payne and Gary Harris returning, Tom Izzo has a team with Final Four potential. How will the Big Ten contenders handle this young Kentucky crew that’s packed with NBA talent? We’ll see.
Kentucky vs. Robert Morris (Lexington), Nov. 17: The Wildcats clearly want payback for last year’s embarrassing NIT loss. The Wildcats commenced last season with a national ranking. They ended last season with a first-round NIT loss against Robert Morris. It was a fitting conclusion for last year’s disaster. But this is not last year’s team. Pay attention to the pregame buzz. Calipari and Co. will say that this is “just another game.” And then they’ll go out there and try to beat the Colonials by 50.
Kentucky vs. Baylor (Arlington), Dec. 6: I’ve been pumped about this one since it was announced last year. It will be held at Cowboys Stadium. That helps. Projections for Baylor changed recently when both Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin announced that they will return for another season. That makes this matchup more intriguing. The venue has fueled most of the hype. But Kentucky should be on upset alert entering this matchup.
Kentucky at North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Dec. 14: Wiggins could be a factor in this matchup. The Canadian standout could choose either school. But even if he doesn’t, this is still a high-profile battle. Last season, the Tar Heels failed to achieve the results that the program has historically produced under Roy Williams. They had matchup problems throughout the season because they didn’t have the inside-outside balance they’ll possess in 2013-14. But incoming freshmen Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks should give Williams such much-needed size and enhance their chances of defeating the Wildcats. And Chapel Hill will be on fire with anticipation for this game.
Kentucky vs. Louisville (Lexington), Dec. 28: You don’t really need an introduction for this one. We all know about the rivalry. But right now, the Cardinals are kings. They’re the national champs. And they’re returning some of the key players who fueled that title run. But the game returns to Lexington in 2013-14. The Wildcats just weren’t on Louisville’s level last season. This, however, should be a more competitive matchup than last season’s meeting. And again, we’re talking about a pair of squads that might be ranked first and second in the preseason rankings. Get your popcorn ready.