While schools can’t pick who they play in-conference, they get the choice out of conference (and sometimes they don’t, Indiana…). Today, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan released his top 10 non-conference basketball schedules, in which he ranks the Wildcat’s slate against the likes of Michigan State (Nov. 12), North Carolina (Dec. 14), and Louisville (Dec. 28) along with Baylor (Dec. 6), Providence (Dec. 1), and Boise State (Dec. 10) #7 overall.
Here’s the full list.
10) NORTH CAROLINA
Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff (Nov. 23-24), at Michigan State (Dec. 4), Kentucky (Dec. 14)
Next-toughest: Texas (Dec. 18)
The rest: Oakland (Nov. 8), Holy Cross (Nov. 15), Belmont (Nov. 17), at UAB (Dec. 1), UNC Greensboro (Dec. 7), Davidson (Dec. 21), Northern Kentucky (Dec. 27), UNC Wilmington (Dec. 31)
Toughest: vs. Baylor (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Harvard (Nov. 24), Kansas (Dec. 7), vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: Wyoming (Nov. 13), at Colorado State (Dec. 3), Georgia (Dec. 28)
The rest: UT Martin (Nov. 10), Jackson State (Nov. 16), Arkansas State (Nov. 18), UCSB (Nov. 21), at Air Force (Nov. 30), Elon (Dec. 13)
Toughest: at Wisconsin (Nov. 12), at UConn (Dec. 2), Kansas (Dec. 10), Memphis (Dec. 17)
Next-toughest: Florida State (Nov. 29)
The rest: North Florida (Nov. 8), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 16), Southern (Nov. 18), Middle Tennessee (Nov. 21), at Jacksonville (Nov. 25), Savannah State (Dec. 9), Fresno State (Dec. 21), Richmond (Jan. 4)
Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at North Carolina (Dec. 14), Louisville (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Baylor (Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas), vs. Providence (Dec. 1 in Brooklyn), Boise State (Dec. 10)
The rest: UNC Asheville (Nov. 8), Northern Kentucky (Nov. 10), Robert Morris (Nov. 17), Texas-Arlington (Nov. 19), Cleveland State (Nov. 25), Eastern Michigan (Nov. 27), Belmont (Dec. 21)
John Calipari’s skill at assembling and unleashing brilliant young ensembles will meet its toughest test this season, as his certifiably insane freshman class — which, by way of reminder, boasts five of the top nine, and six of the top 25, players in the 2013 class — will have exactly two tuneups (UNC Asheville and Northern Kentucky) before facing Tom Izzo’s vastly more experienced national title contender at the Champions Classic on Nov. 12. The Wildcats also have to travel to UNC, and to Jerryworld for Calipari’s much-touted “event” versus Baylor. But by far the biggest game on UK’s schedule — and the biggest game of the season, period — against hated rival and defending national champion Louisville, comes in the comfy old confines of Rupp Arena.
Toughest: at San Diego State (Nov. 14), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29 in New York), at Michigan (Dec. 14)
Next-toughest: UNLV (Dec. 7)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 8), Long Beach State (Nov. 11), New Mexico State (Dec. 11), Southern (Dec. 19), Northern Arizona (Dec. 23)
Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24), at Duke (Dec. 3), Arizona (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: at Iowa State (Nov. 17), vs. Stanford (Dec. 21 in Brooklyn)
The rest: UMass Lowell (Nov. 8), South Carolina State (Nov. 12), Coppin State (Nov. 29), Houston Baptist (Dec. 7), Holy Cross (Dec. 28)
Toughest: vs. Kansas (Nov. 12 in Chicago), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29), Michigan (Dec. 3), vs. UCLA (Dec. 19 in New York City)
Next-toughest: Davidson (Nov. 8)
The rest: Florida Atlantic (Nov. 15), UNC Asheville (Nov. 18), East Carolina/Norfolk State (Nov. 19), Vermont (Nov. 24), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 16), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 28), Elon (Dec. 31)
Toughest: vs. Oregon (Nov. 8 in South Korea), at Kansas (Dec. 21), vs. Michigan State (Feb. 1 in New York)
Next-toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24)
The rest: Wright State (Nov. 13), Lipscomb (Nov. 30), High Point (Dec. 5), Colgate (Dec. 7), Elon (Dec. 17), Florida International (Dec. 28)
Toughest: at Oklahoma State (Nov. 19), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando, Fla.), vs. Florida (Dec. 17 in New York), Gonzaga (Feb. 8)
The rest: Austin Peay (Nov. 14), Nicholls State (Nov. 23), Northwestern State (Dec. 7), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 13), Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 21), Jackson State (Dec. 28)
Toughest: vs. Duke (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at Colorado (Dec. 7), at Florida (Dec. 10), New Mexico (Dec. 14), Georgetown (Dec. 21), San Diego State (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Iona (Nov. 19), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in Nassau, Bahamas)
The rest: Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 8), Towson (Nov. 22), Toledo (Dec. 30)
Personally, I agree with Brennan, but would likely slot the Wildcats ahead of the Western Wildcats of Arizona, placing them at #6 overall.
Interesting to see that moving to the new American Athletic Conference, the Cardinals failed to make the list, but with the likes of College of Charleston, Hofstra, Cornell, Hartford, Fairfield, Southern Miss, Missouri Kansas City, Louisiana Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Missouri State, Florida International… and THEN Kentucky…. you don’t make many list for quality games.