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Kentucky Challenging Themselves Early Next Season

Though Kentucky has yet to release their 2014-2015 men’s basketball schedule, pieces of that schedule were revealed yesterday. In addition to a game versus Kansas in the Champions Classic, UK’s participation in the CBS Sports Classic was confirmed on Wednesday; the ‘Cats will play UCLA in Chicago. And, ESPN announced that Kentucky would play Texas next season as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Myron Medcalf writes:

“Call your friends. Get your popcorn ready. This will be phenomenal. Well, at least it appears that way right now. When Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect in the 2014 ESPN 100, picked Texas, he transformed the Longhorns into a Big 12 title contender and potential national power. The Longhorns had a solid stable even before Turner’s decision. Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes helped the Longhorns orchestrate one of the most surprising runs to the NCAA tourney in the country last season, considering all the departures from the previous season’s team. It’s fitting that Texas’ ridiculous frontcourt will face the “Voltron” of college basketball frontcourts.”

Kentucky’s non-conference schedule appears to be loaded, with games against Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville, Texas, and Providence. But, that’s just how Calipari prefers it. Rob Dauster writes:

“Nobody in college basketball is better at putting together a non-conference schedule that Kentucky head coach John Calipari.

In a sport where it’s no[t] uncommon to see top 25 programs avoid playing a relevant opponent until conference play has started, Kentucky has been one of the standard-bearers when it comes to building a schedule in November and December.”

With so many players returning next season, Kentucky will be less dependent on incoming freshmen than at any time in John Calipari’s 6 seasons as head coach, which means it is possible none of those freshmen will have an instant impact, at least not in the way Kentucky fans are used to seeing. Kerry Miller, at Bleacher Report, writes:

“With all due respect to Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis, Karl Towns Jr. and Devin Booker, we have no idea how much of an immediate impact they’ll be able to have with all of the returning talent John Calipari has. The smart money is on Lyles starting at power forward and the other three aforementioned names coming off the bench, but it’s nearly impossible to forecast.”

Kenny Payne and John Robic both received nice bumps to their salary, and Payne’s increase means he’s making more than some head coaches do at other programs. But this is Kentucky, so what else should we expect. Matt Norlander writes:

“If any school was going to raise the bar on what to pay its assistants, you knew it would be Kentucky.

The school announced pay increases for John Calipari’s crew on Wednesday. The biggest bump? Assistant Kenny Payne, who now has a two-year contract that will net him $1 million.

Yes, an assistant inked to a million bucks — not including incentives. Welcome to major college basketball in 2014. This is Kentucky.”

Rival fans (and maybe even a few Kentucky fans) might laugh at Mitch Barnhart for giving Mark Stoops a contract extension at this point in time, but it makes a lot of sense. Stoops has excited the fan base and is recruiting on a higher level than UK fans have ever known. The wins will come. Tim Sullivan writes:

“Mark Stoops is a keeper. He is a coach who inspires faith amid failures, who has convinced skeptical fans and impressionable teen-agers that Kentucky football is The Next Big Thing, even in the wake of a 2-10 season.

This, friends, is a feat. This is the sort of salesmanship Professor Harold Hill performed in River City, except that Stoops actually knows his stuff and has registered no objections to the presence of pool tables. Solid, sincere and fanatical in his attention to recruiting targets, Stoops is a guy who seems to inspire investment based on projected growth, before he is able to convert perceived progress into real results.”

Tags: Kentucky Wildcats Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

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