It’s that one elusive marque matchup that Kentucky basketball fans have been clamoring for and on Tuesday coach John Calipari and Gonzaga coach Mark Few gave fans something to salivate over for the next three months – announcing a home and home series starting this fall.
Kentucky athletics will be in for a dogfight weekend for sure as the football Wildcats host most likely a highly ranked Georgia team on the gridiron on November 19, and on Sunday coach Cal will have his team in Spokane, Washington to play one of the likely top-five ranked teams on the hardwood.
The announcement came as Calipari and his team were hosting a free and open-to-the-public practice with donations going to support the flood relief effort in eastern Kentucky. Calipari has leaked a big announcement was in store during the event and speculation a game with the Zags possibly in December between UK’s game in London on December 4 and against UCLA at the CBS Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden on December 17.
So the December 10 date is still open, and here is hoping another heavyweight and not a cupcake will make its way onto the UK schedule, but for now, we can love the early season battle. That follows the Kentucky basketball team opening the season in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis against Michigan State on November 15.
Playing in Spokane this year will actually favor the Cats at home next season. This year they have Kansas and Louisville coming to Rupp Arena. That means no real marquis games at home next year as of yet. Having the Zags come to Lexington in 2023 will give us that one to look forward to.
Calipari typically doesn’t like home and home setups like this instead preferring to match up in neutral sites.
During the open practice and telethon that raised over $2.4 million dollars, Gonzaga coach Few called into the telethon which was shown on the Rupp Arena video board and he and his buddy Cal delivered the news after Coach Cal had a little fun with Few who was sitting in a boat.
The exchange was priceless between the two after Few spoke to the players about the great work they were doing to organize the practice and raise money.
Calipari followed up with Few about the game possibility.
“This guy talks to me all the time and wants to schedule a game, but everything has to be on his terms. ….. Here’s the problem. You’re the No. 1 team in the country and we’ve got to go to you. Let me ask you this. Maybe this is crazy. Will you come back here the following year, or are you just saying it’s a one-game shot in Spokane?”
Few came back with a jovial and resounding response that “We will absolutely come back. We’ve never played in Rupp Arena and it would be awesome.”
The game this year will be played on the Zags home court the McCarthey Athletic Center that opened in 2004, the 6,000-seat arena, referred to as “The Kennel,” the Wildcats best be ready for an intimate but raucous environment.
The student section is referred to as the Kennel Club and is well known as one of the nation’s toughest home court advantages. The arena has been sold out for every men’s basketball game since the building opened.
Gonzaga isn’t afraid to take on the big boys and has built one of the winningest programs over the past decade by doing so. This season their non-conference schedule includes Michigan State, Baylor, Washington, Alabama, Texas, and Duke.
Kentucky basketball is the blue blood of the east with Calipari noting to Few how they have to go to London, New York, Indiana, and next week the Bahamas. Rarely unless they have to do the Cats go to the west coast.
Kentucky and Gonzaga have met only once before and that was the 2002 Maui Invitational for third place with the Tubby Smith-coached and No. 15 ranked Cats topping the No. 20 Bulldogs 80-72.
In that game Keith Bogans led the Cats with 18 points, Gerald Fitch 13 points, Jules Camarra had 12 points and 8 rebounds and Chuck Hayes had 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Big Blue Nation has been wanting and needing Calipari to schedule more of these games in Rupp Arena. This is a great scheduling move and maybe, just maybe he is showing more openness to change.