Kentucky basketball has a complete non-conference schedule for 2023 and it includes a wide range of tune-up games, even matchups, and even some games where the Wildcats will be underdogs.
Although dates are not finalized yet, the Wildcats will play a total of 13 games. Here are the teams Kentucky will face outside of SEC play:
- New Mexico State
- Texas A&M Commerce
- St. Joe’s
- Miami (Fla)
- North Carolina
- Illinois State
For not playing in an early-season tournament, that’s a very strong schedule for the Wildcats. Kansas, Miami, North Carolina, and Gonzaga should all be in play for NCAA Tournament berths in March. A few other teams will provide tests to the Wildcats at Rupp Arena.
While 10 of the 13 teams on their non-conference schedule made the Big Dance in 2023, this will be a new season full of different challenges. For Kentucky basketball, a few games stand out.
Yet again, the Wildcats and Jayhawks will meet in the Champions Classic. Any time the two blue bloods square off, it’s bound to be a good game full of some of the best talent you’ll ever see in a college basketball game. In previous Champions Classic matchups, Kentucky and Kansas are tied at 2-2. The Jayhawks have won the last two meetings, but the Wildcats won the first two, both by huge margins. This season will be a deciding factor, at least until the 2025 Champions Classic.
The Jayhawks are also set to be a preseason top-five team, and could even be ranked number one to start the season. Bill Self brings in another talented freshman class and also got top transfer Hunter Dickinson to come to Lawrence. That might sting a bit, considering Dickinson was once considering the Wildcats.
The Dickinson factor brings even more juice to a game that doesn’t need much of an intro. Chicago will be the place to be on Nov. 14.
Can you believe the Wildcats and Bulldogs have only played each other twice before? It’s an even series, with Gonzaga rolling past the Wildcats last year, 88-71. This year is all about payback for Kentucky basketball.
Both teams had very similar offseasons, losing a lot of talent, and not adding as much as usual. The Wildcats’ top transfer portal addition was big man Tre Mitchell. Gonzaga got Ryan Nembhard to come over from Creighton, and on a smaller note, Wyoming big man Graham Ike. However, the Bulldogs will be a very different team than last year.
Similarly, Kentucky lost Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, and a few other key pieces from last year’s squad. Both teams have a lot to prove.
Even better, this game won’t be played until February, right smack in the middle of SEC and WCC play. That’s a rare date for a non-conference game to be played and just adds to the intrigue of it.
While the Wildcats will play ACC heavyweights North Carolina and Louisville (historically), a Nov. 28 home game against the Miami Hurricanes might be the most entertaining.
Of course, Jim Larranaga’s bunch is coming off a trip to the Final 4, so Miami’s stock is very high heading into 2023.
The Hurricanes lose their top two scorers, Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, but Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier return, and should fill their shoes well. Most of last season’s role players are also back, and Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland should also help keep the Canes near the top of the ACC.
Kentucky basketball hasn’t played Miami since 2008, and I think that’s what makes this meeting so great. The Hurricanes are a much different program 15 years later. Also, John Calipari and Jim Larranaga weren’t the coaches of the Cats and the Canes back then, so the scene should be special. Plus, it’s arguably the top non-conference home game for Kentucky, in terms of opposing talent.