UK Men’s Basketball Unveils 2021-22 Nonconference Schedule

Regular season tips off Nov. 9 vs. Duke at Madison Square Garden

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky men’s basketball team will return to a traditional schedule in 2021-22 with the unveiling of the nonconference slate.

Beginning Nov. 9 at Madison Square Garden in New York vs. Duke in the Champions Classic, UK will play 13 nonconference games to go along with its soon-to-be-announced 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule.

The Wildcats’ nonconference schedule will feature nine games in Rupp Arena, two road trips and two neutral-site games. Bluebloods and traditional powerhouses form the backbone of the nonconference schedule with games vs. the Blue Devils and Ohio State in neutral-site matchups, road trips to Notre Dame and Kansas, and the annual rivalry game vs. Louisville, which is slated for Rupp Arena this season.

Kentucky will host Southern on Dec. 7 in the inaugural Unity Series, a five-year series that will feature annual games against schools from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which is made up of historically black colleges and universities, with educational and networking opportunities at UK and SWAC institutions leading up to the game.

The Southern game is one of three homecomings in the nonconference schedule. The Jaguars are coached by Sean Woods, a UK Athletics Hall of Famer and the program’s all-time leader in career assists per game. The Central Michigan game (Nov. 29) will see Tony Barbee come back after seven seasons at Kentucky in assistant roles. And Tubby Smith, a UK Athletics Hall of Famer who coached UK to the 1998 national title and 10 SEC titles (five regular season and five tournament), will return to Rupp Arena for the first time on the opposing bench when he brings his High Point team to town on Dec. 31.

The full nonconference schedule is as follows:

Oct. 15Big Blue MadnessRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Oct. 22Blue-White GameRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Oct. 29Kentucky WesleyanRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 5Miles CollegeRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 9vs. Duke (Champions Classic)Madison Square Garden (New York)
Nov. 12Robert Morris (The Kentucky Classic)Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 16Mount St. Mary’s (The Kentucky Classic)Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 19Ohio (The Kentucky Classic)Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 22AlbanyRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 26North FloridaRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Nov. 29Central MichiganRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 7Southern (Unity Series)Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 11at Notre DameJoyce Center (South Bend, Ind.)
Dec. 18vs. Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic)T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas)
Dec. 22LouisvilleRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Dec. 31High PointRupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)
Jan. 29at KansasAllen Fieldhouse (Lawrence, Kan.)

TV designations and tip times will be announced later.

Big Blue Madness, the official tipoff to the 2021-22 season, will return as an in-person event Oct. 15 in Rupp Arena. The Blue-White Game is slated for Oct. 22 in Rupp Arena with exhibition games vs. Kentucky Wesleyan on Oct. 29 and Miles College on Nov. 5.

Kentucky will tip off the regular season under arguably the brightest spotlight of any regular-season college basketball game when it takes on Duke on Nov. 9 in the Champions Classic. In a game rich with storylines, the stage (Madison Square Garden) and the backdrop (the beginning of Mike Krzyzewski’s final season) will make for must-see TV.

UK will then begin a run of six straight games at Rupp Arena for the remainder of November, the first three of which will be a part of the Kentucky Classic. The first regular-season home is Nov. 12 vs. Robert Morris, followed by Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 16 and Ohio on Nov. 19. The Bobcats went 17-8 last season and knocked off fourth-seeded Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Thanksgiving week will feature games vs. Albany on Nov. 22 and North Florida on Nov. 26. The Wildcats will close November by welcoming back Barbee and Central Michigan. 

December’s slate is loaded. On Dec. 7, UK begins the Unity Series with the first matchup vs. Southern. Beginning in 2021 and concluding in 2025, the games will seek to raise awareness of the missions of the HBCU and to raise funds to provide opportunities for students at their institutions.

Originally slated for a neutral-site game in the second year of the three-season deal with Notre Dame, the Wildcats will play in South Bend, Indiana, on Dec. 11after a heartbreaking loss to the Irish last season. The Wildcats nearly rallied from a 24-point deficit in the 2020 game in Rupp Arena. The three-year series will conclude with a neutral-site game in the 2022-23 season.

The CBS Sports Classic will head back to Las Vegas on Dec. 18 for a matchup with Ohio State. It is the third time the event will take place in T-Mobile Arena. Malik Monk scored a UK freshman record 47 points in the first game in 2017 vs. North Carolina but the Wildcats lost to top-ranked Ohio State in 2019.

The annual rivalry game vs. Louisville returns to Lexington on Dec. 22. Although the Cardinals ended UK’s three-game winning streak last season, the Wildcats own a 37-17 series advantage and an 11-3 edge under John Calipari (including 6-0 in Rupp Arena under Calipari).

Kentucky will play one league game before the High Point matchup on Dec. 31. The remaining out-of-conference matchup, at Kansas on Jan. 29 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, will take place in the middle of the league slate. It will mark the sixth straight season the two winningest college basketball programs will face one another. UK owns the series edge 23-10 but KU has won four of the last five matchups.

The nonconference schedule will give way to the typically difficult SEC slate. The league schedule has not been announced yet, but UK will play its permanent home-and-away opponents of Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt twice, plus host and visit Alabama and LSU. The Wildcats will face the remaining eight SEC opponents once. 

The league has earned 21 berths in the last three NCAA Tournaments, tied for the second most in college basketball in that time period.             

Five of UK’s 13 nonconference opponents played in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, which does not include traditional powerhouses Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame, all of whom are expected to bounce back for the 2021-22 season. In the latest ESPN preseason poll – which the Wildcats make an appearance at No. 8 – three of Kentucky’s 2021-22 nonconference foes make an appearance, plus four league opponents.

Kentucky will take on a challenging schedule with a solid blend of talent and experience. UK’s 2021-22 roster features a sixth-year graduate, a fifth-year graduate, a redshirt junior, six juniors, a redshirt sophomore, two sophomores, and three highly touted four- and five-star freshmen. 

Calipari’s squad will return 42.1% of its minutes, 41.9% of its scoring, 39.0% of the rebounds, 42.4% of the assists and 60.6% of the 3-pointers from a season ago. For comparison, the only two Calipari-coached Kentucky teams that returned more minutes and more points (in terms of percentages) than the 2021-22 team is slated to return were the 2011-12 national championship squad and the 2014-15 Final Four team that started the season 38-0.

Adding the Wildcats’ four transfers to the equation, Kentucky’s current 2021-22 roster includes 13,385 minutes, 5,203 points, 1,917 rebounds, 1,132 assists and 543 total 3-pointers in college basketball production.

Season ticket renewals for the 2021-22 season are now available for all men’s basketball season ticket holders. The renewal deadline is Sept. 9.

Renewals are available online through each season ticket holder’s My UK Athletics Account. Printable invoices are also available online by visiting My UK Athletics Account for those who wish to complete their renewal by mail. Fans needing assistance with their online account are encouraged to contact the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818 (option 4) or send an email to

Fans interested in acquiring new tickets are encouraged to enter the men’s basketball season ticket lottery online. For more information on lower-level seating that is currently available with a K Fund pledge commitment, please reach out to the UK Athletics K Fund staff at (859) 257-6300.

While continuing to monitor the latest health and safety guidelines from local and national authorities, UK Athletics plans to operate venues at full capacity this season.

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