LEXINGTON – Seeking their second straight regular-season Southeastern Conference championship, the University of Kentucky Wildcats learned their 2016 league schedule Wednesday night with the unveiling of the SEC slate on the SEC Network.
Kentucky will play all 13 SEC teams at least once during league play in addition to rematches with Alabama, Florida, LSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in 2016. All told, UK will play 18 conference games (nine in Rupp Arena and nine on the road) from early January to early March, capped off with the annual SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., March 9-13.
The SEC is expected to be one of the best conferences in the nation in 2015-16 with six All-SEC players and 14 of the league’s top 25 scorers returning to a conference that sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15.
UK will hit the road early and often to start league play with four of its first six SEC games away from the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. After tipping off the SEC schedule in Rupp Arena against Ole Miss on Jan. 2, UK will visit LSU on Jan. 5, Alabama on Jan. 9, Auburn on Jan. 16 and Arkansas on Jan. 21. A home game against Mississippi State on Jan. 12 breaks up the early-season travel.
The Wildcats will return home for back-to-back homes games against Vanderbilt (Jan. 23) and Missouri (Jan. 27) before a break in the conference schedule to play at Kansas in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. That trip to Lawrence, Kan., on Jan. 30 will be UK’s first trip to Allen Fieldhouse since 2006 and just its second since the 1989-90 season. It’s also the first time Kentucky will experience a break in conference play since the 2004-05 season.
After the Kansas game, Kentucky will resume SEC play with the first of two games vs. Tennessee. The first meeting will take place in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 2. It’s the first time UK will play Tennessee twice in a season since the 2012-13 season.
Florida, under the direction of new head coach Mike White, will visit Rupp Arena on Feb. 6, followed by a home game with Georgia on Feb. 9.
At that point, UK will alternate home and away games for the remainder of February. The Wildcats will travel to South Carolina on Feb. 13, host Tennessee Feb. 18, visit Texas A&M for the second consecutive season on Feb. 20, host new head coach Avery Johnson and Alabama on Feb. 23, and then wrap up the month with a date at Vanderbilt on Feb. 27.
Conference play will conclude with a trip to Florida on March 1 and the season’s final home game on March 5 vs. LSU.
In addition to the conference schedule, UK has also confirmed times and TV networks for several of its nonconference games, the dates of which were announced in May: Nov. 17 vs. Duke (United Center, Chicago) – ESPN at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 27 vs. South Florida (American Airlines Arena, Miami) – ESPN at 5 p.m.; Nov. 30 vs. Illinois State (Rupp Arena) – ESPN2 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 3 at UCLA (Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles) – ESPN at 9 p.m.; Dec. 9 vs. Eastern Kentucky (Rupp Arena) – ESPN2 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 12 vs. Arizona State (Rupp Arena) – ESPN at 3:15 p.m.; Dec. 19 vs. Ohio State (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.) – CBS at 3:30 p.m.; Dec. 26 vs. Louisville (Rupp Arena) – CBS at noon.
Combined with the conference schedule, UK already has 26 regular-season games scheduled to appear on either ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, CBS or the SEC Network. That does not include TV designations for five other nonconference games, which will be released at a later time.
All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network) will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360, or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider. Each of the CBS Sports games will be streamed on CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports mobile app and mobile website.
Kentucky’s 2015-16 season will tip off in Rupp Arena on Oct. 16 at Big Blue Madness. The annual Blue-White Scrimmage will take place Oct. 27 in Rupp Arena.
Ottawa, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart’s alma mater, will serve as UK’s first exhibition opponent on Nov. 2 in Rupp Arena. The Wildcats’ final tune-up before the regular season will be Nov. 6 in Rupp Arena vs. Kentucky State.
Times and TV networks for Big Blue Madness, the Blue-White Scrimmage and the exhibition games will be announced at a later date.
UK’s regular season begins Nov. 13 in Rupp Arena vs. Albany, beginning a 13-game nonconference slate that features 10 games against teams that advanced to the postseason in 2014-15.