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Screw The Neutral-Site Games, It’s Time To Go Home (And Home) Against Elite Competition

In addition to opening up NIL opportunities for student athletes, Governor Andy Beshear needs to sign an executive order promoting competitive and entertaining basketball at Rupp Arena.

I love the way Kentucky Basketball’s overall non-conference schedule is shaping up. With Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Kansas already on the menu, it’s a veritable blue-blooded feast for ravenous Wildcat fans hungry for meaningful wins.

Think about this: Kentucky spoiling the opening act of the Mike Krzyzewski farewell tour in Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic in New York (November 9), crushing Juwan Howard’s Maize and Blue on the road in Ann Arbor (December 4), stomping on Mike Brey’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish at a yet-to-be-determined neutral site (December 11), routing a Roy Williams-less North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic (December 18); and taking down cheating Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence in the Big 12/SEC Challenge (January 29).

Lord willing, I’ll be making all those road trips to watch the Wildcats battle their way back toward national supremacy. It’ll definitely be like hoops heaven for me—cheering wildly for the Blue and White from some of the most iconic venues in the sporting world. I’m eternally grateful and appreciative for those precious and unique opportunities.  

For that reason, I hate the way Kentucky Basketball’s HOME non-conference schedule is shaping up. If the addition of Albany and North Florida as potential opponents is any indication, it looks as if it’ll be another snoozer of a November and December for the Rupp Arena faithful.

Throughout his tenure as head coach at Kentucky, John Calipari has insisted on playing big-name opponents at neutral court sites. Although this strategy theoretically prepares his team for a successful postseason tournament run, it robs the Rupp Arena ticket holder of their hard-earned money. It’s outrageously expensive to travel outside of the commonwealth. Consequently, few fans are realistically able to make many of those trips and the neutral-site arenas are often hauntingly quiet.

Let’s face it, even Rupp Arena is only a great venue when the Wildcats are playing big-name opponents. When a blue blood’s on the court, there’s nothing like it. The atmosphere is electric from an hour before the opening tip until the final buzzer sounds. The arena takes on a life of its own—the cheerleaders, the band, the eRUPPtion zone all coalescing into a living, breathing entity smothering the opponent and willing the Cats to victory.

However, when Poop State comes a calling, Rupp Arena is deader than Elvis. I’ve often wondered how 20,000 people can be so silent at the same time. When the second half finally rolls around, you’re either asleep or planning your early-exit escape route. You feel cheated paying for inconvenient parking, bad food, seats in the rafters, and BORING basketball. The die-hard fans of BBN deserve better.

It’s time to bag the neutral-site games and go home-and-home with the other top-flight programs in the land. So what if you risk losing another game or two along the way. It’s not like the neutral-site strategy has been a slam dunk anyway. By adding a Villanova or a Duke or a Gonzaga (or even an Indiana) onto the home schedule, you’ll be finally giving the most important segment of your fan base what they signed up for in the first place.

The University of Kentucky and the city of Lexington have spent a fortune to give Rupp Arena a much-needed facelift. It’s time to show her off to the rest of the basketball world. Screw the neutral-court sites. The program with the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball needs to play at least three marquee non-conference opponents EVERY year on its own hallowed hardwood courts.

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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3 thoughts on “Screw The Neutral-Site Games, It’s Time To Go Home (And Home) Against Elite Competition

  1. I agree wholeheartedly!!!UK should never be afraid to play anyone, especially if we are considered “The Gold Standard”.

  2. That is ????% correct! Our non-conference home games are most certainly a snooze fest. Everything you said is so true, we should have people begging us to play in Rupp! I’m not certain, but surely they do right? We are UK how could it be difficult to fill a blockbuster home schedule? I’ll never understand how bringing a “nobody” into Rupp does ANYONE any good!? 9 out of 10 times I change the channel before the buzzer sounds when we are at home and you can here the birds chirping over the crowd, it’s just not entertaining! I love Kentucky Basketball but something needs to be done about this and a few other things! We need our hype back. We need to rise back to the BIG BLUE NATION!!!!
    Btw, not only did I agree with this article, I’ve thought the same for a few years now! Thank you sir!!

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