LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – A once annual college basketball rivalry is returning to the Kentucky men’s basketball schedule. UK has agreed to a three-year series with Notre Dame beginning with a home game in Rupp Area on Dec. 12 for the 2020-21 season. The series will also include a neutral-site event in 2021 and a roadgame in South Bend, Indiana, in 2022.
The teams will meet for a neutral-site game on Dec. 11, 2021 at a site yet to be determined. UK will travel to South Bend, Indiana, on Dec. 10, 2022. Game times and television designations for all three games will be announced at a later date.
“If our previous games are any indication, this is going to be a great series,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I can remember playing Notre Dame in 2010 in Freedom Hall and Ben Hansbrough going crazy in the first half and Terrence Jones willing us to victory in the second half. We went to South Bend a couple years later and that place was nuts. The football team was there and they thumped us. And then the game in 2015 in the Elite Eight was one of the best all-around games I’ve been a part of. Elite play from both teams.
“I’ve got a feeling these three games are going to provide some similar battles. Mike Brey is a terrific coach who always builds teams that are going to fight and give you everything they’ve got. I really like how our nonconference schedule is coming together for the next few seasons.”
The revival of this historic series was initiated by JMI Sports, who will be the promoter of the neutral site game in 2021. JMI Sports is the exclusive multi-media rights holder at Kentucky and shares comparable rights with Legends at Notre Dame.
The Wildcats and Irish have played in an on-again, off-again series for more than 80 years. UK leads the series by a 43-19 margin and won the last matchup between the two schools in an epic showdown in the NCAA Tournament for the right to move on to the Final Four in 2015. UK prevailed 68-66 thanks to late defensive heroics by Willie Cauley-Stein and clutch plays down the stretch by Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
Kentucky and Notre Dame have only met eight times in Lexington, Kentucky, with the Cats coming out on top in every meeting. UK leads the series 10-6 in South Bend, Indiana, but the Irish have won two straight in the series at home, including a 64-50 win in 2013.
The Wildcats currently have dates now set with nine opponents for the 2020-21 season.
· Kansas – Nov. 10 | United Center (Chicago) | Champions Classic
· Detroit Mercy – Nov. 13 | Rupp Arena | Bluegrass Showcase
· Hartford – Nov. 17 | Rupp Arena | Bluegrass Showcase
· Georgia State – Nov. 20 | Rupp Arena
· Richmond – Nov. 23 | Rupp Arena | Bluegrass Showcase
· Georgia Tech – Nov. 27 | State Farm Arena (Atlanta) | Holiday Hoopsgiving
· Cleveland State – Nov. 30 | Rupp Arena
· Notre Dame – Dec. 12 | Rupp Arena
· UCLA – Dec. 19 | TBA | CBS Sports Classic
Other nonconference matchups for this upcoming season will include the annual rivalry game vs. Louisville and the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. A date has not been finalized for the former and an opponent has not been determined for the latter.
The nonconference schedule will give way to the typically difficult Southeastern Conference 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 two additional league opponents. The Wildcats will face the remaining eight SEC opponents once.
The league has earned 15 berths in the last two NCAA Tournaments, the conference’s best two-year stretch. The SEC was slated for another impressive haul last season until the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the postseason.
Kentucky will take on that difficult schedule with what will be one of the most inexperienced rosters of the Calipari era. UK will be tasked with replacing 94% of its scoring from last season – most of the Calipari era – 92.4% of its minutes, 84.4% of its rebounds, 92.0% of its assists and 91.5% of its blocks.
The Wildcats are bidding farewell to eight of their top nine scorers from a season ago, including all five starters. The lone major returning contributor from last season will be sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., who averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in 31 appearances, including six starts.
Calipari and his staff have prepared for the losses – which includes five underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft – with the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruiting class and three key transfers.
UK’s current seven-man freshman class features six consensus five- and four-star prospects, including top-10 signees Brandon Boston and Terrence Clarke. The Wildcats also signed Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr, Creighton graduate transfer Davion Mintz and Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin.
Season ticket renewals for the 2020-21 season will be available in July. Fans interested in acquiring new tickets are encouraged to enter the men’s basketball season ticket lottery online. For more information on K Fund seating availability, please call 859-257-6300.