NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL: Kentucky coming to town
12:00 pm, June 01, 2012
Area fans of Notre Dame men's basketball have an early non-conference home game worth getting worked up over this season.
As part of the second-annual 12-game Big East/SEC Challenge, defending national champion Kentucky visits Purcell Pavilion on Thursday, Nov. 29. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN and likely start at 9 p.m. Matchups were officially announced Friday.
"I'm thrilled about this matchup and the opportunity to play Kentucky," Irish coach Mike Brey said in a university press release. "These two schools have a long tradition of playing each other and we've been exploring options for renewing the rivalry. With all five of our starters returning next year, this is going to be a great early non-conference test for us.
"I'm excited that our fans will have the chance to be a part of such a powerful and meaningful game so early on in our season."
Kentucky, which rolled through the 2011-12 season with one loss, lost its top six players to the NBA draft this spring. Former Wildcat Anthony Davis, who left school after one season, is expected to be the top pick in this month's NBA draft.
Notre Dame, which returns its starting five from last season's team that finished 22-12, will be picked in the preseason top 25 and is one of three teams, along with Louisville and Syracuse, considered early favorites to challenge for the Big East championship.
The game marks the first time Notre Dame will play the defending NCAA national champion, other than a Big East school, in the regular season since a 1994 visit from North Carolina.
Kentucky's non-league schedule has been in the news of late after the school refused to renew a home-and-home series with Indiana. Wildcats coach John Calipari did not want to play the Hoosiers in Bloomington, and prefers the game be played at a neutral site.
Notre Dame and Kentucky last met Dec. 6, 2010 as part of the eight-team SEC/Big East Invitational. That game, won by Kentucky 72-58, was technically played at a "neutral" site - Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. - but there was little neutral about it. Most of the crowd was decked out in blue and white and Kentucky's home floor was shipped from Lexington to Louisville for the game.
It will be Kentucky's first visit to South Bend since the final game of the forgettable Billy Gillespie coaching era. Notre Dame beat Kentucky 77-67 on March 25, 2009 in the quarterfinals of the post-season National Invitation Tournament to advance to the Final Four in new York. Gillespie was fired two days later.
Kentucky has not played a regular-season game in South Bend since a 71-63 victory on Jan. 25, 2004. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 42-18 and have won 11 of the last 12. The Irish have not won consecutive home games against Kentucky since the 1940 and 1942 seasons.
Notre Dame's full schedule for the 2012-13 season, which also includes a game against Purdue in Indianapolis as part of the second-annual Crossroads Classic, likely will be finalized in late August or early September.