During last year’s non-conference schedule, the Hokies played just four major conference teams, with only one of those qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Two years ago, many cited the Hokies’ weak strength of schedule as a reason to leave them out of the big dance.
Clearly, something needed to change.
Virginia Tech announced the men’s basketball team would travel to Rupp Arena on Dec. 16 to take on Kentucky, one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.
Kentucky reached the Elite Eight of this year’s NCAA tournament where they lost to eventual champions North Carolina. The Hokies and Wildcats have met just five times in school history, with the last meeting happening in 1996. Kentucky leads the overall series 3-1. The last time the teams faced each other in Kentucky, Virginia Tech was victorious - although that was back in 1962.
From the press release:
“Scheduling has become as time consuming and intricate as recruiting,” Williams said. “Exempt events, Power 5 conference challenges, home/home series coupled with our academic calendar, it all becomes a big puzzle to try and fit together. Coach Reynolds, along with Mr. Gabbard's help, have continued to work incredibly hard to find ways to help our program take the next right step in our desired growth. Like all coaches, you want your non-conference schedule to help prepare you for the best league in the country, and competing against a Hall of Fame coach at one of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball will aid in that preparation. It was the piece of this year's puzzle, and to finish it with a Top 5 team in Kentucky, we are grateful.”
Clearly, Williams understood the need to improve the non-conference schedule. Playing a blue-blood like Kentucky is a step in the right direction, even if it is just a one year deal. This is a team that trots out one of the most talented lineups in college basketball, year after year.
The Hokies and Wildcats will likely be ranked in the AP Top 25 when this matchup happens, meaning this should be a great game as long as the Hokies progress in year four of Buzz Williams’ program in Blacksburg. This game should also serve as a barometer for Virginia Tech as they approach their ACC schedule at the beginning of 2018.
The Hokies are slated to play at Kentucky and at Ole Miss as part of their non-conference schedule for the 2017-18 season.