UVU basketball coach Mark Pope announced a game lineup for the 2017–18 season that he is calling the “toughest 24 hours in college basketball history.”
Pope and his team will open the 2017–18 season by traveling to Lexington, Kentucky for a game against SEC basketball powerhouse Kentucky on Nov. 10 at Rupp Arena. Then the Wolverines continue their road trip the next day for a game against 2017 ACC Tournament Champion Duke, which will take place on Nov. 11 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“This is what college basketball is supposed to be,” Pope said in a press release. “We couldn’t be more excited to go out and play two of the best teams in the entire country in a 24-hour period. Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be at the end of the season. We had great success with that last year and part of doing that is putting together the hardest non-conference schedule we can and we’ve accomplished that.”
Pope, who played for Kentucky and helped the Wildcats to a national title in 1996 under head coach Rick Pitino, leads the Wolverines to their first game against the Wildcats in the program’s history.
This past season Kentucky lost to North Carolina, the eventual winners of the NCAA Tournament, in the Elite Eight round. With an overall 32-6 record, the Wildcasts finished 5th in the final USA Today Coaches Poll. In total, Kentucky has made 15 Final Four appearances and eight national titles, including a championship under current head coach John Calipari in 2012.
“This is what college basketball is supposed to be. We couldn’t be more excited to go out and play two of the best teams in the entire country in a 24-hour period.” — Mark Pope, UVU head basketball coach
As with Pope, the Duke game is a homecoming for UVU assistant coach Chris Burgess, who played for Coach Mike Krzyzewski (known throughout the basketball community as Coach K) and the Blue Devils for two seasons from 1997-99.
Duke’s 2016–17 season included a 28–9 record, an ACC Tournament Championship title and the program’s 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Duke lost in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament to South Carolina. This will also mark UVU’s first ever matchup against the Blue Devils.
Kentucky and Duke own a combined 13 NCAA men’s basketball national titles.
The Wolverines finished the 2016–17 season with a 17–17 overall record and a run to the Final Four of the College Basketball Invitational.
Eight players will return to UVU for the 2017–18 season, including leading scorer Conner Toolson and WAC All-Defensive team honoree Isaac Neilson. UVU also adds four new players, including Oklahoma transfer Akolda Manyang, Jacksonville College transfer Benjamin Nakwaasah, and BYU transfers Jake Toolson and Cory Calvert.