Less than a week after Vanderbilt released it non-conference schedule, men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings might want a do over.
Because, now, he knows the Southeastern Conference slate. And it begins with defending national champ Kentucky.
On Friday the league announced Vanderbilt’s 18-game schedule, expanded by two games due to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. The Commodores will play all 13 teams at least once, with two games each against Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and South Carolina.
“We have a very difficult schedule from top to bottom,” Stallings said. “It will challenge everything about our team and I hope I haven’t overscheduled them, because we are going to be very inexperienced. But, I know that our guys will be excited about the challenges our schedule will present.”
The Commodores, who don’t return any starters, host Kentucky on Jan. 10 at Memorial Gymnasium in a game televised on ESPN or ESPN2, and one of the first of five scheduled for broadcast on one an ESPN outlet (ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU). Their trip to Kentucky is Feb. 20.
Vanderbilt was one of just two teams – Indiana was the other – to knock off the Wildcats last season. It upset the nation’s top-ranked team in the championship game of the SEC Tournament in New Orleans.
Under the new format, Vanderbilt will play permanent rival Tennessee twice every season. The other four home-and-home opponents rotate annually.
The Vols host the Commodores on Jan. 29 before coming to Memorial Gymnasium on Feb. 13.
Other opponents coming to Nashville include Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Vanderbilt will also play road games at LSU, Missouri, Mississippi State and Florida.
The SEC schedule follows tough non-conference games against Butler, Oregon, Villanova and Xavier.
Vanderbilt, which went 25-11 last year and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, must replace 88.1 percent of its scoring.
“The conference schedule will certainly have a new look, and every time you look at the conference schedule, you say to yourself, ‘Wow, that is hard,’” Stallings said. “But, that’s why the league is as good as it is because it’s a difficult league. It will be interesting to take on this new format and see what the challenges are within it.”