Kentucky Basketball: Rupp Arena Will Be Even More Challenging for SEC Opponents

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Kentucky Basketball: Rupp Arena Will Be Even More Challenging for SEC Opponents
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When opponents set foot onto 430 W. Vine St. in Lexington, Kentucky they know they are going to be in for a long night.

That's been the case since Rupp Arena first opened its doors, and the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 72-64 on November 27, 1976. Big Blue is 481-60 all time at Rupp, good for a .889 winning percentage.

Coaches have come, and coaches have gone, but the common thread among them, for the most part, is the ability to hold serve at home.

Joe B. Hall started things off by going 122-14 at home over 13 seasons. During his four seasons in Lexington, Eddie Sutton was 53-10.

Rick Pitino was 107-7 over eight seasons. Tubby Smith compiled a 119-19 record in a decade as UK coach.

Billy Gillispie was 26-10 in his brief stint, which brings us to John Calipari. Cal is 54-0 at Rupp Arena. 54-0. Let that sink in for a minute.

His next home loss will be his first. At some point, the first loss will take place. It may be sooner than later, but this current streak is certainly impressive.

As historically daunting as it has been to win in Rupp Arena, it's about to get harder, especially for former SEC East Division squads. Here are a couple of reasons why.

 

Jimmy's and Joe's

Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE
So far, it's 54 up and 54 down for Cal at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky's tradition of great players is as good as anybody's. That goes without saying. In no way is this knocking Dan Issel, Mike Pratt or Jack Givens or insulting Rex Chapman, Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer or Rajon Rondo.

The sheer depth of talent coming into Kentucky now is at never-before-seen levels, and that's saying something. Having said that, it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Opponents have always known that Kentucky comes at them in waves.

Now, the waves are just more frequent with higher crests.

 

The New Schedule

The SEC's new schedule will also play a role in Rupp Arena becoming even more intimidating to conference rivals. Since division play will soon be a thing of the past, all the old SEC East Division schools will no longer have the opportunity to play in Rupp Arena on a yearly basis. Florida is the exception, as they have been assigned as UK's permanent rival.

All the other schools will rotate on an annual basis while alternating home and away visits.

History has shown how much opponents have struggled in Lexington. Now, teams are going to have to try to come in and win on an every-other-year basis. Forget about it.

Rupp Arena will now essentially become the basketball version of "The Swamp" at Florida or LSU's "Death Valley." Opponents will come into the hostile environment as rattled, wide-eyed freshmen and then attempt to remember to either duplicate or rectify their experiences in the venue again as juniors.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Alex Poythress and his "Grown Man's" game is part of UK's latest talent wave.

Or they can come in their very first time as sophomores, give it a go and try again as a seniors if they stay around that long.

No matter how you slice it, it's tough. Always has been, always will be.

Coaches will continue to come and continue to go at the University of Kentucky. Opponents will continue to try to roll into Rupp Arena and steal a win. More often than not, almost nine times out of ten to be exact, they will continue to leave Lexington with an "L."

All stats via bigbluehistory.net and are accurate as of 11/27/12.

  

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