We feel that this will be a great opportunity to challenge our team early in the season. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s official. Utah and Kentucky will square off in basketball for the next two seasons. Early reports of a deal were confirmed with an announcement on Thursday.
The Utes and Wildcats will meet Dec. 15, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. The second game will be played Dec. 18, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“We feel that this will be a great opportunity to challenge our team early in the season,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in announcing the series. “This is one of the elite programs in the nation, who year in and year out, are ranked No. 1 in attendance. This will be a good experience for us to compete at a high level and help us prepare for league play.”
Utah is making its first trip to Rupp Arena since 1999. The teams, who met for the national championship in 1998, haven’t played each other since an NCAA Tournament meeting in 2005.
"We are always trying to put together a schedule that our fans will enjoy while preparing us to be at our best at the end of the season," Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a released statement. "One of the things I hear most about from our fans is they enjoy traveling with us and staying at a destination location for multiple games. That was our goal in scheduling this game with Utah. It gives us a great opponent for our fans at home next season, and then in 2019, our fans can spend a week with us at one of our favorite stops over the last few years.”
Kentucky will face Ohio State in Las Vegas three days after playing the Utes there in 2019.
Utah is coming off a 23-12 season that ended with a loss to Penn State in the NIT finals. The Wildcats went 26-11 and reached the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen.
The addition of Kentucky bulks up a 2018-19 non-conference schedule that includes a road trip to Missouri and a home game against Tulsa, The Utes are also scheduled to play in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California on Nov. 22, 23 and 25. Other participating teams include Fresno State, Grand Canyon, Hawai’i, LaSalle, Miami, Northwestern and Seton Hall.
The second annual Beehive Classic at Vivint SmartHome Arena matches Utah against BYU on Dec. 8.