UK basketball gets its opponent for SEC/ACC Challenge. The Cats are going on the road.

Another major game is set for the first season of the Mark Pope era.

Kentucky will play at Clemson on Dec. 3 in the second installment of the SEC/ACC Challenge. The official matchups for the interconference event were announced Wednesday.

Clemson is coming off one of its best overall seasons in program history.

The Tigers advanced to the Elite Eight in March, reaching that stage of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time ever — 44 years after their only other trip that far in the postseason.

Clemson finished 24-12 overall and tied for fifth place in the ACC standings with an 11-9 league record during the 2023-24 season. The Tigers earned a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, beating New Mexico in the first round and upsetting Baylor and Arizona before falling to Alabama with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Brad Brownell is entering his 15th season as head coach of the program and has made four NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure. Clemson is not featured in the preseason Top 25 rankings from ESPN or CBS Sports, though Joe Lunardi lists the Tigers as a 10 seed in his early ESPN Bracketology projections, and college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein has them at No. 38 nationally in his latest rankings of the top 45 teams for the 2024-25 season.

(UK is a 7 seed in Lunardi’s preliminary bracket and No. 29 in Rothstein’s rankings.)

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Clemson 12-4, though the two sides have not met since 1997, and this will be just the fourth game between the Cats and the Tigers since 1939. UK has not played a road game at Clemson since the 1932-33 season.

Other SEC/ACC Challenge matchups this year include Alabama at North Carolina, Auburn at Duke, Ole Miss at Louisville and Miami hosting Arkansas (with new coach John Calipari now leading the Razorbacks).

The annual series between the two major college basketball conferences debuted last year, when UK knocked off then-No. 8 Miami 95-73 in Rupp Arena. That late November clash between top 15 teams in Lexington was one of the highlights of the Wildcats’ 2023-24 season, with freshman phenom Reed Sheppard scoring a game-high 21 points for Kentucky.

The SEC and ACC each won seven games in the first year of the event. In 2023, it was called the ACC/SEC Challenge, and league officials told the Herald-Leader last week that the order of the conferences would alternate in the title each year, so the SEC will receive top billing this season.

All of the games will be televised on ESPN platforms.

Since the Cats hosted an ACC team last year, it was expected that they would have to go on the road for year two of the event, and this trip will come just four days before UK must travel to Seattle to play Gonzaga on Dec. 7 — making for a busy week away from home early in Kentucky’s season.

It’ll be one of many big games on the 2024-25 schedule for Pope, who will be making his debut as the UK men’s basketball coach after spending the past five seasons at BYU.

In addition to the SEC/ACC Challenge and the Gonzaga trip, the Cats have confirmed non-conference games against Duke (Nov. 12 in Atlanta), Louisville (Dec. 14 in Rupp Arena) and Ohio State (Dec. 21 at a neutral site, likely Madison Square Garden in New York), plus their 18-date league schedule.

The SEC could end up being the toughest conference in college basketball for the 2024-25 season. Several teams are ranked on early preseason top-25 lists, with Alabama at No. 1, according to some national outlets, and a total of 11 SEC programs featured in the latest ESPN Bracketology update from longtime analyst Joe Lunardi.

SEC game dates will be released later this year, though the matchups have already been revealed. UK will play Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt twice each and everyone else in the league — including newcomers Oklahoma and Texas — once.

SEC/ACC Challenge games

The SEC/ACC Challenge will consist of 16 games, with Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC this season to give the conference a total of 16 teams. The ACC is adding California, SMU and Stanford and will have 18 teams moving forward. (SMU and Stanford will not play in this year’s event.)

Here’s the full list of the SEC/ACC Challenge matchups:

Kentucky at Clemson on Dec. 3.

Ole Miss at Louisville on Dec. 3.

Arkansas at Miami on Dec. 3.

California at Missouri on Dec. 3.

Florida State at LSU on Dec. 3.

Georgia Tech at Oklahoma on Dec. 3.

Notre Dame at Georgia on Dec. 3.

South Carolina at Boston College on Dec. 3.

Syracuse at Tennessee on Dec. 3.

Wake Forest at Texas A&M on Dec. 3.

Alabama at North Carolina on Dec. 4.

Auburn at Duke on Dec. 4.

Pittsburgh at Mississippi State on Dec. 4.

Texas at NC State on Dec. 4.

Vanderbilt at Virginia Tech on Dec. 4.

Virginia at Florida on Dec. 4.

Mark Pope was named the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in April.
Mark Pope was named the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in April.

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