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OREM - If Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope is looking to make a statement in his third season at the helm of the men's basketball program in Orem, he has done it.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pope posted on his Twitter account that the Wolverines will open the 2017-18 season at Kentucky on November 10.
It will be the second year in a row that UVU has opened the season on the road at a national powerhouse. The Wolverines lost to 10th-ranked Gonzaga 92-69 back on Nov. 11, 2016.
Kentucky is coming off a 32-6 season in which the Wildcats finished ranked 5th in the final USA Today Coaches Poll. Kentucky made it to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual National Champion North Carolina, 75-73.
However, Kentucky has to replace 93 percent of its scoring as the only Wildcat to return that saw significant minutes is Wenyen Gabriel who averaged a mere 4.6 points per game. Kentucky welcomes seven freshman who make up the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the nation.
UVU returns the majority of its roster after finishing 17-17 and ending its season in the final four of the College Basketball Invitational. It lost three seniors to graduation but returns point guards Brandon Randolph and Hayden Schenck along with all-WAC defender Isaac Neilson. Kenneth Ogbe, Zach Nelson, Conner Toolson all return and transfers Jake Toolson, Cory Calvert and 7-footer Akolda Manyang are all eligible after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.
It may come as no surprise that Pope was able to get Kentucky on the schedule considering that he played there and was a member of the 1996 NCAA National Championship team.
Pope also said the game this fall was "only half the story," so expect future developments around this game.
Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. He is a communication major at UVU and will graduate in the spring of 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias