UCLA to start home-and-home series with Kentucky in 2015

UCLA will start a home-and-home series against Kentucky next season, it announced this morning, ensuring that the Bruins will face college basketball’s most dominant team at least three times by the end of 2016.

The No. 1 Wildcats are already slated to play against UCLA on Dec. 20 at the United Center, part of the inaugural CBS Sports Classic. Now, Kentucky will also visit Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 3, 2015, and host the Bruins at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.

Under John Calipari, UK reeled in five straight top recruiting classes before settling for just the second-ranked class behind Duke earlier this year. The 55-year-old turned those hauls into an NCAA title in 2012, and a runner-up finish behind UConn in April.

UCLA head coach Steve Alford has pushed to schedule tougher nonconference opponents since arriving in Los Angeles — even if the Bruins (7-2) haven’t looked quite ready for that high bar yet this season. The team was blown out by then-No. 5 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last month, and will host No. 9 Gonzaga this Saturday.

“We are excited to schedule this home-and-home series with Kentucky and add to what we already believe is a very competitive non-conference schedule next season,” Alford said in a statement. “Coach Cal and I go back a long ways, and I have the utmost respect for him and what he has been able to build at Kentucky. This is a big win for fans of college basketball in Southern California who will now have the opportunity to watch two of the sport’s most storied programs meet in Pauley Pavilion.”

Kentucky has yet to play at Pauley Pavilion, but leads the all-time series 6-4, dating back to 1951. The Bruins won their last meeting in 2006, a 73-68 decision at the Maui Classic Invitational. That season, they reached the second of three straight Final Fours that season.

UCLA’s 2015-16 schedule also includes the Maui Invitational, which will host a loaded eight-team field that includes Indiana, Kansas, St. John’s, UNLV and Wake Forest. The Bruins will then travel at Gonzaga on Dec. 12, 2015, and face UNC a week later at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.