This coming season, the Big East and the SEC will begin a new era in the Big East-SEC Invitational. Instead of the 2 neutral locations for 4 games setup, all 12 SEC teams and 12 of the 16 Big East teams will participate in home arena games. With 2 games against SEC teams already scheduled and a third game being possible in the Paradise Jam, it seems likely that Marquette will either play Vanderbilt in the 2011 Invitational or not participate at all.
That's perfect for Kentucky, who is clearly avoiding playing Marquette at all costs.
In 4 previous seasons of the Invitational, Marquette has played once, an 80-68 loss to Tennessee in Nashville, in the only game that year that was between 2 ranked teams. These games are supposed to be neutral site games, but let's be realistic: Playing Tennessee IN Tennessee isn't a neutral site game. This was in the 2nd year of the Invitational, and up to that point, Kentucky had not participated.
So, once he had negotiated Marquette to play their one game in the series in a hostile environment, Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart was more than happy to let Kentucky play in the Invitational. In fact, he was SO happy, he got Kentucky to play each of the last two years! To draw attention away from scheduling Kentucky in a game in Kentucky in 2010, Barnhart allowed Kentucky to go to Madison Square Garden to play in 2009. No one would fault Kentucky for playing what amounts to a home game in Louisville after traveling to the heart of the Big East! A perfect plan!
It's impossible to think it's a coincidence that the format of the Invitational is being changed when Marquette has previous commitments that will prevent them from playing Kentucky in both 2011-12 AND 2012-13, when a return game with LSU may be Marquette's entry to the Invitational. Since Kentucky is the keystone program of SEC basketball, the changes to the Invitational clearly did not happen without both Barnhart and Kentucky head coach John Calipari signing off on the changes. They knew what they were avoiding when they allowed the Invitational to change.
It's just another decision in a long history of Kentucky being afraid to play Marquette. According to the handy MU Scoop wiki, Marquette and Kentucky have not played a regular season game since 1960-61 season, which was a Marquette win. That was just the 4th regular season game between the two schools and the only time Marquette has ever beaten Kentucky in the regular season. This means there have been 50 years of Kentucky running scared from Marquette, and 71 years of Kentucky refusing to come to Milwaukee to play! That game in 1961 was in Chicago! Since 1961, Marquette and Kentucky have faced off in 8 NCAA Tournament games. Marquette holds a 5-3 advantage in those games, including wins in the last three dating back to the Sweet 16 in 1994. Of course the Wildcats are running scared! They haven't beaten Marquette in 17 years!
In closing, I would like to thank former University of Wisconsin athletic director Pat Richter. If it wasn't for Richter standing up to the tyranny of North Carolina and Roy Williams, I would not have had the courage to expose the cowardice of Kentucky.
UPDATE! I was right! No Marquette and on top of it, Kentucky is playing a home game against a team with 9 new players! Favoritism abounds!