As it did last season, U of L will face three of the teams that participated in the 2011 NCAA Final Four: NCAA Champion Connecticut, national runner-up Butler and Kentucky. Three non-conference foes -- Memphis, Kentucky and Vanderbilt -- are among the nation's top 10 teams in early preseason rankings. U of L's opponents collectively won an average of over 20 games (561-380 combined record, .596 winning percentage).
"This will be one of the more difficult schedules we have faced at Louisville," said U of L Coach Rick Pitino, whose team played the nation's 11th-toughest schedule by the ratings percentage index (RPI) last season. "We look forward to the challenge. The BIG EAST schedule is always going to be difficult for everyone in our league, and this year in particular it's going to be very tough for us."
The Cardinals will face their first outside competition in an exhibition game against 2011 NAIA national champion Pikeville on Oct. 26 in the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center. Bellarmine, which won the 2011 NCAA Division II national championship with a 33-2 record, will provide the opposition in U of L's second exhibition game on Nov. 3 in the KFC Yum! Center.
U of L officially opens its season against Tennessee Martin on Nov. 11 in the first of four games in the Global Sports Invitational, an exempt event that will be spaced out over 12 days. All four of the Cardinals' games in the event will be played in Louisville's KFC Yum! Center, including Nov. 12 vs. Lamar, Nov. 22 vs. Arkansas State, and Nov. 25 vs. Ohio University. In the middle, the Cardinals have a Nov. 19 ESPN-televised matchup at NCAA national runner-up Butler. U of L closes the month with a home game against Long Beach State on Nov. 28.
Fourteen of the Cardinals' first 15 games will be played in the KFC Yum! Center, including the two exhibition contests. U of L opens the month of December against Vanderbilt on ESPN in the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge. After home games against IUPUI on Dec. 7 and Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 10, the Cardinals will face Memphis in the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout on Dec. 17 -- the first of four CBS-televised games this season. After a Dec. 20 home game against the College of Charleston, the Cardinals will be featured on ESPN2 against Western Kentucky on Dec. 23 in a game which will be the 10th Annual Billy Minardi Classic. The event is named in memory of Pitino's brother-in-law who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It has alternated between a four-team tournament and select single game over the years.
U of L closes out a 10-game home stand to face Georgetown on Dec. 28 in its first BIG EAST Conference game of the season. The Cards follow that contest with their final non-conference game of the season against Kentucky in a CBS-televised contest on Dec. 31 in Lexington. U of L will have 17 national television appearances, including 13 of its 18 BIG EAST games.
The Cards' 18-game league schedule includes two games each against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and DePaul, closing out the regular season at Syracuse on March 3. The BIG EAST Conference Tournament will be staged at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 6-10, with all 18 teams participating for the fourth straight year.
U of L will welcome back three starters and 10 lettermen from its 2010-11 squad, as well as adding a stellar five-person recruiting class for the upcoming season. The Cardinals exceeded expectations last season by tying for third in the BIG EAST Conference, earning 20 wins for their ninth-straight season (25-10 record), reaching the title game of the BIG EAST Championship, defeating seven Top 25 teams and rising to as high as 11th in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.
Tipoff times and television arrangements for all games are incomplete and will be released at a later date.