Cards to play UCONN, UC and Nova twice each

Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals didn't get any gifts from the Big East Conference office, who released the 2005-06 league slate Thursday. The Cardinals, coming off last season's 33-5 season that ended with a 72-57 loss to Illinois in the national semifinals, will play Connecticut, Cincinnati and Villanova twice each - home and away - during the leagues 16-game slate.

Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals didn't get any gifts from the Big East Conference office, who released the 2005-06 league slate Thursday.

The Cardinals, coming off last season's 33-5 season that ended with a 72-57 loss to Illinois in the national semifinals, will play Connecticut, Cincinnati and Villanova twice each - home and away - during the leagues 16-game slate.

The Huskies and Wildcats - both likely preseason Top 10 teams - will provide a stern challenge for the Cardinals, who return just two starters from last seasons Conference USA championship squad.

"We've got to have an unbelievable summer and fall as a team to prepare for such a difficult conference schedule," said Pitino. "It's certainly the most challenging conference schedule I've ever faced as a coach."

Besides UCONN, Villanova and Cincinnati, Louisville will also play DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and South Florida at Freedom Hall. The Cardinals will travel to Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Syracuse, and West Virginia, in addition to their trips to UCONN, Villanova and Cincinnati.

The Cardinals won't face league members Georgetown or Seton Hall in its intitial Big East season.

Twelve of the Cards' 16 league games will be against teams that reached either the NCAA Tournament or NIT last season.

U of L officials said Thursday they hope to have the non-conference portion of the schedule released by early September.


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