"We are about to play the toughest schedule of any Division I collegiate program in the state of Kentucky," said head coach Tom Collen. "I say that not knowing every other teams schedule, but if anyone is playing 24 of their 27 games against teams in the top 164 RPI, I don't envy them either. If we are going to take this program to the next level and be a consistent Top 25 caliber team, we need to play the best competition."
The Cardinals will prepare for the regular season with an exhibition game against the Hoosier Lady Stars on Nov. 14 in Cardinal Arena at 7:30 p.m. Louisville will tip off the regular season in Freedom Hall against NCAA participant UC-Santa Barbara on Nov. 20 at 1:00 p.m. The Cardinals will then travel to Murfreesboro, Tenn. to play in the Middle Tennessee Classic Nov. 25-26. Louisville will play Eastern Kentucky in the opening round on Nov. 25 and Georgia Southern on Nov. 26.
Western Kentucky will host the Cardinals on Nov. 29 at 8:00 p.m. in E.A. Diddle Arena. Louisville returns to the friendly confines of Freedom Hall to host Indiana on Dec. 4 at 1:00 p.m. A match-up with Xavier on Dec. 10 and Northern Colorado on Dec. 15 in Freedom Hall will wrap up a three game home stand for the Cardinals.
Louisville will travel to Cancun, Mexico to compete in the Caribbean Classic Dec 19-20. The Cardinals will face NCAA Sweet Sixteen participant Texas Tech in the opening round on Dec. 19. On Dec. 20 Louisville will face Western Michigan.
The annual Battle of the Bluegrass will take place on Dec. 28 at Rupp Arena at 7:00 p.m. Rounding out the nonconference schedule for the Cardinals will be St. Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 30 in Freedom Hall at 7:00 p.m.
"The Top 20 games aside, our toughest challenges may be playing instate rivals Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky and Kentucky all on the road," said Collen. "Then throw in some dates with regional rivalries Xavier and Indiana and you wonder where's the sanity? I probably need to fire my scheduling coordinator but since it's my wife I am kind of in a bind."
"Everywhere I go I tell people we may have a better team than last season and still finish out of the top four in our conference or get to 20-wins for the third year in a row. But if the end result is that we are back in the NCAA Tournament and better prepared to advance to the second and third round, we will be heading in the right direction."
The month of January is one of the toughest stretches the Cardinals will face. The inaugural BIG EAST season tips off at Syracuse on Jan. 3. The Cardinals will host Villanova on Jan. 7 in Freedom Hall at 1:00 p.m. for the BIG EAST home opener. The Cardinals will travel to Morgantown on Jan. 10 against WNIT runner-up West Virginia.
Highlighting the BIG EAST home schedule will be a visit from No. 15 Notre Dame on Jan. 14 in Freedom Hall at 1:00 p.m. Georgetown will visit Freedom Hall on Jan. 18 at 7:00 p.m.
The Cardinals will then embark on a three game stretch against Top 20 teams. Louisville will travel to No. 7 Rutgers on Jan. 21 and then to No. 20 DePaul on Dec. 25. The Cardinals will host No. 10 UConn in Freedom Hall on Jan. 31 at 7:00 p.m.
"Our ultimate goal for this program is to advance to the Final Four and win a national championship," said Collen. "I tell our players all the time we will not get there without some bumps and bruises."
Marquette will return to Freedom Hall on Feb. 4 for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off. Louisville will then travel to Pittsburgh on Feb. 8 before hosting Syracuse at home on Feb. 11 at 7:00 p.m. The Cardinals will then travel to St. John's on Feb. 15 and Cincinnati on Feb. 18.
Louisville will host South Florida in Freedom Hall on Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. before travelling to Seton Hall on Feb. 25. The Cardinals will host Providence in Freedom Hall on Feb. 28 for senior night at 7:00 p.m.
For the first time in school history the Cardinals will play all the regular season home games in Freedom Hall. WHAS-TV will televise the home opener on Nov. 20 against UC-Santa Barbara along with the Indiana game on Dec. 4 and the Xavier game on Dec. 10. WHAS-TV plans to televise more games after the BIG EAST television games are announced.
The top 12 teams will qualify for the 2006 BIG EAST Tournament, to be held March 4-7 at the Hartford (CT) Civic Center.