Six BIG EAST teams have been included among the nation's top 25 teams in early rankings by Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com or ESPN's Dick Vitale, with Louisville ranked 15th and 19th, respectively, in those listings. Six of the Cardinals' 13 non-conference opponents competed in post-season tournaments last season and the group collectively won an average of nearly 20 games (254-190 combined record, .572 winning percentage).
"When your opening game is against an SEC team, you're on the road against UNLV and Kentucky and you've got a full schedule in the BIG EAST, it shapes up as another challenging schedule for us," said U of L Coach Rick Pitino, whose team played the nation's 12th-toughest schedule by the ratings percentage index (RPI) last season. "This team has shown me early on that they have great chemistry and a strong work ethic. We look forward to another competitive season."
With nine lettermen returning from last year's team that posted a 31-6 record, won the BIG EAST Conference Championship and reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the second consecutive year, the Cardinals will face their first outside competition in an exhibition game against Georgetown College on Oct. 28 in Freedom Hall. The Tigers posted a 27-5 record last season were ranked fifth in the final NAIA poll.
Bellarmine, which produced a school-record 26 victories (26-7 record) and reached the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 for the first time in 20 years, will provide the opposition in U of L's second exhibition game on Nov. 4 in Freedom Hall.
U of L will open its season on Nov. 17 against Arkansas in the Hall of Fame Showcase at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. The doubleheader, televised by ESPN2, will also include Memphis facing Kansas in the second game of the evening. The event matches Pitino's team against John Pelphrey's, the Razorbacks' coach who played under Pitino at Kentucky. The Showcase is an annual benefit for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Tickets are priced at $27.50 for upper endzone seats, $42.50 for uper level side, $57.50 for lower endzone, $77.50 for lower sideline and $127.50 for midcourt sideline tickets. Information on purchasing tickets may be obtained through the U of L Ticket Office at (502) 852-5151, 852-5863 or 1-800-633-7105.
The Cardinals will continue with the Hall of Fame Showcase in its next three home games in Freedom Hall against East Tennessee on Nov. 21, Morgan State on Nov. 22 and Appalachian State on Nov. 23. U of L will venture on the road again in its next outing, traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada to face UNLV on Nov. 28.
U of L will play its next eight games at home in Freedom Hall during the month of December, including a Dec. 19 matchup with Western Kentucky televised on ESPN2. That game will be the Eighth Annual Billy Minardi Classic, an event named in memory of Pitino's brother-in-law who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The event has alternated between a four-team tournament and select single game over the years.
U of L closes out its home stretch and the month of December as the Cardinals face USF on Dec. 30 in its first BIG EAST Conference game of the season. The Cards follow that contest with their final non-conference game of the season at Kentucky on Jan. 2 on CBS. U of L will have 14 national television appearances, including eight of its last 11 games.
The Cards' 18-game league schedule includes two games each against Connecticut, St. John's and Syracuse. Louisville closes the regular season against Syracuse on March 6 in the final game U of L will play in Freedom Hall. The BIG EAST Conference Tournament will be staged at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 9-13, with all 16 teams participating for the second straight year.
Tipoff times and television arrangements for all games are incomplete and will be released at a later date.
Wed. 28 GEORGETOWN (exhibition)
Wed. 4 BELLARMINE (exhibition)
Tues. 17 Arkansas (ESPN2) (at St. Louis, Mo.) HALL OF FAME SHOWCASE
Sat. 21 EAST TENNESSEE STATE (HALL OF FAME SHOWCASE)
Sun. 22 MORGAN STATE (HALL OF FAME SHOWCASE)
Mon. 23 APPALACHIAN STATE (HALL OF FAME SHOWCASE)
Sat. 28 at UNLV (VERSUS)
Wed. 2 STETSON
Sat. 5 CHARLOTTE
Sat. 12 WESTERN CAROLINA
Wed. 16 ORAL ROBERTS
Sat. 19 WESTERN KENTUCKY (ESPN2) (BILLY MINARDI CLASSIC)
Wed. 23 LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE
Sun. 27 RADFORD
Wed. 30 USF
Sat. 2 at Kentucky (CBS)
Wed. 6 at Providence
Sat. 9 ST. JOHN'S
Mon. 11 VILLANOVA (ESPN)
Sat. 16 at Pittsburgh
Thur. 21 at Seton Hall (ESPN/ESPN2)
Sun. 24 CINCINNATI
Sat. 30 at West Virginia (ESPN)
Mon. 1 CONNECTICUT (ESPN)
Sat. 6 RUTGERS
Thur. 11 at St. John's (ESPN/ESPN2)
Sun. 14 at Syracuse (ESPN)
Wed. 17 NOTRE DAME (ESPN2)
Sat. 20 at DePaul
Tues. 23 GEORGETOWN (ESPN2)
Sun. 28 at CONNECTICUT (CBS)
Tues. 2 at Marquette
Sat. 6 SYRACUSE (ESPN)
Tues.- 9-13 at BIG EAST Championship (New York, N.Y.) Sat.