Appearances in three early season events -- the Battle 4 Atlantis, Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout and Billy Minardi Classic -- at least 18 games on national television, and 18 home games in the KFC Yum! Center highlight the 2012-13 University of Louisville men's basketball schedule.
Twenty of the Cardinals' 31 games will be played against teams that participated in post-season competition last season, including at least 13 from the NCAA Tournament (NCAA Tournament: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Kentucky, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame twice, USF twice, Syracuse twice, Western Kentucky; NIT: Illinois State, Seton Hall twice; College Basketball Invitational: Pittsburgh; plus three opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis). Including the seven other Battle 4 Atlantis participants, U of L's opponents collectively won an average of over 20 games last season (620-412 combined record, .601 winning percentage).
"Last year we had the second most difficult schedule in the nation and I actually think this year's is more difficult.," said U of L Coach Rick Pitino, whose team played the nation's second-toughest schedule by the ratings percentage index (RPI) last season. "It poses multiple challenges throughout the season that we haven't had in a while and we look forward to it. We have an extremely competitive team that loves challenges. We're very excited to not only be traveling to face a terrific field in the Bahamas, but from the first game on we will be tested. We look forward to that challenge."
Six of the Cardinals' first 12 games will be on the road or at neutral sites. The Cardinals will face their first outside competition in an exhibition game against Pikeville on Nov. 1 in the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center. Bellarmine, which advanced to the 2012 NCAA Division II national semifinals, will provide the opposition in U of L's second home exhibition game on Nov. 7.
U of L officially opens its season against Manhattan -- a team guided by former UofL assistant coach Steve Masiello -- on Nov. 11 in the first of three straight home games. Next up for the Cards will be Samford on Nov. 15 in the first of four games in the Battle 4 Atlantis and the only one not played in the Bahamas. After a Nov. 18 home game against Miami (Ohio), the Cardinals will face a stellar field starting with Northern Iowa in the eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis, staged Nov. 22-24 at the famed Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas.
All eight teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis field participated in post-season play last season, including five in the 2012 NCAA Tournament - Louisville, Duke, Memphis, Missouri and VCU - and three in the NIT with 2012 champion Stanford, runner-up Minnesota and NIT second round participant Northern Iowa. Six teams in the field have been included in early preseason top 25 rankings (Louisville, Duke, Memphis, Missouri, Minnesota and VCU). Including Louisville, the eight teams in the event posted a collective 211-87 record last season (.708).
U of L returns home to face Illinois State on Dec. 1 before embarking on its first true road game of the season, a Dec. 4 ESPNU-televised matchup at College of Charleston. After a home encounter with Missouri Kansas City on Dec. 8, the Cardinals will play at Memphis in the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout, with a portion of the proceeds from the event to benefit the non-profit Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
U of L will face Florida International -- a team coached by former UofL assistant and Pitino's son Richard Pitino -- on Dec. 19 in a game which will be the 11th 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.
Western Kentucky and U of L will play Dec. 22 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Tickets are available for that neutral site event through the UofL ticket office at 502-852-5151. The Cards close December with their final non-conference game of the season against Kentucky in a CBS-televised contest on Dec. 29 in the KFC Yum! Center.
The Cards' 18-game BIG EAST Conference schedule includes two games each against Notre Dame, Syracuse, USF and Seton Hall, closing out the regular season against Notre Dame on March 9 at the KFC Yum! Center. The BIG EAST Conference Tournament will be staged at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 12-16. U of L will have at least 18 national television appearances, including 13 of its 18 league games.
U of L will welcome back three starters and 11 lettermen from its successful 2011-12 squad which won the BIG EAST Conference tournament championship and advanced to the Cardinals' ninth NCAA Final Four. Louisville's 30-10 record marked just the sixth time in school history that UofL has won 30 games in a season. The Cardinals earned their second consecutive BIG EAST Conference Team Academic Excellence Award, which recognizes the highest collective grade point average in each of the conference's 24 sports.
Louisville is among the top three teams in the nation for 2012-13 in early preseason rankings by six national web sites. U of L is second nationally in preseason rankings by ESPN.com (Andy Katz), SI.com (Luke Winn) and NBCSports.com (Mike Miller) while the Cardinals are third in three other rankings by CBSSports.com (Gary Parrish, Jeff Goodman), Yahoo.com (Mike Huegenin) and SportingNews.com (Mike DeCourcy). Louisville is one of six BIG EAST teams which have received mention in the early rankings (also Syracuse, Notre Dame, Marquette, Cincinnati and Villanova).
Tipoff times and television arrangements for all games are incomplete and will be released at a later date.