By Josh Cook
It should be a Happy Halloween for University of Louisville men’s basketball fans.
That’s because the Cardinals will play their first game, albeit an exhibition, in the new KFC Yum! Center at 2 p.m. Oct. 31 when they face traditional Division II power Northern Kentucky University. UofL released its full schedule for the 2010-11 season Friday, and it includes at least 15 games on national television and 23 games in The Bucket (a.k.a. the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center).
“This is the most competitive schedule we have faced,” UofL coach Rick Pitino said. “It’s a mystery who will be at the top, middle and bottom of the Big East and I’m sure that will make it exciting for fans and the participants. I’ve had the good fortune at both the professional and collegiate level to play in the best arenas in the country, and the KFC Yum! Center will arguably be the finest arena ever built. I’m sure our fans and players are very excited about our inaugural season there.”
The school had already announced that the Cards’ first opponent in the sparkling new downtown arena would be 2010 NCAA Tournament runner-up Butler on Nov. 16 and fans also knew that UofL would host archrival at Kentucky at noon Dec. 31 because UK recently released its 2010-11 schedule.
Twenty of UofL’s 31 games will be against teams who participated in the postseason in 2009-10, including 12 teams (Butler, Kentucky, Georgetown, Marquette, Morgan State, UNLV, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia) who were in the Big Dance. The Cards’ 2010-11 opponents had a winning percentage .603 (566-373) last season. UofL, meanwhile, played the 11th-most difficult schedule in the nation last season according to the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
UofL plays 15 of its first 16 games, including its two exhibitions, at the KFC Yum! Center. After NKU the Cards host another Division II power, Kentucky Wesleyan, at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 before the game against Butler, which is part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tipoff Marathon. UofL’s four following games are part of the Global Sports Shootout. Over a 12-day span the Cards will host Jackson State (Nov. 20), Chattanooga (Nov. 22), Marshall (Nov. 27) and Florida International (Dec. 1).
UofL will host UNLV on Dec. 11 in the ninth annual Billy Minardi Classic, which is named for Pitino’s late brother-in-law who died on the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Cards’ lone road game in 2010 is their Dec. 22 trip to Western Kentucky. They host Morgan State five days later, before closing out the year against their archrival UK, which figures to be a preseason Top 10 or Top 15 team.
UofL opens the new year, and its Big East season, against Seton Hall on Jan. 5 at the Yum! Center.
The Cards’ Big East schedule features home games against the Pirates, Marquette, St. John’s, West Virginia, DePaul, Syracuse, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Providence (the home finale March 2). Their conference road schedule includes trips to USF, Villanova, Providence, Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Rutgers and West Virginia.