LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville basketball schedule announcement, in most seasons, would be a topic of high interest for Louisville fans, and reason for anticipation.
In 2021-22, it actually carries strategic significance. Louisville will be without head coach Chris Mack for the first six games of the season, with assistant coach Mike Pegues providing all head-coaching duties until he returns.
The suspension was handed down by the university for conduct that it said diverged from school policy in the handling of the Dino Gaudio extortion matter. Regardless, it leaves Pegues and the rest of Mack's staff, and his team with eight newcomers, in a challenging spot.
Now, some of that challenge is clearer.
Louisville will face Southern, Furman and Navy at the KFC Yum! Center in mid-November, then will play Detroit Mercy, Mississippi State and either Southern or Richmond from Nov. 20-27 in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship in Nassau.
Mack will rejoin the team for a major nonconference test, a game against Michigan State on Dec. 1 in East Lansing, Mich., as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Other non-conference games include WKU in Bowling Green on Dec. 18 and Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Dec. 22.
“Time to start playing some games and we can’t wait!" Mack said. "The schedule will test our team and as always becomes a monster the further into the calendar we go. The 20-game ACC schedule is grueling. By the time March arrives our team will have prepared well for tournament play. We have a long road until that time but it’s certainly in the back of our minds.”
Including the Cardinals' ACC schedule, 16 of the Cardinals' 31 games will be played against teams that participated in postseason competition last March, including 11 from the 2020 NCAA Tournament field (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina twice, Syracuse, Virginia twice, Virginia Tech).
Seven opponents are ranked among the ESPN way-too-early top 25, including Kentucky (No. 9) and potentially Maryland (No. 20). That early ranking also includes ACC members No. 11 Duke, No. 17 North Carolina, No. 21 Florida State, No. 24 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Virginia.
The 20-game ACC schedule features six double-opponents: Pittsburgh, N.C. State, Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Louisville will play each of those home-and-home, and the rest of the teams in the ACC once.
Louisville returns three of its top five scorers (five of its top eight), including starters Samuell Williamson and Jae'Lyn Withers. The Cardinals have added a top 25 recruiting class and four transfers, including a junior college All-American. Louisville will open its season with five players who shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in their previous college season for the first time in school history (transfers Matt Cross .400, El Ellis .417, Noah Locke .404, Jarrod West .408, and returnee JJ Traynor .500).
The team will make its first public appearance at a "Louisville Live" event at Churchill Downs scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Gates open at 5 p.m. for Downs After Dark: Horses and Hoops, a partnership between UofL and Churchill Downs presented by Budweiser. The first race starts at 6 p.m. with Louisville Live launching at 7:15 p.m. A portable court will be placed outdoor on the Plaza inside Gate 1 of Churchill Downs with multiple team activities planned.
General admission and first floor seating tickets for the evening of racing and Louisville Live start at $12 and may be purchased at this link. The event is free for UofL students, with additional information on claiming those tickets to be provided later.
UofL's 1986 NCAA Championship men's basketball team will participate in Louisville Live, signing autographs at the event before the current Cardinals take the court. The 1986 team will also be honored on the previous night at the Cardinals' Sept. 17 football game against UCF in Cardinal Stadium
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