Cards’ non-conference slate set featuring UK in Yum!, trip to NYC

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

By Russ Brown, Kentucky Today

LOUISVILLE — As Louisville basketball coach Kenny Payne embarks on the second year of his rebuilding job, the Cardinals non-conference slate that includes three likely Top-25 teams – Texas, UConn or Indiana, and Kentucky – and a total of eight games in the KFC Yum! Center.

But with eight newcomers and only four returning scholarship players, they’ll have time to get acquainted with each other before taking on the most challenging part of their schedule, opening with three straight home games against low major teams.

The highlights of the 10-game non-conference schedule, plus two exhibitions, are the annual rivalry matchup with Kentucky and a trip to Madison Square Garden to play in the 28th annual Empire Classic, where they will face Texas on Nov. 19 and then either defending national champion UConn or Indiana on Nov. 20. The event benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.

UofL will face Kentucky in the Yum! on Dec. 21. In ESPN’s Way Too Early Top-25 rankings, Texas is rated No. 24, UK No. 17 and UConn is No. 5. The Hoosiers aren’t listed, but are considered a threat to play their way into the rankings early in the season.

Besides the Wildcats, Louisville will host UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) in its home opener on Nov. 6, Chattanooga, Coppin State, New Mexico State, Bellarmine, Arkansas State and Pepperdine. The Cards will also play two exhibition games in the Yum!, Simmons College on Oct. 18 and Kentucky Wesleyan on Oct. 30. Their only true road game will be a Dec. 9 trip to Chicago to meet DePaul of the Big East Conference.

Simmons is coached by Tony Branch and its athletic director is Jerry Eaves, both mmembers of Louisville’s 1980 national championship team and UofL Athletics Hall of Fame inductees.

“We are excited to play in front of our passionate fan base,” Payne said in a statement. “Our non-conference schedule will allow us to prepare against challenging competition and provide a competitive atmosphere that our team is looking forward to. We’re thrilled to show you the high-character and competitive group that will be wearing the Cardinal uniform this season.”

Tipoff times and TV information will be released soon, as will the ACC 20-game schedule.

UofL is attempting to bounce back in a big way from last season’s 4-28 record. The only returnees from that team are guard/forward Mike James, forwards Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and JJ Traynor, and forward/center Emmanuel Okorafor. Payne supplemented that group with a recruiting class ranked in the top-5, but the Cards have since lost arguably their best player from that class, Trentyn Flowers, who decided to sign a pro contract in Australia one week before classes started.

Non-conference Schedule

(In KFC Yum! Center unless otherwise noted)

Oct. 18–Simmons College; Oct. 30–Kentucky Wesleyan (EXH); Nov. 6–UMBC; Nov. 10–Chattanooga; Nov. 15–Coppin State; Nov. 19–Texas (New York); Nov. 20–UConn or Indiana (New York); Nov. 26–New Mexico State; Nov. 29–Bellarmine; Dec. 9–at DePaul; Dec. 13–Arkansas State; Dec. 17–Pepperdine; Dec. 21–Kentucky.