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Is Louisville’s non-conference schedule weak by design?


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Louisville has yet to officially announce their non-conference schedule, but according to the Louisville Courier-Journal -- who tracks these kind of things -- an announcement from Western Kentucky this week allows us to unofficially speculate on what the Cardinal non-conference schedule will look like.

And, frankly, it’s not overly imposing.

Rick Pitino’s club will play a pair of must-see non-conference road games, visiting Michigan State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and playing at Kentucky in this year’s installment of the country’s fiercest in-state rivalry, but beyond that, there isn’t much here to get excited about.

St. Francis (NY) won the NEC regular season title this spring. North Florida beat out Florida-Gulf Coast for the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid in March. Western Kentucky will be relevant in the Conference USA title race. Grand Canyon and UMKC should both factor in their league races as well, and while Saint Louis likely isn’t going to be as good as they were under Rick Majerus, the Billikens should improve enough to avoid being the A-10’s cellar dweller.

Part of this is by design. Louisville is a new team, with two senior transfers anchoring a young and talented but transitioning roster. In the eyes of Rick Pitino, gaining confidence through early-season wins may trump playing a tougher schedule when the Cardinals will have plenty of opportunities to land marquee wins in ACC play.

In other words, Pitino cares more about prepping his team for conference play and a postseason run than he does about trying to game the RPI. In a sport where a season’s success is determined by a one-and-done tournament, that’s not a bad style of coaching.

In the last four years, Pitino has a national title and a Final Four on his resume. He’s been to the Elite 8 -- if not further -- in five of the last eight tournaments.

Maybe he’s on to something.

Anyway, here is the full schedule:

Nov. 13: Samford
Nov. 17: Hartford
Nov. 21: North Florida
Nov. 24: St. Francis (NY)
Nov. 28: Saint Louis (Barclays Center, Brooklyn)
Dec. 2: at Michigan State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Dec. 5: Grand Canyon
Dec. 12: Eastern Michigan
Dec. 16: Kennesaw State
Dec. 19: Western Kentucky
Dec. 22: UMKC (Billy Minardi Classic)
Dec. 23: Utah Valley (Billy Minardi Classic)
Dec. 26: at Kentucky